01 Mar 2009 Microstock Earnings Report February 2009

Crazy results this month! Very high earnings (for me) after yet another month of zero new files added to my microstock portfolios. Dreamstime responded as expected with earnings dropping in line with my lower contributions. But iStockphoto recording a new high for me this month and Shutterstock jumped up above the three month moving average. Perhaps it would have been a good time to resume contributing. It may have resulted in a bigger upswing overall.

iStockphoto Dollar Bin

I’ve had a total of 31 photos added to the iStockphoto dollar bin so far. I won’t miss any of them – they’re old and less-than-impressive snapshots which cannot have been adding to the performance of my portfolio. I have no expectation that they’ll sell even in the dollar bin, so they’ll eventually be removed from my portfolio.

Earnings Results

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 314.51 779 0.40 75
Shutterstock 188.34 875 0.21 94
Dreamstime 57.69 762 0.08 67
Fotolia 81.12 650 0.12 50
StockXpert 36.40 347 0.10 45
BigStockPhoto 36.50 463 0.08 31
123rf 12.35 371 0.03 18
Crestock 7.74 370 0.02 30
Total: 734.65
Total: 1.04

Microstock Earnings Chart - February 2009


  • New record earnings at iStockphoto – best performance of any agency ever for me. The recent Best Match algorithm update has made some contributors big winners and others big losers. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.
  • My earnings rise at Shutterstock is puzzling given they’re usually the first agency to drop after extended periods of not contributing anything new. But I’m not complaining.
  • Dreamstime is at least being honest and demonstrating their disapproval of my lack of new uploads. I’m hoping my earnings will recover to their previous levels when I resume contributing.
  • I’m lately amazed at the sheer consistency of StockXpert. Look how straight that line is! Other microstockers have reported not-insignificant drops in earnings at StockXpert, which is not surprising in light of staff being preoccupied with the acquisition.
  • CanStockPhoto earned me another $26 this month – not great, but better than some agencies I’m still reporting. If they keep this up I will put them back in the chart.

Total Earnings Chart

I’m adding the previous two years to my total earnings chart this month. This shows the modest growth in my earnings over the past three years (the vertical distance between lines) and the seasonal trends.

Total Earnings Chart - Three Year Comparison

For a hobbyist photographer I’m not too disappointed with such a small growth year after year. If I was investing more time, energy and money into microstock I would be concerned. These days I’m investing considerably more time into this blog and other activities compared to microstock photography, and I’m happy with the charts for those endeavors.

Downloads per Image

In the comments of last month’s earnings report, Stephen Strathdee suggested looking at downloads per image per month.   I keep portfolio and download data so I created a chart for the previous twelve months:

Downloads per File per Month Chart

The obviously insight this chart provides is that my downloads are decreasing rapidly overall, despite some agencies rising in January and February this year. The downward trend is even more marked in the two-year chart. I conclude that if my income isn’t declining in line with this trend (which you can see in the top chart), then the sale price must be rising. That is, rising prices are the only reason I’m not earning less and less in microstock. As I’ve uploaded very little over the past two years, such a trend is to be expected.

Thanks Stephen, that’s indeed a helpful metric.

  • Marek
    Posted at 13:19h, 01 March Reply

    February was a great month for sure, especially, in iStock, I got BME in SS, IS, DT, FT, SXP and crossed $500/month line after 15 months in microstock (earnings report). I am still adding pictures on a regular basis aiming for 100 pictures accepted every month in SS and DT.

    Let’s see if this trend in microstock continues in 2009 …

    I am playing with different metrics for my portfolio performance, but they are not very useful for my relatively small (~800 pictures) and growing portfolio.

  • Matt Antonino
    Posted at 13:25h, 02 March Reply

    Yes, February was a great month! I’m excited to see how everyone did as well – glad to hear you had a record IS. I had IS BME as well and it was on 0 new images.

    Do you see yourself being a microstock photographer this year or more blogger/reporter? You are delving more and more into the news/philosophy of microstock. It’s an interesting read for me as my own writing tends to be more result-based and educating myself (and hopefully others) as I go along.

    (And one day soon I will realize my goal of passing you in earnings… but alas not this month either!)

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:53h, 04 March Reply

      I blog to learn. So far I haven’t put much of it into practice, but that day is getting closer. 😉

  • Michael Brown
    Posted at 15:39h, 03 March Reply

    Congratulations on a great month! Looks like the Best Match changes at iStock helped you (I know they helped me).

  • pdtnc
    Posted at 19:18h, 06 March Reply

    My Dollar Bin Files so far… http://imagepushing.com/2009/03/06/stock-photos-from-1-the-istock-dollar-bin/
    Nothing I’ll be missing…. a fair bit of crossover from the recent non-selling files at Fotolia.

  • Jade
    Posted at 18:09h, 10 March Reply

    Those are really nice looking graphs. Could you tell me what you used to create them?

  • Jaren Wicklund
    Posted at 18:40h, 13 March Reply

    Okay Lee…. I’m lost. What exactly is ‘best match’ on iStock? I’ve heard of it and I haven’t had time to look into it. All i know is that my sales at IS have gone down 50%…

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 14:21h, 14 March Reply

      Hi Jaren, ‘best match’ on iStockphoto is one of the search result sort options, alongside Downloads, Age and a few others. Best Match is aimed at providing the most relevant results and is based on an algorithm which takes many different factors into account. Most agencies have a similar sort order, though it goes by different names.

      When the algorithm is updated some contributors find their sales go up and some find them going down. However, the objective of algorithm updates is to give buyers the photos they’re seeking, which benefits contributors as a group despite the fact that some see earnings drop.

      It sounds like this time you didn’t benefit, while I certainly did. Maybe next time it will be the reverse. The best thing to do is contribute photos that sell.

Post A Comment