01 Feb 2008 Microstock Earnings Report January 2008

Increased prices and the bonus royalties from iStockphoto pushed my total earnings for January to a near record level. Most other agencies also rose sharply which I expect was influenced by the relatively large increase in my upload quantity during the month.

I only received Extended License sales (2) at Dreamstime this month.

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 250.97
693 0.36
Shutterstock 185.25 718 0.26
Dreamstime 111.54 620 0.18
Fotolia 44.77 530 0.08
StockXpert 28.30 163 0.17
BigStockPhoto 18.50 290 0.06
123rf 6.99 195 0.04
3.30 231 0.01
3.25 191 0.02
CanStockPhoto 2.50 445 0.01
Totals: 655.37 1.19

Microstock Earnings Chart - January 2008


  • iStockphoto resumed their position as my top earner. The chart shows a very sharp rise, though the quantity of sales was almost the same as November when I only earned two-thirds what I did in January. The price rise and bonus royalties clearly made the difference.
  • Fotolia rose to earnings I haven’t seen in many months. This may have been assisted by delayed effects of my Fotolia optimization experiment
  • Shutterstock was the only big agency that didn’t rise substantially, though I’m still happy with the longer term growth of earnings there.
  • I uploaded 21 editorial photos taken at the Australian Open to Shutterstock. As a result, I now have a larger portfolio there than at iStockphoto.


I uploaded 70 new photos to each agency this month, and also started getting more of my portfolio represented on the newer agencies. The difference of a concerted effort shows up very clearly in this chart of my portfolio sizes.

Microstock Portfolio Sizes - 2008-01

I did a lot of shooting during January, so I’ll continue uploading at a similar rate during February. My wife and I took a trip down the Great Ocean Road on the south coast of Australia to take some photos of the spectacular coastline. While we can still clearly see where we need to improve, we’re happy with our progress of our photography skills and the quality of the photos.


The milestone I’m currently aiming for is US$1,000 in earnings by the end of March 2008. While my January earnings were a great improvement, I’ll need to do something different if I’m going to meet this milestone. I can’t continue doing the same thing expecting a different result.

  • Pavel
    Posted at 10:53h, 01 February Reply

    As always, great information. What do you feel you need to do differently to boost earnings?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:47h, 01 February Reply

      Hi Pavel,

      So many things: breakthrough increase in upload quantity; shoot different subjects; get better results from my camera; invest in essential equipment; research! Oh so many. 😉


  • Christelle
    Posted at 11:42h, 01 February Reply

    Interesting info, however, it depends greatly on your contents, are your photos mainly about beaches etc.. ? you’d sell more before the summer, have you got many pictures related to an event etc… ?
    I suppose it would be interesting have a panel of microstock contributor, but you’re the only courageous soul producing this work. Thanks for that!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:50h, 01 February Reply

      Hi Christelle,

      I have a very broad range of subject in my portfolios, so I suspect I’m less effected by seasonal trends than most.

      I compare my results with other microstock contributors all the time. Sometimes we have similar experiences, but not always. One consistent aspect in January was the increase at iStockphoto. One inconsistent aspect was my rise at Fotolia. The contributors with large portfolios (5,000+) have more consistent results. I wish they’d let me publish their results too!


  • Marek
    Posted at 12:11h, 01 February Reply

    I have posted my numbers from the second month in microstock:

    My portfolio is still too small to make any statistically significant conclusions, but it may be of some interest for somebody just starting or thinking about it.

    Encouraging results from iStock, disappinting from everywhere else.


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:54h, 01 February Reply

      Hi Marek,

      I earned $16 in my second month with iStock too. We’re on the same path, just started at different times. I look forward to seeing your earnings for February.


  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 13:49h, 01 February Reply

    Great info as usual Lee.

    My feeling is that January was a fluke. It’s been my best month for almost a year.
    I’ve sold “a lot” on SS and DT but sales have also picked up unexpectedly from IS in spite of my puny portfolio there.

    My dilemma is whether it’s worth submitting images to these minor sites such as LO, 123, Canstock, Crestock, SnapVillage and Featurepics. I’m lucky to get $1 a month from these guys.

    I do like LO for its design and easy upload process; Crestock again for its design and easiest upload process of all and SnapVillage for letting you set your own price and for their generous commission.

  • laurent
    Posted at 14:10h, 01 February Reply

    Thanks for sharing your numbers Lee. Looks like IS was good for everybody this month:)
    About you $ 1000 goal, despite uploading it might not be possible, I think Midstock even it is slower to start might help


  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 13:12h, 02 February Reply

    I have set myself a different kind of goal for this year. In fact it’s my first goal of any type for microstock.

    Since sales are chaotic and it’s hard to predict them with any certainty, I have set the goal of having 50 new images in my portfolio on all of these sites, each quarter. Yeah, it’s a very small goal but I am concentrating on shooting and uploading good stuff, instead of mass uploading crap that doesn’t sell. So having 200 new high quality images by the end of the year shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish and it will help me a lot in the future if I can have an improved portfolio.

  • John
    Posted at 11:03h, 04 February Reply

    I was thinking that maybe you are calculating your total return per income incorrectly.

    since your portfolios have different sizes you should add the weighted average.

    Or, just add up the total income and device by the largest portfolio number (assuming of course that the largest portfolio has all of the images that the smaller portfolios have).

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 11:21h, 07 February Reply

      Hi John,

      Yes, I considered not posting the total, as it’s not an accurate reflection of “RPI”. That column is intended to show a more accurate reflection of how well each agency performs, given I have different quantities of photos at each one.

      I’ll post without the total next month. Thanks for your comment.


  • Mikhail Lavrenov
    Posted at 12:30h, 06 February Reply

    Lee, what’re your plans regarding Alamy and Photoshelter Collection? Are you going to step in there, or just stay with microstock for now?


    P.S. By the way my experience with Stockxpert is quite positive and I see that your portfolio is not so big there. Perhaps it deserves more of your attention…

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 11:25h, 07 February Reply

      Hey Mikhail,

      Yes, I’ve started uploading to both, though the upsizing at Alamy is slowing me down considerably.

      My intention is to upload my entire portfolio at each agency, but as I didn’t input the meta data in the IPTC fields when I started, I need to do so for all my old images. This will be a slow process, though I have already contributed all my top sellers to all agencies.


      • Mikhail Lavrenov
        Posted at 07:22h, 08 February Reply

        Sounds familiar to me 🙂

        However I have serious doubts whether it’s a right approach to upload same photos I sell on microstock to macrostock agencies…


  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 00:04h, 08 February Reply

    What’s the deal with Alamy? Is that midstock now or what? I looked over their site a few times but the whole process seemed too complicated to make me bother. Do they accept microstock images? It would be nice if you could share your experiences with them.

    • Mikhail Lavrenov
      Posted at 07:20h, 08 February Reply

      Alamy is not microstock. Alamy is a traditional “macrostock” agency that uses microstock supply model. They sell at “macro” prices (thus there are much fewer channels) and their sales models heavily depend on human agents and partner agencies; however the way they accept new photographers and they way photographs are uploaded and attributed is the same as in microstocks.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 08:18h, 08 February Reply

      I wrote a review of Alamy, but I have little to report of my experiences since then, primarily due to my slow progress uploading. When I have something worth writing about I’ll post it for sure.


  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 22:38h, 08 February Reply

    I know that Alamy was macrostock but I thought maybe they branched into midstock or something. To be honest, I think that a non-pro photographer would have a hard time selling anything at sites such as Alamy. You’d make a lot more money with microstock and it’s a lot easier to get into.

  • John
    Posted at 15:19h, 13 February Reply

    Have you ever calculated your portfolio based on all total images on any stock site?

    Have you ever looked at your total submitted photos?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 15:41h, 13 February Reply

      Not yet, on both counts. 🙂


Post A Comment