01 Feb 2009 Microstock Earnings Report January 2009

January’s results put 2009 off to a great start for me, despite many fellow microstockers reporting less-than-pleasing results.

The Relevance of Earnings Reports?

Given my very low uploading rate over the past six months and my extremely slow earnings growth, I’m considering more than ever the relevance of my earnings posts. The initial idea was to demonstrate what is possible for a part-time hobbyist to earn with the microstock market. However, I’m hearing from more and more photography enthusiasts who are finding it very difficult to get started. In light of rising quality standards, this is understandable.

The comparison is still useful for some people, but I’m looking into ways I can broaden the use and relevance of monthly microstock earning reports. Stay tuned.

Here’s my figures for January 2009:

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 255.24 779 0.33 75
Shutterstock 144.09 875 0.16 94
Dreamstime 101.23 762 0.13 66
Fotolia 85.37 650 0.13 49
StockXpert 41.20 347 0.12 43
BigStockPhoto 21.50 463 0.05 30
123rf 19.30 371 0.05 18
Crestock 10.35 370 0.03 29
Total: 678.28
Total: 1.00

Microstock Earnings Chart - January 2009

Total Earnings Chart:

(figures include small amounts of earnings from agencies I don’t report)

Total Microstock Earnings Chart - January 2009

I also earned $21.15 from CanStockPhoto thanks to the FotoSearch deal – two 30c subscription sales and one $19.80 regular sale. According to FotoSearch, not all CanStockPhoto photos are available through the FotoSearch website yet. They’re encouraging contributors to continue uploading to CanStockPhoto in order to access this new sales channel. Other microstockers have reported many more FotoSearch-generated sales than me.


  • Shutterstock and Dreamstime demonstrated the necessity to feed the beast by failing to recover to pre-festive season levels
  • iStockphoto obviously recovered very well, recording my third best ever result. New metrics enabled on the iStockcharts.de website indicate I’ve benefited from the last algorithm update to the best-match search result
  • StockXpert seems locked in at around $40 per month from me. Again, no uploading likely contributes to the absence of growth for me here.

  • Matt Antonino
    Posted at 20:47h, 01 February Reply

    Good to hear about Canstock – I just re-started uploading to them after months of taking it off my list. I have hopes for Fotosearch. Probably ones that won’t be met but gotta try it!

    I benefited from the IStock upgrade as well but not enough for the chart to measure it. haha

  • Laurent
    Posted at 09:57h, 02 February Reply

    Maybe you can use only the Lookstat graph when FT and SXP will be added, will give a good picture of the earnings. I am kind of stuck also for earnings although it is always better than a year ago.
    Did not try to upload to CSP again ….

  • Cory
    Posted at 15:23h, 02 February Reply

    I think it is still interesting when you stop uploading for a few months. It shows how much you’d make if you treated it as a truly passive form of income. Or at least you get your baseline income for Shutterstock. Also, it’s an easy blog post to do every month 😉

  • Stephen Strathdee
    Posted at 03:43h, 04 February Reply

    A telltale statistic I use, and that nobody else ever seems to mention, is DL/Image/Month (DLPI). DLPI gives a more accurate picture of portfolio health than RPI because it is not distorted by pricing elements such as EL sales and price changes. Using a DLPI graph in conjunction with a DL graph provides a more accurate picture of how well your portfolio is doing. For example, you might be quite happy that your Earnings, RPI, and DL graphs show you doing very well, but your DLPI graph just might say something different: your DL/Image/Month is 20% below where it was six months ago. Although you’re selling more, you’re market penetration is slipping … better find out why!

  • Angela
    Posted at 17:27h, 06 February Reply

    It would be interesting to see a chart that shows the time spent it takes selecting the best images, captioning them, color correcting and uploading so the return per image could be compared to the hours spent. It seems like a lot of time would be required for little return. I am with a non microstock site but curious.

    • Chris Nuzzaco
      Posted at 22:52h, 06 February Reply

      Micro stock is a time based business. It takes a good month or so to make an ROI, and then it can earn profits for a few years before it just stops selling. If you compared total profits from one shoot against the amount of time spent creating the shots during the first month, you would be lead to believe its a waste of time. However, if you do that same comparison a year later, you’ll find the results are far different. I’ve had a handful of shots from a small shoot earn me hundreds of dollars in just 3 months. I suspect those images will earn well over $1,000 in the next 1 – 1 1/2 years.

      Most people approach microstock from the wrong angle, and thus don’t profit from it.

  • john
    Posted at 12:15h, 09 February Reply

    Have you ever written a post about why there are so many personal blogs tracking their microstock earnings. Are they just copying lee?

    steps for microstock success
    1) buy SLR.
    2) join microstock sites.
    3) first sale.
    4) make blog to track earnings.
    5) stop updating blog after about a year.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:24h, 28 February Reply

      Yep, it’s disappointing that so many microstock blogs don’t last, but I totally understand why. It’s not very profitable in terms of direct return. If I calculated my hourly rate for building this blog it would be disturbingly low. I’ve been lucky that I’ve managed to gain some fantastic non-monetary benefits (knowledge, relationships and experiences), many of which help me increase my earnings. It’s not showing up in my earnings reports yet, but trust me, it’s helping. 😉

  • jay Reilly
    Posted at 02:45h, 12 February Reply

    the question is did you make more money on your stock or on the advertising from your stock photography blog? 😉 I guess that is reason to continue to do blog stats. Or keep doing them as i love to see what people are making in micro stock. It really amazes me!

    thanks, jay

  • philip
    Posted at 19:18h, 14 February Reply

    I love the open sharing of this information and your experience. It seems to be something unique to the microstock community. Has anyone every seen anything so transparent about traditional stock statistics and experiences?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:46h, 28 February Reply

      Philip, it’s starting to happen, yes. Keep an eye on Jack Hollingsworth and John Lund – two top traditional stock photographers who’ve got big plans for their online presence. Also look at assignment photographer Chase Javis who is doing great things with social media and sharing his experiences.

  • john
    Posted at 17:21h, 16 February Reply

    You might consider adding monthly downloads to your stats…

  • David
    Posted at 19:16h, 16 February Reply

    Your RPI at DT is really low. Have you checked your keywords.

  • Marek
    Posted at 12:11h, 18 February Reply

    Is really RPI=0.13 from DT really low?

    I have only RPI=0.05 and I saw similar numbers on other two blogs reporting earnings.

    • Stephen Strathdee
      Posted at 18:28h, 18 February Reply

      Yes, it is low – I’d say adequate performance there starts at $0.20.

      • David
        Posted at 19:00h, 18 February Reply

        Yeah mine varies between .20 to .25

  • pdtnc
    Posted at 18:10h, 20 February Reply

    January went like this (in actual payouts):
    istock: $100.00
    CSP: $0
    BSP: $32.50
    Fotolia: $100
    Dreamstime: $200
    Sutterstock: $0
    SXP: $50.80
    123RF: $0
    Crestock: $0

    Buoyed up by a nice referral at DT, SXP does a pretty regular $50/month for me, overall earnings were better than December.
    I’d say that everyone who’s blogging about microstock is worthwhile in their part as its got to help people to make educated choices when signing up to agencies.
    I have a total of 7943 images online which give me a return of 36c an image, though actual sold images are 13693.

  • claudio
    Posted at 08:27h, 22 February Reply

    i had no sales at all on canstock and then suddenly two sales through fotosearch – only $0.30 each but maybe things are getting better

  • Alex Hinds
    Posted at 06:57h, 27 December Reply

    Hi Lee,

    Re Canstock I can say my experience since Fotosearch got involved has been very positive with increased activity and several EL downloads. Prior to Fotosearch I’d pretty much decided not to waste any time uploading more to Canstock, but I will now. Howver I too am not creating much new content for the micros at them moment so as Cory says it is interesting to see how portfolios hold up in continuibg to return passive income.


Post A Comment