01 Aug 2007 Microstock Earnings Report July 2007

July was a real surprise. I was expecting earnings to be lower than June but they’ve gone up a little. Last year July was lower than June. Other microstockers had the same expectation, but many experienced a similar slight rise in July.

We added only a small number of new images to our portfolios this month. Most of what we contributed was to our newer agencies, so as a result the earnings per image for those agencies have come down to more familiar levels.

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Per Photo Percentage
iStockphoto 151.66 601 0.25 33%
ShutterStock 144.35 577 0.25 31%
Dreamstime 63.75 522 0.12 14%
LuckyOliver 30.10 108 0.28 7%
Fotolia 28.35 440 0.06 6%
StockXpert 16.50 69 0.24 4%
BigStockPhoto 15.00 212 0.07 3%
123rf 6.09 94 0.06 1%
Crestock 5.00 26 0.19 1%
CanStockPhoto 4.00 363 0.01 1%
Totals $464.60 1.53


  • Most agencies were slightly up on last month with notable exceptions of iStockphoto and LuckyOliver
  • Another extended license sale at LuckyOliver this month, the second month in succession
  • The StockXpert Per Photo rate is now down among the others after we contributed additional images
  • Fotolia were slightly down even though their website was unavailable for half of last month
  • I added Crestock to the chart this month. Earnings more than doubled.

Microstock Earning Results for July 2007

  • Andre
    Posted at 15:39h, 01 August Reply

    At least your post has convinced me to give LuckyOliver a try.

  • laurent
    Posted at 16:22h, 01 August Reply


    Congratulation on your earnings, I am still far away for these numbers ! LO is pretty good for you I have a similar size portfolio on it but no sales yet….


  • gribbler
    Posted at 20:16h, 01 August Reply

    Some people have told me that you need to reach a “critical mass” with your portfolio and then wait a few months before the cash starts rolling in. Was it like this for you in the beginning?

  • Lee Torrens
    Posted at 20:39h, 01 August Reply

    Hey Gribbler,

    No, not at all. I think contributors who specialise and become preferred sources for a particular type of image will build a self-sustaining momentum with a point of critical mass. However, my images are random subjects so they’re all individual earners. Some will sell well for a limited time, other sell consistently, and many never sell at all.

    I also experience a close relationship between my earnings growth and the quantity of photos I upload.

    Take a look at my early earnings charts which show my growth rates. You can see it took me some time to build my earnings to their current levels.

    Also consider that with payout limits you won’t be receiving the cash until you’re earning more than the limit each month.

    – Lee

  • Steven Kapsinow
    Posted at 09:47h, 02 August Reply

    Lee, wow! Nice numbers, and I’m glad to see Stockxpert doing so well for you relative to portfolio size.


  • davemill
    Posted at 18:34h, 02 August Reply

    Hi, everyone,

    I’m a photography buyer, not a seller. I’m writing this post to contribute some observations back to the photographers who are submitting such great work. I hope someone gets value from this.

    My priorities for a stock photo site are, in priority order:
    1. Largest possible selection
    2. Highest possible quality
    3. Best price

    Quality comes after selection because without selection, I will never find the photos I need.

    Anyhow, to get started with microstock, I purchased a one month subscription to Dreamstime. I chose Dreamstime because they had a good selection, good quality, and great price. I viewed the $90 investment as an inexpensive education.

    I’m 22 days into a 30 day subscription. I’ve downloaded 190 photos, many for use in brainstorming sessions with staff and clients. Several have seen use in comps and small projects, all within the royalty-free license terms. At some point, we may need to upgrade the license for a few photos for use in a project not covered under the Dreamstime royalty-free license.

    Yesterday, Dreamstime went down (still down), so I started exploring other sites. istockphoto is very interesting. For the picture keywords I am interested in, I find a slightly larger selection, but with many of the same photos from the same photographers. As you probably know, with the subscription from Dreamstime, I can get high-resolution photos for significantly less money than from istockphoto, so I’ll stick with Dreamstime for those. But today I found several more photos (less than 10) that I will purchase in high resolution from istockphoto because I cannot find them on Dreamstime. I will not spend the time to search other sites for the same photos cheaper-using Dreamstime as a primary and istockphoto as a secondary is as far as I will go. If I cannot find what I need on these two, I may look for another site for more selection.

    What am I buying? I purchased about 20 photos of children. All were studio shots, or studio-quality, from two photographers. One clearly was photographing his own two sons-he posted photos of them over a several year period, and you can see them get older. But they were professional shots. They may have been taken in his home, but he gave me a choice of hundreds of shots in many poses, with the boys alone, together, and with their mother. Many poses, many facial expressions. The kids always had clean, solid colored clothes on, and props were simple and colorful. all the backgrounds are clean, simple or removed altogether. In summary, he gave me studio-quality work of his family, and I bought it.

    I purchased over 100 clear, close-up studio shots of animals. I’ve bought some animal photos that were clearly opportunity snapshots (squirrels in trees, ducks on a pond), but the quality was equal to the studio work. I did not purchase any lower-quality snapshots-I can take those myself with my point and shoot camera. In other words, it doesn’t matter how interesting the photo is, if the quality isn’t equal to what a pro delivers in his studio, I’m not buying it. Examples include lighting-strong shadows and resulting dark features are no good; clear, shadow-free or low-shadow exposures (cloudy day?) work better. Flat exposure caused by on-camera flash looks bad; pro multi-point or diffuse lighting is what I need. Branches, leaves, grass in front of the animal is no good; although when the squirrel is hanging from the tree or standing up clear of the branch I’ve bought it. Animals sitting there staring at the camera are boring. Animals in action, or looking left or right, or lifting a paw, or doing anything other than sitting there are interesting. One photographer (Eric I.) has posted photos on several sites of animals on a white background, I have purchased several dozen of his images.

    I purchased about 20 more images of business people and computers. All were studio work, with well dressed models or clean, well lit computers. All were against white backgrounds. If you do a search on some of the business people images, you will laugh at how poor some of them are-unshaven guys, girls with wrinkled blouses not tucked into their skirts, on-camera flash creating ugly, flat exposure. Not surprisingly, none of these had been purchased, according to the counts.

    The interesting thing about microstock is that I can buy a whole lightbox of similar photos for a small amount of money, and use these for a campaign, for multiple comp options, or just for brainstorming. Some of the photos I bought have been bought by other customers. This doesn’t bother me at all, even if it is over 100 other purchases.

    I realize that, after buying all of these photos, I have generated somewhat less than $90 total revenue for the photographers (that’s what I paid Dreamstime). But I will eventually pay several times that to get the other licenses I need for some shots, and I will buy more photos as well.
    If there are a few thousand buyers like me in the world, then there’s some good money to be made. I hope you all make great money and keep submitting quality work.

  • David Franklin
    Posted at 20:13h, 06 August Reply

    Nice, informative post Dave. Thanks.

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