01 Apr 2009 Microstock Earnings Report March 2009

As I mentioned on Monday, microstock is up! I set a new all-time earnings record this month. Interestingly, this has happened after almost four months without contributing (m)any new photos. Microstock is known to require constant uploading in order to raise or even maintain earnings rates. Perhaps I would have passed the illusive $1000/month milestone had I been shooting and uploading.

I’m re-introducing CanStockPhoto into my report after three months of FotoSearch powered sales placing them in my top six earning agencies. They were previously my case study for deciding when to give up on a slow selling agency.

Earnings Results

Agency Earnings US$ Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 260.95 777 0.34 76
Shutterstock 246.04 875 0.28 94
Dreamstime 138.27 762 0.18 68
Fotolia 119.41 650 0.18 51
StockXpert 53.20 347 0.15 48
CanStockPhoto 42.65 464 0.09 26
BigStockPhoto 19.87 465 0.04 32
123rf 2.51 367 0.01 19
Crestock 37.25 370 0.10
Total: 920.15
Total: 1.37

Microstock Earnings Chart - March 2009

Total Microstock Earnings Chart


  • I set a new earnings record at Shutterstock and Crestock this month, and did so for the third month in a row at CanStockPhoto
  • 123rf appear to be punishing my lack of activity as would be expected – the line drops consistently since the surprise-peak in December
  • YAYmicro sold three licenses for me this month, which is a positive sign

How did you go in March?

  • Marek
    Posted at 12:28h, 01 April Reply

    I guess I had my big jump in February, March was a little slower. My total earnings went up, but not as much as I would expect.

    SS – the same performance as in February, IS and DT down, but all my smaller players (SXP, FT, BSP, 123RF) up and with BME.

    My March earnings report.

  • travis manley
    Posted at 14:21h, 01 April Reply

    March was very good. BME at istock and best month so far this year at shutterstock.

  • Rahul Pathak
    Posted at 15:01h, 01 April Reply

    Congrats on a BME Lee. I wonder what ‘feeding the beast’ might have done…

  • Cory
    Posted at 17:32h, 01 April Reply

    Congrats everyone! I just posted my earnings and March was definitely good to me too.

  • rmarinello
    Posted at 08:59h, 03 April Reply

    Good news from microstock, congrats Lee!

  • Laurent
    Posted at 08:15h, 06 April Reply

    Congrats on the BME Lee ! For me March was good but not BME:( maybe this month ?

  • Mark Stout
    Posted at 17:34h, 08 April Reply

    Up or down, microstock is not fairly rewarding photographers for thier work and does not pay enough to support the costs of a shoot. With each photo uploaded to microstock, you are eliminating a client who would otherwise pay you a fair price. With each photo you upload to microstock, you are telling the world you consider your talent and creativity worthless. With each photo you upload, you are making it possibly for corporations to gain the image used in a multi million dollar ad campaign for a couple bucks. Stop screwing yourself. FIND OUT WHAT YOUR WORK IS WORTH AND REFUSE TO LET PEOPLE HAVE IT FOR NOTHING. For gods sakes, the credit card companies charge more to process the transaction than you get for your hard work when an image is downloaded!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:28h, 08 April Reply

      Hi Mark, I have some rebuttals.

      What’s not “fair” for you is fine with me. Microstock supports the cost of my shoots just fine, but I understand why it wouldn’t do so for you – you maintain a studio, lots of equipment and employ other people. Not all buyers can justify the cost of traditional stock and would otherwise shoot themselves, go without, or steal an image. My “talent and creativity” have a certain market value, but that’s not up to me to decide – I let the market set the value.

      I don’t have a problem with a “corporation using my images in multi million dollar ad campaigns for a couple of bucks”. Photos are now in ample supply so they’re paying market rates.

      I know what my work is worth. I’m not at a standard where traditional stock agencies would be interested in selling my photos. Again, stock photos are in ample supply, so my photos are selling at market rates.

      Microstock, the term, is a contraction of ‘micropayment stock photography’, and the micropayment portion explains why the credit card transaction costs are dealt with.

      You’re emotional about this topic (“fair”, “worthless”, “screwing”, SHOUTING, “For Gods sakes”) so you’re not seeing the reality. It’s not complicated. Stock photos are now easy to produce, so the supply goes way up, which brings down the price. Living from stock photography with a high cost operation is now many times more difficult than it was in the past and fewer people will be able to do so successfully. If you can understand accept this reality you’ll relieve some of that anger. I wish you luck.


    • Stephen Strathdee
      Posted at 19:03h, 08 April Reply

      Very well said, Lee, very well said.

  • JeffGreenberg
    Posted at 19:11h, 09 April Reply

    “I’m not at a standard where traditional stock agencies would be interested in selling my photos.”

    Disagree. Familiar with Alamy? Its not traditional, but its not micro — so far.
    All one has to do is pass quality control.
    Don’t know if you would make more or less than $1K/mo. there.
    All depends on combo of one’s quanity, quality, variety, keywording.
    Are there many doing both micro AND nonmicro?
    A significant body of data on that would be interesting, no?
    Is there consensus as to which brings in more profit after expenses + work time?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 17:07h, 10 April Reply

      Yes Jeff, I’m familiar with Alamy.

      Yes, there is a consensus and it depends what you shoot. For commercial stock photos, microstock will generate around $1 RPI per month, while Alamy contributors reported in their forums reaching figures closer to $1 per year. However, I understand that if you shoot editorial or difficult-to-access niche topics, Alamy will earn you a higher return than microstock.

      I’ve had photos available on Alamy myself in the past, but have since taken them down. It takes commitment to win favor with AlamyRank, so while my photos have a higher earning potential in microstock, that’s where I’m concentrating my effort.

      Photographers using the “traditional agencies” I referred to report RPIs much higher than microstock.

  • JeffGreenberg
    Posted at 18:27h, 11 April Reply

    > microstock will generate around $1 RPI per month, while Alamy contributors reported in their
    > forums reaching figures closer to $1 per year.
    Few yrs back commercial Alamy shooters reported averaging ~$6-8/photo/yr online gross.
    Is micro commercial average ~$12/photo/yr online gross or profit?
    Editorial Alamy shooters reported $1-4/photo/yr online gross.
    But editorial shooters may have 2x — 5x as many photos online.
    With financial crisis, averages probably down 20-50%…?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 19:47h, 11 April Reply

      $6-$8 annual RPI sounds better, though still lower than microstock.

      All figures are gross. As ideal as it would be to make comparisons on net income, there are too many unknown factors and differences in calculation methods to make it work.

      There’s till debate about how microstock will be affected by the economic situation given it’s a cheaper alternative. Sales appear to be rising rapidly so far, but personally, I don’t expect the net effect will be positive after another six months.

      Alamy are hurting from the closures and downturn in the UK editorial market, so I expect earnings for Alamy-only photographers are down as well. However, for editorial photographers, I don’t expect microstock is a viable alternative yet.

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