01 Dec 2009 Microstock Earnings Report November 2009

This will be the last of my regular earnings reports. Next month I’ll be taking it to a whole new level. Stay tuned!

Jack’s Results

Despite a slight slowdown in Jack’s uploads, his earnings reached a new total record, largely thanks to two Extended License sales at Shutterstock. Total sales/downloads were down 100 (20%) on last month.

Jack Hollingsworth microstock earnings November 2009

Agency Earnings US$ Sales Portfolio Size Return per Image
STR %
iStockphoto 29.97 24 107 0.28 48
Shutterstock 127.26 196 978 0.13 63
Dreamstime 48.67 37 1034 0.05 20
Fotolia 13.49 14 1067 0.01 10
StockXpert 32.30 52 1101 0.03 18
BigStockPhoto 24.00 10 1093 0.02 6
123rf 23.35 29 1313 0.02 2
Totals: 299.04 362
Avg: 24

Jack Hollingsworth Earnings Chart - November 2009

My Results

Jack wasn’t the only one saved by Extended License sales at Shutterstock this month. My total earnings were slightly up over last month despite most agencies falling. The second chart shows it broke the pattern of November being lower than October. The small size of my portfolio clearly introduces these statistical sensitivities. December is always the lowest earning month for me, so I’m keeping my expectations for next month appropriately low.

Agency Earnings US$ Sales Portfolio Size Return per Image
STR %
iStockphoto 299.30 222 770 0.39 78
Shutterstock 240.32 250 874 0.27 95
Dreamstime 77.53 47 764 0.10 72
Fotolia 93.53 142 651 0.14 57
StockXpert 32.90 46 345 0.10 61
CanStockPhoto 53.10 10 483 0.11 29
BigStockPhoto 14.00 16 474 0.03 36
123rf 9.84 16 376 0.03 23
Crestock 5.50 12 372 0.01
38
Totals: 826.02 761
Avg: 54

Microstock Earnings Chart - November 2009

Total Microstock Earnings Chart - November 2009

26 Comments
  • aj_max
    Posted at 13:56h, 03 December Reply

    Hi

    Thanks for a very interesting article. One thing surprises me though – Jack gets highest return per image at istock according to his figures, but portfolio size is about 1/10 of that elsewhere – why?

    Why not just put everything on istock if you are out to make money??

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 23:52h, 03 December Reply

      aj, that’s a good question. I’ll give you a few answers and tell you which ones applies to Jack.

      iStockphoto have an upload limit well below any other agency. Supply of photos has never been an issue for them – they sell well so everyone wants to get their portfolio online. In Jack’s case, he’s well below the limits so this is not the reason he’s uploading less.

      iStockphoto have the most laborious upload process of all microstock agencies. With everyone so keen to get their photos online, there’s no reason for them to take the workload away from the photographer (model release management, automatic categories, etc) at the expense of development costs and time. The programmers have enough work building things that will further increase sales. Jack’s photos are uploaded to iStockphoto with Deepmeta, which makes it much easier and automated, so this reason doesn’t apply to Jack either.

      iStockphoto reject a lot more images than other agencies. One of the factors in this – which I don’t believe has been officially confirmed – is your approval rate. Statistically, a rejection early in the life of a portfolio has a larger impact on the approval rate than when the portfolio is large. Therefore, it’s important to be careful when building a new portfolio on iStockphoto, more so than other agencies. This reason applies to Jack.

      iStockphoto reject a lot more images than other agencies. Yes, I’m repeating myself. However, there’s an additional impact behind the same reason. Photos often have to have additional work done to them and/or be downsized in order to be accepted by iStockphoto. This is the case with Jack’s photos as his retoucher doesn’t deliver them in a condition acceptable to iStockphoto.

      So yes, your assertion that uploading more to iStockphoto to increase profits is absolutely correct. However, there are some hurdles which make it difficult and costly.

  • Marek
    Posted at 15:08h, 03 December Reply

    There is a weekly upload limit on iStock.

    I am getting 44% of my earnings from IS, but I have the smallest portfolio there. The largest portfolio I have on SS, my #2 earner – 50% more pictures than on IS and 26% of earnings.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 23:54h, 03 December Reply

      Marek, it’s a similar case with me, though because I started with iStockphoto and my early portfolio is a mess, I have around the same quantity of files on both agencies. But as you can see, my RPI is much higher at iStockphoto.

      -Lee

  • Sean Locke
    Posted at 16:38h, 06 December Reply

    “Why not just put everything on istock if you are out to make money??”

    Jack isn’t out to make money in micro. Or at least not currently. Looking at the stats, he wasn’t even able to get one image online to iStock in the last month? Jack should certainly be able to get some technically proficient images online. The other site’s portfolios only increased by a dozen or two. I think this shows that (SS ELs notwithstanding), that making a half hearted toss to micro isn’t going to prove successful and will probably end as basically a waste of time invested.

  • Courtney
    Posted at 19:20h, 08 December Reply

    Hi Lee,

    Just a question regarding upload quantities. I notice that Jack’s RPI is very low and was wondering whether this may have something to do with the fact that he has uploaded such a large number of images over a short period.

    I am currently uploading around 20 images a week, but was thinking of increasing that to 40-50.

    Many people advise uploading images in smaller batches is better for sales.

    Just wondering if you have ever noticed wether uploading more images in larger batches has a negative effect on sales?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks,
    Courtney

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 20:48h, 08 December Reply

      Hi Courtney,

      There’s no set ideal upload quantity. It varies depending on how many images you produce, the commercial success of the images you produce, and each agency responds differently.

      Jack’s RPI was at its highest when he was uploading most rapidly, though there’s no way to know if it would have continued at that height had he kept uploading at the same rate.

      Overall, Jack’s RPI is very low because of the content he’s uploading. It’s content he already had but didn’t have a market for, so decided to put it into microstock knowing that it was “low hanging fruit” and that it would garner a low RPI. He has plans to put other types of photos into the market in the future, but for now, it’s this basic studio stuff.

      Uploading faster will no doubt mean your earnings will rise faster, but whether than translates into a higher RPI is another question. My advice is always to upload at the rate you can produce. If you upload fewer, then you’ll end up with a backlog of images which are earning you nothing.

      Many other microstockers save some of their images to upload during the ‘high sales’ times of the year and report positive results with that technique. I have never tried this myself.

      Also, it’s not so much about the size of the batches, but being consistent. Uploading 300 one month and then nothing for the following two months will likely produce fewer total sales at most agencies than uploading 100 each month for three months.

      Hope that helps!
      -Lee

  • Courtney
    Posted at 02:17h, 09 December Reply

    Thanks Lee,

    Thats great advice!! I will continue uploading at a consistent rate.

    Do you usually upload over the Christmas break? I was wondering if images that get uploaded might not get so many views due to the lack of traffic over this period and then be buried under a pile of new uploads in January.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 05:57h, 10 December Reply

      That’s exactly the theory of the people I was referring to. They upload more during the busy times. I haven’t taken much notice as I never shot on a consistent basis, but I always recommend testing to see what works for you. I’m sure there’s people who say that strategy doesn’t work. Besides, it’s bound to have different effects at different agencies. It’s not simple. 🙂

      -Lee

  • Holger Mette
    Posted at 09:10h, 09 December Reply

    Interesting to see the comments on SS extended license sales. I’ve noticed a definite upturn in extended license sales at SS – nice to see that its not just my portfolio. Hope it continues!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 05:58h, 10 December Reply

      It’s back to zero for me and Jack so far this month. Glad someone is getting them! 😉

  • Tyler
    Posted at 13:52h, 10 December Reply

    Wow, thanks for showing us your stats! I’m always interested to know how other people are doing 🙂

  • Courtney
    Posted at 23:13h, 10 December Reply

    Thanks again Lee,

    I might have a bit of a holiday over the next few weeks and see how things go.

    Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

    Courtney

  • Marek
    Posted at 11:53h, 14 December Reply

    re: SS on demand sales.
    11% of my SS earnings in November came from OD sales. It was lower than in previous months (14% in October).

    My November earnings report.

  • Enrique
    Posted at 15:08h, 27 December Reply

    I wonder about how many money you can make per month or year

    I want to know if microstocks are an option for profesional photographers business or it’s just for fun

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 00:36h, 31 December Reply

      Enrique, it depends on your business. If you can create the kind of shots that sell well in microstock at a low cost, then it’s possible (not easy) to make a successful business contributing microstock.

      And just because it’s business doesn’t mean it can’t be fun too. 😉

      -Lee

      • Enrique
        Posted at 00:36h, 31 December Reply

        Lee,

        just numbers pleas, how much you win per year and for how many pictures?

        …And make calculations and will see if this is good business for photographers

        if you dare

        • Lee Torrens
          Posted at 00:55h, 31 December Reply

          I have around 800 photos and have earned around US$9,000 this year, but my photos are very poor. An average return per photo is around $1 per photo per month, or $12 per photo per year. If your photos are great and you have a lot of them you could earn up to $9 per photo per month like some of the top contributors.

          All my data is above in my earnings reports, and there are links to my portfolios on my About page, so you can get all the data you like. This comment isn’t giving you any new information – you just have to look for it.

          Whether this is “good business for photographers” will be different for everyone. Yuri Arcurs earns over US$1million a year in microstock (information he has made public) and at the time of that statement he had around 12,000 photos. But, there are thousands of people who have submitted photos and not even earned enough to make the minimum payout.

          Microstock is a business for some and just fun for others. If you’re good enough at creating the types of photos that work in microstock and can create them in volume and in a cost effective manner, then you can make a business out of it. If you’re not good enough, then I hope you find it fun.

          Regarding your “if you dare” comment, my earning reports are not promoting anything other than a statistical data point. Microstock is not magic and I’m not creating unrealistic expectations. The fact is that most people who try microstock fail to achieve their aims. A large portion of my blog posts are designed to help people understand whether microstock as a business model is a good fit for them. See microstock isn’t for everybody as a good start discovering whether it will work for you. Statistically, it’s unlikely.

          • Enrique
            Posted at 01:48h, 31 December

            First,
            First,

            Thank you very much for answer me,

            I won’t try to polemize too much, so, time will talk for us.

            You can not pay models with 750 dolars per month, and you can not pay for transportation, if you make landscapes pictures or nature pictures.

            800 pictures meant about 2 per day, whole 365 day of the year, so, I think you need 2 years or more to take pictures and to recover the invest you did in make the pictures, so, you are not winning, you are losing, may be you are working in something else that give you the money to take the pictures that you will undersell.

            If this is for fun, it’s ok, but, business are business. If you cost are equal or greater than your sales, you are losing, there are not magic here,

            If I take sunsets pictures, I need wait for good day and I need to trip to the place and take few pictures.

            If I take models pictures I need to pay for models and expend 1 day to take pictures,

            Can you see that? this is big business for microstoks who win billions and pay pennies or pay wiht the “have fun” to the photographers.

            Yuri Arcurs?
            I dont know about him, but he is an idol, like and luminaria in show business. but how many can be an artist ?

          • Lee Torrens
            Posted at 03:21h, 31 December

            Yes, I’ve written about profitability too: Shoot profitability. As you can read there, I’ve earned over $3,000 from a 2-hour shoot in the past, but other shoots have been much less successful.

            Yes, I’m a hobbyist and I don’t pay models and rarely go out of my way to shoot stock. For me it’s fun and I could not survive on just my income from my photos.

            Also, I haven’t created any new stock for 12 months. The $750 a month doesn’t need to pay for models or travel. For me it’s wildly profitable as a hobby, but I would need to do things very differently if it were to be a business. You can’t use a hobbyist like me as an example to say that the business model doesn’t work for professional photographers. It’s true that it doesn’t work for many, but it can work.

            Yuri is indeed the top earner. The income of other photographers drops very quickly after him. I’ve written about that too: Microstock and the long tail.

            I don’t understand your business logic. You say I need two more years creating two photos a day to recover my investment? How do you know how much I invested? I haven’t told you my costs. And by your logic, wouldn’t another two years increase my investment making me even less profitable? Maybe it’s a language issue (your English is much better than my Spanish!) but what you’ve written doesn’t make sense.

  • Enrique
    Posted at 04:13h, 31 December Reply

    Lee,

    you say:
    ” Yes, I’ve written about profitability too: Shoot profitability. As you can read there, I’ve earned over $3,000 from a 2-hour shoot in the past, but other shoots have been much less successful”

    ok, that’s is make business. Agree with you. good one.

    you say:
    “Yes, I’m a hobbyist and I don’t pay models and rarely go out of my way to shoot stock. For me it’s fun and I could not survive on just my income from my photos”

    ok, that’s is have fun.

    can you see that? it’s very easy to understand diference between business and have fun.

    may be I consider to post pictures in microstocks to have fun, but not to make business. I like to name things with it’s right names.

    you say:
    “II don’t understand your business logic. You say I need two more years creating two photos a day to recover my investment?”

    I meant, that may be and just may be you take the 800 pictures in 2 or more years.

    you say:
    “(your English is much better than my Spanish!) but what you’ve written doesn’t make sense..”

    My english is not good, but have sense, because you are understanding me.

    Lee, I am sure you are very smart guy, I do not want to be against you, I am just trying to clarify the concept of the microstocks because I am trying to understand more about photography business.

    Thank you very much

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 05:33h, 31 December Reply

      You’re welcome. I hope it’s helped.

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