01 Oct 2009 Microstock Earnings Report September 2009

Not too much excitement in this month’s earning reports. Everything is going up, but slowly, and I’m bracing for the slide down to my traditional December low.

Jack’s Results

The microstock portfolios of Jack Hollingsworth had mild growth in both earnings and portfolio size this month. His uploads are again picking up speed and expect to be steady through the remaining months of the year. Jack’s Shutterstock portfolio reached $500 in total earnings during the month, raising his commission from 25 to 33 cents per subscription sale.

Agency Earnings US$ Sales Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 26.86 22 98 0.27 43
Shutterstock 63.98 202 861 0.07 60
Dreamstime 56.35 42 902 0.06 16
Fotolia 8.10 9 928 0.01 8
StockXpert 19.80 59 909 0.02 16
BigStockPhoto 8.50 7 959 0.01 5
123rf 4.59 7 1176 0.00 2
Totals: 188.18 348
Avg: 21

Jack's Microstock Earnings Chart - September 2009


  • Total sales were lower than last month but total earnings were higher thanks to reaching higher commission at Shutterstock and a big jump in revenue per sale at Dreamstime
  • Total RPI for 1,009 photos uploaded [123rf has extra 200] by earnings of $188.18 is $0.19 per photo per month – down on last month

My Results

My iSyndica campaign to even out my portfolios is progressing slowly but steadily. I now have 39 of my best selling photos on iSyndica which I’ve distributed to the agencies where they were not already in my portfolio. So there’s some small changes in portfolios sizes. Plus, iStockphoto continue cleaning up many of my older photos which aren’t quite guarantee suitable, dropping my portfolio size slightly.

Agency Earnings US$ Sales Portfolio Size Return per Image
iStockphoto 303.83 223 770 0.39 77
Shutterstock 165.22 246 876 0.19 94
Dreamstime 98.57 56 762 0.13 72
Fotolia 123.12 129 650 0.19 55
StockXpert 34.80 53 345 0.10 59
CanStockPhoto 48.20 17 482 0.10 28
BigStockPhoto 22.00 20 465 0.05 37
123rf 5.91 10 374 0.02 22
Crestock 16.75 25 372 0.05
Totals: 818.40 779
Avg: 53

Microstock Earnings Chart - September 2009

Total Microstock Earnings Chart - September 2009


  • I actually did some shooting this month but didn’t produce anything I’m happy to contribute. I’ve been spending too much time looking at great portfolios. Now now my expectations are way too high for my skill level!
  • Cutcaster performed ok with another two sales netting $6.22 for the month. I’ve had sales at Cutcaster each month for five months straight.
  • I uploaded my 39 top sellers via iSyndica to Veer Marketplace. They sold 6 photos for a total revenue of $3.50.
  • Marek
    Posted at 10:25h, 01 October Reply

    I just posted my September numbers – a slow growth, but I hoped for better results after summer slow time. Well, actually August was pretty good for me.

    Veer is rejecting most of my best selling pictures as not suitable for stock. Nevertheless, I got some sales, mostly some boring backgrounds …

  • plrang
    Posted at 10:28h, 01 October Reply

    ‘my expectations are way too high for my skill level’ – sounds familiar and that’s the way:), greetings

  • Cory
    Posted at 11:10h, 01 October Reply

    September was a great month for me. Also, congrats to you on getting mentioned in the Macworld article.

  • Holger Mette
    Posted at 11:30h, 01 October Reply

    As usual thanks for the stats Lee!

    For me the big news of the month is the resurgence of Istock – I suspect this is not quite so obvious in your figures if they’re deleting files, and with the upload limits seriously limiting Jack’s portfolio. For me its a BME in terms of overall $$ – the first since the big plunge last year, and the best this year for download numbers.
    Its also the first month where IS has overtaken the total revenue on SS. Looking at the Alexa stats is showing pretty strong growth.

  • Matt Antonino
    Posted at 13:16h, 01 October Reply

    I enjoy seeing Jack’s numbers too – he’s doing fairly well so far! 🙂 I just updated my numbers for Sept as well and given the lack of summer effort on my part I’m ok with my totals. Now we get into the part of the year where I really love to be submitting! I can’t wait for the next 9 months of micro!


  • Orson
    Posted at 16:08h, 01 October Reply

    For me, September was the best month ever in microstock, I had the highest earnings on Shutterstock and Dreamstime. For more details, you can look at my September microstock earnings report.

  • Maluson
    Posted at 01:58h, 02 October Reply

    Altough I’m quite new to microstock with vectors (since june), I must say that my numbers were quite good thanks mostly to shutterstock (BME).
    It seems to me though that Vectors and Illustrations are most of the time better sellers than photos.

    Thanks for your wonderful website Lee!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 04:03h, 02 October Reply

      Hey Maluson, yes, there’s a general consensus that illustrations are more lucrative than photos. It makes sense when you consider that the prices (for vectors) are higher and there’s less competition than with photos. Lucky for those of you who can create great illustrations!


  • Leo
    Posted at 17:26h, 03 October Reply

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for the earnings comparison. It seems to me that the largest factor in getting stable earnings from microstock is time. For instance, Jack has surpassed your portfolio count in a very short time (of course, he has an arsenal of photos prior from a week’s long studio session, as you mentioned), but his earnings are still relatively small.

    What do you think? I believe it’s harder to get accepted and the ball rolling these days, but if one keeps pursuing it with quality work and consistent uploads, eventually time will stabilize earnings from, at the very least, the major sites.

    You’re doing an excellent job, by the way. Take care!


    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 02:39h, 04 October Reply

      Hi Leo,

      Yes, Jack has built his portfolio in a relatively short time, which is one of the factors which explain his relatively low earnings – his portfolios don’t have the advantage of a metrics history. Additionally, his shots are very simple (location shots “usually” sell better than studio shots), don’t have a lot of variety, and are a competitive subject (people isolated on white). His earnings so far are quite close to where his expectations were for this content.


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