02 Mar 2007 What do You do with your Microstock Income?

People make different amounts of income from selling their photos on microstock websites. I know people who make “a little spending money” each month and enjoy the process of earning cash for doing something they enjoy. I also know of people who make their living from microstock, and so take it very seriously. This led me to thinking about what other people do with the money they make from microstock.

What I do

My microstocking is part of my business. My income therefore goes to paying the salaries, operating costs and overheads of the business. While I track and analyse the income, the money itself goes into the pool with the rest of my income. This is appropriate for my current goals, but in the not-too-distant-future I hope to do something less boring and more specific with my microstock income.

What are the options?


This is what I’m doing. The income goes ‘into the pool’ of my business. It’s not such a bold presumption that most microstockers operate as an individual i.e. without a registered business. You may put your income directly into your bank account along with your wages and use it to pay your living expenses. Easy, workable, but not so exciting.


Photography is not a cheap sport. Both taking photos and selling them online is even less so. Essential equipment is not cheap relative to most other income generating activities. At minimum you require a quality camera and a computer. There are also ongoing Internet costs. Anyone looking at microstock photography as an income generating activty – that is not soley for enjoyment – would look to first cover their costs. Once your income has paid for your setup costs and is covering your ongoing costs, you’re profitable. Then you have to choose another outlet for your income.

Young woman with full bags, Lise GagneIf you love taking photos and enjoy the process of selling them online, then you may see the income as a bonus. Perhaps you already have the required equipment and Internet access, so covering your costs isn’t an issue. In this case spending the income on whatever makes you happy is an admirable choice. It may also be your way of rewarding yourself for your photography skills and your efforts. I personally see people who fit this description as winning the game. We all have ambitions, but they all end with spending income on the things that make us happy.


Looking again at those of us selling photos for profit, reinvesting is an attractive option. Simply put, this means spending your income on things that will enable you to make more income in the future. If your living costs are otherwise covered, this is a good way to increase your microstocking income.

Reinvesting can occur in different forms. You may buy a better camera or better lenses and accessories. This will (usually) improve the quality of your photos which in turn will increase the quantity you sell. Another alternative is to invest in yourself through your photography skills. Courses, tuition and books can all improve your skills. Again, this translates into improved image quality and subsequently higher sales.

Time is Money, Amanda RohdeAnother form of reinvestment, and one that almost certainly goes the furthest to increasing your income, is buying time. Most people trade time for money. So if you’re earning additional income from microstocking you can buy back some of that time. If you’re lucky enough to be working part-time or casually you may literally be able to reduce your work commitments using your microstock income to make up the difference in your wage. People in full time employment or with another full time commitment may need to find more creative ways of buying time with their microstock income. Consider the cost of paying someone to do your housework or manage your finances against the additional microstock income you could generate with that time. The decision comes down to simple arithmetic.


If reinvesting isn’t your thing, or you’ve reinvested so much that your returns per dollar invested are diminishing, then investing is the next step for you. Where you invest your money will be a highly individual decision. It may be obvious, such as if you have a mortgage or credit card debt. These are places you can put your money where it will make a substantial and positive impact on your finances. If you don’t have either of those you’re either young, lucky or intelligent. In any case, if you don’t already have an established investment plan, get one.

What do you do with your microstock photography income?

  • Dan
    Posted at 03:27h, 30 October Reply

    I re-invest my income a little differently.

    One thing became very clear to me when I first started submitting to microstock sites: Even good selling images slow down considerably over time. More and more contributors are flooding the market with images, so there is some dilution to be expected. Age seems to have a detrimental effect on images in all microstock search engines, so this is a factor too.

    My goal was to make my microstock earnings as passive as possible, and to make them continue to grow every year. So I made it a point from Day One to take every drop of earnings, and re-invest it into traditional stock investment. I have been investing for over a decade and made money through various markets, so I am confident I can continue to grow my microstock earnings.

    The result is I don’t feel pressure to continuously increase my microstock earnings, although I would prefer to do so.

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