18 Feb 2008 When Do You Give Up on a Slow Microstock Agency?

Resign, Suprijono SuharjotoI’ve decided to stop uploading new photos to CanStockPhoto. Coming to this decision involved many factors, so I’m writing them out to share and compare.

Effort vs Return

As you can see in my monthly earnings reports, CanStockPhoto generates less than 1 cent (it’s rounded up) per photo per month and is my lowest earning microstock agency. I’ve been contributing there since December 2005 and earned a total of $141.70. Last month I had 445 photos online and earned $2.50.

It’s not a great deal of extra effort uploading photos to one extra website when you have a refined workflow. CanStockPhoto makes it simpler than many by auto-categorizing images, but it still requires that each image is individually submitted. Other agencies without categories allow contributors to submit an entire batch at once, assuming all the IPTC data is complete. If CanStockPhoto’s upload process was easier, I may have elected to continue contributing.

While it’s my primary reason, the low return from CanStockPhoto isn’t enough itself to convince me to give up on them.


Each microstock agency has a distinct personality and contributors like some more than others. There are some agencies that come close to earning as little for me as CanStockPhoto, but I like their personality. If I like the website, the voice, the upload process, and generally the experience of contributing to an agency, I’m more likely to tolerate low earnings.

A contributor’s experience is entirely subjective and there is always variety. My personal experience and opinion of CanStockPhoto isn’t positive.

Growth or Decline

Future earnings are a large part of selling photos in the microstock market. If an agency shows more signs of decline than growth, you can’t expect future earnings growth.

One of the more accessible methods of observing the progress of a microstock agency is through its website traffic. While not a flawless measure, the Alexa charts provide an insight.

CanStockPhoto Alexa Chart

CanStockPhoto is in steady decline and doesn’t hold a lot of promise of future earnings. Here are the same charts for established leaders and new entrants: iStockphoto; Shutterstock; LuckyOliver; and Crestock. They all show growth.

I speak with many other microstock contributors and participate in relevant forums. I know that I am not alone in experiencing slow sales at CanStockPhoto. While top microstockers earn hundreds of dollars there each month, my portfolio isn’t sufficient quality or size to earn a sufficient return per image.

Poor Public Relations

CEOs and representatives of other microstock agencies actively engage contributors in microstock forums. It’s appreciated by the contributors, and it’s easy to see the agencies deriving direct benefits from openly engaging their suppliers. I have only seen one post from CanStockPhoto founder and CEO Duncan Enman in a forum outside his own. He wrote, “I don’t follow this site (or any other microstock discussion sites)…”.

Since beginning this blog, I’ve made direct contact with all other microstock agencies where I contribute photos. Most contacted me before I sought them, and most are CEOs, senior executives, or specifically appointed representatives. Despite numerous attempts, I haven’t ever had any response from anyone at CanStockPhoto.

Do You Leave or Remove your Photos?

I’m going to leave my photos online at CanStockPhoto. Many contributors don’t, but the agency hasn’t upset me or done anything I want to actively discourage. My online portfolio represents an investment of time spent uploading, and there’s no reason why I can’t continue to earn from that asset. I’m not leaving the agency entirely, I’m just not going to invest any more time contributing new photos.

Anything Else?

Is there anything you use to know when to give up on a slow microstock agency that I haven’t mentioned? Have you given up on any agencies yet?

  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 22:17h, 18 February Reply

    Your article hits the spot.
    For these slow moving agencies I’ve decided to stop uploading once I’ve reached 100 images, unless the upload process is really easy, in which case it won’t cost me virtually anything to keep uploading. Once I’ve stopped uploading, I’ll just keep an eye on sales and see how they evolve.

    On Canstock I’ve had an embarrassingly small amount in sales during the past year. I haven’t sold an image since October 07 but just this month, coincidentally enough, I had 2 downloads of the same image, 2 days apart.

  • Mike McDonald
    Posted at 13:40h, 19 February Reply

    I don’t contribute to canstock, and obviously won’t based on this review. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I do contribute to BigStockPhoto and 123RF, both of which produce less than $10 a month for me. I have often wondered if it is worth the time. For 123RF, it is worth it because the upload process is so easy. BSP is another story, however. Uploading vector files is less than smooth, and with the fairly regular shutting down of FTP, it is frustrating. I’m giving that one a few more months to show signs of life before I give up on new uploads.

  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 19:36h, 19 February Reply

    For me BSP, altough fairly slow, is a consistent earner and sales are actually increasing at a slow rate. I do have several hundred images uploaded with them. It’s also the 3rd site that I joined since 2005 so I have a soft spot for them. Unlike other slow agencies, I’ve actually seen them advertise in various photography magazines. Oh, and one more thing: they accept 99% of my images ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kim
      Posted at 03:31h, 30 April Reply

      hi, your comment on the microstock agencies, refering to BSP, who are they?

      • Kim
        Posted at 03:32h, 30 April Reply

        ok, figured it out!! LOL,

  • Photonomikon
    Posted at 14:51h, 26 February Reply

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this discussion on microstockgroup:

    By the looks of it, Canstock are going down and down…

  • KML
    Posted at 16:30h, 27 February Reply

    When a company starts making business decisions that hurt the majority of their contributors, that’s when I decide to leave. CSP’s recent announcement about demanding higher quality standards and removing non-selling photos, while not offering any incentives to contributors to help them meet the new standards or marketing strategies that will help sell the non-sellers, is the nail in the coffin. I’ve stood by them for two years, but enough is enough.

  • John Smith
    Posted at 07:51h, 22 February Reply

    “enough is enough” is what i’m thinking about fotolia lately

    first, subs – with no actual increase in sales, only reduction in price

    then, more downloads needed to change ranking

    then, the high rejection rate

    then, the exchanging rate issue – those paid in $ or ร‚ยฃ are losing about 40% compared to those paid in รขโ€šยฌ; and i guess it’s because they have many best selling photographers in the states and britain (which subscribed in the early days before the other sites where available) and a strong market in europe (thanks to their new european and localized web sites), so they are even profiting on the exchange rate difference

    then, the decreased percentage for non-exclusives – they even said that it’s up to us contributors to pay their marketing costs!

    and last but not least: no advance communication at all and their forums being hardly censored, posts removed

    they show absolutely no respect for contributors; and please don’t say this is normal in microstock: other agencies are way better in this respect

    • Cath
      Posted at 12:38h, 05 August Reply

      @John Smith
      Exactly! My experience with Fotolia is similar. Lack of respect for contributors marks not only Fotolia, but Canstockphoto and Dreamstime as well. Though Canstock is plainly a waste of time for photographers since generates no sales or abysmally low ones, Dreamstime uses and manipulates their contributors (especially non-exclusive ones) with no shame.

  • Rob McQuinn
    Posted at 00:50h, 01 December Reply

    I think the comments about Canstockphoto posted here are no longer accurate. Sales activity has improved steadily, especially over the past year and they’ve made uploading and tracking improvements for photographer ease. I attribute the improvement to the Fotosearch affiliation

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 09:33h, 03 March Reply

      You’re absolutely correct Rob. At the time of the Fotosearch announcement, CanStockPhoto made significant improvements to their uploading / submission system and the sales with $20 royalties started to flow. I had been tracking their portfolios growth and there is a definite upturn in the growth rate that started the following month – so contributors were obviously encouraged to resume uploading or join if they hadn’t already. It was a great example of re-invigorating a dying agency.

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