Which Microstock Websites Provide the Most Revenue?

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One of the reasons I started this blog was that I couldn’t find anyone talking in detail about certain topics on any of the microstock blogs or forums. This was one of those topics.

For photographers starting out and wanting to know which microstock agencies are best for selling their photos and worth their time, this is fundamental information. Even for established microstockers who’ve been selling their photos online for some time it’s helpful to compare earnings across multiple microstock agencies.

In researching this article I found a lot of helpful information which I have collected and summarized here. With this information I realized that other microstockers are having success with websites that I’m not using. Based on the detail of that information I’m going to extend the number of agencies which sell my photos.

Microstock revenue comparison chart (2007-01-26)

This chart shows my microstock revenue since I first started. There are some things you need to know about this chart:

  • I have uploaded the same portfolio of photos to each of the top four agencies, though they have each rejected different photos
  • Figures for Jan-07 are estimates based on the average per-day rate so far this month
  • I had an extended license sale on iStockphoto in Aug-06 and one on Shutterstock in Sep-06
  • The start of each line indicates when I first started contributing to each site
  • I’ve grown my portfolio of photos along the way, but when starting with a new site I uploaded almost my entire portfolio
  • The figures exclude referrals and other non-royalty payments

Some initial observations:

  • iStockphoto is a stand out leader for our portfolio, most months
  • iStockphoto is also our most dynamic in terms of the high peaks and low troughs
  • Shutterstock is our second-best producer by a small margin, though with iStockphoto they’re in a league of their own
  • The introduction of iStockphoto’s disambiguation facility in Nov-06 caused a disproportionate drop in revenue in that month
  • There are clear seasonal trends where all sites experience a downturn at the same time

iStockphoto is clearly the agency which generates the most revenue for my portfolio at this time. Almost all the other articles and forum posts I’ve seen put Shutterstock as the most lucrative with iStockphoto second. I’m not sure why mine is different.

As for the weak performers, I’m considering my options at this time. I’ve continued uploading there in hope that they’ll increase sales, but the return on the time I spend submitting is looking like it’ll be more educational than financially lucrative.

It will be interesting to see how this young market consolidates and whether so many sites can be profitably sustained. For now I’m leaving my portfolios intact and monitoring progress. Remember that this chart is the experience of one portfolio and your mileage may vary. Consider also the popularity of each agency, as well as the license, agreement, rates and website features.

How do your experiences compare to mine?

For more up-to-date information on my comparative earnings, see my monthly earnings reports.



Posted March 27th, 2007 by

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