Which Microstock Websites Pay the Most Per Photo?

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This is an update of the original post published on May 1. This has been my most popular post so I see value in updating it with current figures and including the additional agencies where I currently contribute.

Dividing my monthly income by the total number of images I have on each website I’ve come up with my per-image revenue. I plan to start collecting my portfolio numbers each month so I can chart this and monitor trends. It’s also an interesting insight into the performance of the microstock websites.

Agency Revenue per photo Portfolio Size
iStockphoto 0.30 625
LuckyOliver 0.28 148
ShutterStock 0.24 594
StockXpert* 0.17 105
Dreamstime 0.15 539
123rf 0.13 108
Crestock 0.08 63
Fotolia 0.07 441
BigStockPhoto 0.07 212
CanStockPhoto 0.01 363

USD. All figures averaged over preceding 5 or 6 months, except StockXpert.

*StockXpert was an unusually high 0.56 because I have had only by best selling photos there for four months. I have uploaded additional images this month, so the figure in the table is based on extrapolated figures for September.

Number Crunching, Stratesigns, Inc.My newer agencies (LuckyOliver, StockXpert, 123rf, Crestock) are advantaged in this comparison due to the order in which I contribute. I first upload my best selling images and work my way down through my portfolio.

Looking at the figures I can immediately see why iStockphoto is my biggest earning agency. I can also see that CanStockPhoto have a long way to go if they’re going to remain in the market. Interestingly, BigStockPhoto is where we have by far the least number of images in our portfolio, so this information tells me I could likely raise my income with them to the same level of Fotolia by uploading the rest of my images. That’s information I can use!

How can LuckyOliver be higher than Shutterstock? They simply sold three extended licenses from my portfolio over the past four months.

But it goes further. If you add up all of these totals you’ll see we earned $1.51 per image on average over the last six months(94 cents for April 2007 in the original post). With this information I can also tell, more or less, how much my income will grow as I grow my portfolio. If I want to reach a particular milestone of income, for example $1,000 per month, then I know I need to have 666 images in each portfolio.

This enables us to plan. We can look at each photo opportunity and decide if it’s worth the income of $1.50 per month per suitable photo. If setting up the environment to take good photos will cost money or take a long time, we can reconsider. If we’re buying tickets to the zoo to take photos of animals and the tickets cost $30 each (total $60 for the two of us), we know we need to create between three and four images that sell well to reach return on investment within a year. (3.3 photos at $1.50 per month = $5, multiplied by 12 months of the year = $60)

Yet another insight this data can provide into our portfolio is a measure of quality. As I wrote in my rejected by StockXpert post, I’m now committed to increasing the quality of my portfolio. By charting over time the changes in my per-image revenue, especially totalled across all microstock websites, I can guage the sales performance of my images as an indicator of image quality. It’s not a perfect measure, but it’s definately an indicator.

This is such a simple measure and provides so many useful insights into a microstock portfolio.

Posted September 18th, 2007 by


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