Getting Started in Stock
This is a question we all ask ourselves, having spent hundreds (thousands) of dollars on our hobby! I asked myself that question over 4 years ago, and decided the answer was to sell my images. After a slow start, I have increased my income to a run rate of more than $24,000 a year and I share the steps, the trials and tribulations in the newly revised second edition of my eBook – Getting Started in Stock. You are facing a simple choice – do you want to learn as you go, following the forums and their inconsistent information from people who may or may not know what they are talking about, or do you want to save hours of frustration and learn it all on one easy to follow guidebook?
Buy this new eBook directly from my site through a simple and secure shopping cart and get immediate access to the information you need to make money from your photographs!
A month of ups and downs to be honest! First the great news; I beat all previous records on income from Shutterstock with earnings in the month of $1004. The first time that I passed the $1000 stage. After a cold month without Enhanced license downloads in April, I ended the month of May with six of them. In addition, I had a great month for Single downloads as well, which all helped create this best ever month. I’ve been looking in Shutterstock in a bit more detail and there is some good news in the detail besides the top line number.
First, here is how the earnings on that site have been growing, split into the main download categories of subscriptions, On demand, Enhanced licenses and Single download:
Shutterstock – earnings per license type
This is showing a continuing growth, but it is nice to see that almost half my income comes from the higher value downloads. I then carried on the analysis to see what impact that had on the earnings per download. We all know that the top line number that everyone remembers is that you get $0.33 per image on Shutterstock – peanuts, is the common retort. However, as this next graph shows, I am not getting $0.33 per download – it was actually almost $0.80 in May. Of course that is a lot less than macrostock, but it is also multiplied by a lot more downloads.
Earnings per image on Shutterstock
This $ per download line is also growing over time – so either my photos are getting better, or Shutterstock is successfully introducing more ways for buyers to license images – some of which are considerably more expensive than the subscription model. What this graph also shows is the money I made based on how many images I had available for sale. This $ per online file shows a very slight upward movement, but the good news here is that it is stable over a long period of time. If you look at the blue line, which represents the number of images I have for sale on Shutterstock (ignore the axis here), I’ve more than doubled my image count, but that earnings per image line has not been changed much – there is a proportionality between the number of images online and earnings. Add more images, get more money!
Moving on to the bigger picture for the month, the other sites were OK, but not great. Almost all of them were less than the month before, and so the end of month total ended up at $2045 compared to $2245 in April. April was helped by a large sale in iStock’s partner program, which increased iStock earnings that month to almost $350, but we dropped to an estimated $276 for May. Other sites were similar – solid, but not exciting. This month, only 123RF and Alamy beat the $100 mark (apart from SS and iS mentioned before):
Earnings in May 2013
As a proportion of my total earnings, SS continued to dominate:
Proportion of earnings per agency
Files on line didn’t change much from April for most sites, with the exception of iStock. I took advantage of the recent increase in the weekly upload limits (from 24 to 999) to upload about 700 images that I had keyworded in DeepMeta, but hadn’t been able to upload because of the limits. These only went live late in May, but already some of the new ones have sold, so perhaps iStock will pick up next month. I have a lot of images from a trip to London and Germany that are still in the “development” stage, so I need to work hard now and get those online in June.
Growth of online files
Finally, the overall earnings chart – still showing very solid progress:
Growth in Earnings
A pretty reasonable month, that puts me back into the $2000+ earning bracket this month – the final total was $2176. Not a best month (that record was set back in November with a total of $2233, but pretty close. What helped this month was a good performance from Shutterstock (aided by a couple of video footage downloads that together $110 – one of which being a skyline pan over Boston, which was probably used in connection with the recent bombing there.) iStock was still in second position with $279, and then I had a number of $100 earners: 123RF, Fotolia, Dreamstime, Alamy and Pond5. It is great how these sites can really make a good month!
Here are the normal graphs:
First, growth in earnings since 2010:
Growth in Earnings
Earnings this month:
Earnings in April 2013
Earnings this year:
Earnings in 2013
Files online in April 2013
Lets hope that April was the start of a good run of $2000+ months!
I guess I need to brag from time to time, and I was very excited to receive an email from Amazon this morning featuring books about Stock Photography available on their site with my own book taking the prime position in the advert! Thanks to all my readers for the glowing reviews on Amazon – I am sure that had a lot to do with it. If you would like to add your own review on Amazon, please do so – it all helps!
Daily Amazon Newsletter
I blogged about this a couple of weeks back, but Leo (the designer behind the Symbiostock network) has been making remarkable progress and we now have a very substantial and flexible stock agency developing using WordPress.
Two things of note – the first is that the site design is now much more professional – I hope you agree that my own stock photo agency BackyardStockPhotos.com would not deter anyone from moving forward to buying an image from me!
The second is much more important. The SEO work – both behind the scenes and in our careful descriptions and titles is really paying off. After just 2 weeks of operation, my images are now the first entry on Google for some relatively simple phrases. As a simple example – “Bengal cat licking lips” in the Google search box brings up two of my images as the first and second results. I find that pretty amazing. We have also added a similars result now to the site. Not perfect yet, but a big help to a buyer looking for just the right image.
So far, no sales, but a lot of satisfaction in getting an agency online which is actually getting noticed!
**Update** I know that the main forums over on MicrostockGroup are getting very confusing and complicated to follow. There is a separate development site with a good summary of how to install Symbiostock and links to the videos on Symbiostock.com. This is the best place to start, as most of the posts on MSG are talking about bugs and issues that have been sorted as we worked through testing and various releases. The latest release has had no bug reports so far!
I don’t know how many of you follow the Microstock Forum, but there has been a flurry of activity around the creation of a wordpress theme to allow the display and licensing / downloading of stock images from a wordpress site. One very clear advantage is that it costs nothing to run your own site (apart from hosting) and you can take advantage of all the plugins and SEO help that wordpress provides. The other thing that is unique about this design is that it networks up to five other similar stock sites so that if you search for a term on my site, it will also look for the same keyword on up to five others to increase the link population (and hence make it better on Google) and also give the buyer some choice.
I’m so impressed with this approach that I decided to try my hand at selling my own stock photos on my own agency site – no commissions to the agencies any longer for me! I’ve only got about 6 images online so far (out of 5500!!), but I’m trying to make sure that I just put my best images there and carefully describe them to make sure they appear high in search rankings. You can see my “in progress” Backyard Stock Photos Agency here!
If you search for “flower” in the search box, you will see what I mean about linked site results also coming up in the search results.
The paypal integration is all in place, so please feel free to license one of my images for your next design!
Although March is supposed to be one of the best months of the year for the sale of stock photos, this month was good, but not great for me. I have continuing worries about the volatility of Shutterstock earnings – and I’ll do a separate post on that shortly – but the month ended up with a total of $1980. Definitely good, but with all the efforts at unloading images in late Feb/early March, I was hoping for a little better!
Shutterstock was the leader, as usual, with $892 – not a best ever, but second best. iStock is falling through the floor for me – down to $240 again, and probably $90 of that is now coming from the partner sales at much lower prices. 123RF is still doing well – I get some steady sales now from that agency, and it ended at $142. Dreamstime – still good, and I really like the fact that they are taking a much less harsh line on similar images these days. My last uploads have had a 80% success rate rather than the 60% I was used to. I wish there was a way to find out which good images they had rejected in the past and reupload them!
The star of the month was Pond5. I took the decision to stop going for bottom feeder buyers on this site and priced my largest size download at $40. As a result, I get fewer downloads, but the earnings are much better. I ended up with $125 this month from that site (although that does include two videos priced at $60, or which I got $30.) Some of the smaller sites seem to be losing all headway – almost nothing from probably 10 of my sites. Good job there is not much effort in supporting them!
Here are the graphs:
Growth in Photo Earnings
Files on line March 2013
Earnings in March 2013
Proportions of earnings March 2013
An eye-catching title…but what can we do to increase our earnings potential from images already in our portfolio and online. I was thinking about this recently when looking at some of my better selling images on Shutterstock. One that caught my eye was this one:
Good seller on Shutterstock
This is a nice clean bright and colorful image – stands out well in a thumbnail and has space in the sky for text or other copy. How can I maximize my earnings from this one image? Well, my first step was to realize that buyers might want to composite this in another image, and so why not make that easy by offering an isolated version. I carefully outlined the boards with the pen tool, and removed the background sky. The JPEG I uploaded contains the clipping path, which make isolation even easier for the designer. This image is on the third row of my most popular images on SS:
Isolated Surf Boards
What next? Well, why not make this an image that someone can drop straight into an article about surfing in Hawaii? I have some nice existing stock images of beaches and ocean surf – can I create something that better illustrates a hot beach with surfboards and ocean? It is really important to use your own images for this background – you don’t want to lose your account at SS because of a copyright infringement! I decided on adding a new background to the scene, carefully blurring it (using field blur to blend from not much blur in the foreground of the beach through to more in the hills in the distance to help it blend in better). Then I ended up with an image with a very different feel:
But what about the buyer looking for a vertical format? I decided to crop out some of the boards and make a vertical of part of this image. Arguably the buyer could do this, but as I downsize images for Shutterstock, it is a much better quality for me to do that on the original and then resize it as necessary:
Time will tell if these will sell, but for not much work, I can re-use existing images to create saleable and attractive new stock shots. They have been accepted by Dreamstime as well and so they didn’t fall foul of their “similars” policy! When you have a spare moment, think about images you already have (especially good sellers) to see if they can be modified to increase your income by catering to a wider range of designer.
It isn’t very often that I do a bit of “advertizing”, but one key thing that persuades a new reader to purchase my eBook and get started on the road to Stock Photography are the reviews posted by other readers. If you have bought the book from Amazon or the Apple store, please help me [...]
Not a great month! Sometimes this business can really knock you back, but I think the message is to just ignore the fall and get back on the bicycle! I did spend some time wondering if the work of uploading was worth the hassle, but am now back keywording and processing as before. So, what [...]