Microstock Photo sales and revenue in January 2017

I wish I was feeling better about this business – but January was another disappointing month for me. Perhaps I need to reset my expectations and be happy with getting a regular stream of income – which is considerable, I understand, but the effort of putting new images online and not see any benefit is a bit disheartening. It is a bit hard to see what iStock earnings are going to be as they have delayed the reporting of the partner program results for December (which I use to estimate January) until some time later in February (if that makes sense…), but with a lowish estimate of what that is going to be, I ended the month with $2162. Jan2017Earnings

Of course, Shutterstock was the biggest contributor to earnings, but those earnings are shrinking over time, regardless of the new images I upload. I managed to get a couple of old video sales in the last few days of the month, otherwise my earnings would be even lower. It isn’t that unusual to see weekdays now where I simply sell subscriptions – the 31 January was such a day – 34 sales for $12.92. I can’t remember when I didn’t expect weekday sales to be at least $25 to $30. One brighter note with Shutterstock is that newer images seem to be selling again. I made some chalkboard images: Obamacare concept using chalk on slate blackboard

that are selling quite nicely and I also found some 20 year old Oxycodone tablets (since destroyed) that are meeting a need for illustrations of the current opioid epidemic hitting parts of the USA at present:

Macro of oxycodone opioid tablets

Both of these images were a struggle to get approved though – I had to write to Shutterstock support for each set – firstly because they thought ObamaCare was a trademarked word, and the because Oxycodone was not understood by their reviewers to be the generic name of the drug, not a trade marked name. So it is worth writing to them when you think you have a case to over-rule a rejection. I don’t do this often, but if I think an image will sell, it is definitely worthwhile.

Alamy didn’t do that well in January – they seem to have been making major changes to the way their system ranks images and so that hit my sales over there. Adobe Stock did OK, with $239 – a nice amount of earnings, but they seem to have leveled off recently. Canva was also good with $220 but they are roiling the world of contributors with a decision to withhold tax from all contributors and make you claim the tax back when you file taxes in your own country. I’m not all that bothered about it, but I suspect a lot of the people complaining bitterly are those that don’t declare these earnings to their local tax authorities and hence see it as a big cut in their income. The rest of my earnings in January were pretty much as in previous months.

I’ve continued to upload files during January:FilegrowthJan2017

This was partly from a whole series of shots I took in my “home studio” plus some travel shots from a quick trip to Tucson in Arizona. It is not everyone that goes from the mountains of West Virginia (where it was a balmy 60 degrees F) to a southern desert where the temperatures seemed to hover around 40 degrees or so and raining! However, that cloudy overcast sky did break for a pretty spectacular sunset with a nice saguaro cactus that I had selected to be my subject for the shot.

Sunset in Saguaro National Park Tucson

I’m often surprised when people stand taking sunset shots and all they take is the sky – that’s nice, but an interesting shot needs to have a subject (in my mind) to really rise above the average. I guess I keep doing this stock photography because I like photography! I like the challenge of getting a really well taken studio shot or a distinctive image from a trip somewhere. Earning money from that hobby is a real bonus and perhaps help explain my approach to this challenging industry. I hope you are able to keep up your spirits and continue to gain enjoyment from this!


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January was a little better for me than the end of 2016, and I have no idea how I am doing in istock. Still I have only from 1,000 picture on Alamy to as little as 500 on DP, my worst approval rate, and most of what I see happening in my sales might be random. I now have downloads on SS every day except for weekends, but those downloads are the .25 ones. Very few on demand and single. Never an extended license.

On the upside Fotolia has picked up for me again.

Alamy’s change in their contributors tools has been a huge headache for me since I had a lot of pictures in the not ready queue and they were suddenly released for sale with the wrong license, before I had the opportunity to optimize them. Then I noticed that some of the keywords from already optimized images had been separated out and did not get transferred correctly over to the new system. I am making the effort to go over every image and put it into categories as well, since Alamy is my best earner.

Besides this headache I had a home disaster happening with part of my ceiling collapsing due to heavy rains in California and that became a series of pictures for stock, a couple of which are selling really well. Go figure.

Sorry to hear about the ceiling disaster – but at least you got some stock shots from it!
Yes, I hear Alamy is another disaster in the making. As you know, I submit via a partner and he tells me they have had to go through thousands of images to try to change the keywords to get their page one placement back and even now it is very hit and miss.

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