The stock photo business in 2015 – end of year review

Another year ends, and time to review where I am against my plans to continue to grow my stock photo business. Well, the results are in and it turned out to be an OK year – solid, but no growth over 2014 even though I continued to add images to my portfolio:

Growth in images through 2015

Growth in images through 2015

What this is showing is that 

there was no slowing of my efforts to add images to my various agency portfolios. Zoonar represents all my images – both commercial and editorial and so is the best measure of my total portfolio – almost 8400 images. I’ve tended to focus more on editorial shots (ones without model or property releases) and I have exclusively put those on the better paying agencies such as Alamy, Corbis and Zoonar plus my own site. As a result, the growth in images on the microstock sites has slowed down a bit over the past 2 years. How has that translated into earnings? Overall, I earned $2210 in December, a traditionally slow month with the holidays, and earned $28,700 through the whole of 2015. 2014 was $29,980 and so I experienced a drop, but still a reasonable amount for the effort I put into stock photography. My “niche” of travel and landscape photography has the advantage that I have no direct costs (in terms of paying models) for my images as I would probably have visited most of the places I went to anyway. I’m sure I did more miles in rental cars taking my various shots, but I enjoyed it as well!

In terms of individual agencies, here is a graph of earnings per site during 2015:

Earnings from stock photography in 2015

Earnings from stock photography in 2015

The lion’s share of the earnings was again Shutterstock, although that is probably decreasing as a percentage of earnings over time – which is actually a good thing as it avoids me having all my eggs in one basket. iStock is still pretty good, and Alamy/Corbis has risen to 3rd place in total earnings. The big newcomer this year is undoubtedly Canva which earned just $199 in 2014 and $1517 in 2015. Fotolia (now Adobe Stock) is showing some strong growth as well in the past few months. The more they integrate those images into the various Adobe software products, the more that is likely to continue.

Will I change anything for 2016? I ought to do more video, certainly, and unless some new site comes along with a real competitive difference (as Canva did), I can’t see myself joining more agencies. I will continue to focus on my own stock site, Backyard Stock Photos, and also on Symzio – the collaborative agency which allows users of images, illustrations and videos to in effect buy direct from the artists themselves. I’m spending more time on social media to try to build up the importance of those sites in image searches. I’m also having a go at trying to build a more artistic portfolio at Fine Art America – I’ll report back on how that works out!

Here’s to 2016- and, if you want to follow in my footsteps, don’t forget my eBook is still available at a bargain price!

Happy New Year


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3 Responses

  1. Alessandra says:

    Happy new year! I have heard over and over from various stock photographers that their income stabilized after a certain number of pictures. Do you think this is due to saturation of the market overall or the photographer’s? I am thinking it is the market, which is discouraging for those like me who are starting.

    On a second note are you going to write that book about film for stock 😉 ?

  2. admin says:

    Was I going to write a book about film for stock – probably would be a good idea, but I will have to learn how to be good at it! I was thinking of writing a photographer’s guide to Kauai. Now that could be a best seller!

    I feel my photos are still improving, but there is so much more competition out there and the tendency of many agencies to show popular images in their searches means that it is harder for a new image to get a foothold. It does still happen, but it seems to be less reliable than in the past. It probably means that some unique (but appropriate) keyword will help as well – at least to capture someone who is thinking of your image slightly differently. Perhaps we all ought to think of one “conceptual” word for every image we upload.

  3. Alessandra says:

    May be one strategy would be to chose certain less impacted subjects and beat them to death, so you would fill in several pages after a search.

    I am still considering where to go with this. I spent most of last year learning about stock and taking travel-nature pictures at my own leisure without any consideration for their commercial value. Many of them are now uploaded but I believe that my portfolio has little commercial value as of now. I really like travel/editorial pictures and landscape, and it is still possible to take unique pictures if you go off the beaten path, but then, I am not sure who will be interested in “off the beaten path” pictures, animal portraits and events.

    Another thing I like is nutrition and supplements but the field is so crowded with pictures!

    Photographer’s guide to Kauai? That sounds great!

I'm always interested in what you think - please let me know!