Best selling images and videos in August

I promised to split the normal earnings post this month and concentrate on some better earners in this second article. As I was thinking about it, I began to think about what makes for a good stock portfolio. As I cover in my video talk, I see stock photos as falling into three categories – People, Places and Things. I don’t tend to do many People shots even though I think those are probably the most popular images on the various agencies. Why not – partly because it is not my comfort zone and partly because to do it properly requires models, potentially involving payments to them, and hence more of a risk of not getting your money back in earnings. So a few shots with myself as the model are OK, but not much more than that.

Example of a stock photo for halloween

Yes, that really is me although perhaps no model release was needed for this one! So back to the plot. I focus much more on Places and Things and when I watch my results, it is clear that the Things category probably sells the most in terms of absolute downloads, but the Places can get the higher earning downloads. When you think about it, a good image of a wooden table with some Cinco de Mayo props will sell well in March and April, most users just want an image to stick on their website to illustrate an article about it.

This one from February has sold 52 times for $48, which certainly isn’t bad. However, I never expect it to sell for more than a few dollars. No-one is going to put it on a calendar or a large print magazine or want it in some sort of vacation brochure. This next one from the English Lake District definitely sells more slowly – 182 sales since 2012, but it did sell in August on Shutterstock for $62:

In the same vein, this sold on Alamy for $62 net:

This one, also on Shutterstock for $30:


And, to my great surprise, I had two large Distribution sales on Canstock (an almost unknown experience) for $24.90 and $19.90. Both from 2010/2011 so pretty long in the tooth:

My point with all these is that a well balanced portfolio will have images that will sell more frequently but for lower amounts per sale and hopefully a mix of those to take you all the way around the calendar of special events, and then a collection of probably landscape/place shots that will sell less frequently but hopefully for more money from time to time. It is often these larger license fee sales that make the difference between a so-so month and a great month. All told, I had 14 downloads for more than $10 in August to give me $375 in total, including this one that shows that all my rules are there to be broken – a “Thing” taken on a cruise ship which sold for $19 on Shutterstock:

But what about videos in August. A good month, as I reported, with 10 downloads for $238.

Three of them were my fake Opioid macro shots and two were macro shots of some gold coins I borrowed. I seem to do well with those pans and slides across small objects. My fake news typewriter video sold again for $28 on Adobe:

And one I did more recently about “cutting the cord” of cable TV which sold for $24 on Storyblocks:

And finally, a pretty old HD shot of a chickadee flying in to a bird feeder on a window. Shutterstock for $21:

It just goes to show that you don’t have to travel far to get stock videos that can sell. Hope this all helps explain how I think I manage to keep my earnings on an upward trend each month. I’m sure there is a lot of luck in this as well – luck that one of my new images gets picked up early (and hopefully frequently) so that it joins the ranks of “popular” rather than sinking without trace. There is no way to guarantee good luck, but continuing to upload good solid images and videos definitely swings the odds in your favor.

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11 Responses

  1. Chris Willlemsen says:

    Hello Steve, I see that you mentioned storyblocks. You think it is worth uploading to it, I do not have video, only photos


    • admin says:

      Yes – they are pretty new at still images, but I have sold $106 worth of photos this year. I upload photos because they are easy to do (via Stock Submitter) and so I might as well. They have just changed their commission structure so I think we now get $2 an image rather than the $3.84 we used to do. Will be interesting to see if that turns into more sales…

  2. Kevin Hellon says:

    Hi Steve, I have been an avid reader of your blog for the last few years and have been amazed at your success. Congratulations. During this period I have also tried to establish a stock photo business but have been rather unsuccessful. I do not have nearly as many images with the various stock agencies as you but I average between 1500 to 2000 on each site, the exception being Alamy where I have almost 6000. (This is because I spent a year concentrating on them). There are differences in our portfolios in that I do not have so many “things” but I do have a lot of travel shots also. The problem is that they just dont sell in the volumes or for the prices you achieve. I am not giving up but I am extremely disappointed in my lack of progress. I also follow Alex who comments often on your posts and also on the Alamy forum. He seems to be an upcoming stock photographer with many fresh ideas who seems destined for success. Keep up the good work and I will continue to seek inspiration from your blog! Regards, Kevin Hellon

    • admin says:

      Hi Kevin
      I do believe there is a strong element of luck (and some of good judgement). My cat, that continues to be my best seller and still sells well today, is one of millions of cats and only sells well on Shutterstock. So it isn’t the quality of the image, it is that it met some early needs, got traction, and has stayed near the top, but only on that one site. I was also in on the ground floor of bitcoin images because I saw the opportunity, and I guess I did the same with the opioid epidemic in the US by not throwing away an old prescription bottle like I probably should have. Alex does seem to be making good progress – those book covers of his are very interesting. SO I think there are definitely opportunities, but you need to be constantly on the watch. Travel and landscape fill in with some nice sales, but it would be hard to just do that, these days.

  3. Chris Willlemsen says:

    asnwer of storyblocks: Due to the high volume of new candidates we’re receiving, this process could take between a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

    So have to wait 🙂

  4. “He seems to be an upcoming stock photographer with many fresh ideas who seems destined for success. ”

    Thank you, Kevin. I’m enjoying the journey!

    “Alex does seem to be making good progress – those book covers of his are very interesting.”

    Indeed. Finally getting some sales and they’re much higher than the usual amounts we’ve become used to at micros. From a personal point of view, there’s also something quite rewarding to see your image on a book cover – after all it’s the first thing buyers look at when thinking about purchasing a book! Arcangel are an interesting agency and there’s little overlap with the micros (since it’s so artsy and images are full of shadows and grain) so might as well earn from both.

  5. AlessandraRC says:

    Steve, thanks for your informative post.

    I am relatively disappointed with sales in stock but also I must confess that I don’t make a lot of effort to figure out what’s going to sell.

    I wanted to show one of my best selling images in terms of volume since I believe few people would think of it as such. It works if you copy the link and paste on the browser. I hope it’s OK to share. It’s not a very good picture. Go figure. It is downloaded very frequently.

    I hope the

    • admin says:

      I have a similar good seller of changing a filter. Often it is the boring ones that work! But you have to constantly ask yourself what an image can be used for and make it as good as you can in meeting that need.

    • Kevin Hellon says:

      I would never have thought of even taking that photo let alone uploading it as stock. However, it is monsoon season here in Thailand and I have a damp patch on my ceiling from a leak. No prizes for guessing what I am going to do!

      • AlessandraRC says:

        “I would never have thought of even taking that photo let alone uploading it as stock. However, it is monsoon season here in Thailand and I have a damp patch on my ceiling from a leak. No prizes for guessing what I am going to do!”

        LOL not the kind of thing we envision doing when we are thinking about becoming stock photographers! I was very mad last time I had a flat tire. No camera by me.

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