Stock Photo Review of 2018

2018 is behind us and thank goodness December has gone! This was one of the worst months for sales for a couple of years and I ended up with $850 less than in December 2017. Total earnings for December 2018 turned out to be $2350. A bit disappointing after all the effort in getting new images and videos online. Still, it is what it is and I need to look forward now to a great January!

Summary of month by month earnings from stock photography since 2013 through 2018
Monthly net earnings from stock photography and videos

As this is also an end of year review, I’ve updated both my quarterly and annual charts so that you can see how progress is being made (slowly) and that it isn’t all bad news. It is always best to look at the long term rather than fret about how one month means that the industry is dying. It probably is, but it is dying more slowly than some would have you believe!

My quarterly picture of the main agencies does not look too bad. Flattening out in the past 2 quarter, but overall, still a slight increase over time:

Quarterly earnings from stock photos and videos available at online stock agencies
Quarterly net earnings from the main stock agencies I submit to

Annual earnings actually still look OK – I ended the year with $35,750 – almost $3000 more than the previous year. Now what was that new camera I was thinking of!!

Annual earnings from stock photography since I started selling my digital photos online in 2008
Annual earnings from stock photography since 2008

And with how many images? Over 10 or 11,000 on many agencies now. Here is the summary of file counts across some of the main ones:

Number of online files at the main stock photo agencies in December 2018

And the growth in files over the past few years:

Growth in the number of files online at the main stock agencies

What these various graphs are showing is that this is becoming a tough old business. I’ve saved the worst slide for last as this really shows how difficult it has become to maintain a steady income:

Earnings per online image from stock photography

How did I work this out? I used my quarterly earnings and deducted the earnings from stock video and also my Fine Art America sales. That gave me the quarterly earnings from images. I then used the average of the number of files on Shutterstock, Adobe and iStock to give me an idea of a typical number of image files available for sale. These are my biggest earning sites and so using those to derive the file counts made sense.

As you can see this has been dropping steadily since at least 2014 and shows no signs of an end to the fall. I must admit that the type of photography I do means that I end up with more images of a “subject” that someone that mainly does studio shots. A subject to me could be a city or a travel destination and it is pretty easy to take a lot of shots when you are there, but only some of them will sell. I do have quite a number of studio shots as well, as I think that having a diverse range of images helps even out the monthly variations, but the overall message is that regardless of all that, you need to be adding many files each month just to stay still.

Does that mean this is no longer worthwhile? It depends on your attitude to your time, I think. If you enjoy photography and would have taken those shots anyway, then spending the time to keyword them and upload them is not much additional work. I don’t want to minimize it, but it can be done in odd hours rather than watching the TV! Then the earnings from selling the photos does make sense. If this is your main profession, then unless you get a great niche, it is becoming a very hard business.

So where is the good news? My videos did OK in December! Here is my video earnings graph:

Earnings from selling stock video online at stock photo agencies

Pond5 led the way here with three video sales for $113 and I also had two video sales on StoryBlocks for $72. One on Adobe and three on Shutterstock (although one for $1.50) rounded out the total. This is nowhere near my best month, but it is getting steadier and my aim is to continue to add more video as I go into 2019. I’m planning to add a GoPro Hero7 Black in the coming days and do some more “driving around” videos. I hear those sell pretty well and the stabilization in the new GoPro is supposed to be great.

For the stock agencies, Shutterstock hit a new low of $580 (including those videos). It is only two months since I was hitting the $900’s pretty regularly. iStock was well down on October with $407 in November (I report the month I get the money for iStock). Adobe was down from $450 to $340 and Canva took a massive hit from regular earnings in the $200 range down to $97. My worst performer was undoubtedly Creative Market where I generally get $40 to $70 a month – December was zero…

I had few large sales in the month – in fact the best one was from Pond5 with an image sale for $60 for this panorama of London:

That ends my round up of 2018. Hope you had a reasonable year and perhaps we will all look forward to more luck in 2019!

One last thing – I’m falling behind in the blog contest over on Dreamstime that runs until the 14th January. If you like my articles, please have a look at that one and, if you have an account at Dreamstime, please sign in and click the “useful” button up on the left. It all helps!

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2 Responses

  1. Sidney says:

    Hello! Thanks for listening
    Can you share this spreadsheet without the data, so I can track my small sales?

    Thank you very much!

    • admin says:

      Hi Sidney

      It isn’t that good a spreadsheet to be honest. The main page is just a list of the stock sites plus dates across the top. So each month I fill in a new column for earnings of those stock agencies. I have one tab that I use to record the number of files online for a sample of agencies. Then everything else is calculations and charts based off those two main sources. It grew like topsy over the years and would be very difficult for someone else to follow. If I delete my data, it would be pretty meaningless as no charts would show any data and you would have to be a pretty good excel person to get it back working.


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