Making money from photography January 2019

Making money as a photographer must be one of the harder professions out there. Everyone seems to think that they can do it, and some people are willing to give excellent work away for free. You only need to look at Unsplash to see great images being offered with full commercial and editorial licenses at full resolution and for what? A credit line if you are lucky. As my friend Alex has discovered with his excellent research work on fraudulent accounts over at Shutterstock, there is an active gang of thieves just waiting for new uploads to Unsplash and immediately submitting them as their own images for sale on Shutterstock. Talk about people shooting themselves in the foot!

But back to my efforts in stock photography. Well, the new year did improve a little, especially with video sales. Overall, I ended up with $2750 for January. Quite an improvement over December and in line with my results from January 2018. That itself isn’t great news as I added 2500 files during 2018! Still, it is nice to see an upward bounce:

Earnings from selling digital photos online in January 2019

The reason for the bounce is interesting. With just 2 days to go in January, I suddenly earned $212 on Shutterstock for that day alone. Shutterstock jumped from less than $800 to end the month with $1018. Why? A very large video sale for $180 paid to me. The video in question isn’t anything special. Not even 4K – just a normal static HD shot of Dulles airport near Washington DC:

$180 net sale on Shutterstock

That sale gave quite a boost to my other video sales in the month:

Earnings from selling videos online at stock agencies in January 2019
Video sales in January 2019

A total of almost $400. The sort of videos that sold were my usual opioid shots, although I had a nice sale for a video of the sea behind a cruise ship on Shutterstock for $54 and one of the sun setting behind the wake of a cruise ship on Adobe for $24.

Wake behind cruise ship

On the photo side, I continued my hectic pace of uploads during the month. I found that you could temporarily increase your subscription on Stock Submitter by choosing one of the higher packages and you are charged the difference between your current level and the new level as you increase your submission limit. As long as you choose to move back to your normal level before the end of your monthly cycle, then you are only charged once for that month. So I made use of that to upload a lot of my China images during January:

File increase in three major agencies

Shutterstock and DepositPhotos both take editorial and commercial shots, Adobe takes commercial only, so you can see how the increase in editorial shots is driving my uploads recently. Someone asked me if I knew how well editorial shots sold compared to commercial ones – I don’t unfortunately. Not sure how I would measure that even though it would be interesting.

My file counts on the agencies (stills plus video) are:

I thought it would be interesting to look how the different agencies fared in January:

Earnings per stock agency

I removed Shutterstock so that the other spread our more evenly to show the differences of the smaller sites. Some sites did really badly – EyeEM had been around $50 in the past few months – this month $8! However, Creative Market was a flat zero in December and grew back to its normal $77. Alamy was shocking. 9600 images and I make $12 from two sales. I know some people did pretty well on Alamy – it is hard to know what I am doing wrong there, but there must be something. Perhaps I will investigate my zooms a bit more in the coming months.

Canva has also fallen off in recent months. Less than $100 in December, but an increase to $135 in January. Adobe maintains its record pace to end with $476. Not the best ever, but it is getting much more consistent. iStock was a pretty poor $317 – at least compared to earlier months. This was a December performance though.

One big mistake I made (and I’ll write about it more when I have closed my account and got my outstanding royalties (as little as they are)) was joining OnePixel. Comments on the MSG suggested that this was a dodgy site, but my early uploads of maybe 50 images seemed to quickly sell and so I uploaded 8800 images. Same earnings as when I had 50 there. Pretty strange…. So I have accepted this was a mistake and have given in my 30 days notice to close the account there. Moral of the story – bottom feeders are always bottom feeders….

I had a quick look to see if there were any really good still image sales – some in the $20 and $30 range, but nothing really striking this month. So I think that probably rounds out my sales report for January.

(Visited 2,675 times, 1 visits today)

13 Responses

  1. khellon says:

    Hi Steve,
    Congratulations on your your sales this month. I am particularly interested in your comments on Alamy. As you say, some people seem to do well while others some people seem to do well while others, such as myself, have strived with little reward. I now have over 6000 images there and this month made 4 sales for a measly net value of 8.86. I dont do that well on Shutterstock either but I still had more on demand sales of 2.48 each. How are your zooms on Alamy? I know you have researched the impact of microstock sales compared to Alamy zooms in the past but are you sure your results are still valid? Alamy seems to veering towards microstock pricing at an alarming rate and this coupled with the commission reduction is causing me to rethink the RM editorials I have there.



    • admin says:

      Hi Kevin
      Yes, my Alamy results are shocking. Funnily enough I do sell images on Alamy that Zoonar have put there on my behalf – images that I also have in my own account, but somehow theirs get picked rather than mine. I need to spend a bit of time investigating. I put the Alamy images as RF these days because you can still mark them as editorial. I’ll see if I can make sense of zooms again if I have time.

  2. says:

    hi Steve,

    How are you uploading your images to EyeEM? is there a ftp option available?

    • admin says:

      Not that I am aware of. I don’t put this is my normal upload cycle. When I have some spare time I look at my images and try to upload 5 or 6 in a similar group and keyword them all at once. So I only have 1000 images there.

  3. Thanks for mentioning my “wackamole” anti-fraud campaign, Steve!

  4. Chris Putnam says:

    Yeah Alamy is up and down. However I did have a $252 sale last month. Its one of my better overall performing libraries though

  5. Nick Fox says:

    I am surprised you support Signelements. How do you upload your images? Stocksubmitter seems not tu support this agency. And what are your feelings about Signelements?

    • Steven Heap says:

      SignElements is one of those agencies that is easy to upload to (I use the FTP function of Stock Submitter to set up a custom agency with the FTP settings) and so my images are uploaded automatically to them. I only submit commercial images – no editorial. There are no steps on the site to submit an image, so there is no need to visit the site except if you have a model released person. I do go from time to time to assign the relevant model release. The earnings have been growing recently to exceed some of the better known stock agencies. I don’t know what sells there – their contributor dashboard is very simplistic. But I often get $20 – $50 a month.

  6. I was curios how you handle uploads at EyeEm? The site seems a bit clunky to me, but I do get enough random sales there to keep me interested…

    • Steven Heap says:

      There is no easy way! I upload a group of similar images and keyword them all at once via their website. Then I add a few unique keywords if necessary and submit them. However, some friends of mine recently were told by EyeEM that they will keyword images that go into their marketplace and to their partners. I sort of believe that, but still prefer my own choice of keywords, especially if it is a specific place that I want to reference. What goes through to the partners is a mystery to me though – I haven’t checked one of my images on Getty to see what appears there. I think I got over $100 in sales this month from them, so worthwhile.

      • Thanks. I sent them a support mail asking when/if they would handle FTP and also pull our IPTC data. It amazes me the number of sites that force us to do double work. I haven’t done development for a bit, but I have to believe there is a fairly trivial API to pull descriptions and keywords from images.

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