Making money from Stock Photography – September 2019

Each quarter I do a bigger set of calculations on my earnings and download numbers to give you not only the monthly results for September 2019, but, as an added bonus, the quarterly results! I hope this sort of detailed analysis is interesting (at least to some) and this month I will split my report into two – the first post will be the results themselves, the second post in a few days will include more discussion about what sorts of images and videos drove the results.

First, the top line – the month was pretty good and September did bounce back from the doldrums of the summer to end with $2926. Unfortunately, not a patch on last September when I reached over $3300, but I will still breathe a sigh of relief that there was an uptick in earnings.

Earnings from selling stock photos online in September 2019
Historical summary of earnings per month from stock photography

This reduction from the peaks of last year can also be seen in the overall chart of quarterly stock photo earnings:

Quarterly Earnings from selling stock photos online in September 2019
Historical trend of quarterly earnings from the main agencies for stock photos and videos

This chart in particular seems to show a peak that occurred between the end of 2017 and early 2019 with a sizeable drop in the second and third quarters of this year. Of course, this is happening at the same time as I am uploading lots of new images and videos:

Number of online files at three stock photo agencies in 2019
Growth of online files at three of the main stock agencies in 2019

I use those three agencies to illustrate how the approach of the agencies can impact the number of files online. Deposit Photos seems to take everything, Shutterstock is (until recently) pretty open to all images and videos, and Adobe Stock didn’t take editorial shots. Of course, they now take illustrative editorial, but that is still only a subset of my full collection of editorial shots and so I don’t see them bridging the gap anytime soon.

At the end of September, I was pretty close to 15,000 images on Deposit Photos, with the other big agencies not far behind:

Number of online photos and videos at the main stock agencies in September 2019
Number of online assets at the main stock agencies

I guess you can see what is coming next – earnings per online image. I calculate this each quarter using the number of images on Shutterstock, Adobe and iStock, averaging the file counts and dividing this into the total income from still photos on those three sites. The graph does not make for pleasant viewing:

Earnings per online still photo or image on the main stock agencies in the third quarter
Earnings per online still photo on the three main stock agencies in Q3, 2019

This continues to drop off at a pretty steep rate because I keep adding images but my earnings don’t really grow. It would be really interesting to do a controlled experiment where I don’t upload anything and see if the earnings stay flat, but I don’t want to miss out of some new trend (which I will talk about next time). I also am forming a view that travel shots (which have formed the majority of recent uploads) take time to sell, and probably do not sell at anything like the rate of a good concept shot. So continuing to add to my library of travel shots will, itself, cause some of this decline. If I add 1000 images from a cruise in the Mediterranean, it is unlikely that I will earn as much from those as from 10 good photos of an opioid prescription bottle which tends to be in the news constantly in the USA. However, the concept ones will run their course over a year or two (as happened with my bitcoin shots) and perhaps my travel shots will have a longer life. Or perhaps I am clutching at straws!!

That brings me round to sales per stock agency. I create this graph every quarter to show which agencies are producing the best results for me:

Earnings from the main stock photo agencies in third quarter of 2019
Earnings from the agencies I support in the third quarter of 2019

As you would expect, Shutterstock maintains its significant lead over the others, but Adobe has continued its growth path and now has passed iStock. I still do well from some images I got onto the main Getty site via their takeover of Corbis images a while back to put them in fourth position. Society6 is boxing well above its weight after the huge sale of many notebooks with my Washington DC image on the front cover. I don’t expect that result to continue. The rest actually provide a pretty reasonable total even though each one may not contribute very much as you can see.

For this month of September, video played an outsized part in my total earnings, generating sales of $633 in the month. I’ll talk about what sold in the next article, but Pond5 came back to life with total earnings of $308 in the month after failing to beat $100 in the previous 4 months. As a result, my video sales look like this:

sales from videos on stock agencies in September 2019
History of earnings from stock video over the past three years

And the split between stills and videos looks like this:

History of earnings from stock photos and videos
Split between still photo and video earnings from stock photography

I guess that is enough statistics to put even the most avid reader to sleep, so I’ll stop the analysis now and come back later in the week with some commentary of what drove the earnings in September.

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3 Responses

  1. Vlad Savin says:

    Good result. As always. Congratulations.

  2. Chris says:

    Steven the turntable you use, is it a falcon eyes? I see one of 25 cm that turn in 120 sec 360 degree. I wonder or it would be a good choice

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