What stock photos and videos sold in September?

I published my normal report in two bites this month to avoid giving you all indigestion. Earlier this week I published the financial results, this post has more of the “why” rather than the “what”. First thing to note for me is that I had some days with some great sales. Here is my snapshot of daily earnings from Microstockr Pro. This doesn’t track every agency (and iStock, which is tracked, has the results for the month previous so I don’t actually see any iStock earnings in these totals). However, the developers have done a great job of adding the main agencies and so there are not many surprises between what I see here and the final results.

Daily sales through September from the online sale of digital photos and videos at the main stock agencies
Daily sales from Microstockr Pro. The tallest columns are around $190

As you can see, some solid weeks coupled with some outstanding day sale totals. The tallest column in the graph is $190 in sales for the day. Within these totals, SS was my best agency at $922, followed by Adobe with $535 and then iStock (August results paid in September) with $318 and finally Pond5 with $308.

I know Alex has his Turd of the Month award for the worst agency, but I am too polite for that. My most frustrating agency must be EyeEM. I’ve written in the past about their obtuse approach to deleting perfectly good keywords and descriptions and replacing them by bland and often meaningless words, with the result that I often get some good earnings, but they are far from what I could get from the images they have submitted to Getty. I ended up with $119, which is certainly OK, but $107 of that came from just two images:

Sales on EyeEM stock photo agency in September 2019
September sales from EyeEM. Two images provided $107 of the total of $119

I simply can’t believe that out of 308 images now in my Getty portfolio, these two simple desktop shots are the only ones that “deserve” a sale. The real reason is that these are the only ones that their AI driven keywording has got reasonably right and so buyers are finding them… The LAN cable shot had one sale for $52 and the telephone one had a sale for $34 – without those my results would have been nothing like as solid.

Just to show you that the most unlikely shots can find a buyer, this simple shot of blue glass panes, sold for $28.50 on Shutterstock. It had previously had 4 subscription sales.

Simple blue glass panes sold for $28.50

And for those of you who think that studio shots must be complex, this one (which is actually a composite of the various bits of technology) sold for $45 on SS:

Simple technology desktop photo sold for $45 on Shutterstock

Finally, this simple shot of an incandescent light bulb sold for $30 on Shutterstock:

Incandescent light bulb sold for $30

Finally my cat sold for $32 and a Washington DC sunrise shot for $27.

What transformed my month were videos, with a total of $615 in earnings:

Video sales in September added up to a great total of $615
Video Sales in September 2019 added up to $615

What you can see here is one of my secret sellers. As you know, I always advise my readers to try to spot trends by following the news (fake news will do best for this) and try to imagine what is likely to be in the news in the future. What new things are on the horizon that are catching fire. In my case here, I saw that vaping was becoming a popular replacement for cigarettes and the undoubted leader in the field in the US was Juul. A quick check on Shutterstock revealed zero shots of Juul vaping systems and so I bought a starter kit (in Heathrow airport as it happens) and started photographing against white, in home situations, in a school bag with books and apple (to capture the advertizing to children controversy), with a stethoscope (for medical issues) and then with a judge’s gavel (for court cases). I added videos as well including close ups and also ones of me putting the device together. What I didn’t do was take images of me smoking the thing! I’m not that stupid… As a result, $160 of these videos were vaping related. Total earnings to date from stills and video is over $1000. Not bad for a $30 investment. Now why tell you now and give my secrets away – mainly because you would be too late if you copied me! There are now 9 pages of results on Shutterstock and I have my images in most of the top positions in the search. I’m going through this to reinforce that need to be ahead of the competition. Not all your concepts will be winners – I thought I had a good edge in Game of Thrones tankards, but those have hardly sold at all. So go with your gut and try to get some early shots of the next big thing in the news.

As you can see, my cruise shots continue to sell, a silly letter Q with a US flag behind it also sold on Pond5 for the Q conspiracy theory. And of course, my opioid shots continue to sell. Quite a number of these videos were created on my home studio glass table using the Edelkrone DollyOne tracking dolly. I don’t think I would get the results I do without it! If you are tempted, that link gives me a small commission. In addition, occasional clicks on the adverts on this page also helps!

And so that is the message for this month – to get good earnings, you need to be ahead of the pack, not a follower!

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9 Responses

  1. Andrew says:

    Hi Steve
    Iā€™m glad your earnings picked up and i agree with you about travel vs lifestyle content.
    Great too that your videos are paying off
    Thanks for the great content

  2. MuamerO says:

    Hi, great blog I just keep tracking what you do all the time. There is something I’m curious about, since you have a lot of things done in US and I saw you have quite a few things from Europe how does those two compare? Does the things from US sell more then Europe or there is some kind of balance?

    • Steven Heap says:

      Good question. I think the US based concepts sell better – the Opioid stuff is very much in the news in the US a lot and so I get sales from that. The same with Juul, which is a much more dominant brand in the US. Travel shots are perhaps similar – I do sell more Washington DC shots because that tends to dominate the news as well. I guess I might be talking myself into believing the US based shots just sell better! I don’t know how to track it properly though.

      • MuamerO says:

        Hmm maybe you could devide it into set on SS it could give you aproximate on what happened on US based shoots and what happened to Europe. This question came in mind to me since I was looking at society6 and as far as I could see shoots done in US tend to sell better for you… For example my photos are mostly East Europe and I don’t get that much sales there so I consider to maybe do a travel to US.

        • Steven Heap says:

          Yes, a massive amount of work though to sort into collections. And then what would you do with the information? I do my shoots based on where I want to go and see the location, rather than the stock possibilities. It is also quite difficult to dislodge really good shots of popular cities – the light plays a big part and that is hard to arrange if you are only there for a short period of time. The sales are definitely linked to the public interest in the location, which is why Eastern Europe shots probably don’t sell very often – there are probably not many blog posts and articles about tourism to those spots, I guess. The whole thing is pretty tricky!

          • MuamerO says:

            You got the point… Probably would aim some location that I want to visit and the location that could have some better stock potential, even tough that is not the mesurment you can even do great studio shoots that will sell if you have idea what to do. But anyway stock aside would like to go to US and even more to Canada but when the time comes… Now Ill probably live in Kuwait for like next 2 years gona try to make something there.
            Its not that Eastern Europe is not popular especialy since the tourism has started to floursh now here on Balkan region, some Photos of Turkey do sell well, but Could also be that my photos are just not good enough šŸ˜€ Or I’m just doing the keywording wrong, or I’m just hitting over saturated things. Anyway looking forward for your next report šŸ˜€ I’m thinking my self to publish my own reports soon at least when I hit some spot of earnings that I’m aiming at atm šŸ™‚ I keep track since I started from last 2 years.

          • Steven Heap says:

            Kuwait probably has some interesting places to photograph! And some of the neighboring countries if you can get there. I’ve not had much luck recently with Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. Thought I had some interesting shots, but not many sales so far.
            I wouldn’t bother with publishing your results unless you have a specific goal in mind. Alex and I are obviously trying to sell our books and that is a reason for publishing things. Unless you have something similar in mind – ie a financial reason – then I don’t think there is much to gain. Of course you could do it to get likes and things, and there is nothing wrong with that, but ask your self what you are trying to achieve.

  3. AlessandraRC says:

    It is quite a variety of themes that have sold and I am always amazed at the unpredictability of this business.

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