Making money from stock photos – October 2019

Another month rolls by and another report on earnings! As it turned out, October was a pretty good month for me – not as good as 2018, but still above the lows of the summer. Total income turned out to be $3074 with all agencies reporting (although Canva has not yet reported the subscription income as yet). The addition of those subscription earnings made quite a bit of difference to the previous earnings I reported for Canva (assuming their reports are correct) and I went back to correct some earlier months. Although Canva hit a low of $30 in June, it has jumped back now to $76 and hopefully a bit more to come yet. Perhaps not time to totally ditch the agency yet – although I have stopped uploading due to endless rejections of my latest images.

Earnings from selling photos online on stock microstock agencies in October 2019
Earnings from stock photos and videos in October 2019

I’ve tidied up this chart a little to remove some earlier years, but it is showing that nice bounce from the summer and quite a bit of growth from the earlier years of 2015 – 2017, but definitely below the high points of 2018. Still, I’m pleased with how the month went in total. For those who are new to my blog, here is my count of assets on different agencies:

Number of photos and videos on the main stock photo agencies in October 2019
Number of photos and videos online at the various agencies

So how did the agencies perform in October? Shutterstock fell back a bit from the high of $922 last month to $820 this month. Mainly due to fewer videos being sold. Shutterstock earnings always depend on the ratio of higher priced images to subscriptions, and, of course, higher priced videos. I didn’t have a lot of higher priced images in October although this shot taken in New Zealand back in 2013 sold for $29.85:

High priced sale on Shutterstock in October 2019
Tauranga Bay in New Zealand

It is always nice to see images that were taken a long time ago still coming up in the sales – shows that there is life in a good photo for many years! I had two $20+ sales of my cat photos on Shutterstock as well. That makes that one photo of the bengal cat with the pleading expression worth $3110 on Shutterstock alone now.

The rest of the agencies played out as they normally do:

Earnings from each of the main microstock photo agencies in October 2019
Earnings from the main microstock agencies in October 2019

iStock was very good after receiving $318 from them in September. Helped by $73 in videos, and one photo sale of the San Diego skyline with the ocean replaced by an artificial reflection which sold there for $15.

San Diego skyline with artificial water reflection

This particular image has earned $536 across all agencies. Well worth the processing effort it took using the Flaming Pear Flood 2 plugin for Photoshop. After complaining last month about my abysmal Alamy sales even though I have over 14,000 images with them, I asked a friend of mine what he thought of my Alamy portfolio. He said I had too many versions of each location. This meant that a search of Porto for instance would potentially bring up many images in the view but few of them would be zoomed. Hence my click through rate would be low and my images would not show up until later in the search results – which results in fewer zooms again and little chance of them being seen. Also I had described some images to describe where they were taken from – an image of Porto from the Cathedral, for instance. So someone searching for Porto cathedral would potentially see my images but not see the cathedral in them – hence no zoom again! I decided to put some effort into creating a new pseudo for my better shots to see if I could get a better CTR (click through rate) on those and although I have barely scratched the surface of my portfolio, I got 5 sales from my Alamy account this month for a total of $257. If you wonder where the rest of the reported money comes from, a long time ago I put 2500 images onto Corbis and Alamy through a photographer who focused on managing keywords and accounts on Alamy to maximize his (and my) earnings in return for a share of the commission. Although he only reports earnings every quarter, I put an estimate in for what those images will earn.

My best sale on Alamy was this one of the observatory on Puerto Rico for $107 net and one of the Iwo Jimo monument in DC for $100 net:

Arecibo Observatory on Puerto Rico
Arecibo Observatory on Puerto Rico available on Alamy
Iwo Jima monument in Washington DC at sunrise
Iwo Jima memorial in Washington DC at sunrise

I recall working on this second shot to replace a pretty boring limp flag with one flying in the wind. Makes quite a difference to the shot, I think!

Adobe was pretty good as well – slightly down on last month, but I have been adding more illustrative editorial shots there and I’m starting to see them appear in the daily sales stats. Hopefully that will give me some added growth on that agency over time as buyers become used to looking for editorial images on Adobe Stock.

Finally, Deposit Photos had a very good run – total earnings of $131. Just one image sold for more than $10 (at $10.66) and so volume must be picking up.

I also completed 4 of the seven restaurant takeout meals that I signed up for with Snapwire and got paid $140 for those. I have three more in review at the moment, which completes the ones that are close to me. I must admit some of the photos have been unattractive (putting french fries inside a sub seems to be popular near me), and we have thrown some of the food away, but generally I have enjoyed the exercise.

Finally (again) on to videos. I have quite a number still to process and upload from a river cruise in Portugal, but my existing portfolio is still selling:

Earnings from selling stock video at various microstock agencies in October 2019
Sales of video files at various stock agencies

Total earnings in October of $337 with the highest seller being an old HD video of fireworks on Independence day in Washington DC which sold for $49 on Adobe Stock. I sold a couple of videos of the pottery army from China and five videos for a total of $95 of various shots over the bow or the side of a cruise ship. There seems to be a real demand for those sort of clips. Just to show you that you don’t need to travel to get video sales, I also sold one of a poor old stock photographer eating a frozen meal for $20:

Poor stock photographer enjoying a frozen meal

That rounds out the month. Don’t forget to check out Alex’s monthly earnings report to get an alternative view of the trials and tribulations of being a stock photographer! And, incidentally, an occasional click on one of the ads that appears on the page helps!

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9 Responses

  1. AlessandraRC says:

    I used to have many more sales at Alamy, but it has been dead for me since September. I have two pseudonyms there, one for RF and another one for RM. Even though my RM port is 1/3 of the RF port, I have a much greater CRT with RM images. These are images I am not sure what to do with, since they have zero editorial interest but cannot be sold as RF commercial. A few are digitally modified and contain logos, hence cannot be sold as either RF commercial or ED. And a few are from the times when I thought I should only upload rare images to Alamy to get more. The latter never really happened, but I have not bothered to track those images, change them to RF ED, and upload to other places. It is sad that now the royalties are lower in Alamy since the sales have not grown, on the contrary, there are fewer sales and lower commissions. Too bad because overall I like their service.

    • Steven Heap says:

      I seem to have got a higher CTR now on my “best shots” and I think it is working in terms of search position. If you search for Impossible Burger, I have 3 shots from my “best” pseudo in the first 10 rows and then I have one from my old portfolio that has the poor CTR. So I think I’ll keep working on that when I have some downtime. As for old lost images, it is hard to put the effort into them! I have taken some images that were originally RM on Alamy because they were editorial and have made them RF Editorial now and uploaded them to other sites. Other “really nice” shots that were only on Alamy to get those higher priced sales are now on all the other sites and some sell very well. So I think the idea of keeping our best or rare shots for Alamy doesn’t necessarily pay off. Of course, someone zoomed my Impossible Burger shot but didn’t buy and I do have sales of the same image on my micro sites – who knows if that buyer searched elsewhere to save money? We will never know!

  2. AlessandraRC says:

    I did miss the impossible burger window, should of photographed it when my son told me, two years ago, that it was going to be a thing. On the downside, I tried one of those, and got sick for about 10 days, since I cannot digest pea and garbanzo beans very well, and the burger apparently has it. I don’t even want to see one of those burgers, lest photograph it.

    • Steven Heap says:

      I did make a burger out of this mashed up stuff – it was actually quite nice (although I’m not sensitive to beans!)

  3. Well-done, Steve. Solid month! Why you still eating frozen food in the dark? 😀

    • Steven Heap says:

      I’ve run out of free Doordash food so I’m reduced to eating my way through the freezer compartment! And, besides, frozen curries are quite nice!

  4. erdinc says:

    Hi Mr. Heap thanks for sharing details , im so new on stockphotography and videography business , i want to ask if possible for you , can u share just for shutterstock agency from which category how much u earned, ( 922dolar=30% travel+%35indoor shot…like this ,if possible and if it will not take your so much time, thank u so much

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