What sells best – Travel or Studio stock?
I was asked, in a comment on my October earnings, what percentage of my sales came from travel stock photos rather than studio images. I’ve often wondered that, but it is quite hard to estimate now that I have so many images for sale (over 14,000). But it is an intriguing question, all the same. I struggled a bit with definitions – is an image of a previous house I lived in a studio shot or a travel shot? As I didn’t have to travel anywhere, I called it a studio shot, but who knows if that is right! So with that proviso, lets jump straight to the answer:
Overall, it seems to be 50:50! But let me explain how I got this. Microstockr Pro is a great little app for tracking all your sales across the biggest agencies. It doesn’t cover Fine Art America or similar print sites, which overwhelmingly would feature travel shots, but it does cover most stock sites. There is a Best Sellers section where it matches the same image across different sites so that you can track overall earnings for each image (or video) across all sites and so I took that and restricted it to 2019. Even so, there are 6000 different unique images that have sold so far in 2019! No way could I go through each of those and categorize them. So I used the pareto rule – 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the effort and categorized the highest earning images and I went through the first 200. Four of those were people shots, but I added those into my Studio totals. The table above for still images gives the earnings for those top 200 images. To give you an idea of the importance of these – my total earnings in this period from still photos was $21,000 so I’m capturing about 50% of the potential earnings with this analysis. As I’m a stickler for accuracy, I went to page 6 (of 60) and did a count of travel versus studio images on that page (they all earned around $8 each) and found that the same percentage applied – 45% travel to 55% studio, so I feel pretty comfortable with that.
Videos were different – there were only 92 unique clips so I was able to count them all – 55% travel to 45% studio. Overall (and this is not strictly mathematically accurate), I get closer to the 50:50 mark.
My best selling shot was a travel one, earning $581 this year.
For a long time I had this image as RM on Alamy, hoping for high priced sales, but of course they didn’t happen. I decided to change it to RF and upload to all the micro sites and it has earned a total of $1014 now. Lots of smaller sales, but some nicely priced ones as well.
Best selling studio shot was, of course, my cat:
This one earned $474 this year and $3098 over its lifetime. Third in my list of best sellers in 2019 was one I uploaded last August and was an edit of an old photo of San Diego with an artificial water reflection. This one earned $451 this year and $536 in total. Just goes to prove that new images uploaded to the agencies can still catch fire.
My more typical studio shot with the highest earnings was an opioid image:
It was interesting that the videos switched the percentages – 55% travel to 45% studio. I must admit to being a photographer at heart and I find videos harder work to create. Studio shots in particular are tricky to get some movement, although the Edelkrone Dolly One does make a big difference. I’ve written about this before on my blog.
I think I find it easier to take travel videos because the scene generally moves and the ones I have taken from cruise ships seem to be the most popular. Fireworks videos also seem to sell well. My best earning travel video was one of me looking meaningfully towards the sunset. Could be used for all sorts of uses – loneliness, single person travel, cruising in general etc. It is always best to try to come up with shots and videos that tell multiple stories if you can. This earned $212 this year and $234 in total – another new upload.
The best selling studio video was, of course, another opioid shot earning $283 this year and $522 in total.
I hope this helps give an insight into how best to use your time. Certainly studio shots take a lot less time but you have to have saleable concepts. Travel shots are expensive to obtain (and more fun perhaps) and certainly round out a portfolio. I would find it very hard to justify an expensive trip just for the earnings I might get from stock photos and videos, but, over time, they can go some considerable way towards covering the direct costs of the trip.