My Microstock Sales

Posted by on Oct 26, 2012 in Blog | 8 Comments

I have and friends and photographers ask me what is microstock?  What kind of images do you sell?  How much money can you make?  And then they don’t ask but always want to know how much money have I made?   So I thought I would write a blog posting about My Microstock Sales.  So this is for people who are newly interested in Microstock or just starting or for microstockers just curious about what the lower 50% of microstockers are doing.

The first question about what is Microstock I answered in an earlier post here.

I have been selling microstock for about 3-4 years now.  I am not a top microstock photographer.  There are at least 10s of thousands of microstock photographers out there.   They make anywhere from many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year down to earning nearly nothing per year.  I have read that 20% of microstockers make 80% of the money.

I have about 1300 images on about 10 different sites.  After 3 years I have made about $8000 total.   Each year my sales have increased by 50-100%.  So I am confident, that as long as I can keep submitting more images, that yearly sales will get to about $14000 in the next few years.  I pick that number because above that it will affect the social security that I get ( God… that makes me feel old to say that).  I submit 10-12 photos per weeks, sometimes more.   I have many hundreds more ready to submit but I have found that every now and then you run across a reviewer who either does not like your style or just had a bad day and can reject most if not all of the images you submit.  So with this method my worst loss is 12 images rejected.

So while I am not a real professional,  I am making enough to buy most of the photo and computer equipment that I use.  In a few years it will pay for photo seminars and trips.  And the best part…. it never feels like work.  I probably spend about 2-3 hrs a day taking photographs, or processing, or submitting them.   Submitting is a little like work but the other two areas are pure fun for me.

So what microstock agencies do I work with and how have each of them paid?

% of Sales for Each Microstock Agency

So take $8000 times the approx. percentage and you can see roughly what each has paid me so far.  Most of these agencies have between 800-1700 of my images.  Shutterstock is the big winner for me.  I get a minimum of $.36 per image.   The most I have received from them is $42 for an image.  I have sold 5700 images with them since I started.  Most are $.36 but I also get a fair about of  $2.48 and a few $28.00.

What kind of images sell best with Shutterstock?

 

So for example I have sold tons of the power meters and have made about $160, total,  just at Shutterstock.    The paddle wheel, lots of those and about $90.   The others $30-$70 total.   So how does that add up to thousands of dollars?   Well its the other several hundred images that have sold  $.36- $30.  So with Shutterstock its lots and lots of images that make $10’s of dollars.

Interestingly enough istockphoto, dreamstime, veer, 123rf are similar to shutterstock in that its volume that makes  total sales.  But the big selling images on these sites tend to be different than the high sellers on Shutterstock.  So I believe that they have a different set of customers with differing needs than Shutterstock.

I sold a few of these at Shutterstock but many more, and they are a big earner at Veer as an example.

Then there is Alamy.   I think I get about 1 sale every several months.  Its like Macrostock but I do sell them with a RF license.   But…. when they do sell. I get a lot of money (by my standards).

I did not think that is was that great of a photo.  I rate my images 1-5 stars and only submit the 3-5 stars.   This was a 3 star.   I got $365 for a single sale of this image?

Same situation with this  3 star image.

I got $222 for that one.  Alamy is also a little frustrating in that the allow their customers to return the image for a refund many weeks after the purchase.   Alamy won’t pay you till everything is cleared.   So you don’t get paid for months or sometimes you will see a sale, get excited, and then weeks later its cancelled. ;-(

I submit to all of these placed because they all have different acceptance standards, different customers, and different commission.   And once you process your images it is not that much work to submit them.

Can you make a good living at this?  Yes…. but it would be a lot of work and commitment.  In addition I think you would need a studio and some good lighting equipment and probably an assistant.   I don’t do many people shots if at all.  It takes my full attention doing the shots that I do.  When I get people involved it just seems to complicated stuff.   And its more cost.   You can do general public shots but if they are recognizable  you need to get a release from them.  Lots of photographers do that but I would have a hard time doing that without looking like a strange old weird man.

So there you have it.  If you want more info about anything let me know and I will add to this post or answer your questions.



My latest images for sale at
Shutterstock:







My most popular images for sale at
Shutterstock:





8 Comments

  1. My Microstock Sales - an overview
    October 26, 2012

    […] in my sales and what typically sells. So I wrote another blog post about it. And you can read it here ( My Microstock Sales ) if you are interested. __________________ Members don't see […]

    Reply
  2. Steve Heap
    October 26, 2012

    Nicely written and presented, and not too optimistic for new entrants into the business. I’ve being selling stock for about 2 years more than you now, and have got to 3000+ on Shutterstock and around 4000 on some of the smaller sites. I’m finding a similar thing to you – income rises with the number of images, and I hope to earn $18K this year from my images. Alamy is pretty up and down as you say, but the occasional big sales make it worthwhile. I blog about my earnings and trial and tribulations like Bob, so if you are interested in another relatively similar perspective, please check my blog.

    Steve

    Reply
    • bobbyk
      October 26, 2012

      You have a nice blog. It looks like you have put in a lot of work on it as well. I am curious about your fine art site. Do you generate any income from that. It looks like it is smugmug. I had stuff there for sale for almost 2 years and only sold a few prints. I am now on zenfolio. if you have had good sales on your fine art I would love to know how you get people to your site. And thanks for the compliments on my site.

      Reply
      • Steve Heap
        November 5, 2012

        Hi Bob

        Yes, it is Smugmug. I have had occasional sales – someone found one of my images of the moon over Washington DC and asked for a square print, someone else bought some prints of the space shuttle over DC, but it is few and far between. With their new pricing, I will move away when my subscription ends next year to either zenfolio or Photoshelter (or perhaps Fine Art America). Print sales are difficult to get unless you have a good way of getting traction to your site.

        Steve

        Reply
  3. Ceci
    October 27, 2012

    Thank you for writing this and sharing your information. I am semi-retired and hoping to become fully retired soon and will still need a modest supplement to my teensy pension income. I’ve been thinking about getting involved with micro stock but concerned about whether it was really worth it or not. This makes it much more clear.

    Reply
    • bobbyk
      October 27, 2012

      Thanks. I started this when I went to part time at my work about 4 years ago and then really ramped it up about a year ago when I retired. My big recommendation to you is to only do it if it would be fun for you. Otherwise it can be tedious. BUT… if you love to take photos and have fun processing them…. then what a great hobby that also gives you back money!

      Reply
  4. Mohamed
    November 24, 2012

    thanks for this good information,already have Dreamstime account and working excessively with them,is it better to work for one site or work with many sites like Shutterstock and Istockphoto?

    Reply
    • bobbyk
      November 24, 2012

      Good question. There is a debate on this one. I personally have found that exclusivity does not work. But there are some who swear by it. I would say that if you get a high acceptance rate and a good amount of sales each month then you are doing the right thing. I did an experiment with Dreamstime on exclusive images and I did not see an increase in sales. My biggest seller is shutterstock. Now if they had exclusive status with a big bump in commission….. I might consider that.

      Reply

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