Is Microstock a sustainable business model?

As the Summer is drawing to a close, I’ve recently taken the opportunity to cycle over two-days towards Lake Como and capture stock images. Even though the trip was pleasurable and personally rewarding, I’ve put it down as a business trip and have recorded all such expenses.

The aim of this post is to question whether the material I captured over two days can offset my expenses and to ultimately turn a profit, which is the aim of a business! I’ll try to answer the fundamental question: is Microstock a sustainable business model.

Firstly, what were my expenses on this short trip?

1. Expenses

Hotel (one night): $70

Food: $40

Travel: $6

Fuel: $0 as burned fat ūüôā

Total Expenses: $116

2. How much is my time worth?

I’ll put this header down as a “lost revenue opportunity” – not sure what the proper accounting term would be and if someone knows please comment below.

Let’s take this a bit further and estimate how much is my time worth.¬†If I took two working days to go on a stock photo trip, it means that my time could have been used in another way to earn in, perhaps in a regular 9-5 job.

Let’s keep it simple and let’s suppose that my time is worth just $10/h. ¬†Therefore, I could have expected to earn $160 over those two days working a standard 8 hour days.

Lost revenue over two days: $160

Grand total: $276

Images from the trip

I captured just shy of 200 images (also 2 videos but won’t get into it here as I’m still learning footage). Of those 200, I shortlisted 96 to submit to various image banks depending as either RM or RF.¬†In fact, from this trip, I’ve selected the best of the best as my first submission to Stocksy as I’m trying to become one of their coveted contributors – see my submission post here.

Let’s also suppose that I’m naive and will be submitting all those 96 images to Microstock and at multiple Microstock agencies.

My top 10 images

So without further to do, here’s what I regard as my TOP 10 MOST VALUABLE IMAGES from the trip, in no particular order:

A truck picks up a container for import and export business
A truck picks up a container for import and export business
Narrow depth of field looking down from railing onto busy highway
Narrow depth of field looking down from railing onto busy highway
River Adda in northern Italy, close to Lake Como - reflection of Italian Alps
River Adda in northern Italy, close to Lake Como – reflection of Italian Alps
Selection - Alexandre Rotenberg (Stocksy)
The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta; Duomo di Como is located near Lake Como, Italy is one of the most important buildings in the region
Solar panels
Solar panels

Close up of giant Hotel sign with blue sky

Colourful hillside buildings in Italy with vegetable gardens

Flowers on display on the street in a flower shop in Como, Italy

Aperitivo sign and tourists in Como, Italy

River Adda in northern Italy
River Adda in northern Italy

Back to the golden questions:

  1. Will it be possible to cover my $276 “costs”, and if so,
  2. How long would it take?

1. Will it be possible to cover my costs with such images (at Micros only)?

It’s difficult to predict how much the 96 images would earn at Micros within their first year, let alone within their lifetime, but I’ll still have a go. For all I know some of these might be licensed as Extended Licenses, thus earning me $80+/each or completely flop. They’ll probably be somewhere in between with some quickly rising up the keyword ranking and others being lost among the millions. They’re not the most premium of images since they lack model-releases and as I’ve explained earlier, a model-released image within a trending topic is the¬†creme de la creme.¬†

My conservative prediction is that the 10 above would earn at least $10/each in their first year. The remaining 80 or so images from the trip aren’t as high-quality and I’d estimate that they would earn only $1/each in their first year. Very conservative but Micros are seeing a steady decline in the past years due to an oversupply.


10 images at $10/each in their first year = $100

86 images at $1/each in their first year = $86

Total = $186

Deficit after Year 1: ($90)

Therefore, at the end of my first year I won’t have recovered my investment and would still be some ways until breaking even.

2. How long will it take me to break even?

I’ll probably only cover the “costs” of my trip at the beginning of Year 2 and then earn a small profit until the end of the images’ life cycle.

Was it all worth it?

From a personal point of view, the trip was great as I got some fresh air, exercise and visited new places. From a business point of view, probably not. That is, if I’m considering submitting them all to Micros.

Diversification is the key

That’s why I’m continuously hammering this point. If you want to make money in stock photography, don’t just focus on Microstock. I’ve written extensively about where you would likely earn better returns:

Final thoughts

This was a small trip and small investment, but consider other trips I’ve taken, such as two weeks to Ecuador. The flight alone cost me $1200! I’m not even close to covering 25% of the investments and it’s been 8 months. Being a travel Microstock photographer just isn’t worth it!

So think about next time you’ll fork out considerable investments and uploading such images at Micros alone. There’s better options out there and/or reduce your costs by setting up a home studio, for example.






  1. Another way to think about this (and the way I do these days) is that if you are going to take a vacation (holiday for Europeans), then use that to find some great stock photos. Get up early for sunrise, look for great sunset locations. Enjoy yourself on your holiday and look at the stock photos as extras that might mean you can set the holiday as an expense against tax (depending on country) and also as a source of income for the future.

    Liked by 1 person

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