Year-End Review & Goals for 2018

Looking back, 2017 was a great year! Highlights were visiting and capturing unique images of Ecuador, Israel, Dolomites and Dubai, as well as of course publishing the Brutally Honest Guide. It hasn’t all been chocolate and roses though, as I’ll discuss in this article. But first, the good.

The Good

Submission Overdrive

As per Master Steve Heap’s advice on Backyard Silver, I’m slowly looking to add a few more Microstock agencies along the way where I’ll submit non-premium images. Everywhere and RF! However, I hold a firm opinion that “premium” images should not go on Micros and have written about this numerous times.

In fact, Steve submits to a whopping 17 Agencies, which seems like administrative overkill but we both recommend a handy piece of software known as Stocksubmitter. According to Steve’s detailed blog post, whether you submit to one agency or 17 is pretty much the same. Although there’s some admin in setting Stocksubmitter up and linking it with agencies, it will really save you a lot of time and frustration!

I currently submit to the following 8 agencies in Midstock, Print On Demand and Micros.


Arcangel Images (semi-exclusive), Robert Harding (exclusive), Alamy


Shutterstock, Adobe Stock / Fotolia, Dreamstime (hesitantly)

Print on Demand

Fine Art America, Photo4me (started contributing just last week)

I’m an One-Man Army Photography Machine

This year has been superb in terms of the number of new images accepted, on the verge of obsession – in fact, about 1500. My Shutterstock portfolio leads the pack with just over 4800 images, with Alamy not too far behind.

Although I’m shooting almost everyday and have a huge volume of work, I’ve resisted the temptation to rush through my workflow. I keep telling myself to really slow down and take my time with post-processing and focus on keywording to an excellent standard, even getting professional help by means of Clemency Wright Consulting.

Since 95% of my images aren’t editorial breaking news, there’s not a huge hurry to get them up and to market. So whether I submit them today (rushed and mediocre post-processing and keywording) or in a few days, with a higher standard, it won’t make a huge difference and I’ll make much more in the long run.

Creating new concepts

I’ve also come up with some cool concepts that are selling regularly, such as passport composites.

Soon to be replaced with a blue cover due to Brexit

Also, made effort to keep up with trends as much as possible, including GDPR, Selfie Addiction and using predictions for the next 20 years to create profitable stock photos. I keep stressing to always check out what’s going on in the news and quickly create stock concepts, such as increased airport security:

Note that I would never attempt this type of shot in Europe / North America for fear of getting arrested! Captured at Belo Horizonte Airport, Brazil

Dreamstime’s Late Christmas Present

In November I found out that Dreamstime was running a blog competition with prize money. Subsequently, I submitted a small blog post entitled “Can You Make a Living from Stock Photography?” speculatively. Yesterday, casually looking through my account on there as I do on most days, I see +$300 so I figured that my small post won the competition with the most likes/views!

Thank you DT (now I feel bad since I bashed them a few months ago for getting rid of their extended licenses).

Now for the bad…

The Bad

No sales at Arcangel

The bad news is that I’m still pending downloads at Arcangel Images. They’re a nice friendly agency and seem to have a good marketing strategy within a niche market, yet wtf? I’ve had no choice but to duplicate some content on their non-exclusive Rights-Managed collection (known as “NX”).

I currently have 579 images on there, most are exclusive. I have a number in mind that isn’t too far off. If I reach that number and I don’t have at least one download…that’s it, I’m moving on….

Some of my latest uploads at Arcangel…all with a dark underlying theme…even darker is having to wait years for downloads..


Two months later and my application is still pending, causing some people to rant over at the MicrostockGroupForum’s respective thread. I suppose this is unfortunate since I lost on potential profits from those images that are stuck there which would be exclusive in case I’m accepted, but in a way it’s good since it means that they’re carefully assessing the suitability of applicants. I took the opportunity to submit the maximum 100 images, thus potentially increasing my chance to get in than if I were to submit the minimum of 25.

I hope for good news in the new year but expecting a rejection. Isn’t the secret to happiness lowered expectations?

Fine Art America

I’ve added a good 500+ images on there and getting lots of views. I suppose it’s only a matter of time…here’s some of the most viewed images, suggesting they’ll be one of the first images to sell as wall-hangers:

Strong contenders
Close up of the most viewed image

The Ugly


Another finalist position at yet another competition. More specifically, the Travel Photographer of the Year. If I told you the number of times I’ve been shortlisted and didn’t win you’d probably ask me why do I bother? I’ll just have to keep on trying until I win. Better luck next year.

Boy stares in amazement at Arabic man wearing a thawb riding a camel on a beach, Dubai, UAE

“Vanity Gallery” Took My Money

I wrote about getting sucked into a ‘Vanity Gallery’ scheme. It could have been much much worse, but still an ugly episode that caused me a lot of stress and some financial losses. Looking at this from another perspective, perhaps this could easily go on the “Good” pile since it was a lesson learned, as well as a cautionary tale to others.

Goals for 2018

Considering many contributors are reporting reduced earnings, year on year, these goals are incredibly ambitious. Nevertheless, I believe that I can do it – just need to keep working hard and smart!

Publish those damn earnings

My main goal for next year is to start reporting my earnings in more detail. This is something I’ve been hesitant to do but in the spirit of being Brutally Honest, I’ll just say fuck it and do it anyway. It will also help me to think more about comparing stats month-on-month and between agencies & different types of images.

Other goals include:

  • Consistently reach $700/month at Shutterstock alone (I’ve come close in 2017)
  • Consistently reach $400/month at Alamy
  • My first sale at Arcangel (really, this should be the easiest goal)
  • My first POD sales at Fine Art America & Photo4me (should only be matter of time)
  • Upload 10 footage videos a month (at this stage, I’m more concerned about improving technically which should lead to downloads)
  • Purchase a drone and learn how to use it to a professional level
  • Capture more street-style portraits, such as this beautiful mixed-race (Brazilian indigenous with northern European) lady I caught in Belo Horizonte, Brazil:

Brazilian indigenous2

That’s a wrap.

Did you have a good year? Are you making any goals? Please comment below!

Happy New Year!







  1. Great overview Alex. I don’t tend to do goals that I am not at least significantly in control of, and so earnings goals are very difficult to create a plan to achieve as it depends on the performance of the agency as well. So I think my goals (if I set them) would be more around the number of new images uploaded each month, different concepts – studio work, flash, more model releases etc. and definitely more 4K videos. To achieve the latter needs a lot of focus not only on remembering to do videos, but on improving techniques to get to the level that we are at (most of the time) on photographs.

    Good luck in 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Steve.

      On my first version of this article I made an analogy with poker (I used to play a lot for money). Great poker players aren’t results-orientated and just worry about making correct decisions since in the short-term luck is involved (similar to how a great image may or may not sell). I took out this part but in hindsight I think it’s relevant.

      The financial goals are important for me though since I’m making this my full-time job and need to make money to pay for my trips and more!! 🙂


      4k videos is something that really interests me and I look forward to exchanging some ideas with you on techniques.

      Best of luck in 2018 as well!


  2. Hi, you don’t mention Robert Harding in your good, bad and ugly. Where do they fit?

    I am interested as I became a contributor of RH a few months with no reported sales yet.
    Andy (andre michel on alamy forum)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andre,

      Well-spotted! Basically, I don’t know what to make of them at the moment. I spotted 6 of my images licensed with them and I’ve been chasing them for ages to know how much and when I’m expected to get paid. It’s not always easy for them to know since clients use images first and pay later (quite common with Alamy and other Midstock as you probably already know).

      As soon as I know how much I’ll earn I’ll be able to make a better assessment of whether RH belongs in the Good, Bad, Ugly pile. At the moment it’s in the neutral pile!

      I’ve just seen your portfolio on RH and you’ve got some impressive images of Aus.

      See you around 🙂



      • Thanks for responding. They state we need to build up a varied collection of at least 1000 images for regular sales, but given how tightly they edit that will take me years. In all that time they’d have exclusive first pick of my best images, so they are a risk.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous. They reject something like 80% of my images and that’s even after I send them what I believe is my best work. I’ve managed to have 180 top images accepted with them over the period of a year so 1000 is really pushing it (perhaps in 3-4 years which by then if I don’t have downloads they can say byebye).

          At first I was only licensing as RM with them and then started giving them the choice to license either RF and RM. This made being accepted easier. Maybe this will help you get to that magical 1k.

          It’s the same with Arcangel but they tend to be easier on the edits and have 580 accepted images with them.

          Good luck and see you around 🙂


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