Brutally Honest Earnings Report – April 2019 (including: Turd of the Month Agency)

April has overall been a mixed-bag of good, bad and just plain ugly. I’ll break it down for you with some highlights and low-lights.

I’ve introduced two new metrics to this report which will become a common feature: Top 3 Turd Agencies of the Month, with the “top” agency earning the prestigious Turd of the Month Award!

I’ve also gone into more detail on number of assets per agency and average download $. This will help both me and you make sense of it all and which agencies to focus on and which to ditch!

Insight from Creative Income

Let’s get started! Oh before I get started, I would like to thank Guilherme from Creative Income for mentioning this blog and also breaking down some of his earnings depending on agencies. Here’s a click to his latest blog post with valuable insight.

Breakdown of Results


*Quit them as of 29 April due to pathetic earnings after 14 months!

** Average of last Quarter. Next report should be out at the end of May and will update from next report.

Interestingly, my top 4 best-performing agencies above make up 83% of the total. Let’s now break it down further.

Why bother with those small earners?

Good question. As mentioned above, I’ve decided to drop Colourbox and there are a few that I’ll consider dropping upon reaching their payment thresholds, such as Picfair, Canva and Signelements. Even if they give returns every month (barely enough for a cup of coffee), it just doesn’t feel right to keep sending them my work and who knows if/when they will decide to change their license terms and offer the work pretty much for free. This may happen at any of the agencies but more likely with the smaller struggling ones.

Do these small earners even deserve some of my latest images? Captured in Aveiro, Portugal

Improvement in footage earnings, at least

As you recall, March earnings were a complete stinker when it came to footage sales. Didn’t take much for an improvement. In April I managed to sell four clips, all at HD (still waiting for a 4K sale). 3/4 came from Pond5. Surprisingly, no clip sales at SS.

Grand total earnings of $66.50 net, which is still little but I’m taking the long-road. Still waiting for that exclusive 4K sale, but I’m cautiously optimistic it will come soon. I’ve just been back from wanderlusting in northern Portugal (hope you’ve been following my adventures on Instagram) and think this clip should sell one day, more for its usefulness than its artistic qualities:

In fact, had a funny episode with shooting some still life with the Porto cityscape background when a seagull stole my prop!

I’ve uploaded the image on the spontaneous image on the right to Arcangel as a book cover!

Which videos sold?

As for the clips that sold, this one netted me $20 from Pond5:

I discussed some key elements on which I believe this clip works much better in terms of storytelling than a still in this guest post at

Other sales were this timelapse at Tarragona’s Roman amphitheater earning me $17.50.

My best-selling clip for the month actually came from Adobe Stock for the real-time version this clip of NYE fireworks display in Cascais, Portugal, earning me $28 net.

Shutterstock, same old

Due to an absence of clip sales, overall SS was similar to previous months at $361 for 499 downloads vs $369 for 580 downloads, although average per download was better (0.72 vs 0.65). Easter may have been a factor as sales slowed right down just before and just after. I’m sure many of you also experienced a similar slowdown.

Highlights include these two that sold as Extended Licenses:

$20.24 for this one which is not surprising considering that so many people are taking to the streets to express their anger at such issues including: brexit, inequality, climate change, etc
$30 for these vibrant buildings on Corso Buenos Aires in Milan, Italy with a bright blue Mediterranean sky

Alamy huge disappointment

I regularly check Alamy’s analytical measures tool and recommend you do the same! Essentially, it tells you which of your images was searched for and zoomed by customers with specific keywords. In the past month, views and zooms were strong but this didn’t translate into sales…which is fine since often sales are only reported months later. Nevertheless, with 10,500 images, 4 sales earning me $39 net is TRULY disappointing.

As always the optimistic, there’s good news that at least some of the sold images were recent trending work (which suggests I’m on the right track in terms of what buyers want/need), including:

$38 gross for this drone + airport concept

Taking the long road 

With Alamy, I tend to take the long road since they work different to microstock in that buyers use an image and only pay months later. So I take the view that a blip in one month is no big deal, especially since views/zooms are strong, so should expect a return to “regular” sales in May (around the $400/500 gross mark – fingers crossed).

My good friend and fellow microstock, Elijah, famous for his ultra-wide angle + sun flares had a great month there, which is encouraging to hear! Good job, Elijah! Here’s a link to his Alamy portfolio.

By the way, Elijah is a talented web designer with experience in creating outstanding websites. If you are thinking about having a website for your photography (or anything else) – he is probably your guy. Check out his website site – WebEngineDesign.

Best Month Ever at iStock (March)

I’ve been harsh on iStock / Getty for a while for their industry-low returns of 15% on non-exclusive content, including 2-cent royalties. However, they’ve shown some real improvement in terms of sales for me, at least in March (April numbers will be out only on May 20th).

Using the Todayis20 free app, which I highly recommend, my March results were the following on 5,412 assets:


month istock
Up and up!
Highlights include 14 sales totaling $24.19 for this awesome shot of my hero grandfather – I wrote about the shoot here
Old and dusty warehouse with light coming through openings
$25 for a single sale of this empty industrial warehouse (commercial)

Turds of the Month Awards

So, onto my addition! What you’ve all been waiting for. It’s been a especially turdy month.

There certainly were some huge turds this month…which wasn’t easy to select since most of the agencies present some sort of turdism. But after thinking long and hard, I’ve narrowed down the following agencies:

Bronze Turd – Alamy

Bronze turd goes to Alamy. I really like them but as mentioned earlier, they are the agency where I have the most assets and to earn $39 net is just a complete waste of time. I know it’s a temporary blip but still…ffs. I love you Alamy but you’ve disappointed me, however, I still have 100% faith that you’ll deliver again.

Silver Turd – Storyblocks

What gives? I haven’t had a sale there for AGES. More precisely, June last year for this clip:


However, no sales since with 5440 assets, which includes some 772 clips is extremely turdy! On a footnote, the fact that they withhold 30% tax on US sales on ALL accounts even after submitting tax docs. Disappointing!

Golden Turd goes to……Picfair!

I’m really angry/annoyed/disappointed with Picfair. I really thought they would present the industry something fresh and “fair”, but it’s just constant disappointment. I’ve exchanged friendly emails with their account manager, but I just get the feeling that they’re promising what they can’t deliver.

To rub salt into the wounds, they have some ridiculous metrics in terms of number of views, but it obviously doesn’t translate into sales, suggesting it’s some crazy bot. Here are my latest metrics:

Total pics: 4530 

Total pic views: 50, 527 (WTF??!)

golden turd

Honourable Turd mention: Creative Market (0 sales). 908 Assets.

Robert Harding Interviewed me!

Trying to end this report on a good note, check out my latest interview at Robert Harding’s blog, where I discuss my background, some of my photography tips (with many examples) and future travel plans:RH

Master Steve Heap also had some fame this month, as a featured Videomaker on the Edelkrone blog . Well done, Steve!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’m determined not to waste my life away as a corporate drone and have devoted over six years to making it as a travel photographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others before it’s too late.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography


  1. As iI wrote in your previous report, earning 950$ from this portfolio is quite good. However I’m still shocked how little did you earn from the videos. It also seems that the market is changing. few yaers ago SS was everything, now it’s 30% of earnings (as shown in your table).

    Thanks again, useful information!

    I still don’t regret buying your ebook, even if I’m not into stock photography.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Awesome job! I am at about 6,500 images and make around 1/3 of the amount you are consistently making. There’s a caveat though, I submit many different cropped versions of my images!! So, I may only have about 3,000 unique photos online 🙂 So, lets go with that!

    I just began blogging my top 10 photos of week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your message and sharing your top 10 photos of the week. Are you able to obtain many property releases to license some of those real estate pics as commercial? That would be sweet.

      All the best!


  3. Was it hard to get a PR for the empty industrial warehouse.I have tried some time in my region to get a PR for a shooting in an old warehouse. But no chance for Stockfotos.


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