May 2019 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Happy to bring you another detailed report for the month of May!

Overall it was good month, however, there were some major turds along the way, as I’ll explain…so read until the end and find out which agency earned the now infamous Golden Turd Agency of the Month Award!

Click here for a recap of April’s Brutally Honest earnings report.

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

Agency Number of Images / Clips in port (added this month) Net Revenue for May (US$)** Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF 4,056 (89) 13 0.56
Alamy 10,716 (217) 180 18
Arcangel 706 (14) Pending Pending
Adobe Stock 3,250 (87) 68 0.98
Bigstock 3,513 (77) 6 0.30
Canva 2,721 (221) 5 0.90
Creative Market 983 (87) 4 4
DepositPhotos 5,535 (207) 13 0.22
Dreamstime 3,738 (219) 19 0.80
iStock 5,555 (138) 111 0.34
Rex Features 683 (0) 45 7.50
Robert Harding 383 (3) 55* N/A
Shutterstock Photos 9,565 (321) / Clips 721 (77) 466 1
Pond5 813 (71) 0 0
Picfair 4,680 (150) 0 0
Storyblocks 806 (36) 0 0
SignElements 979 (45) 8 N/A
Wemark 1,007 (0) 0 0
Total 1,005

*Since Robert Harding reports every quater, from my latest statement I earned $55 x 3. Will be updated according to next Quarter’s report at the end of July.

**Note that I have eliminated decimals and rounded up or down accordingly.

Overall thoughts on the month

May was overall a good month as I just about broke the $1k net mark. What impressed me most, on the positive side, are my rising footage sales (8 for $158 vs April 4 for $66). Also a BME on Shutterstock (only by a few $) and strong month overall on Alamy.

Still waiting for that elusive 4K footage sale but it will come…

How does this month compare with others

Now that I have a few months of reporting under the belt, I can try to see if I can spot some trends. Taking the earnings from my top 4 earners, which account for something like 70-80% of total earnings (depending on the month), I can draw some data from the following:


The major analysis I can see from above is that SS is holding steady as clear leader of the pack and iStock in a pretty steady in second place. AS is all over the place and Alamy can surprise (both on upside and downside).

Looking at this business as an investment portfolio

I try to look at my above earnings as a traditional financial investment portfolio, of let’s say stock, bonds, commodities and currency. Not every month you’ll have excellent returns on one or other investment. Although we’re not dealing with losses as in a financial investment type of way, it can be seen as a lost of time which if time = money then it can be comparable.

Interestingly in April I had 3/4 of my footage sales from Pond5 and in May all 8 of my footage sales came from SS, so it sort of balances things out. Equally, a strong Alamy and weak Adobe Stock, balancing things out. Let’s see how this “portfolio mentality” will pan out in the coming months.

Fantastic Footage

Starting out with the great news…best month ever in terms of footage at 8 sales for $159, with all my sales coming from Shutterstock. Pond5 produced blanks this month, strangely enough. Still waiting for that elusive 4K sale…

One for a juicy $61 (HD) of the New Years Eve fireworks at Cascais Bay:


I think it was just something the client was looking for and there were literally no other fireworks images available. Just goes to show that if you upload something unique, it doesn’t need to be the best quality to be picked up.

Another one which I’m quite pleased about is this timelapse overlooking the 25 April Bridge on the Tagus in Lisbon. Even with some flickering (I painstakingly left it on Aperture-Priority instead of full manual), the buyer was happy enough to purchase a license, albeit only earning me a modest $18. Glad I uploaded the clip anyway.


Lastly for videos, happy to see this one picked up earning me $20. Simple shot with DOF of pretty pink flowers blowing in the wind with the facade of Casino Estoril in the background. These days I would have colour graded it to bring out more blue from the sky and green from the grass, thanks to the tips learned from Doug Jensen.


Awesome Alamy

After two months of very turdy earnings at Alamy, they finally delivered in May giving me a gross of $400 on 10 sales. Unfortunately, two of them were of Personal Usage / Home licenses misuses which I’ve had a serious issue with lately and blogged about it this week. Alamy is known for excellent customer service but they’ve let me down lately with some of their responses to basic questions.

Nevertheless, the following two big sales made up for it, among a few others:

$187.50 gross for othis Rights-Managed exclusive of the “Control room for operations within the city of Rio de Janeiro, gathering diverse data supplied by weather stations, traffic flow camera”
$63 gross for “New tower called ‘The Curved One’ being constructed with the MiCo Milano Convention Centre in background”

Brexit Rexit

Rex Features is an editorial agency that I’ve invested some time in producing time-sensitive news images. Royalties have been all over the place and I was expecting some sales from my Brexit-themed images. One duly came earning me $10 for this shot, which a Swedish newspaper picked up. Frustrating.


However, overall was good as some others came through nicely earning me a best-month-ever total on there at $45.

Piss on Demand

Fine Art America brought a surprise sale of the following “Paris in the Spring”, earning me $20. I never bothered to renew my premium membership there so let’s see if I can pick up a few more to make it worthwhile.

Oh lala, my second such sale of this beautiful street in Marais, Paris over at FAA

Turd(s) of the Month

…And finally we’re onto the Turd of the Month Award!

April’s Golden Turd Award went to Picfair and lo and behold, in May they still haven’t brought in the goods (no surprise there). However, upon closer inspection of Robert Harding’s latest Quarterly statement, I picked up an OK sale indirectly via them…in the value of $25 net to me. Well done, turds!

A mews in London, where stables were traditionally located
Sale at Robert Harding for this image of a London Mews earned me $25 net

Loads of agencies struggled

So many turds to choose from as many agencies really struggled to even achieve me one lousy sale, including Pond5 (wtf), Storyblocks (it’s been a loooong time) and Wemark (Ok, Bitcoin prices are up so what gives), Photo4me. Arcangel haven’t given me a book cover for a while but I’m willing to be patient as those royalties can be quite attractive. Still managed to upload some 14 exclusive book covers in May, including the following (some from my disaster series):

AA book covers

However, my personal favourite of the bunch that have been accepted is the following:

Old style buildings by the canal in Haarlem, Netherlands

Creative Market brought me just one sale earning me only $4 net, blah…but the turdiest of the turds has to be Canva, which have consistently under-performed on 2,771 images, bringing me just a lousy $5 in May.

Normally they would be a top-3 turd since $5 is better than what some agencies produce lol but promoting Canva to Golden Turd status is their decision to partner up with metastases cancer free-download sites contributing to copyright infringements everywhere: Pixabay and Pexels. Here’s a link to their “exciting news” update.

One more month of this nonsense and I’ll be giving up on Canva.

Congratulations, Canva for joining forces with Pixabay and Pexels!

Un-honourable Turd Mentions: Creative Market and Storyblocks (tied)

Plans for next month

More of the same really…essentially to keep pushing on the 4K footage side. The skills learned from Doug’s course are proving valuable and you can see a detailed review on this link..

Promo Clip

I’ve recently put together a promo of my adopted-home town using Da Vinci. This experience has taught me that I can’t rely on static shots anymore and video requires more motion than I’m producing. So, I’m on the lookout for a gimbal to add some stabilization to my mirrorless.

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. Congratulations for May earnings. Really good numbers!

    I recommend your book.

    PS Just a opinion….You can wait alot for a 4k sale. 4k is a mith. On SS nobody will pay an extra 110$ for that slightly better quality. When I’m looking at youtube, porn, tv I really can’t tell the difference.


  2. Hey Alex,

    thanks for sharing. How did you sign up for Rex? I understand it went to shutterstock and they evaluate applications on an individual basis. Also, they have another offspring, which is sort of a premium collection. Any experience with them? Then there’s shutterstock premiere that offers editorial and footage too. I’m not sure what’s the message here, perhaps that basic shutterstock is for the masses who just snap away with a crappy phone camera? And the big buck is made in the premier outlets? The network of their sites is confusing to me.

    Do you think it makes sense to go exclusive with Pond5? I only have 70 clips so far and checked the exclusive checkbox, in the hope that it might slightly improve my search rankings. Needless to say, in 6 months i haven’t sold a single clip and only had 10 views in total. I put a lot of effort into keywording, but something is obviously still wrong. Seeing that all your footage sales come from shutterstock i might need to reconsider the idea of giving all my videos to Pond5.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Victor,

      I signed up to REX simply by filling out their application form and gave examples of my breaking news work.

      I have no experience with Offset so can’t comment.

      As for Pond5, exclusivity, an example of last month 0 sales on Pond5 and 8 on SS suggests that exclusivity is too risky!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Alex,

    Where you say: “… I try to look at my above earnings as a traditional financial investment portfolio, of let’s say stock, bonds, commodities and currency. …”

    I am afraid you cannot legitimately say this. I do not know your experience in investment theory(-ies) but the above statement bends a couple of them. Probably the most important one being that all your photo assets are within one narrow market (and thus will enjoy swings driven by one set of driving factors like e.g. global demand from the advertising / graphic design market).

    Meanwhile securities (stocks,bonds,etc.), commodities and ccies will belong to a much broader range of investment choices ruled by much broader set of driving factors (for asset price growth and drop). – So, here, while some assets drop in price (by say the factor of inflation) others could benefit from the same factor and attain higher prices (or lower prices AND higher returns, revolting but true as it may sound).

    So, if you want to stick to this analogy, you may want to revise your vision and see your photographic and video assets as, say, a portfolio of different shares (say: some microsoft, some ford, some J&J shares, etc)

    You can still apply great many tools from the financial market analysis to your portfolio of images with great success. You already do this when you apply, e.g. the ratios (RPI, RPD, etc.). You can dig deeper here and get more, if you care.

    Thank you for your microstock insights. They are always very useful and fun to read too.

    Best regards,


    • HI Nick,

      Thanks for sharing. My writing is often free-flowing and I try to make some connections to stuff which may not apparently have connections! I’ve worked once upon a time as a day trader…

      I would say that I operate in five main segments, with little to no cross-overs:
      1. Microstock
      2. Rights managed midstock
      3 footage
      4. Print on demand
      5. Book covers

      So far microstock is something like 80% of my earnings. I hope that soon this will be 50% with the more lucrative 3 and 5 making up the rest!

      All the best



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