August 2019 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Happy to publish another detailed Brutally Honest Earnings Report, this time-round for the month of August. read on to see which content has performed well at which agencies, as well which agencies are turding, as to avoid them altogether

For a recap on my July Brutally Honest Earnings Report. 

Before getting started, I’m hoping that you’ll be able to help me out…

Would appreciate if you could help me out!

Throughout my blog, as you can appreciate, I’ve given quite a bit of my time to help you make sense of this complicated stock industry and focus on making money. I’ve also given away earnings info on some of my best-sellers which will directly lead to those images reducing their value (how much is impossible to say).

If you feel that the information below and at other posts is useful I kindly ask you to donate as much as you feel is reasonable by clicking on the following link below:

Donate Now!

You can also support me by purchasing one of my images as a wall-hanger:

Alex’s Fine Art Prints!

Now let’s get started on the earnings report…

Managing Expectations: August is traditionally slow-going

August is traditionally a slow month with lots of buyers away on holidays, so naturally stock photography / footage sales volumes should be at the lowest level of the year (along with the Xmas to NYE week). I’ve been doing this gig for a while so can safely predict that volumes should pick up on the first week of September and remain strong until the run-up to Xmas.

Hope everybody is enjoying this holiday period! Captured in Tarragona, Spain

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

Agency Number of Images / Clips in port (added August) Net Revenue for August (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF 4,228 (303 pending forever**) 6 0.16
Alamy 11,032 (117) 202 17
Arcangel 732 (12) 269 135
Adobe Stock 3,471 (97) 46 0.66
Bigstock 3,667 (77) 8 0.26
Creative Market 1,173 (93) 0 0
DepositPhotos 5,924 (116) 20 0.7
Dreamstime 6,151 (124) 9 0.43
iStock 5,761 (67) 130 0.44
Rex Features 721 (24) 0 0
Robert Harding 383 (0) 14* 2.31
Shutterstock 9,807 (93) / Clips 874 (36) 339 0.61 (stills)
Pond5 1,067 (65) 15 15
Picfair 4,988 (132) 20 20
Storyblocks 1,104 (34) 0 0
SignElements 1,107 (75) 11 N/A
Total 1,075

*Up to Q2 (July) 2019

** Over at 123RF, to alert them of a pending batch, I recommend filling out this Content Review Request (thanks MichaelRon for the tip):

content review request

Overall thoughts on August results

Coming into August with low-expectations (which is always wise in this business on any given month) I’m quite pleased with my results on an overall basis. Steady on SS, AS, iStock and Alamy.


The usual stragglers predictably struggled (Creative Market, Storyblocks, 123RF, BS, etc). If I had to drop another agency next it would probably be 123RF.

Signs of life

DepositPhotos showed some signs of life ($20) doubling on July results, as well as another decent sale at PicFair ($20).


Footage earnings came in nicely with 6 clips sold earning me a total of $125.

How’s the long-run looking

new graph
Quite steady

Now, let’s look at results at how individual agencies performed.

Arcangel book covers

As mentioned on the 7 Tips on Getting Started in Book Cover Photography blog post, one of my proudest achievements as a professional photographer is seeing my work published on at least 6 physical book covers, licensed via Arcangel Images, and dozens of others from micros.

In August, Arcangel didn’t disappoint as they notified me of two of my latest scores earning me a combined $269:

book covers
Two book covers licensed via Arcangel Images

Keep in mind that book cover sales are one-offs and rare (hence the relatively high sales prices), so it may be a while until I receive another notification of sales.

Arcangel seems to like my style

My style seems to gel well with Arcangel and I quite enjoy making book covers over and above creating other types of images. They’re really picky and seem to select a lot of my work, bringing my total up to 732, including the following two added this week:


Sales over at Alamy-land more than doubled in August with a record 14 sales resulting in $202 vs July’s $77 net. I’ll probably break 2018’s gross results of $2,131 next month as I’m only $325 away.

Some August highlights include:

Sesimbra, Setubal region, Portugal sold for $75 gross
PG11W0 (1)
Tourists enjoying tapas and drinks in Seville, Andalucia, Spain sold for $70 gross
Bright entrance at Lisbon International Airport, sold for $34 gross

Update on Personal Use License debacle

Finally, some good news on alleged misuse of licenses by Alamy buyers for the following image:


“We have received a response from the customer, and they have confirmed they purchased the wrong license in error. This has now been billed for the correct use and should be showing as a sale in your account. Therefore we are closing the case down.” – Alamy Contributor Relations

Kind enough for the customer to respond, but for those that didn’t…Alamy just shuts down the case and we expect to swallow the bad news that the image was likely licensed wrongly (perhaps even fraudulently). Nothing else we can do…frustrating…


Shutterstock sales were steady as usual, even if there were no huge Extended Licenses…just the usual subs and ODDs, but at 26% lower volumes than other months (as expected due to holiday period) – 507 vs 375 downloads.

Yummy subs, right Elijah? 😉


Nevertheless, always nice to report on an Enhanced License sale for an image that I shot almost 5 years ago! Just shows that, depending on the image, you may receive repeat sales indefinitely. In this case, quite a timeless capture of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Gothic facade of the Royal Courts of Justice in London sold for $22

Shutterstock Footage Sales

Footage sales at SS are apparently on the up and up and happy to report 5 sales, including:

parking lot
Timelapse of a parking lot (shot over 2 hours) sold for $25. Surprisingly SS accepted this commercially!
Timelapse of the Allianz building in Milan, Italy sold for $18

The remainder of sales were the timelapse of the prostitute and Rio de Janeiro NYE fireworks for repeat sales, which I’ve discussed at length in other reports.


Pond5 continues to disappoint and only one sale for $15 of a very ordinary scene of customers purchasing pasteis de nata at Lisbon’s Time Out Market:


No sales over at Videoblocks / Storyblocks this month. I believe many others are experiencing slow sales over there as the company restructures their business model to the usual detriment of contributors.


Keeping in mind that iStock report one month in advance, July results were slightly down at $130 vs June’s $168. I just hope that August stays above $100.

However, what is worrying is the average return per image at a disappointing 44cents per download, which has been consistently turdy for the past few months. This is the lowest Return Per Download (RPD) at the major agencies. These are considerably lower than at both SS as well as AS (at least 30%).

The only interestingly-priced sale for July was the following action shot of an urban surf-spot in Munich that I captured in August 2018:

$37 for Surfers on the Eisbach in the English Garden with many spectators in Munich, Germany

Casino Robert Harding Reported their 2019 Q2 Earnings

Robert Harding, an exclusive agency I submit the best of my best work as you already know by now (387 images, link to port here), reported on 2019 Q2 Earnings (May-June-July).

In those three months, I earned a net of $44! Let that sink in…

In comparison, Q1 Earnings at RH were $159. Previously, in 2018 Q4, my best Quarter-ever produced a whopping $491. So, it’ safe to say that earnings at that agency are crazily unpredictable like a trip to the casino. These figures are all net btw.

Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world with 1200 shops, part of the Burj Khalifa complex, Dubai, UAE
Highest sale was $12 net for this high perspective shot at Dubai Mall, UAE

Huge disappointment 

To put it mildly, I was shocked at just low my earnings were for Q2. No way to sugar-coat it. Doing a quick calculation, those 387 premium + exclusive images earned me an average of just 4cents image per month ($44/3-months / 387).

Average sale price was just $2.31 net, deep into microstock prices, compared to Alamy’s much more respectable net $13/download.

RH vs SS

If I take August as an example at SS (where the commercial value of images is, on average, much lower), I earned $229 with 9,807 (non-exclusive) images bringing me 2cents per image per month. Is my port on RH really only worth 33% more than at SS?

Wine glass isolated overlooking Piedmonte, Italy vineyards
This image, licensed as a personal print, earned me 19 cents at Robert Harding, which is lower than a Tier1 subscription download at SS (Source: 2019 Q3 earnings report)…FML….

Exclusivity vs Non-Exclusivity

So this may be surprising for those that perhaps admire Midstocks and likely look down at Micros! I receive loads of inquiries on whether to be exclusive at so and so agency and my answer is firmly that in Mid-2019 I cannot encourage anybody out there to upload their images exclusively to any stock agency (save for book covers which is another market segment).

As an exclusive contributor, everything ends up on Getty anyway, to be generally sold for peanuts but that’s for another discussion…

The pie gets smaller with more middle-men

At the end of the day there’s only so much of the pie left for you after it’s been divided among numerous intermediaries. The fewer middle-men there are between you and the buyer, the better!

Take for example, an image licensed via Robert Harding that is sold at Alamy for $100.

  • Alamy would keep $60 (40%).
  • Then out of that Robert Harding would keep the remaining 70% of $60 = $42.
  • After all is said and done, the poor contributor would only receive $18 out of a $100 sale.

At iStock / Getty the pie is even smaller at 15%!

I’ve known this all along but I thought that preferential keyword rankings + added exposures via the blog would equal more sales but I’ve been too naive.

Taking a break from uploading at RH

After receiving the last two quarterly reports, I cannot realistically even think about uploading even one more image at RH until I see a return to close-to 2018 Q4 levels.

I won’t go as far as pull my port from there, but another few disastrous Quarterly reports and I may have to re-consider! This is finally the end of a 2 1/2 year experiment with sub-par results. Of course, RH would advise that I need more images and more time, no thanks, I tap out…

Robert Harding have been good to me

Offroad vehicle on sand dunes near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates
Desert off-roading in UAE

Don’t get me wrong, RH have been good to me, having featured me on their travel photography blog numerous times:

They’ve also been attentive with their customer service. An overall friendly agency. So it pains me to call them out…it’s like a good friend who disappointed you…

But this is a business at the end of the day and no matter how many times I’m featured / praised for my “wonderful” work, when running a stock business what really matters is the money that goes into my account. Otherwise, this is just a fun hobby.

Substitute the accordion with a camera – how I currently feel uploading to RH.

So it pains me to nominate Robert Harding Stock Agency as the Turd of the Month for August 2019:

Congrats, I guess…

Other turds: Creative Market (ZERO earnings in August) and 123RF, only $6.

Creative Market Certified Products

I would like to hear from you on whether you’ve had increased success over at Creative Market after having some of your images “certified”. This is in light of having 194 of my images being approved on this upper tier which have resulted in no sales during the month.

For more details
See top right banner “Certified”

Got to meet my Stock hero, Steve Heap!

August also brought a nice surprise in the form of a nice dinner with Master Steve Heap of Backyardsilver in Lisbon. Always great to exchange knowledge with a stock veteran and discuss upcoming collaborations – stay tuned!


Click here to see Steve’s August Earnings Report on his Backyardsilver blog.

Plans for Sept

I’ll be travelling around Portugal and then onto Seville, so look forward to capturing more footage and some stills. Meanwhile, I’m keeping an eye on the news to create stock concepts without leaving my house, including Amazon Burning and No-Deal Brexit. Oct should be extremely busy/tense Brexit-wise.

These concepts are regularly being picked up by all sorts of media and suggest you do the same. Here’s an example I created in the past few days:


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 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. Alex, you’ve been warned, another ‘shit sundwich’ image that references my subs and I will spam your blog with ‘eath shit comments’ all over.
    And I won’t tell you how to configure anti-spam protection.


  2. Speaking about creative Market certified products – I see no reason to get certified and see no impact at all.
    Just an example – I have 5 images on the first page for the search term ‘boston’ on CM.
    All without being certified.

    Here are some other thoughts:
    – CM is a designer marketplace mostly and those folks usually know what they are looking for and won’t be easily duped by ‘certified’ banners.
    – Certification process is such a time-consuming pain that even if I wanted to, I wold not go through certifying 4000 images. CM do have strange rules that don’t make it easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re whining and complaining about the low rates of iStock, yet you keep supporting them.
    Then you’re asking for donations.

    Its the equivalent of somebody’s chopping their own leg off, and then asking for money cause they’re now crippled!


    • Hi Woodward,

      I believe that asking for donations on one hand and whining and complaining about low sales at istock on the other are completely unrelated.

      The donations are to offset any potential economic losses from disclosing earnings on my best-sellers + appreciation for time spent on blogging which is intensively time-consuming. There are loads of copycats lurking out there looking to profit from such info…

      As you can appreciate, this premium info is not readily available out there.


  4. Alex,
    First of all, many congratulations for your hard, useful and enthusiastic work that helps all your fellow travelers in this hard task of selling photos / clips on the web and that makes your website so popular.

    Well, after the words of congratulation that correspond to the case I dare to ask you a favor:

    It would be very useful for everyone, if possible, that in your earnings statistics you discriminate between photos and clips and their corresponding values (earnings and average per item).
    Greetings and keep it up so I think you’re on the right track.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mario,

      Useful suggestions, will implement them in the Sept results.

      I also want to add a feature where everybody can vote on their “Turd of the Month” Agency. Do you think this would be interesting?

      All the best and thanks for the encouragement.



      • Alex, thanks for continuing sharing your experience through monthly reports. Very usefull information for beginners and experts.

        I think it would be interesting yes, so we would have an interesting overviwe.

        Big hug


  5. Alex, came back to read this one again after trying and getting rejected at RH. I was looking through to find another set when I saw this. I have never gone exclusive with anyone and now don’t think I will unless it is images with ArcAngel, which I’ll come back to. The other part of RH that I found troubling, is, not only are those images exclusive, but so are similars. So, instead of sending 20 images to the micros, I pick out one and send it to RH, not just tying up that image, but the other 19 as well. I don’t think so.

    I’m about to send a bunch over to ArcAngel. I notice the covers you’ve shown are pretty dark and spooky. Is that your processing or theirs. I have a lot of images that, when I took them, I thought about some really dark processing, but don’t want to shoot myself in the foot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Darryl,

      That’s right. Regards, RH, similars should not be uploaded elsewhere.

      As for Arcangel, I go for the dark look and it tends to work (since they accept them). I use VSCO filters using Lightroom. Not all are necessarily dark and moody, depends on what you’re going for. Arcangel don’t touch images once you’ve uploaded.

      Hope you’re accepted, send news!

      All the best


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