Dec 2019 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome-back to December’s edition of the Brutally Honest Earnings Report!

Year-end Report and 2020 goals is out

See here for my comprehensive year-end report, including the Turd of the Year nomination, and goals / plans for 2020. 

We’ll get to the 2019 recap when we cross that bridge – Unesco World Heritage Site Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain

Nov Recap

Here’s a recap on my November monthly report, which brought in a respectful $970 net. Let’s see if December surpassed this…

But first, 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 but suffice to say that copycat thieves may be lurking).

If you feel that the information below and throughout the blog is useful I kindly ask you to donate as much as you feel is reasonable, such a price of a coffee, by clicking on the following link below:

Donate Now!

You can also support me by purchasing one or more of my images as a wall-hanger, including this beauty I shot just last week of Puerta Alcala in Madrid (available on my Photo4me account):

Alex’s Fine Art Prints!

December to remember – Exploring Spain, finally

Three months since moving to Madrid and finally well-settled in…took advantage of a long-weekend away from my dreaded corporate drone work in early Dec to explore Segovia, which is only 30 mins away from Madrid on the affordable and fast-train (Renfe Alvia) – see below the stunning view of the train station at Segovia:


Segovia was a success

Didn’t go too crazy and after some 100 pics and 23 videos later, quite happy with the results, especially on the book-cover side (which is something I’m pursuing quite heavily lately – more on this soon)…with the following pics being selected by Arcangel!:

AA book covers
Coming to your shelves soon…spooky!

Microstock Iberic bacteria

I feel like a sort of stock contributor bacteria since for the past 10 years or so I arrive at a new town and immediately proceed to decimate (often flooding / burning it) it by capturing stock content and then spread to the vicinity lol. I’ve rinsed and repeated this pattern already in Rotterdam, followed by Milan and then Lisbon. Once I’m finished with that town then I move onto the next one…

Now that I’m settled in Madrid, Segovia has been my first target, but often not easy with a full-time demanding corporate job. Nevertheless, next on my (long) list will be Avila, Toledo, Cuenca, etc. In fact, I’m probably getting ahead of myself since there’s still loads to explore in Madrid itself! More on this on my goals for 2020 report!

Still need to explore Madrid and when I have more time, venture out into surrounding towns (ideally by bike)

Dec Summary

I didn’t have many hopes coming into December as the second half of the month just grinds to a slow halt.

The standout result for the month was another Arcangel license, followed by an unexpectedly solid month at Alamy, ironically the Nov Turd of the Month. Rest were on par with other months, but for Pond5 which drew a blank and the Microstock Minnows.

Generally speaking, one lesson I’ve learned in life is that (perhaps) the secret to happiness are low expectations. So overall, quite pleased. As for January, I expect much better as buyers will be gearing up…if things don’t pick up by then, even my low expectations may not be met…

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

Agency Number of Images in port (added Dec) Net Revenue for Dec (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF 4,398 (8) 8 0.51
Alamy 11,439 (134) 128 13
Arcangel 775 (18) 125 125
Adobe Stock 3,325 (27) 85 0.86
Bigstock 3,766 (23) 5 0.28
Creative Market 1,317 (27) 27 9
DepositPhotos 5,840 (27) 18 0.42
Dreamstime 6,596 (74) 16 0.65
EyeEm 772 (26) 0 0
Fine Art America 690 0 0
iStock 6,136 (64) 92 0.39
Robert Harding 383 (0) 41* 9
Shutterstock 10,128 (50) 249 0.65
Pond5 1,384 (58) 0 0
Picfair 5,403 (73) 0 0
SignElements 1,160 (3) 11 N/A
Direct Sales N/A 0 0
Total 765
*Q3 2019 average


Agency Number of clips in port (added Dec) Net Revenue for Dec (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock 315 (17) 0 0
Pond5 1,269 (20) 0 0
iStock 145 12 4
Shutterstock 1,030 (25) 68 15
Total 79

Grand total (up to Dec 25): net $845 vs Nov net $970

The big picture


Average return per download

Steady at around 60cents per download at the major earners

Results (stills) at Major Agencies

Arcangel Sale

Almost two years on from uploading this image, captured at a Portuguese-colonial coffee plantation in Minas Gerais, Brazil…it was finally picked up by a publisher to be featured on a well-received French-translated bookcover. This particular license earned me $125 net which is about average of what I’ve earned on Arcangel.

My 8th book cover via Arcangel!

Alamy Recovery

Nice up-turn on Alamy sales at $128 net after a very disappointing (turdy) November of only $45 net. They are by far the most inconsistent of agencies. Here’s some highlights of the best-sellers:

$42 net for this fishy image, captured in a Rio de Janeiro outdoor market during the summer!
$50 net for this plane on fire (fire added later on Photoshop). This image ended up on an article about airplane malfunctions within the American Scientist Magazine . Perhaps for that price it also went onto print (if someone has a subscription, please let m know)
This emotionally-packed shot earned me $9 net. Probably a former stock photographer…

Adobe Stock Picking up

Another Best Month Ever at Adobe Stock at $85…a very promising agency. Best sale of the month came in the form of a candid shot at a cafe in Milan (no special lighting, really!). This particular license sold for $7 which paid for the coffee many times over :)) It’s done OK overall on all sites with the series earning me about $40 after 3 years.

Marocchino (Caffè Marocchino) is a coffee drink served in a small glass and consists of a shot of espresso, milk and cocoa powder

Creative Market Picking up

I don’t speak much about Creative Market because frankly not much happens there (usually just 2 sales a month)! Despite my relatively small port there at just 1,337, I had a best-month-ever at 3 sales for $27 for the following:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All three are “certified”, which in practice makes fuck all difference but some buyers tend to prefer such images as Creative Market promotes such marketing gimmick.

Encourage you to certify your port

Even though you can only certify maximum 5 images at time, I suppose it’s worth eventually making an effort to have many of your images certified (starting with obviously the ones that have sold, followed by most views/likes). So far out of 1,337, I’ve managed to certify 336.

In related news, Creative Market announced that they would drop commissions from 50% to 40%, following the trend at Alamy a few months back. Not a big deal since as you can set your own prices you can just increase them by 20%. 😀

Shutterstock Steady

Relatively quiet month at Shutter with “only” $231 net sales vs November’s $334. Standout results were few and far (mainly ODDs and subs) in between but I’ve managed to locate the following for your viewing pleasure / stock education:

A regular seller, even after 4 years. $16.50 for this yummy drink
$7.50 for this Xmas-themed shot of a department store in Milan, Italy (captured pre-Xmas 2018)

iStock Roller-coaster continues

The iStock roller-coaster continues. After a respectful October earning me $185, November dropped almost by half to $104 and return per download was at TURD-DANGERZONE at just 0.39cents (anything below 50cents for me is auto-turd of the month zone).

Is it just me or are you also having a wild ride at iStock? Please comment below on your experiences.

istock rollercoaster
iStock inconsistency! Graph provided by Todayis20

Ironically the standout result was in the footage (more on this on next section). As for stills, really not much to report other than this one:

My awesome grandfather helped me earn net $4.65. You can see the walk-through on this photo shoot using this link

Microstock Minnows

The combined Microstock Minnows of, in alphabetical order, 123RF, Bigstock, Depositphotos, Dreamstime, PicUnfair, SignElements brought in a very very disappointing $47 vs $73 in Nov. We’re talking about a total of roughly 28,000 stills on offer to bring in a whopping $47….let that sink in for a few seconds….

I still think it’s a no-brainer to upload to them via Stocksubmitter but if I had to spend an extra minute doing it manually I would never bother. In fact I’m not even sure doing it manually at iStock is worth my time anymore.

Footage Highlights

A relatively quiet month overall on the footage side with 7 sales for net $79 (4 at SS and 3 at iStock respectfully). Standout results were:

canary wharf
$20.68 for this short exchange of businessmen at London’s Canary Wharf
$19.39 for this clip sold as HD. Was also nice to see this clip sold only a few days after upload!
$18.95 for this timelapse from my 2018 Iberian adventures

Over at iStock, only one of the three clips is worth reporting:

spanish flag
Link to clip. Originally shot at 60fps and slowed down to give it a cool effect

The other two clips were sold for pathetic $1.17 and 75 cents ugh. Wtf. I just take the good with the bad, I suppose.

Stock footage optimism

Nevertheless, I’m (eternally) optimistic as my footage is on the up and up. In fact, at Madrid Airport just yesterday I captured the following quite funny scene which may sell only due to its uniqueness (also shot at 4K). Place your bets! Here’s a link to it on my Shutterstock account.

I make it a habit to arrive at the airport early and capture content, which I’ve had success being picked up regularly. More on this on this blog post. 

Unfortunately I’ve had to wait until I get my new footage lens but the shop has promised it will arrive soon (with a nice discount):

Coming soon…

Turd(s) of the Month Agency!

I feel that this month I must nominate the Microstock Minnows as turds for their combined turdiness (especially PicUnfair, Dreamstime and 123RF). I honestly think that in 2020 at least one of those in the list will throw in the towel. My bet is on either Dreamstime and/or 123RF! What do you reckon?

Congrats you fucking waste of server space agencies!

2020 recap coming soon

Stay tuned! Now need to start drafting 😀

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted six years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet!). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

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. Happy Christmas or whatever else you all celebrate! I guess December did not bring you the stock gift you wanted in earnings! I have to comment on your new lens purchase. It seems quite expensive for a 4/3 lens. I suppose it’s not bright because it will be mainly used for day shots or on tripod for night shots. This makes it not particularly useful for video. I prefer a bright 1.4 or 1.8 16 mm lens that is also good for low ISO video, where you can use it at the fastest settings. 9 mm at 4/3 is still not wide enough. My thinking is that if someone gives 500, he can give 1.000 and buy a second hand Full Frame camera if he wants 9 or 12 mm for photos. At the end, I dare advise to anyone buying a new camera to decide if they will mainly use it for photo or not and buy a body only with an at least 16 mm lens and then think of a second zoom lens.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Christmas, Hannukah and whatever else! You’ve had a good year and managed to do quite a lot.

    As to minnows, I’m not sure any of them will go down n 2020, but I sincerely wish it was 123RF.


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