2019 Year-End Review: Good, Bad & Ugly

We’re coming to the end of 2019 and it’s finally time to publish a comprehensive review of the year and provide a glimpse forward to next year. See my 2018 and 2017 year-end reviews

In this comprehensive review I’ll recap on whether I achieved my ten 2019 goals and make fresh goals for 2020. Last and certainly not least, I’ll nominate the TURD OF THE YEAR AGENCY! Let’s get started.

Goal-setting is important!

Hopefully this recap / forecast will help you to focus on how you can improve on your own stock business and inspire you to also set reasonable goals and motivate you to follow through.

Let’s recap and see what’s in store for next year!

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!

How did I do on my 2019 goals?

Looking back at the list from the corresponding post this time last year, let’s see how I did:

Goal number 1

2018 Goal: Publish those damn earnings!

2019 Result: Yes, started from Feb and you may see all the monthly earning reports on this link. 

Goal number 2

2018 Goal: Upload 100 quality images/month at Shutterstock & others

2019 Result: Yes, for most months I managed to upload at least 100 stills to all agencies. For instance, I started the year on 9,000 or so images at SS and at last count, i had 10,130. Most of my effort has been, however, on the footage side, even if 89% of my income is derived from stills.

Goal number 3

2018 Goal: Upload 20 images/month at Robert Harding

2019 Result: Fail, but was deliberate since right after my disastrous Q2 2019 RH earnings result I decided to go cold turkey on them pending any improvements, which didn’t come with the Q3 2019 report. They were, however, nice enough to feature me on one of their blog posts “the Road less pedalled“.


Goal number 4

2018 Goal: Upload 20 images/month at Arcangel

2019 Result: Fail! This proved to be quite ambitious. Need to keep in mind that Arcangel reject something like 80% of my submissions. I still managed to upload some 10 a month on average which is respectful within this niche market. Here’s a slideshow-selection of my favourite book cover stock I uploaded this year.

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Goal number 5

2018 Goal: Upload 10 clips/month (upgraded to 4K)

2019 Result: Easily met. In fact I was averaging some 30 clip uploads on average per month. Can boast now over 1k clips at SS and Pond5 with the majority being available on 4K resolution.

Some of my favourite were shooting the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lessons and happy that a few have sold. 

jiu jitsu

I need my arm intact, thanks!

Goal number 6

2018 Goal: At least 6 YouTube collaborations

2019 Result: Fail, not quite. Promising start with Guilherme’s collaboration and Dustin Hall but got side-tracked with other stuff, naturally. I’m open to all sorts of  YouTube collaborations if you’re reading.

Goal number 7

2018 Goal: Use Google Trends often to come up with trending topics

2019 Result: Fail. Not something I’m using often enough. Such a powerful tool. Nevertheless, I do make an effort to keep up with what’s trending as seen with my Brexit-series that is selling regularly  as well as drone-airport composites following London Gatwick’s shutdown early in the year.


Also, my flooding and Amazon burning series is selling regularly.

Goal number 8

2018 Goal: Work more with existing clients and acquire new clients

2019 Result: I did work with four clients throughout the year:  at the poker tournament in Rio, interior photography for Airbnb/Booking and shooting a corporate conference in July. Always nice to not to have to depend solely on stock income.

Party Millions
Fun times shooting a poker tournament in my home town of Rio in March

Also shot some expat events in Lisbon and Madrid. Here’s a short clip I put together of a an 80s party event I shot in Madrid:

Goal number 9

2018 Goal:  Improve post-processing footage using Da Vinci Resolve

2019 Result: With the help in particular from Doug Jensen’s Master Class, managed to up my skill-set using Da Vinci. Finally all those dials don’t seem so alien to me anymore.

Goal number 10

2018 Goal: Start drafting a revised version of the Brutally Honest Guide & begin constructing a fresh Udemy Course!

2019 Result: This is a fail as just got majorly side-tracked. However, Steve Heap and I will be collaborating soon on a keywording guide though, stay tuned! By the way, Steve has just published a 2020 edition of his e-book, Getting Started in Stock Photography, so check it out!


2019 Earnings Detailed Breakdown

Just crunched some numbers and the following are my results this year for all, including stills, footage, Midstock, POD and book covers:

all agencies
Pretty steady, although it does feel that I’m working hard just to maintain a certain support-level around the $900/month

Key metrics (net US$):

Total =  $11,143

Average per month = $929

Best month = August at $1075

Worst month = October at $739

Results by major Agencies

Shutterstock consistently bringing between 30-40% of the bacon home every month

Stills vs Footage

Footage still has a long ways to go until it can compete with my stills earnings

Focus on Footage (2019)

Busy year on the footage side. Firstly, in terms of volumes:

No of sales
Number of clip sales this year divided by agency. Total = 63

Secondly, in terms of net earnings:

net earnings
Total net earned: $1,171

Key metrics (net US$):

Average return per clip sold = $18.58

Best-selling clip, sold 11 times for $195:

Yearly Recap – The Good

Footage on the up and up

I did quite well to up my game on the footage side, which was something that I really wanted to push. Results are coming thick and fast with an average of 5 sales per month at $18 each. I trust that in 2020 at least 25% of my overall earnings should come from footage as some of those clips mature. This will also be a goal as you’ll see later on in this report.

Book covers

Over at Arcangel, success at my 7th license sold as a book cover, this year 4 of them. Here are all the book covers so far (average net earnings $220/each):

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Promising sales from Adobe Stock

I’m really bullish on Adobe Stock and seeing month-on-month improvements on sales from there. I’ve stated this many times: I really do think they have what it takes to compete with the big boys in the coming years. Best-seller for the year:

Largest sale came in September earning me net $65 for this narrow street in Brera district, Milan, Italy

Alamy continues to be unpredictable 

A mixed year for Alamy. They’re still one of my favourite agencies but boy are they unpredictable. They can surprise though and I’ve had a number of triple-digital gross sales with them in 2019. Expect more of the same.

Alamy 2019 sales
Huge variances month-on-month at Alamy on gross revenues!               Total sales = 103 on $2534 gross

Largest sale came in the form of this image ($187 gross)

largest sales

Trying to figure out how Alamy’s algos work

This is something that I hope to devote more time to. Alamy Measures is certainly an underrated tool and I would like to up my game in that respect so my images can be seen more often by buyers.

The Bad

Robert Harding

As mentioned earlier, I’ve stopped uploading to Robert Harding  upon receiving a disastrous earnings report for Q2 2019 (average return per sale was something like $3). I gave them my best work and was disappointed…but it doesn’t mean I won’t give them another chance, just waiting for results to improve, if ever. The standout result of the year was the following:

So far my best seller at Robert Harding, above, brought in $272 net, however, for the most part, sales have been few and low-value

Microstock Minnows

The combined pathetic gang of 123RF, Bigstock, Dreamstime, DepositPhotos, CreativeMarket, Canva (flushed down the toilet) and DesignElements, PicFair, WeMark (flushed) I’ve label the Microstock Minnows. Combined, in 2019 they earned me some $700 net which is enough for a good quality lens. However, for $700 boy did my images have to work hard!

I really don’t expect results with them to improve and in fact, we all need to be careful that just before they go bust, they don’t go on some massive garage sale and practically give away our images for free (Canva is doing something fishy by offering buyers unlimited downloads for $12/month). There is always this risk and I only continue to upload to them because it’s super easy using StockSubmitter.

If there’s any Minnow showing progress, it’s CreativeMarket where I’m averaging 2-3 sales a month for an average of $5-10 each.



I’ve already mentioned many times that Getty / iStock are generally “bad” for the industry as they continue put pressure to bring down prices and loosen licensing standards. Unsurprisingly, Getty got rid of their Rights-Managed offering in November and this will inevitably have an impact on the regular collection, probably on the downside.

I’m really trying hard to justify why I keep uploading to iStock when they provide, by far, one of the lowest Returns Per Download for the majors, at around 0.45 cents and non-exclusive commissions are at a pathetic 15%.


However, I’ll keep uploading to them because $100 a month is better than $0 but I can’t say that I feel good about it.

Best-seller on iStock in 2019 at $51.73 net and 103 sales

The Ugly

Licensing dispute

I had a very unfortunate / awkward situation recently as one of my images, I captured of a friend two years ago, was licensed (editorial) via iStock. The image was used on a parody site and showed him in an objectively unfavorable professional light. Owing to the ongoing dispute, I can’t go into more detail on the facts just yet.

My friend was/is quite upset with me and even though the image was removed within a short time, he’s claiming that it has caused “damage” to his professional reputation.

As soon as this episode hopefully blows over I would like to explain what happened in more detail and publish a cautionary tale about the dangers of licensing lifestyle photos. If you recall, I had an episode a few years back where I was scammed by a vanity gallery in London – see link here.

Shutterstock continues to attract copyright thieves..

If you recall my campaign early in the year to help Shutterstock get rid of its mole-infestation, I had success in wacking some 300 moles. So much success that I was eventually banned for one-month over at the Shutterstock forum for calling out that they weren’t doing enough with a threat to remove my whole port. Talk about shooting the messenger…

warning points
You’re welcome for your all my help!

On a quiet day recently, I had a quick look at where I could spot some thieves. Lo and behold, within 20 minutes I could already spot 20 thieves, probably downloading images from those Unsplash turds and licensing via Shutterstock. Imagine how many I would be able to spot in a few hours.

Just follow the theft trail…
thieves apple
Follow the red apple theft trail…

It’s really a head-scratcher how the SS reviewing algorithms don’t pick up on these similars when my own images are constantly being rejected for “too similar” (I’m sure, yours as well).


Anyway, if Shutterstock don’t care, I certainty don’t care either.

Goals for 2020

Owning to my soul-crushing yet life-giving paradox of having to take a corporate day-job, my time is limited to shoot for stock. Looks like I’ll be spending a lot of time working for someone else in 2020 but the project should end in 2021 freeing me time to travel more.

Nevertheless, I’ve put together the following ten realistic goals for 2020:

  • Explore Madrid and visit surrounding cities of Toledo, Zaragoza, Avila and mountains…ideally by bike!
  • Upload 20 clips a month. Footage to represent 25% of my net earnings by the end of 2020
  • Keep publishing monthly earnings and increasingly add relevant metrics to compare trends
  • 10 accepted book covers at Arcangel per month
  • More YouTube collaborations
  • Devote more time to promote my Print on Demand ports
  • Hire model(s) and work on urban lifestyle footage using gimbal
  • Use myself more as a model for footage
  • Publish a keywording guide with Steve Heap and Clemency
  • Not turn completely into a corporate drone…
At least until 2021…

Turd(s) of the Year 2019

Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for…I hereby nominate the Turd of the Year 2019 as……………..


Congratulations: 123RF, BigStock, Canva (flushed), Colourbox (flushed) CreativeMarket, Canstock (flushed), Dreamstime, PicFair, WeMark (flushed) for this great nomination!!

Do you agree with my nomination? Please comment below!

How was your 2019?

How did you do? Did you meet your goals? What are your plans for next year? Please comment below!

Hope you had a successful year and best of luck in the new year!

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. As to the minnows – you can definitely add EyeEm to the list. They are as pathetic as Canva.
    Good luck in a new year!


  2. As always, a great blog! So much information to digest and thanks for sharing. I know how much work goes into compiling those figures and crunching the numbers because it mostly has to be done by hand. Thanks for taking the time to post such an entertaining dissection of the state of our business.

    Liked by 1 person

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