March 2020 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

The longest month in many of our lifetimes is over and hope everybody is safe and comfortable. So sit back, get yourself a nice hot drink and get ready to digest this month’s Brutally Honest earnings report. Click here to check out my February 2020 Earnings Report.

Many of you kindly asked by email how I was doing and whether I managed to escape Madrid. The answer is yes., thanks..if I had waited any longer it wouldn’t have been possible. Now in relative safety in Portugal (after taking precautions coming from a high-risk area). Let’s get started…

I made it safely to Portugal, thanks for asking

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 damn coffee (not as Starbucks though), 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 for a friend / relative.

Alex’s Fine Art Prints!

March uploads (Coronavirus-Crazy)

Naturally, I’ve been going Coronavirus-Crazy in March with so many stock opportunities, where I wrote on capturing Coronavirus News Photos.

A day later, at Madrid’s Bajaras International Airport, I wasted no time to continue capturing content…and even on the flight to Lisbon itself while the passenger across from me was sleeping with a face-mask!

Despite or because of the commotion, I’ve managed a good effort of uploading 60+ images and at least 10 clips.

Some of the concepts have proven profitable, including the stop-sign below which is proving extremely versatile to insert into various composites, with one in particular coming in second place on the shutterstock seach engine for the hugely-trending keyword that is “coronavirus”.

May you take an educated guess as to which one is amounting for 80% of total coronavirus sales?

Latest uploads at Shutterstock

Timing is everything and I started creating these concepts long before they were starting to go viral in Lombardy.

Created this composite in early February when the UK had a handful of cases. 28 days later….

And more recently this one, which I got the idea when the exact same image without t he stop-sign began selling suddenly.

Wash your hands, people!

So, try to think about what will happen in the  next few weeks and anticipate the trends….I’ll draft a blog post about this in April.

Footage Concepts

As for footage, I’ve made good use of my new wide-angle lens, including literally on the day that Spain declared a national emergency (March 13) and when I fled. I’ve compared a similar scene between a normal workday and that day just so everybody can see the difference in traffic:

Link to clip on empty highway

Next day in Cascais, captured some empty scenes overlooking its gorgeous waterfront, as authorities advised locals to stay at home:

cascais wide angle
Link to clip here

Such a beautiful spring light and clear skies (no airplanes), so I thought about creating some ironic “home-office” concepts (also as a way to tease some of my colleagues stuck in lock-down Madrid). Yes, I do have a very sarcastic sense of humour!

This has been widely accepted as commercial by all agencies but I had to make sure to delete all logos and ensured that the laptop remained as generic as possible

On that happy note, let’s get started!

March Detailed Summary (Stills)

Strong month on the stills-side:

Agency Number of Images in port (added Mar) Net Revenue for Mar  (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF 4,864 (407) 9 0.23
Alamy 11,651 (89) 308 16
Arcangel 779 (0) 278 139
Adobe Stock 3,385 (24) 77 0.88
Bigstock 3,816 (18) 3 0.3
Creative Market 1,398 (30) 5 5
DepositPhotos 6,040 (36) 20 0.19
Dreamstime 6,823 (89) 17 0.55
EyeEm 921 (62) 0 0
Fine Art America 690 0 0
iStock 6,245 (39) 109 0.38
Robert Harding 383 (0) 19* 9
Rex Features 725 (0) 0 0
Shutterstock 10,267 (61) 403 0.91
Pond5 1,597 (89) 1 1
Picfair 5,613 (89) 0 0
Photo4Me 237 (2) 0 0
SignElements 1,174 (8) 14 N/A
Wirestock 62 0.3 0.3
Direct Sales N/A 0 0
Total 1,244

*Q4 2019 Earnings Report. Average of 3 months

March Detailed Summary (Footage)

Extremely disappointing month on the footage side.

Agency Number of clips in port (added Mar) Net Revenue for Mar (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock 343 (11) 0 0
Dreamstime Lots 0 0
Pond5 1,350 (25) 0 0
iStock 148 (0) 0 0
Shutterstock 1,066 (10) 11 11
Total 11

Overall Total = $1,255 net vs $767 net (February) 

Long-term Results

Huge jump by unpredictable Alamy!
Nice up-tick on average returns by Shutterstock

Best-Sellers at Major Agencies


Arcangel, the premium Rights-Managed exclusive book-cover agency which I’ve been happily submitting to for the past four years didn’t disappointment me in March with two book covers earning me $139 net each, for the following:

paris book cover
On left is my original image and on right how the adapted

As for the second one, looks like the book hasn’t been published yet and I only have the title and author which is Angels Weep by Colin Falconer. They’ve selected this image I captured about two years ago in London of one of its cycling superhighways along the Thames, backlit. Quite average image if you ask me.

Love using my ultra-wide 10-20mm lens to distort perspectives

If you’re looking to get started in book cover photography, here’s a link on tips on getting started in book cover photography. I believe this brings my total book covers via Arcangel to 10.


Starting with Alamy, wow what a month! If you’ve been following me for a while you will see that my earnings on Alamy fluctuate enormously month-on-month and usually disappoint. This month was the exception, other than the rule as I report 16 sales for $308 net.

Loads of pics from Milan were sold, perhaps owning to it being the global epicenter of the Coronavirus / Covid-19 outbreak, who knows. Well, here they are:

$16 net
$18 net
Also $18 net
$80 net

The above were all nice, but the standout sale this month was for the image captured in the summer of 2017 in Antibes, France.

$187 net

Earned an extra 20% from it being exclusive, but ticking the “exclusive” button on Alamy’s optional menu. The reason why I went exclusive is that neither Shutterstock, not iStock would take them for being “non-licensable content”.

Anyway, if you have exclusive images on there, make sure you do so.

exclusiveIn addition, I put in a detailed description of the sculpture. Not sure if this swayed the buyer’s interest but if you have the time, it’s definitely worth filling out.

Not all great news from Alamy

Last month I reported that I was excited to spot some usages of my image on the Guardian newspaper (if you’re not familiar, it’s a MAJOR newspaper in the UK).


Now, this image was/is being seen by literally millions of people. The amount I’ve earned is a paltry $2.30 net.

Adobe Stock

Quite average month at AS with $77 from 89 sales. Not huge sales to speak of…with the largest being:


Not much more to say. I’m still bullish on Adobe Stock and believe they have what it takes to compete with the big boys. Not just quite yet though!


As quite mediocre month at iStock at $109 sales from 289 downloads. These are the highlights. By this point you can probably already see which is my “viral” coronavirus concept. The first one is pure trash!


I did some fishing around and spotted some of my latest usages simply by searching on Google “Brasilnut1 istockphoto” for the past seven days. Interestingly, I found this broken EU flag in a German technology magazine. Curious to see how much it will earn next month but I suspect not very much!

Sign of the times


Strong month at Shutterstock earning me $414 from 445 downloads (which includes just one clip), which is a nice recovery from a poor February which earned me considerably less at $316 from 479 downloads (which included 3 clips).

The standout sale for the month was the following of a colourful facade of a building, captured in Lisbon, Portugal, which earned me a whopping $118.66:

Definitely not my proudest piece of work

What is most surprising about this sale is that, if you look closely you’ll be able to see some of my less than excellent rushed job at fixing the barrel distortions! I submitted anyway and boom! Just hope that the buyer won’t refund it after looking closely at the defections. That would be my first refund on Shutterstock.

On the same day, I had another Extended License sale of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, which earned me $13.66. No lens correction work there.

London Heathrow Terminal 5

A few days later, two images from the same shoot sold for $22.27 each by someone in Japan. They were captured at Milan’s Sempione Park overlooking Sforzesco Castle in the background.

It was sold on March 23, just when the virus was causing havoc on Milan and the wider Lombardy region, so perhaps they wanted to show happier days in that region with a millennial as the protagonist.

I wrote a fun article on this photoshoot from July 2017, which you can read about here.

Only one clip sale this month

As for the only clip sale of the month, I’ve put it towards paying off my gimbal investment, as I practiced using it at Lisbon’s zoo last summer. Fun day. This clip earned me just over $11.

Link to clip

So, it’s been a strange month as clips have totally fallen off the cliff just when sales were apparently picking up. Let’s see if I can recover next month.

Turd of the Month Agency

I should give the agencies a break for this month, considering everything that is going on. It’s not their fault that many buyers may have their minds elsewhere (that is if they will have income in the coming months).  Will be back next month.

If push came to shove, I’d nominate Picfair since I have over 5,000 images on there and haven’t had a sale for 4 months. Also losing patience with Bigstock which earned me a pathetic $3 from 3,800 images!

Postponed until April 2020

What’s in store for April?

Wish we could just wake up tomorrow morning and someone would tell us it’s all been a joke. Tough times for many people and  it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.

In the short-term, my plans include vising (from afar) a testing clinic they’ve set up in Estoril (next to my second home, guess where) and see if I can get some shots using my 200mm on a crop sensor. Other than that, it’s frustrating times for me and I’m sure for everybody else as we’ve reached a “depression-era”.

Everything but “essential services” are closed for the time being in most countries, including my second home 🙂

Create doom & gloom concepts

Perhaps I’ll create more concepts around this type of economic doom that we’re heading as we expect GDP to drop in many developed countries by at least 10% in the next 3 Quarters. I don’t even know if I’ll go back to Madrid for my office-job….

I’ll put together a detailed article soon on such concepts that may be profitable. I’ll have a good brainstorm. UPDATE: HERE’S THE LINK!

Looks like it’s going to be doom & gloom for the foreseeable future

Use your time to improve your craft

Nevertheless, I would really recommend using this time at home to dig through previous batches and re-submit work which may have value. In addition, it’s a good time to study up on improving your craft.

Should I purchase a drone?

Now that I may be sticking around Portugal for a while, as soon as things go back to “normal”, I’ll look into purchasing a drone. Any thoughts….my budget is around $1k – thanks in advance!

Drone footage by Adam Melnyk in Beautiful British Columbia –link to his Shutterstock footage portfolio

Cicero Castro, based in the stunning Portuguese island of Madeira, also has some stunning drone footage.

Highly recommend you check out his drone portfolio at Shutterstock

Doug Jensen’s course is out with a 35% discount

Taking advantage that many are home and vegging away, Doug Jensen has released a discount on his course. Here’s a sneak preview:

Doug was keen for me to mention the following facts:

“After this video was produced [in November 2019] I earned:  $2289 in November; $2194 in December; $2867 in January; and $3585 in February.  Right now I’m at $1800 for March [until the 17th]. 

I’ve earned almost $12,000 just from footage I submitted AFTER my workshop was released in March 2019.  And my income (year over year) is rising faster than the size of my portfolio, so clearly the potential to make money from video is bigger than ever before — despite the doom and gloomers who say the glory days are over.” – Doug Jensen

How to take advantage of this great course

By using this link and inserting the following code, “BH1”, you will receive a discount of 35% off, which is valid only until April 4th!

Hope you take advantage and until next time!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Portugal (fled Madrid to escape the brunt of this nasty Coronavirus), on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when thing sgo back to normal. I’ve devoted seven 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. Alex, thank you very much for sharing your experience and actual earnings in March.
    It is good to understand the dynamics between agencies, especially in AS and SS, which motivates me to continue submitting to these agencies.

    Although I don’t have one, I think the Drone – especially at this stage – will be a good investment. In your case, and remembering that Cascais is one of the most tourist areas in Portugal, I bet on catching empty spots, which will certainly sell especially after the departure of Covid-19.

    A hug,


  2. Great results. I think a drone will greatly give your overall stock business and income a positive boost and you will be able to apply your skills, experience and creativity to a whole new dimension with photos and footage. If you can afford it, perhaps a Mavic 2 Pro as it has a good camera, but more importantly, many great features such as intelligent flight modes and the Return To Home feature which can really save you if you get into some difficulty during your flight. The other thing you’ll really appreciate with the M2P is its comparatively small size compared to other drones with similarly good cameras, because you’re gonna want to be capturing content while being as discreet as absolute possible. I could not imagine doing even half the stuff I’ve done with a larger and probably louder drone such as a Phantom, for example. Hope this helps.


    • My results there are very disappointing. I emailed them about 6 months ago and asked what I was doing wrong and if I should reduce my prices and they said my prices were fair for the content.

      I’ve stopped uploading to them…they are turds and their views counter is pure manipulation.

      I have much better results on 123RF lol


      • Which agency do you recomand for a beginner, something with low rejection rates, and great sales? I know Shutterstock is the best, but I can’t get accepted there. Also on istock, they deleted my portofolio, after a few years, without any reason. I had 26 pictures on Dreamstime, but I only managed to sell one.


        • No such thing as great sales anymore at the micros. Perhaps at Alamy.

          All contributors report best sales at the following:
          1. SS
          2. Adobe Stock (commercial only)
          3. iStock
          4. Alamy

          The rest are poor sales but one of the better are Dreamstime. Picfair, as above, aren’t worth the effort.

          Hope that helps.

          If SS is rejecting your application you need to up your game since you only need 1/10 images to get accepted on first batch!

          Good luck,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.