Welcome back to another detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange times! Even if it all seems kinda of hopeless, I’ve written extensively about seeking profitable stock opportunities and trust me there are many within this paradigm shift.
Check out my three-part series – you may access Part I here and Part II here. I’ll be publishing Part III soon and already quite excited about some of the more futuristic concepts I’m exploring. It’s taking me longer than expected as there’s a lot of research involved…
I’m losing my day-job (and that’s OK)!
Latest news is that the Covid-Crisis has struck my daytime job and I’ve been let go like many people as the recession/depression is starting to hit businesses. It’s unfortunate but as always there’s a silver lining. If you have been made redundant, i’m sorry to hear.
From July I’ll have much more free time + energy to pursue photography / videography and will soon be investing in a drone (and researching on obtaining my license), as well as a go-pro to place on my bike and stand-up-paddle!
I also aim to invest more time and energy to making this a more useful blog for all stock contributors, which is fundamental as everybody is facing considerable head-winds as agencies continuously reduce their royalties to contributors (more on this later).
Let’s get started on the earnings report…
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 (not as Starbucks though), by clicking on the following link below:
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!
With lockdown restrictions easing in Portugal (along with the rest of Europe), services tentatively opened to the public with some noticeable changes. Me being the busy bee that I am couldn’t help myself to capture this brave new world.
However, with my latest results, it seems as if I’m just shooting as a hobby because the business side of things is in the dumps (especially with stills) and I don’t expect it to pick up anytime soon. Buyers, where are you???!! Also, as you’ve probably heard, the agencies aren’t making it easier for us by dropping earnings…
Goodbye Minnows (for now)
With the above in mind, I’ve changed my strategy somewhat. I’ve stopped uploading to minnows (which include the likes of Bigstock, 123RF, Dreamstime, PicUnFair, Depositphotos) as to assess the situation.
Who knows that some of them may not even last the rest of the year and put my hard-earned images up for sale for peanuts. Will reassess in December or so or never. Some may say, won’t I be missing out on earnings? Yes, definitely but I’d estimate that it’s really very little difference ($5-$10 a month). In fact, this month they combined for a quite healthy $66 so I wouldn’t dismiss them completely just yet.
Arcangel is awesome
While I wind down on uploading to most micros for the time being, I’ve doubled my efforts to upload to the premium agency that is Arcangel for book covers.
They continue to love my images lately and I’ve seem to have found an understanding of what they’re looking for (only took me 3 years). They’ve very very very picky so it’s a great feeling to get my acceptance rate on there just shy above 30%. Here’s as hint: They prefer verticals to horizontals.
Here’s some of my latest accepted in May in a slideshow:
Which one is your favourite and why? Perhaps you may be able to spot some patterns on what they’re looking for. Perhaps it’s something you’d be interested in doing yourself and the best part of shooting for book covers is that there’s very little travel needed (all the above were taken locally).
Legality of street photography
Lately I’ve had some issues shooting street photography in Portugal. Firstly by the police, who forced me to delete some of my images of them encouraging folks to keep social distancing. Their reasoning was questionable but since the images were nothing special I obliged. Plus I wasn’t in the mood to argue on that occasion as the police had a lot on their plate during that time.
Researching the law
After this incident, I consulted the great statue book that is Google for some answers. Even with a legal background, the situation isn’t so clear as it is in the UK where you’re pretty much allowed to take pics of everything and anybody (including children) in public save for a few common sense exceptions. Here’s an excellent resource:
Harassed by a member of the public
A few weeks passed and I was confronted by a somewhat intoxicated member of the public in a quite aggressive way, while shooting some people dining outdoors on the street, who claimed it’s illegal to take pictures of people in public in Portugal without their permission.
I responded politely many times that I was within my right as I was in public and to leave me alone and call the police if he wants, which he responded rudely that I should go back to my country and take pictures there – who’s breaking the law now? Then proceeded to capture an image of him for good measure!
Anyway, one needs a thick skin to engage in street photography and I fully respect those that wish to specialise in other niches to avoid these types of confrontations, however rare.
Uploaded to Alamy Live News
Anyway, as usual, I proceed to upload the images which you can see here:
As you can see they are all quite discreet. By no means am I getting in people’s faces.
Looking for legal answers
Since I plan on staying in Portugal for a while (as the world does it’s thing and tries to find some sort of balance) and quite enjoy street photography, I’ve consulted a local lawyer on the matter and produce some sort of paperwork that I can carry with me at all times to defend myself. I’ll share a summary of the legal opinion once I receive a copy.
Check your jurisdiction
Have you have any problems with shooting street photography where you live? It’s important to always check your jurisdiction on your rights and obligations as a street photographer. This applies especially in Muslim countries if you’re capturing women and children in public, I was very careful when shooting at Dubai Mall for instance.
Anyway, onto my struggling May earnings.
May Detailed Summary (Stills)
|Agency||Number of Images in port (added May)||Net Revenue for May (US$)||Avg Return Per Download (US$)|
|Adobe Stock||3,429 (44)||43||1|
|Creative Market||1,451 (32)||18||6|
|Fine Art America||690||0||0|
|Robert Harding||383 (0)||3*||1|
|Shutterstock Editorial||761 (6)||0||0|
May Detailed Summary (Footage)
|Agency||Number of clips in port (added May)||Net Revenue for May (US$)||Avg Return Per Download (US$)|
|Adobe Stock||355 (4)||25||25|
Total earnings: $571 vs $619 in April
Long-term clip results vs stills
I initially set a goal for my clips to be above 30% in total earnings, which I duly passed for the first time this year.
Long-term Results per major agencies
After a somewhat respectful 10 sales for $91 net for April, May was a complete and utter disaster at $22 net with only 5 puny sales.
To add insult to injury, three of the licenses ($10 gross each) were suspicious personal licenses (which is something that has been seriously pissing me off for many many years about them).
Only really one OK sale to speak at an airport terminal in Rio, which sold for $7 net.
Similar month to the last few at $43 sales and exactly 43 downloads (on stills). Best-sellers include:
The following clip which earned me $25 net.
A rare mention of three sales on Creative Market for a net of $17 from the same buyer. It’s peanuts and hardly worth mentioning but the fact that since Creative Market mention the buyer, you’re able to contact them directly to offer more services, which I duly did via Linkedin. This is similar to the “Hey, that’s my pic!” strategy that I’ve been deploying (more on this later).
Decent month all-round with all things considered at $127 net with 257 downloads.
Highlights include this clip I shot last summer using my gimbal which earned me a cool $44 net, a nice change from the usual low-priced turd prices on iStock:
On the stills side, some repeat sales (23 in fact) of this empty classroom earned me $8.23.
14 sales of this relaxing shot earned me a total of $5.94.
And just one sale worth $5.72 of tourists sitting at a cafe in Bellagio, Italy.
Well, I received my 1Q 2020 earnings report from Robert Harding and basically, with zero expectations, I saw that sales were practically nil anyway. Two sales for $8 net to be exactly.
I don’t need fame, I need money!
They’re a nice friendly agency and I appreciate what they’ve done to promote me but at the end of the day, I’m trying to run a business. They don’t seem to have adapted to new times and position their premium collection in front of buyers who are willing to pay premium prices. When sales do come, they’re via a distributor so there’s less of the pie left to the contributor since Robert Harding take 35% of the gross amount, on top of the 40% taken by Alamy, for instance.
Instead, they’re basically microstock without the high volumes. Worse of all are their pretentiousness to reject good content for technical/commercial reasons, which even if accepted, wouldn’t sell for much anyway. Theo has given me his latest stats on acceptance ratios and they’re not pretty…at 32/172 accepted. Link to Theo’s Robert Harding port.
Lesson learned for me and my results have improved since going down the non-exclusive route for my RF Micro images.
A complete and utter disastrous month at Shutterstock and not just when it comes to May earnings. Shutterstock earned me just $198 in total vs $248 in April as the downturn takes hold. In fact, this is the worst month since December 2017 and I wasn’t even doing clips then!
As mentioned earlier, I’ll be very curious how sales develop in the coming months with the new earnings schedule being implemented.
The only bright spot was this clip that sold for a nice $28.44.
Other than the above no significant highlights, nothing, zip, nada!
Silly Rejections Continue…
In, fact it can prove challenging just getting images/clips accepted as their crazy Quality Control process is full of bugs! I wrote about this nonsense on a previous post which you can read here.
Shutterstock Earnings reduction Massive Turdshell!
I want to dive deep into this but I’m waiting until the dust settles first. There are many questions and not enough answers, especially on the stills earnings side due to complicated subscription packages that contributors may opt into.
How will the new changes work?
From June 1st I’ll remain on the 30% level, but I’ll still wait and see if there will be some 10cent subscriptions (or even lower), as opposed to the 38cents I’ve become accustomed.
Small-time footage contributors seem to be the big losers
At first glance, the major losers in this readjustment will be small-time footage contributors, such as myself. At the moment I’m earning 30%, but from June 1st this will drop to 20% which corresponds not a 10% drop but in reality a 33% drop in earnings ((30 – 20) * 3.33)).
From January 2021, it gets even worse with an automatic 50% earnings (from pre-June levels) cut to 15%. Since I average a modest 8 sales a month, I would have to pull a herculean effort to achieve 251 downloads (30%). Even reaching 51 downloads for Level 4, would take me until likely May or June 2021 (depending on many factors). Then I’d be stuck there until the rest of the year licking my wounds with an average of 33% reduction from pre-June 2020 levels.
Are there any way to rise up the tiers?
One can argue that uploading images / clips to the like of Wirestock and Blackbox which combine assets from 100s of other contributors may be a wise solution to quickly rise the tiers. Need to do some investigation on this and crunch some numbers.
Naturally, many contributors are upset and voicing their concerns in social media and stock photography forums.
More details coming soon
Within the upcoming post, I’ll like to dive deeper into alternative agencies where we may be able to contribute both stills and clips to offset the lost revenues, especially from January 2021.
There’s really no way to sugarcoat this other than a greedy corporate money-grab that punishes long-time contributors. If you recall, Alamy pulled a similar move a few months back with an automatic 20% reduction on net earnings.
For many this is the straw that broke the camel’s back and I completely sympathise with those that will be pulling their ports, although I have put in way too much work to just throw it all away like this in a moment of rage.
Check out these resources
If you’re looking for detail on what happened, I highly recommend you check out Steve Heap’s useful take on the whole thing in his blog – Shutterstock Shock Treatment. He asks very pertinent questions that Shutterstock have to answer to re-gain the trust of contributors!
In addition, Nicole Glass did an excellent job to break down the changes:
Continuing on…now that we have got the above shocker out of the way, Pond5 exclusivity seems like a profitable alternative (60% earnings and ability to set own prices).
Anyway, after almost three months without a clip sale, Pond5 finally delivered with the following earning me $30.40 net.
As well as the following Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu timelapse, which earned me a nice $24 net.
“Hey, that’s my pic!”
I would like to introduce a new feature to the detailed report, notably the “Hey, that’s my pic!”…which, if you’ve been following me on Twitter and/or Instagram stories, you’ll see that I often seek out where my pics have been published. In the case of Tweets, I send out a re-tweet and sometimes get in touch with the publisher to license directly (which I have in the past).
This is also an useful segment to have a good idea of how eight of my stock images and used and why in order to produce more useful concepts that sell regularly. Also to spot some patterns and trends, such as the Guardian now sourcing images from Shutterstock!
How to find your own images
It’s easy to search on Google just by using your name and latest 24 hours / 7 days. You may also add a specific agency. Alternatively, you may right-click on your image, using Google Chrome and select “search google for images”. Try it out yourself!
Shocker Turd of the Month Agency
On my worst earnings month since December 2017 (13 months before I started disclosing my earnings reports), there were many agencies that performed badly.
However, owing to Shutterstock’s shocking earnings-reduction announcement, starting from June 1st and re-setting in January 2021, it’s really unprecedented that I shall be nominating my Turd of the Month Agency coveted Award to Shutterstock! Wow, these are indeed crazy times!
Thanks for tuning in and please comment below if you have any interesting suggestions / questions / comments or just want to chat.
All the best and stay safe!
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 things go back to normal (July??). I’ve devoted eight 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, although been recently let go!). 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
Hi Alex, I have been following you for quite a long time and can detect the level of frustration and, dare I say it, a little desperation in your words. I am fast coming to the conclusion that stock photography is a thing of the past as far as even earning pocket money is concerned. For me, it has always been a hobby and not something that I expected to earn a lot of money from but I had always thought that it would be nice to earn enough to pay for my equipment with maybe a little extra left over. Like you, I am taking my time to consider my options. I will not pull my port from Shutterstock but I am thinking of not uploading anymore especially as their review process has become somewhat silly. We all look for alternatives and I have recently had a good month selling on Zazzle which has made me think that there may be more mileage in this type of activity than simply selling stock photos. A couple of years back I concentrated on uploading to Alamy but results were not as expected so I then concentrated on uploading the same images to Shutterstock (foregoing exclusive at Alamy). This has now proven to be a mistake. I am beginning to assemble a collection of images for Arcangel as I have read your results with great interest and think there could be some mileage in it. In writing this I am convincing myself that uploading to Shutterstock, Bigstock, 123RF, etc., etc., is actually no longer a viable proposition so I will be considering my options very carefully.
Keep up the good work with your blog as I am sure you have many followers and I wish you great success in the future.
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Thanks for your kind words and support, Kevin!
Would really recommend Arcangel and as mentioned on other reply, picked up two sales today which will be reflected in my June report (triple digit stuff).
Alamy exclusive is really too risky and I also made that mistake…glad I did.
I’ll be devoting much more time to my blog from July so let’s keep in touch and thanks for following and supporting me in my rollercoaster journey lol
I have been following your website for quite a long time. Very valuable remarks, conclusions and finally – advice.
Being a pro photographer I have discovered Stock agencies as some part of PR tool for people who are not connected to this part of business.
I admire your effort – uploading so many pictures. This is definitely a source of passive income.
Now I believe you would simply focus on photography as your core business and use Stock agency presence to build your image. Maybe direct communication with clients would be more effective than waiting for things to happen.
I wish you luck and I will be definitely following you closely.
Final word – with all this crisis also the potential of agencies will be proven.
Many people seem to move to Arcangel. Good choice.
But Arcangel is a good choice not only because it pays more for a single picture. I have sold several licenses to Arcangel and I am a proud book cover mogul 🙂 Even my self portraits were bought on some crime non-fiction books. Getting back to the point – Arcangel is a very focused on the business. I have really enjoyed your comment on understanding their needs. It took you three years and I imagine it is true – I took me similar time to understand their way of doing business. Looking through their eyes is an asset.
And very strict selecting method – sometimes I get 30% accepted, sometimes 80%.
I have noticed that you have so many pictures in their offer and I am sure it would repay sooner or later.
Good luck to you. You do great job.
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Thanks for your kind words, Robert.
Working with clients has always (other than doing silly office work) my goal and I did manage to pick up some client work here and there but never hugely profitable. I was looking forward to shooting / traveling to different cities to play / shoot poker tournaments but now it’s probably one of the most Covid unfriendly environments known to men…so back to the drawing board.
Speaking of Arcangel, two new sales today wohooo, fk SS…doing just fine there 😉
Thanks again for the support and let’s keep in touch.
As far as Arcangel is concerned is it normal to be waiting a month for pictures to go live? After having been approved my shots have said ‘being keyworded’ for nearly a month now.
Love the site, keep up the good work!
They usually take about 3 days to inspect the images and about 1/2 weeks to keyword
Great post as usual Alex, thanks a lot!
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Thanks Elijah, best of luck on Arcangel (embrace your dark side lol)
Hi Alex, thanks again for an excellent report, tips, thoughts and opinions. Just as I made a point of saying: show your fears through your real (lived) experience. This is very good for employees in general, especially for beginners.
Alamy news, is it good ideia?
How do you resolve the wrong Alamy licenses? Does support respond? Refund?
By the several countries that traveled, I felt very safe in everyone to take street photos, especially in Cambodia, Singapore and Cape Town (S.A.). In Cape Town, last January, I was surprised that it was possible to photograph the will during the blockade, even with the police on the side. In contrast, I’m in Luanda (Angola) and even with a smartphone, it is very risky to photograph. In Portugal I never had any problems, but now a “new normal” … The video is very useful.
It was a bad month …. for you and a large majority, I won $ 83 in all 8 agencies and no clips sold.
Timelapse was very good, excellent frame. It allows to sell in several countries … congratulations!😉
i give up sending videos, as rejections are ridiculous … it’s a lot of time wasted, and the worst thing is that we can’t even leave a clear message for reviewers.
It seems to me that decisions are made impulsively, in the short term, and that leaves all employees consulted … not entering the SS negotiation model. And how will it be “new normal” ??? How to change prices again? A favor from employees ??? It will be ??
It would be important to listen as your Agency alternatives. I have seen an increase in sales forums in the past few days on AS and P5 (clips). I’m thinking of feeding my exclusive video account on P5.
Hey, this is my PIC, amazing how to find your content on the Web. Excellent tip: I found more pictures!! 😂😂😂ehehehehe
I sent 5 beers! This article is worth much more! Cheers Dude
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Thanks Mauro for your comments! Looking forward to having you back in Lisbon and we’ll grab a beer and talk about collaborations 😀
Thanks for your report from the borders of the photographic galaxy! Most appreciated the data and your insights.
Us too here wondering on how to adjust and (?) continue (?), or should we rather give up and do something else, something PROFITABLE …
You say you want to go deeper into monetizing the blog but we wonder if blogging on an industry that seems to be dying is the way ahead. You know what they say about how we sometimes get mixed up looking at the effort (we have) put into our work, while we should rather have a good look at the results we got. If microstock stops bringing in money, so will be blogging about microstock.
With CGC already visible at microstock sites and the big ‘factories’ firmly close to the heart of microstock companies stock owners, we might be wasting our time while the camera is in our hand. Perhaps we should start a CGC factory somewhere in China, or else re-train and do something else.
PS We were just about to get into the 33c base at SS, now, if my calculations are correct, we will rather get 10c. In our case, we expect 50% drop of our income from SS this year. And about 66% drop from January 2021. One simply can’t get slapped around like this and continue to look forward to the future. Shame on Shutterstock for their greed and utter lack of respect for photographers!
PS Many years ago I was a stock broker, where we took 1% commission on trades from long term clients. I also have friends who are boat brokers, they take 6% of commission. Now a photo stock agency takes 85% of the money and we swallow it. We should be disgraced with ourselves! Would you sell your car thru a broker that takes 85% of the car’s value? A perspective, I think, to ponder upon.
Hard times and no answers. And this is just the beginning of what is coming our way.
Best regards, good luck, stay safe,
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Thanks Nick for your comments.
I enjoy writing but I should be on YouTube and I’ll eventually get on there more actively soon.
I’m becoming less and less optimistic when it comes to stock PHOTOS…still think there are great opportunities for 4K videos. Some opportunities for breaking news if you can get the pics up quickly as well but it’s not for everybody.
I’ll see just how far my earnings drop and get some info from other veterans so we can have a good idea if there is any life left on SS…nobody is forcing us to submit there, there are many other higher paying agencies, Alamy comes to mind…but often the volumes aren’t as high.
All the best
Sorry to hear that you lost your day job. 😦
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No worries. Don’t enjoy the corporate world anyway but the $ was good while it’s lasting 🙂
I would never buy again from a seller, who would stalk me on social media after the purchase! This is unacceptable and violates basic good manners, not even talking about privacy issues.
I would even report back to CreativeMarket, such a shame.
Please, stop ruining the reputation and scaring off buyers from those who sell on CreativeMarket as well as you.
This is unbelievable.
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I see your point that some may not like it, although why would Creative Market deliberately publish their name on there to make it easy to contact the buyers if not for this purpose?
I was always wondering why CreativeMarket shares this info.
But if someone buys apples from you on the street and you see their name on credit card it doesn’t mean you can use this information for your marketing purposes or follow them to their door step.
Those people didn’t gave you any permission to use it nor agree to receive marketing materials from you personally, it’s a violation of their privacy.
How it’s not obvious to you as you live in Europe and familiar with GDPR at least?
Even without that it’s a basic common sense and simple respect to people! Not even talking about… that they are your customers.
I would 100% block you and never buy from you again.
They might have been shocked.
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The matter is more simple than that, contacting the buyer to offer direct services is against the terms and conditions:
“Consent and Collection and Use of Data.
Asset Purchases. If you are a Buyer who purchases an Asset, you acknowledge and agree that the Shop Owner will have access to purchase information including the username you selected (which is publicly visible on the Service) along with the Asset you purchased and the date you purchased it (“Purchase Information”) and you direct Creative Market to make Purchase Information available to the applicable Shop Owner; the Shop Owner will also have access to any other information you choose to make publicly available on the Service (through your Creative Market public profile page), but will not have access to any credit card information or email address. If you are a Shop Owner, you may use Purchase Information solely to make available the Asset to the Buyer through the Service and provide directly related support; you may not sell any Purchase Information; and you may not further retain, use, or disclose personal information for any other purpose, except to the extent required by law.”
So yes, I’m in violation of the T&Cs and I admit to it, although I wouldn’t make a mountain out of a mole-hill out of the situation.
They could report me and have my account shut down at Creative Market (worst case scenario).
Out of all this, I find it interesting that the reason why they mention that they give access to information is to (as I understand) to streamline their customer service so buyers and sellers discuss directly. Doesn’t seem like something a professional agency should allow to happen.