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.
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