June 2020 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to another detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times!

Contributors, including myself, are upset at Shutterstock’s shocking new earnings decline…but with some stats to analyze, let’s see how much different they were from pre-June days. Perhaps dystopia is finally upon us…

Estoril, Portugal

Short earnings report

This will be a short earnings report as I really haven’t uploaded much these days, as you’ll see from my detailed breakdown. Taking a step back and thinking about my next month in this business.

Nevertheless, I’ve doubled my efforts to upload for book covers and the efforts are paying off.

Let’s get started…

Milan Linate, Italy

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:

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!

June Shutterstock deactivation

My Shutterstock earnings took a big hit this month as I engaged in a two-week deactivation, followed by a present-day boycott in protest to their diminished earnings schedule during a pandemic. In fact, I only managed to upload 5 images and 5 clips on Shutterstock for the whole month!

Hitting them where it hurts 

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to hit Shutterstock where it hurts, by being a keyboard warrior on my Twitter account, especially by contacting buyers to shop elsewhere, such as Alamy and Adobe Stock.

buy elsewhere

Selling directly to Shutterstock Buyer

Even though I sacrificed perhaps $100 or $200 for a good cause during these two weeks, the fact that my port was deactivated at Shutterstock ironically led to a quite profitable direct sale from a buyer who contacted me directly to inquire about a particular image.

purchase directly

A few emails later and a license was sold for 20 euros, which will be used as a wall-print at a corporate office in Milan.


Book covers accepted this month

Busy month uploading book covers, with a total of 13 being accepted. Here’s some of my latest accepted in June in a slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Unfortunately no sales this month, but I’ll keep uploading and my goal is to reach 1,000 images by the end of the years, which means I’ll need to have an average of 30 accepted every month!

Detailed earnings in June


Agency Number of Images in port (added June) Net Revenue for June  (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF 4,939 (0) 12 0.55
Alamy 11,848 (22) 44 9
Arcangel 810 (13) 0 0
Adobe Stock 3,441 (12) 49 0.86
Bigstock 3,829 (0) 3 0.25
Creative Market 1,452 (1) 4 4
DepositPhotos 6054 (0) 20 0.37
Dreamstime 6,841 (0) 19 0.8
EyeEm 1000 (1) 0 0
Fine Art America 690 0 0
iStock 6,405 (27) 79 0.4
Robert Harding 383 (0) 3* 1
Shutterstock Editorial 761 (0) 6 2
Shutterstock 10,369 (5) 218 1.03
Pond5 1,693 (75) 0 0
Picfair 5,632 (0) 0 0
Photo4Me 320 (1) 18 18
SignElements 1,210 (1) 3 N/A
Wirestock 99 (0) 0 0
Direct Sales N/A 22 22
Total 500

*Q2 2020 results


Agency Number of clips in port (added June) Net Revenue for June (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock 355 (4) 20 20
Pond5 1,368 (0) 26 26
iStock 162 (14) 20 10
Shutterstock 1,089 (5) 12 12
Total 78 17

Total earnings: $578 vs $571 in May

Deeper analysis on Shutterstock Post-Earnings Announcement

Even though I only have two weeks’ worth of statistics to work with from Shutterstock, I was curious to see how it stacked up vs pre-June results.

To my surprise my average return per download for images was a really really high $1.03/download ($218 on 212 downloads). This is compared to May’s $0.55/download ($178 on 324 downloads). Still early days, so I’ll keep tracking these…but it seems that even though I’m seeing loads of 0.10-0.20cent pathetic prices I’m also seeing some more ODDs and at slightly higher prices. As for ELs, not many.

Would be curious to see how the results are for other contributors – please comment below. Meanwhile, here are my top 3 microstock agency by comparison:

Average returm
Surprisingly, Shutterstock has overtaken Adobe Stock in June for Average Return Per download!

Now, let’s look at some highlights for the month, starting with Alamy.

Alamy highlights

Quiet month over at my darling Alamy agency, which I have a love/hate relationship, with only 9 sales for $44. So overall, a very poor month.

The only reasonably priced sale was the following of Piers Cristo’s Floating Piers at Lake Iseo in Italy, that I captured in 2016, which sold for $20 net:

floating piers
Perhaps the passing away of Piers Cristo’s this month was perhaps a factor for this sale

Adobe Stock Highlights

Sold this POV of walking down narrow streets in Seville, Spain for $20.

Link to clip

iStock Highlights

Relatively quiet month at iStock as the recession starts to bite. Some highlights were also in the video side with two clip sold for $10 each.

Cascais birds
Link to clip

Captured at Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain using my gimbal skills:

Link to clip

As per stills, these four sold handsomely.

best earners

Pond5 Highlights

The following Brazilian jiu-jitsu timelapse sold at Pond5 for $26:

jiu jitsu
Link to clip

Photo4Me Highlights

One print on demand sale at Photo4Me sold for $18 net, which suggests that I should probably invest more time and energy into uploading to both Photo4Me and FineArtAmerica.

London City EC1 and Thames River view with snow falling in monochrome

“Hey, that’s my pic!”

Continuing on with my “Hey, that’s my pic!” segment, I’ve spotted the following four of my images being used in June.

Link to article
Link to article
Link to article
Link to article

Turd of the Month Agency

The major turd of the month agency this month is without a doubt….

BIGSTOCK, which earned me a whopping $3 on 3,829 images…wow!

Congrats, BIGSTOCK!

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!


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 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


  1. Thanks Alex!
    Shitty month for all of us.

    A brave move on deactivating your port!
    I have some issues with general decisions/directions made by Stock Coalition, so I think next time I won’t deactivate my Shutterstock portfolio. I will either disable it forever or let it run and let it die naturally. It will be my independent decision, regardless of outside factors.

    Glad you are making progress with book covers. Arcangel seems like a really nice agency – and probably the last one that is looking for creativity without employing AI for the review process. Really impressed with them so far.

    My turd of the month goes unequivocally to DT – 70 cents. I probably lack imagination, but I can’t figure out how to spend this money.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you’re now uploading loads to Arcangel, please share a link to your port! 😀 Only a matter of time before your first elusive book cover sale…

      DT is one of my better-performing turds, but 70cents on the size of your port is just shocking!


  2. Alex,

    Thank you again for sharing your results. Most appreciated!

    Our SS average per download before was 0.49.
    Our SS average per download in June was 0.22.

    So a roughly 55% slash. SS stockholders just got a bit more rich. But was it worth it? For you can only kill a donkey once.

    A small portfolio (5k images) is ours, and only 15 months old.

    Imho this was a shit move by SS and one that I do not see will save them from their spiral fall and getting overtaken by other agencies.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your latest earnings results. Perhaps my June positive results at SS were a bit of a blip…I’ve also read many other contributors reporting 30%-40% drop on sales on average.

      The worst is yet to come in January!


    • Hi Marco,

      I agree. I suppose that this particular buyer only had an account at Shutterstock.

      I suggested to purchase the same image at Alamy and they got back to me saying that they didn’t reply to their email, so they came back to me to sell direct.

      It goes to show that buyers generally don’t shop around and it’s ok to have images at different agencies and pricing points, with some exceptions.


  3. Alex,
    June 2020 was my lowest income for the year because of the changes to video sales. My June 2019 income was $256 with $197 ($12.34/video) from video sales. In June 2020 my income was 115.18 with $42 (4.20/video) from video sales.Four of my video sales were for $0.34! No incentive to upload any more at these prices. It will be interesting to see the long term impact on SS.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey man, just got here from Microstockgroup … I need to understand something … why isn’t your portfolio symmetrical on all agencies? Why did you decide to upload images to some agencies and others not ? and why do you upload to so many …. admittedly I upload to 8… but my portfolio is the same on all of them.
    Thank you man… ohhh and BTW I didn’t deactivate my SS account and I made the same as every other month.


    • Hi Catalin,

      Thanks for your comment.

      That’s a good question. The answer is that I was experimenting for a time at uploading my premium images at Alamy as Rights-Managed exclusive, then gave that up as I didn’t see any benefit and uploaded everywhere.

      Arcangel and Robert Harding are exclusive so what goes on there should not go anywhere else.

      Then Adobe Stock doesn’t allow editorials so that limits my submissions there.

      The rest are just rejections for technical reasons. Some agencies tend to be stricter than others. I’ve cut out some agencies here and there through the years including Canva and Canstock. More recently stopped uploading to 123RF, Dreamstime, Bigstock, DepositPhotos, etc as I see very little returns with them and they may go broke any day now.

      Hope that answers your question 🙂

      Good you earned the same, seemed to have been a strong month for me as well considering only 1/2….which means that I may have earned about $450-500 if I had left it on, boooooooo 😀



  5. SS was my lowest month too. My port was disabled for 2 weeks, but if I have to make a projection basd on the first 2 weeks, then the decrease of monthly sales would be 50-60%.

    I agree with Nick’s assesment that you ca only kill the monkey once. Investors got reacher, but it was a one-time shop. I’m not sure it all was worth it for SS as a business in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Alex,
    Thank you so much for your very honest report, that’s a great inside. I am a freelance photographer and used to work for a photo agency as a photo library manager back in the olden days, year 1999 etc. when an image would sell for at least £ 200, It is so sad to see how the industry is gone completely downhill. I used to supply Alamy and I am thinking of supplying them again, I think they are still one of the better agencies. But I was wondering have you ever tried to sell the images directly on your website or other websites, do you have any experience ? Thank you. Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Brigitte, thanks for your comment! I have great faith in Alamy and they’ve sure produced me some big winners but unfortunately the volumes are low.

      To answer your question, I’ve never tried to sell via my own website (although my Photoshelter account allows it) but Steve Heap at http://www.backyardsilver.com has been doing so with some success. He writes often about it on his blog, I would suggest you check ti out.

      All the best and thanks again. Will be back soon with my July report and a blog post or two before the end of the month.



  7. Interesting article. I posted a video on YouTube where I went through 3 weeks of June data on SS and compared it to what I had made in each month of 2020 prior to June. Results really do depend on what type of sales you get in a month, but the big problem remains and that is the reset in Jan. Month vs. Month comparison won’t really work given the new system, but only last year and next year – this year being a hybrid between the two sets of rules. Anyway – my results : https://youtu.be/8OsUw-ilX6U .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. June was slightly better at SS for me than May but that was due to an EL and SOD for $20+ each. ODDs average was very similar to $2.85 but subs were 50% of $0.38. Kept me in for another month (now with regret) as July promises to be the worst month EVER…..23 subs and 1 ODD for a grand total of $4.81. Hovering over ‘Delete’ at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The way July looks now at SS, I doubt I’ll make it to the end of the month. Delete my account in disgust and thinking of donating my unpaid earnings to Pavlovski (or whatever he’s called) as a mark of my disdain!


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