July 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. However, I would suggest to develop a positive mentality to look for profitable opportunities elsewhere and trust me there are many…

Don’t be stuck with those turdy agencies, look for better opportunities!

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:

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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!

Slow Summer Sales + Global Recession

July and August tend to be traditionally slow-going months, even in the best of times, so I had few expectations. This is especially true this year as most businesses are really struggling and it shows in my results as volumes are way down considerably year-on-year. More on this later.

Prior to the epidemic, results were going well for me. In fact, March was a great month ($1255), which I dare suggests that if not for COVID would have been a “normal” month going forward.  However, the situation took a drastic turn for the worse in April onward.

Comparing my past 4 months of results 2020 vs 2019:

2020 Net earnings 2019 Net earnings
March 1255 March 956
April 619 April 962
May 571 May 1005
June* 578 June 769

*My Shuttertock port was deactivated for two weeks in protest to their decision to lower royalties – See article “Hitting them where it hurts”

Total for the above four months: $3,023 in 2020 vs $3,692 in 2019.

Working harder to earn less

Now, you may think that $669 difference above year-on-year isn’t so much (and it isn’t). However, keep in mind that from June 2019 to June 2020, just using Shutterstock as a benchmark, I’ve uploaded 677 images (not so much) but more impressively, 339 new clips.

Therefore, it’s clear that even though my port has increased in both size and quantity, I’m earning less. I’m sure many contributors reading this feel the same when it comes to their port.

To offset this trend of lower earnings, I’ve devoted considerable time and energy to uploading book covers exclusively to Arcangel Images. From June 2019 to June 2020 my port at Arcangel has increased by 97, which is an average of 8 images a month.

Please see my latest blog post on Tips on Making Money with Book Cover Photography.

Detailed earnings for July

Starting with Stills:

Agency Number of Images in port (added July) Net Revenue for July (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF 4,957 (19) 8 0.32
Alamy 11,955 (107) 15 5
Arcangel 831 (21) 1222 407
Adobe Stock 3,469 (28) 122 1.49
Bigstock 3,829 (0) 10 0.36
Creative Market 1,458 (6) 9 9
DepositPhotos 6,085 (0) 21 0.36
Dreamstime 6,842 (1) 18 0.41
EyeEm 1000 (0) 0 0
Fine Art America 690 0 0
iStock 6,454 (49) 111 0.4
Robert Harding 383 (0) 3* 1
Shutterstock Editorial 761 (0) 0 0
Shutterstock 10,424 (55) 139 0.43
Pond5 1,693 (0) 4 4
Picfair 5,632 (0) 0 0
Photo4Me 320 (0) 0 0
SignElements 1,211 (1) 8 N/A
Wirestock 121 (22) 4 4
Direct Sales N/A 0 0
Total 1,691

*Q2 2020 Results

Now results from clips:

Agency Number of clips in port (added July) Net Revenue for July (US$) Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock 355 (0) 0 0
Pond5 1,378 (10) 48 24
iStock 162 (0) 8 8
Shutterstock 1,100 (11) 39 13
Total 95 15

Total net earnings: $1779 in July vs $578 in June.

long term

Although, without taking into account Arcangel, my July results would be in line with the previous four months with $557, which is very very very disappointing for the size/maturity/quality of my port.

Arcangel July Results

Obviously the standout results of the month were from Arcangel and I hinted in my previous blog post about which book covers sold but didn’t specify exactly how much.

Paris Children
Licensed for $1,144 net (two separate licenses)

In fact the above book cover has sold multiple times as Rights-Managed within different jurisdictions (2 separate sales in July). Each sale earning me a nice tidy sum. This is one of the beauties of the old-fashioned Rights-Managed model which was pretty much bread and butter before Royalty-Free came along. Earning for individual usages, in the case of book markets, different geographical regions.

Click here for a more detailed explanation on Rights-Managed vs Royalty-Free licensing.

The next sale was much more modest in comparison:

Licensed for $78 net

I’ll keep feeding the Arcangel beast

The above is easily the highest single sale I’ve ever ever earned for any asset, so naturally I’m determined to keep sending my files to them as opposed to the micros (there is some cross-over in buyers’ needs).

As far as I’m concerned, and I say this without any hesitation, uploading images to microstock is pretty much a waste of time in August 2020. If and when I do it, I won’t spend too long post-processing / keywording as returns on investment just aren’t worth my time.

Wirestock is a good alternative  agency for commercial images in this low yield age, as they’ll do both the tagging and distribution in return for small 15% commission on sales.

Latest uploads at Arcangel

The following is a selection of 7 of the latest images (most captured in Porto Covo, Alentejo, Portugal) images accepted at my growing Arcangel which currently stands at 831 images with 21 images currently being keyworded in-house.

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As mentioned in another post, my goal is to reach 1,000 images at Arcangel by the end of the year, so I need to up my game! I’ve started using more people (one blonde model in particular) in my images and hope that this will result in more sales.

Shutterstock Update

July was my first full active month since their dreadful new earnings schedule was implemented. Looking strictly at average Returns Per Download, June was a surprisingly good (short) month at $1.03, July fell off a cliff at $0.43 owning to a bunch of those annoying <20cent sales…as you can see these “new normal” days.

Just take a look at July 2019 vs July 2020 average days and volumes so you can have an idea of just this new reality and why so many contributors, including myself, are upset:

Average Return per Download Analysis

I’ve been tracking Returns Per Download at the major agencies, including Shutterstock since March 2019 and I do notice a small downward trend at SS:


“Exciting News!”

However, the “good news” is that I’m not at Level 5 until the end of the year at lol like that makes a fucking difference.


Only one “significant” sales to speak of at SS:

$17.40 for this travel during Covid composite concept

Clip sales at Shutterstock

On the video side, three clips sold for a total of $39, including the following, captured at London’s Waterloo station, which sold for $16.

Link to clip

A cool scene from the Bourne Identity was filmed there:

Staying with London, the following clip captured in Canary Wharf sold for $14:

Link to clip

So far I’m yet to experience any turdy <$5 sales on Shutterestock, but know it’s only a matter of time. Enough about these turds, onto the next agency.

Adobe Stock

My results show that Adobe Stock seems to be on the up and up vs a struggling Shutterstock. In July, a very respectful $122 with $1.49 Return Per Download.

Santa Maria del Carmine Church in Brera, Milan, Lombardy, Italy earned me $58


Really struggling with Alamy lately and only $15 net (3 sales) to show for my huge port on there. What I find most depressing is that Dreamstime ($18) and DepositPhotos ($21) earned me more than Alamy this month.

Nevertheless, a fun/happy pic was used in the Guardian Weekly to highlight Gay Pride themes. Sold for $9 net.

gay pride

No more to say really. Pathetic and clearly Turds of the Month.


All things considered, a decent month (June) at iStock at $119 total and a steady $0.40 Return Per Download which is low but has been about average for them for the past year. My best sellers include:



A quiet month at Pond5 with two timelapse clips for $48 net…of the same scene.

Link to clip

“Hey, that’s my pic!”

Searching the net, I’ve spotted the following four pics, which I trust is quite a fun/useful way to see the end-usage of stock images:

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Turd of the Month Agency

Congrats, Alamy for being overtaken by ultra-Turds DepositPhotos and Dreamstime! It does take some effort, or actually lack of, to earn $15 net from 11,955 images in 31 days!

alamy turds

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 (August??). 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, although they got me back in at the last minute!). Anyway, 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. Good article Alex, same here, first full month on the new dreadful Shutterstock payment schedule, lost 40% of the income comparing to the last year.

    Decent month on Adobe and one lucky sale on Alamy. Overall pretty shitty month.
    Congrats on the Arcangel sale!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Robert. It’s early days as I only have 853 images accepted but it gives me great pride and motivation to keep going. Meanwhile, at micros I’ve never been less motivated as agencies are constantly finding new and clever ways to fuck us over – Alex


  2. I don’t think it worth no more to upload to stock websites, with the exception of Arcangel. You should made your own website where to sell your photos, but it’s hard because you have to do a lot of publicity for only a few downloads, but at least you will know that 100% of your earning will go to you, not only 20 – 30%. If you have 10,000 pics on a stock website, and sell for about 10 $ per month, you can get the same results on your own website. For footage, it looks like it still woth it, but in the future if the going to decrese royalties, you can use YouTube, and leave a link from where they can license your work.

    Liked by 1 person

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