August 2020 Brutally Honest Earnings Report (some brutal stats inside)

Welcome back to another detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times! For a recap on July 2020 earnings, click here. July proved to be a great month only due to some impressive book cover sales…at micros, it’s been extremely frustrating. Let’s see if August saw an uptick on sales…

This month I’ve decided to deeply analyse some year-on-year stats with surprising results.

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

August traditionally follows a similar pattern to July with slow going sales. This appears to be even more so this year.

Praia da Ursa, Sintra, Portugal

Detailed earnings for August

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added August)Net Revenue for August (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF4,975 (18)150.68
Alamy12,046 (101)215
Arcangel877 (46)00
Adobe Stock3,494 (26)520.72
Bigstock3,869 (40)30.3
Creative Market1,495 (37)00
DepositPhotos6,159 (74)200.34
Dreamstime6,843 (1)90.64
EyeEm272 (Partner)00
Fine Art America6901010
iStock6,539 (85)1750.77
Robert Harding384 (1)7 (Q3 2020)2.62
Shutterstock Editorial761 (0)00
Shutterstock10,524 (100) 1140.38
Pond51,728 (36)00
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me323 (3)00
SignElements1,212 (1)8N/A
Wirestock199 (78)10.44
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 435 


AgencyNumber of clips in port (added August)Net Revenue for August (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock361 (6)00
Pond51,406 (28)00
iStock162 (0)00
Shutterstock1,103 (3)8929
Total 8929

Total net earnings: $524 vs $1779 in July

Looking at the bigger picture

Since I began reporting my earning in 18 months ago, Shutterstock’s average return per downloads are showing an obvious and worrying downtrend. Most shocking is that for the first time since I’ve begun reporting iStock images have earned more per download than at SS! ($0.77 vs $0.38).

Stills: Year on Year Comparisons (August 2019 vs August 2020)

Taking my August 2019 Earnings Report, it’s clear for all to see which agencies are truly struggling on the images’ side. In fact, I’ve increased the number of stills within my overall port by 10% year on year, but my earnings have dropped year on year by 27% ($524 vs $702). I didn’t include the August 2019 Arcangel earnings, since these one-off results can greatly skew stats.

The largest year-on-year drop in revenue was Alamy for a 10x drop from $202 net to just $21 net despite a portfolio increase of 8% (11,032 assets to 12,046 assets). Alamy is really struggling for me since April, as I’ve earned just 91 + 22 + 44 + 15 = $172 net or an average of $43/month.

Shutterstock also produced some shocking drops in earnings, despite a 7% rise in the number of assets. In August 2019, I boasted a respectful $235 / 0.61 RPI, which encouraged me to keep going and upload more stills. This year, however, I don’t see the point of uploading to them anymore as my revenue was literally cut in half to a pathetic $114 / 0.38 RPI. Volumes were also considerably less at 295 sales vs 386 in August 2019, a drop of 24%.

It’s become a case of more uploads for less sales, at lower prices! WTF?!

Any good news?

The only “good” news that I can see, comparing year-to-year is some consistency with Adobe Stock and iStock, which have increased earnings in line with more assets uploaded.

In terms of clip sales (for another discussion), I’m not experiencing huge drop in sale prices, although the forums are full of contributors complaining about <$5 4K clip sales.

What’s the point of microstock photography?

The point is that there’s no point in working harder for less and one would have to be a fool to keep going the way things are, unless it’s a hobby. I saw the writing on the wall in 2016 but it’s been surprising just how fast earnings have dropped in the past year.

Therefore, as mentioned many times, I’m on my way out of microstock photos and have devoted my time/energies to shooting for book covers and clips. Looking at year-on-year stats, uploads at Arcangel were statistically higher than average at 17% (732 to 877), which is no easy task when they reject a large amount.

Any microstock photos that I do capture (that don’t qualify for book covers) are purely incidental and I will either upload to Wirestock and let them do the keywording in return for 15% of revenue (at this stage, my time is much more important). In the case of editorials, I lean on putting them up on Alamy as exclusive (in return for 50% earnings instead of 40% for non-exclusive). The least amount of time I can spend post-processing and keywording them, the better because frankly I’m not an idiot to keep torturing myself.

Despite Alamy’s poor results as of late, I lean on uploading editorials on there to be licensed exclusively , rather than at micros

Having said all that, let’s look at some of this month’s best-sellers.

Best-sellers for the month


Only one pathetic sale at Alamy to speak of and nothing to brag about with only four small sales.

$38.49 gross for this scene captured in Tel Aviv, Israel

Adobe Stock

Slow-going month at Adobe Stock with only $52 for a lower-than-average RPI of 72cents per image. No sales above $5 so nothing to report this month. I’ll give them a break after a fantastic $122 earned in July.


No book cover sales this month, which is fair enough as they tend to be quite high-priced when they do happen. Was busy uploading to them all month and managed to have 46 approved with 17 currently keywording. A good result and on pace for my year-end goal of 1,000 images on there.

The following are 8 of my favourites that I’ve uploaded / been accepted during the month of August.

Staying on the topic of Arcangel, I thought I would try out at Trevillion, a book-cover agency with a similar niche to Arcangel. I sent them a speculative batch with some 67 images, but was rejected after a few days. Asked for feedback and no luck. Anyway, will try again in a few weeks with a stronger batch.


Sales at iStock were strong at $175 / 0.77 per image. Results were pretty much dominated by one image which sold for $97.50.

Generic army peacekeeping tank vehicle with machine gun mounted on top.

Robert Harding Q3 2020

Robert Harding, a microstock agency in all but curation and attitude, reported their Q3 2020 earnings and since I had no expectations, I shrugged it off. In fact, I’ve only uploaded one image to them in the past year just so my name can appear at the top of their searches for a little while.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the specifics, in 3 months, 8 images sold for a total of $21, a far cry when in Q4 2018, I earned just over $500 from 15 sales.

Who cares…


Now, for the agency everybody is talking about (with rarely anything positive to say), Shutterstock earned me a lowly $114 / 0.38 RPI in August. Too many lowly subs to speak of and a complete absence of both enhanced and ELs.

The only bright spots were with clips, where I managed to sell 3 clips for a total of $89. One of the clips, captured during pre-COVID days in Madrid, sold handsomely (I presume as 4K) for $68.27, which I’m happy to share with you.

Link to clip

Investing in new gear

I’ve recently decided to upgrade and invest in some new gear.

My latest acquisition was a 70-300mm Nikon super-zoom lens which I use with my D7000 crop sensor to give a whopping 450mm! Its aperture is not super wide at f4.5 maximum but, smaller and lighter at a fraction of the price to the pro 70-200 F2.8 (which is my dream lens but in the real world not as sexy as it screams out “professional photographer”). See a review below.

Overall, an excellent affordable travel/news lens, as well as portrait lens. Happy to share with you some of my latest images captured with it…

Coming soon will be a GoPro8 which I’ll be using with my Standup Paddle and bike for some awesome POV clips. Stay tuned!

Hey, that’s my pic!

This month I spotted my pic in the following 7 publications!

Shout out to some peeps!

One of my aims of putting together this brutally honest blog is to start a community of like-minded contributors with a passion for making money from this fun hobby.

In this edition, I would like to mention two contributors who reached out to me recently and I would like to send some love back. Would really appreciate if you check out their channel/blogs.


Turd of the month – August 2020

Last and certainly least, it was certainly a difficult month to choose a turdy agency but after much contemplation I settled on Bigstock which earned me a whopping $3 from 3,869 assets! Well done, Turdstock!

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 (September 2025??). 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. I’m not sure this is the place to compare sizes, but hey, my turd is bigget then yours! EyeEm Gave me 9 cents this month from the partner collection.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Alex,

    Regarding Wirestock: in my experience it’s still better to do you own keywording. Their own keywording service is not optimal, even when adding reviewer notes which are sometimes ignored. That said, still worth it in my opinion. Finally seeing Alamy sales again using Wirestock, whereas my own Alamy account is more or less dead, despite selling images on at other agencies. And still a timesaver, and faster payout because sales of turd-like agencies are combined in one account.


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