November 2020 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to another detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times! I’m back in Madrid for my day-job pushing (mainly digital) paper around and with the little free time and energy I have left I’m exploring this great city, which I’m happy to share with you some of my stories.

Madrid, Spain – November 21, 2020: Woman wearing a face mask inside a modern metro station in Madrid, Spain

As for earnings, other than the occasional book cover(s), it’s been tough going as my travel niche struggles to pick up. October proved to be a pretty turdy month in the micros, so let’s see if November produced some positive results.

Nearly empty Madrid Bajaras Airport as travel is down some 75% year-on-year due to the Covid epidemic

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 as a Xmas gift:

Alex’s Fine Art Prints!

Back in Madrid – Capturing Protests

So it’s been a month since I arrived in Madrid for work and in the stock world was looking forward to capturing Covid-related news. Not that I was getting tired of living by the sea with a warm climate but other than capturing book covers, there was not too much going on, so a change of scenery has been welcome.

Headed into the city-centre on weekends and was looking for some protests and there were plenty of every variety. Top left is against the closing of the local flea-market.

Top right is in defence of the public health service. Bottom left is for increased paternity rights and bottom right is anti-China for allegedly spreading lies about Covid.

I’ve uploaded all these to Shutterstock Editorial (previously REX Features) and tried at Alamy Live News but did they didn’t even bother to respond to me, strange. Nevertheless, they went into the Alamy collection as regular stock.

Vaccine phase from early-2021

Now that we’re (apparently) heading into the vaccine-stage of the epidemic, I look forward to capturing protests of people refusing to be vaccinated or more likely, protests from those that are angry that it’s taking authorities too long for them to be vaccinated!

I’ll keep an eye out on the calendar for upcoming marches. If you’re working on your home studio, no better time to come up with vaccine related concepts.

Protests Continued: Standing Around for Action to Happen = Opportunity

If you’ve a breaking news photographer you’re probably well aware that most of your time will be spent waiting for the action to unfold. These nulls in action provided a good opportunity to capture both regular stock and (my favourite) book covers, which I’m happy to share with you. First for book covers:

Secondly, for regular stock. I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy using the powerful 300mm lens these awesome zoom shots, which was recently picked up by Spanish media – more in the “Hey, that’s my pic!” section.

Madrid, Spain – November 15, 2020: Crowded pedestrian street in Madrid, Spain. People wear obligatory face covering during the Covid-19 pandemic. Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez statue is visible

Let’s now move onto the detailed earnings report!

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

First for stills….

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added Nov)Net Revenue for Nov (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF5,023 (0)130.59
Alamy12,383 (245)355
Arcangel928 (16)00
Adobe Stock3,525 (16)1111.42
Bigstock3,870 (0)20.33
Creative Market1,506 (7)136
DepositPhotos6,442 (0)230.4
Dreamstime6,842 (0)40.42
EyeEm275 (1) – (Partner)00
Fine Art America69000
iStock (Oct)6796 (89)950.45
Robert Harding384 (0)37 (Q3 2020 monthly average)9
Shutterstock Editorial761 (0)00
Shutterstock10,641 (80) 1670.52
Pond51,736 (7)00
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me323 (0)2020
SignElements1,213 (0)2N/A
Wirestock348 (60)0.320.32
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 522 

Now for clips…

AgencyNumber of clips in port (added Nov)Net Revenue for Nov (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock378 (0)00
Pond51,459 (1)5327
iStock172 (6)124
Shutterstock1,127 (7)2110
Total 86 

Total = $608 for November vs $1,106 for October

Long-term trends

SS RPI continues to drop while other majors are consistent
Adobe Stock has finally overtaken iStock for my second-best earning agencies…soon to be first, I hope!

Adobe Stock on the up and up

Happy to report that Adobe Stock easily broke the $100 barrier for the first time since January 2020 with some larger sales, including:

$25 for Seville’s Golden Tower, captured during my 2018 Iberian summer road-trip
$15 for an empty double-decker London bus
$8 for an empty warehouse

The above helped lift Adobe Stock’s average return per download to a whopping $1.42, almost 3x that of Shutterstock.

Alamy frustration + Personal Use License nonsense continues

Even though I’ve almost completely stopped caring about results at Alamy, seeing so many suspicious personal usage licenses really annoyed me. Some details by Alamy on what falls under this type of license.

In fact, out of 7 sales this month, 5 were for “personal usage” and the following two I deem as suspicious:

With others still unresolved *added the two above*…with many pending for more than a year.

James Allsworth, Head of Alamy Content, shed some light that these licenses may also be used for “artist reference for a painting project”…perhaps something like this an artist may have in mind:

To be continued…maybe I should care even less…

As for sales, it was another poor month with 7 sales for net $35, which aren’t even worth disclosing.

Arcangel (book covers), building my port

Another month with no sales at Arcangel and that’s OK. I keep on uploading and working hard to reach my 1,000 accepted (quality) images by year-end. In November, I managed 16 images accepted with the following 10 as my favourites from the bunch:

I received via a friend some useful advice by Arcangel on creating book covers that I’ll share:

Would be sweet to end the year strongly with a 3-figure book cover sale in December…

The Statue of the Bear and the Strawberry Tree is a sculpture from the second half of the 20th century, situated in the Spanish city of Madrid.

@Brutallyhonest_bookcovers on Instagram

Oh by the way, I’ve created a new Instagram Account just for Stock Book Covers with the handle @brutallyhonest_bookcovers – would appreciate if you would follow me! 🙂

Another OK month at iStock

Ironically, one of the most consistent agencies out there happens to be the lowest paying (15% on non-exclusive content). I gave them a lot of hatred for a while but they are producing.

November was no exception, producing a total of $107 (combining photos and clips) and an OK $0.45/download on photos.

Some highlights include these top 3:

Shutterstock, still struggling (compared to previous years)

I keep checking my results from as far back as November 2016 ($215), making for depressing reading compared to November 2020, especially considering that during those humble years my port was much much smaller and consisted of zero clips.

Well, November proved to be comparatively weak at $167 / $0.52/download for photos and only 2 clips sold for $21. Highlights were few, such as the following familiar scene:


and on the clips-side, nothing to brag about:

$13.61 for happier days at Piazza del Duomo, Milan
$7.31 for this clip at an anti-Brexit protest in 2019

Pond5, looking up before looking down

Two decent sales to report at Pond5 for a total of $53 for what are now quite old clips that have already sold numerous times:

Link to clip
Link to clip

Robert Harding reported Q3 2020 earnings

Like Alamy, Robert Harding is another agency I’ve lost patience. Once upon a time I painstakingly sent them some 384 of my best pics. In return, sales were poor and I stopped uploading to them for a year.

My pics are still up and at least Q3 2020 earnings weren’t a complete disaster with some lunch money worth an equivalent of $37 per month average (August-September-October) on 10 sales, with the two best-earners being:

A man and a woman practice yoga early in the morning overlooking Antibes, Alpes Maritimes, Cote d’Azur, Provence, France, Mediterranean, Europe – sold for $28 net
Tavira, an ancient Moorish town that has retained its unique character and heritage, Tavira, Algarve, Portugal, Europe – sold for $50 net

Photo4me sale

Print-on-Demand is always a (rare) nice bonus as it brings a smile to my face to imagine someone enjoying one of my pics on their wall. Below were mountain bikers enjoying the trails at Italy’s northern Valtellina region, bordering Switzerland, and earned me a net $20. No sales at FAA.


The combined pathetic minnows consisting of Bigstock, Dreamstime, PicFair, EyeEm and Signelements earned me just $21 and are really a waste of time each deserving Golden Turd Awards until the end of time.

DepositPhotos have been surprisingly strong as of late and are by far the best-performing Turd Minnow.

Hey, That’s My Pic!

Going on with the segment where I’ve spotted my pic somewhere online, I’ve shortlisted 5 I’ve spotted this month. This will hopefully help you see the end-usages of stock images and guide you in creating sell-able concepts.

Does new content sell?

While I’ve been calculating my earnings for these months and analyzing which images sold for how much I’ve been thinking…do my newer content sell and if so, for anything interesting ($5 for photos and $15 for clips). I mean the stuff that I’ve uploaded in the past year.

Well, this month I have seen almost no sales from recent content and this worries me. It seems that it’s being buried underneath a mountain of other new content before it has a chance to be seen by buyers. Something to keep an eye on…Is this a trend you’re experiencing in your respective ports?

Will this shot captured on November 30th sell within the next 6 months for more than $5? doubt it. In fact, donkey SS reviewers will probably reject it for focus even if it was done deliberately

Updates from Wirestock, now accepting clips!

It’s been a while since I’ve provided an update on Wirestockcheck out my original review. I’ve been chatting with some of those who signed up about a year ago and how they were doing, mainly positive comments. Wirestock initially had some keywording issues which they’ve improved…still some ways to go but they’re on the right direction.

They have some new developments, including uploads for videos, which I’m keen to try out:

If you haven’t already signed-up to Wirestock, I would appreciate if you would do so using my affiliate link.

StockStudio – Review Coming soon!

I was recently contacted by StockStudio to try out their new all-in-one stock contributor tool. As mentioned earlier, been swamped with work so haven’t had the time/patience to do so but I’m really excited about this useful product.

In the meantime, you may check them out here.

Turd of the Month – November

With 3,870 images, I managed a whopping 6 sales for $2 on BigStockTurds! Congrats! Good thing I’ve completely stopped uploading to them and so should you!

Thanks for the mention, Andrew!

Congrats on reaching some Milestones in November

Will be back soon…

Wish you all a happy and safe lead up to Xmas. I’ll be back towards the end of the month with both a December and year-end review, with goals for 2021.

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, Spain (don’t ask me why), 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). 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. Happy to hear Adobe Stock is working out for you, high time!

    Alamy personal licenses are a nightmare, agree. Really hard to imagine those imaes as a wall hangers.
    My Golden Turd goes to EyeEm 1$ this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hi man, great to see your effort. I absolutely love reading your content. I am starting out in this business now. any heads up?


  3. Did you see that the Teaching Doc channel had his shutterstock suspended for posting his earnings on YouTube? He posted a video about it. Curious what your thoughts are on that one.


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