December 2020 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to another detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times! This will be a relatively short post since I’m working tirelessly on my full-on brutally honest detailed year-end report, which I’m quite excited to share with you.

So, let’s get started and put December behind us and put this dreadful year (for many) behind us.

Cascais, Portugal

Firstly, 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). In addition to the risk of Shutterstock shutting down my account for disclosing my sales on there.

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:

Support the Brutally Honest Blog!

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

First for stills….

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added Dec)Net Revenue for Dec (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF5,023 (0)30.32
Alamy12,446 (55)3718
Arcangel959 (31)00
Adobe Stock3,531 (6)520.76
Bigstock3,870 (0)20.4
Creative Market1,512 (6)00
DepositPhotos6,524 (82)130.36
Dreamstime6,842 (0)90.51
EyeEm276 (1) – (Partner)00
Fine Art America69000
iStock (Nov)6832 (34)830.47
Robert Harding384 (0)379
Shutterstock Editorial761 (0)00
Shutterstock10,671 (30) 1550.51
Pond51,736 (0)22
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me323 (0)00
SignElements1,213 (0)41
Wirestock382 (32)20.32
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 404 

Now for clips…

AgencyNumber of clips in port (added Dec)Net Revenue for Dec (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock378 (0)2121
Pond51,461 (2)00
iStock172 (0)21
Shutterstock1,129 (2)3612
Total 59 

Total = $461 for December vs $608 for November

Low-Term Trends

Huge huge video sale at Shutterstock!

Well not in my port, in fact at Theo’s (Bestravelvideo). I won’t link the clip here because SS are throwing hissy fits for disclosing sales apparently. I’ll take the (small) risk on my own port but not on his. With the way things are going it wouldn’t be the end of the world if SS pulled the rug under me.

Anyway, Theo bagged a $600 sale for a single quite simple clip of the Trevi Fountain in Rome (pre-Covid-19) even though there are 1000s already available! I can only imagine that it will be used in some huge media campaign. So there’s life after all in the footage industry and not just $4 sales for 4K clips!

Theo must have thrown in a lucky coin into the fountain!

My own clip sales

My own clip sales in December were comparatively smaller with three at Shutterstock for a combined $36. Although my clips are widely available in 4K, the buyers are opting for the much cheaper HD formats.

Link to clip
Link to clip
Link to clip – found it very interesting that this was accepted with flicker issues and also sold!

Shutterstock stills

Staying with Shutterstock, very slow month in terms of stills with only one extended license earning me just shy of $18. Another one at the very end of the month for $22.

Decisions decisions…

The $0.51/download for stills pales in comparison to just December 2019 when I earned $0.68/download – a whopping 29% drop! I’ll go into much more detail on the year to year drops in my year-end report out soon.

Adobe Sluggish Stock

Slow month at Adobe Stock. Slowly paying off my gimbal investment as I ninja-walked towards the Giralda Tower at my favourite city in Europe…Seville.

$22 net – link to clip

For stills it’s been slow going with nothing above $3, but I fully expect (and hope) that Adobe Stock will soon overtake Shutterstock as my best-seller, perhaps as early as 2021.

Arcangel (book covers), loads of rejections

Another month with no sales at Arcangel and that’s OK. I keep on uploading and working hard, although I won’t reach my 1,000 accepted (quality) images by year-end…I’ll have to settle with 958 accepted images. A strong effort for the year with 183 accepted, with almost all shot locally.

In December, I managed only two of the following images accepted out of a total of 45 submissions – so it was really disappointing but not unusual. Will just write it off as a month when I was distracted.

Batch pending

I’m back in Portugal for the festive period and managed to capture some walk-around shots that may just fit the bill for book covers. Will update you in January whether any of these were accepted (probably only one or two only):

Looking to interview Book Cover Contributors

One of my goals for 2021 is to interview Stock Wizards, as I call them…in other words, the top-performing stock contributors in the industry. This includes top book cover contributors so we can draw useful insight. If you’re interested in being interviewed, get in touch!

Alamy (continued) disappointment

Alamy sales continue to be sluggish with only 2 sales this month for $37 net, which is gross of a firetruck inside a fire station in Milan, Italy.

Guardian drone concept

One recent pic, seen literally by millions of people published by one of the UK’s largest newspaper, the Guardian, is pending showing up at my sales panel, although I don’t except anything larger than 2 digits net, seriously.

Link to article

Microstock Minnows

Who cares!? Waste of storage space, except for maybe Depositphotos, which paid me enough during the month for a Happy Meal. Creative Market no sales on 1,512 assets – W-T-F?!

Hey, That’s My Pic!

Going on with the segment where I’ve spotted my pic somewhere online, I’ve shortlisted 10 I’ve spotted this month. Seems a lot but most of these sold for much less than even $1. This will hopefully help you see the end-usages of stock images and guide you in creating sell-able concepts.

Here they all are in one image

Turd of the Month – December

I’ve skipped for this month and will instead award a Golden Turd of the Year/Century/Millennial on the yearly update blog post. If push came to shove, I’d nominate Creative Market.

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, Spain, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (September 2021??). 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). 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. Minions are disappointing bigly this month. 3$ on Dreamstime and 4$ on RF123. Turds.
    The only one that performs more or less ok is DepositPhotos.
    Thanks Alex, looking forward for year-end summary!


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