January 2031 Brutally Honest Earnings Report – “Exciting News” Edition

With another year / decade gone by I’m happy to share with you my first monthly report for 2031 – Special Edition, straight from idyllically-tropical island of Fernando de Noronha, 350km off the coast of Northeastern Brazil, where I’ve been living for the past two years!

Stretching before heading out at sea – life of a semi-retired microstocker

The world has become a scarier place

I’ve decided to stay as far away from civilization as possible with no regrets. Things started to get increasingly chaotic and dystopic especially with the new Covid strains, civil uprisings, climate change (wars related to scarce resources, such as fresh water), Chinese growing sphere of influence, etc.

Climate change is causing serious geopolitical issues in the 2030s

Special Edition – “Exciting News”

Hope you’re all keeping safe during these strange times. As usual, I’ve decided to publish this report slightly early and will update at the beginning of February 2031. In this early special edition, upon popular request, I’ve also decided to go into detail on just how Shutterstock went from the major agency of the 2010s to a now a minnow no bigger than Canstock in 2021.

How the hell did this happen?

12th Year Sharing Results!

Before getting started I would like to state that it’s been a pleasure to share my results with you for 12 full years now – wow (starting now on my 13th year)! So many agencies have gone bust or merged. It’s been difficult to keep up but will try to give you a recap of what’s been happening if you’ve been away from the stock industry for a while.

Let’s now start with my detailed earnings with stills.

Detailed Earnings

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added Jan 2031)Net Revenue for Jan 2031 (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)Bitcoin$
Unsplash (acquired Canva, EyeEm, 123RF, Depositphotos, Picfair and Canstock in mid 2020s)15,023 (40)0 but loads of “Fun” exposure0 but loads of “Fun” exposure203 “Unsplash Fun coins” that can that can be used to bet on “Unsplash Covid Hunger Games”
Alamy (now Associated Press Stock Images – name changed in 2023)22,287 (15)400.20.00004
ArcTrevillion (Arcangel and Trevillion merged in the mid 2022)7,488 (20)6002000.0006
Tesla AS (Formally Adobe Stock, acquired by Tesla in 2024)13,531 (6)500.150.00005
BigX (formally BigStock) – now an x-rated stock site + 3D streaming 354 (10)250.500.00025
TrumpStock (conspiracy-theory stock site which emerged in late 2023)2,21112510.00125
Dreamstime19,241 (250)1,48030.0148
Google Getty (Dec ’29)16,232 (34)20 Getty Gorillas
ShutterFace (purchased by the Facebook Political Party in 2023)22,331 (45) 100.050.00003
BlockChainStock (emerged in 2023)8,310600.250.00006 + 0.00004 bonus rebate for using the service
Direct SalesN/A10100.000001
Total 2360  0.00240
Breakdown for stills, pretty decent month when all things considered

Monthly recap on stills:

Starting with the darling of microstock, Dreamstime, which continues to bring home the bacon earning me a whopping of $1,480 or BTC$0.00148. Total of 493 downloads at an average of $3!

Also excited to see BigX with some large sales, managing to penetrate some new markets. 50 downloads combining for $25 or BTC$0.00025 will do nicely. Rest came from their live streaming services, more on this later.

Continued disappointment at the minnows, Shutterstock and Associated Press Photos (formally Alamy) for a combined $50 (BTC$0.0005) from 45,000+ photos. Ouch, those images are not working hard! As you recall Associated Press Photos went full microstock by adopting the subscription model in early 2022.

Another standout result at ArcTrevillion with 3 sales for $600 or BTC 0.006. Wise decision taken many years (or decades) ago to keep believe in that agency for returns. With all these pandemics and various strains and more recently the wars, the book cover market goes from strength to strength. So far they’ve earned me a whopping $70,000 or (BTC$ 0.07). Will write about them on a separate blog post and WeTube video.

Blackbox was a useful agency back in the early 2020s to be able to submit to various agencies with no sweat but they went out of business in 2022 after negative PR related to the word “black” within the name after pressure from political correctness activists. They did try to run a business with just the word “Box” but it wasn’t the same.

Clips

AgencyNumber of clips in port (added Jan 2031)Net Revenue for Jan 2031 (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)Bitcoin$
Unsplash (acquired Canva, EyeEm, 123RF, Depositphotos, Picfair and Canstock in mid 2020s)5,544 (20)0 but loads of “Fun” exposure0 but loads of “Fun” exposure422 “Unsplash Fun coins” that can that can be used to bet on “Unsplash Covid Hunger Games”
ShutterFace8,787 (16)6020.0006
BigX (formally BigStock) – now an x-rated stock site + 3D streaming232 (10) + 23 minutes live streaming4080.0004
PondBlocks5 (Pond5 and Storyblocks merged in 2023)8,911 (30)40050.004
Total 500 0.005
Average month

Monthly recap on clips:

Average month with clips, managing to upload a total of 86 12K clips (which is the minimum agencies accept now). However, those that sold, 20 were for peanuts in HD, with the remaining 23 in SD format – combined total of $140 or BTC$0.0014. Even though resolutions are increasing, buyers want cheaper and cheaper content – strange. It’s a pity since I invested $5,000 on a new graphics card to be able to render up to 16K clips…perhaps I’ll pay off my investment in 2040.

It gets worse as the biggest disappointment of the month was having uploaded one particular 40-second clip to ShutterFace in 12K format, which was close to 2 Terabytes and took nearly a week to upload as there’s still disruption from the “Net Neutrality Wars”. Three seconds after finally submitting, it was rejected for “noise”. Some things never change. At least now, 10 years later ShutterFace admit that they’re using AI to review batches but nothing intelligent about them.

Net Neutrality Wars kicked off in mid-2024, leading to considerable disruptions and a slowdown on stock earnings. Copyright: Master Steve Heap

Despite my small port at BigX, sales are showing promise with a cool $20 from 3 sales. A great return of $8/download! The 3D streaming side of the business, which teamed up with Tik-Tok(x) amounted to 23 minutes of watch time from 15 users, combining for $10 out of $25 earned. Even though I’m nearly 50, I still have the moves!

PondBlocks5 were steady earning a combined $500 with mainly 3D hologram renders being purchased for WeTube. Tesla AS stopped accepting footage to save on server space after their SpaceX PR disaster (more on this later).

Totals for month:

$2260 or BTC$ 0.023 (not including storage costs), enough for for an iPhone XXX, which can create holograms and connect to an I3D printer.

A note on hyper-inflation + storage costs

I’ve deducted the usual storage costs that all agencies have started deducting from our earnings from 2022. This combined to $600 for the privilege of them hosting our content.

Keeping in mind that inflation has been running at an average of 50% a year for the past 10 years due to central banks printing money to fund multiple stimulus packages, as well as and bailing out greedy corporations like ShutterFace.

So even though $2260 may seem like a lot, in 2021 it’s equivalent to just over $500, what Shutterstock would have paid out on an average month in 2018 on just 10,000 images.

Looking at the long-term (majors + ShutterFace)

Looking at the long-term, I’ve selected the following agencies to analyse how they’ve performed over the past decade.

Google Getty

As you may recall, Getty followed a similar fate to that of ShutterFace as soon as it was acquired by Google in 2022, which pretty much just gave away all our images for free, literally from one day to another. This is how they bizarrely reported the news to contributors on Christmas day 2022:

“EXCITING NEWS – Google Getty is pleased to announce that due to the need to align with the stock content market, from the 1st of January 2023, customers will be able to download all your content for free. In exchange for your valuable content and years of loyalty royalties will be paid in “Getty Google Gorillas”. Who’s the “Big Gorilla in the room” now? lol”

– Getty Google Public Relations on December 25, 2022

All contributors, including myself, were confused and naturally up in arms in the forums with calls to boycott / deactivate by the Stock Demolition. But Google, being the evil corporation that they were/are, threw the book at us with 10-year notice periods to deactivate. So, here we are with only one year to go until our images are officially offline.

So now I’m stuck with a collection of over 800 Getty Gorillas I’ve earned over the years…

TrumpStock is showing promise

TrumpStock emerged in 2023 during the re-election campaign of Donald Trump (Facebook Political Party candidate) of which easily won and again in 2028, although he has been impeached a total of 8 times in his career. TrumpStock caters to the more niche conspiracy-theory type images.

In any case, the site is showing promise earning me $125 or BTC$ 0.0000125.

Trump easily won both the 2024 and 2028 elections despite being impeached 8 times

ArcTrevillion are awesome!

I’m optimistic that perhaps 2030 will return to pre “Net Neutrality Wars” period but it depends mainly on Dreamstime. In any case, ArcTrevillion are performing superbly (sales for another blog post).

One secret I’ve managed to have so many new images uploaded / approved is using CGI models and software to create unique environments. Even though I’ve used this for microstock, I’ve really perfected it for book covers. If you recall, this started in the early 2020s with thispersondoesnotexist and I even blogged about it so long ago.

Just some of my CGI models I’ve used for my ArcTrevillion book covers

Dreamstime

Starting with the major agencies, as usual Dreamstime didn’t disappoint as buyers were looking for old-normal vintage cityscapes as well as normal people out and about being human before we had to venture out in full body armour to protect ourselves from Covid strains.

“Pre-2020s nostalgia” is trending. Lol funny how people used to hold their phones to take pics!

Another sale on Dreamstime was used to highlight the 11th-year anniversary of the United-Kingdom formally leaving the European Union. As you may recall, the years following Brexit were terrible for the island-nation, with massive unemployment, political instability and civil unrest.

By the mid 2025s people were fed up and a new movement grew for the UK to re-join the EU, namely: “Brentrance”.

Captured in 2019, during the Brexit negotiations. Sold for a huge $5 or BTC$ 0.00005

How did Dreamstime become THE leading stock agency?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and discuss just how did Dreamstime become such a huge player. If you call, it all started with a small act of kindness in 2020, when they first started giving away 10% of our earnings to Covid-19 relief.

How it all started in 2020!

Dreamstime then expanded the Covid charity program, soon becoming a powerful NGO (non-governmental agency) / stock agency providing Covid relief to millions. Their research arm developed the now famous “Dreamstime Covid vaccine” and their diplomatic arm helped to broker a peace deal in 2025 between India and Pakistan. Dreamstime was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2026 and buyers flocked to the site.

Therefore, I officially pardon Dreamstime for once-upon-a-time awarding them a Turd of the Month award in 2019.

Tesla AS

Tesla AS (acquired by Tesla, formally Adobe Stock and prior to that acquired Fotolia), produced a decent month at $50 or BTC$0.00005 for 350 downloads or 15cents/download, a pretty decent result, but overall Tesla AS have really struggled ever since the space disaster. Buyers are also looking for old-normal scenes, such as this one but paying much less:

View from the Tate Modern, London – circa 2017 sold for a huge $0.5 or BTC$0.0000005

What happened to Tesla AS?

As you may recall, in the early 2020s, Adobe Stock (as was formally known) was on the up and up with healthy regular sales. Elony Tusky saw an opportunity and acquired Adobe Stock in 2024 at the height of the “Net Neutrality Wars”. His goal was to launch a spaceship full of Tesla AS contributors to be the first agency to accept content from “space photographers”. A fancy PR stunt in hindsight.

In 2025, the Tesla AS rocket-ship launched with 25 of the finest stock contributors. All was going to plan when the rocket docked at the space station. However, the 25 “lucky” stock contributors soon discovered to their obvious shock that this was an elaborate scheme and there was were only 5 spacesuits. The 25 stock contributors fought for survival to earn the coveted title of “first space stock photographer”.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Tesla AS and Unsplash teamed up and people from all over the world were able to gamble with “Unsplash Fun Coins” on the winners, with Tesla AS taking a commission on all bets.

After a bitter fight, the five remaining stock contributors including Taxco, Pedestrian Tom and Master Theo, picked themselves up and went on their epic space walk to finally capture their unique content to be immediately uploaded to Tesla AS. After their mission was accomplished, they proceeded to return to Earth, but unfortunately due to cost-saving measures / technical difficulties engineers did not provide enough oxygen. This tragedy cost the company billions in lawsuits and lost wagers as bets were void.

However, the legacy of those five first-space-contributors live on as microstock content and their content is sold regularly for as much as $1, exclusively at Tesla AS.

Unsplash

Decent month at free-download site Unsplash earning me 625 “Unsplash Fun Coins”, a type of crypto currency that can be used to gamble on the world’s most popular show “Unsplash Covid Hunger Games”, where people fight to the death for a Covid vaccine (the Tesla AS game-show didn’t go according to plan).

I’ve also gained loads of exposure (mainly likes but also some nudes) and people love me on that site, surely that beats any sort of remuneration.

BlockChainStock (Formally WeMark)

If you recall, back in 2019, an agency by the name of WeMark emerged (full review here) using the block-chain concept. They soon folded but re-emerged in 2023 under a new name, BlockChainStock and took the stock world by storm. I really like them because they offer some crypto-rebates for using them which really do add up. I expect big things from this agency / concept.

They’re back!

Last and Least – Minnows

Associated Press Photos (formally Alamy)

I won’t bother anymore with the minnows of Associated Press Stock. After another reduction in earnings by Associated Press Stock from 20% to 10% to fund another office, this time on the moon (apparently there’s a big market for astronomy stock coming from the Greater Chinese Socialist Republic), it’s enough for me to keep uploading to them and I’ve given up on them after the 20th time. I have a recollection that in 2018 commission rates were 50% and average sales were $25net!

This month, the following vintage image sold for $5 as a Personal-License wall-hanger.

I inquired them on the potentially suspicious license and they replied that Chucky recognised himself and bought the pic to make a poster at home. Fair enough.

Shutterstock’s meteoric fall

As you may recall, Shutterstock introduced in early-2022 a new payment schedule with the following shocking / confusing announcement:

We are making this adjustment in order to reflect changes in the market for creative content, help to create fair opportunities for all our contributors, and reward performance with greater earnings potential. Fuck you, ahah losers!

– Shutterstock, December 2022

A few minutes later, Shutterstock resubmitted the announcement retracting the last statement in bold and apologized profusely. Turns out the last statement was inserted by a disgruntled intern / former stock contributor. Shutterstock included the following revised breakdown in earnings:

Adding salt to the wound, the revised schedule consisted of weekly resets (every Sunday at midnight). The “good news” is that they promised that sales would never be lower than 1cent at least.

How far has Shutterstock (name changed to ShutterFace in 2024) fallen?

ShutterFace fell off a cliff!

Just see how far they’ve fallen in terms of return per download. However, it was all just a tactic in 2023 to be acquired by a giant political party / corporation.

Shutterstock dropped their royalties to entice Facebook

Turns out that this tactic to reduce the earnings schedule was to attract the Facebook Political Party, that were looking to acquire Shutterstock in early 2023 to help in their political campaigning. During their due diligence, external auditors uncovered that 95% of their whole portfolio (about 1 billion images at the time) consisted of images with copyright infringement issues. Some 5 years earlier, a Brutally Honest guy tried to warn their management of such issue and little action was taken, except banning him from the Shutterstock Contributor Forum for “disturbing the peace”.

Evidence of such large-scale fraud

To the surprise of many, external auditors uncovered that there were 100million images of the same cat of which Steve Heap from BackyardSilver, is the copyright holder.

Officially the most popular cat image ever, by Master Steve Heap

Auditors were perplexed at how Shutterstock’s AI in the early 2020s could review hundreds of images per second yet couldn’t pick up on identical stolen images at hundreds of portfolios.

Acquisition price revised downwards

Naturally with such a shocking audit finding, the Facebook Political Party revised their acquisition price downwards. After some tough negotiations, Shutterstock was acquired for 10cents, which is ironically the same as a pre-2023 sub.

I saved a screenshot of that fateful day – CNN Breaking News on 1 April 2023

Shutterstock’s name was changed to ShutterFace, which it remains until this day, and the rest is history as they say but their management didn’t escape jail-time.

Management Responsibility

Although their management pleaded innocence blaming Artificial Intelligence reviewers since 2016 (many contributors suspected), none escaped jail time but upon pleading with the Prosecution, received reduced sentences in exchange for hard-labour to review ShutterFace’s images/clips. However, as part of the terms, if they make a mistake in the review, their jail term is reset at the first day of every new year.

John Origenrator

In a twist of fate, on his last day of freedom before serving his jail-term, Shutterstock Founder John Origenrator was walking past the Empire State Building when he was struck by a dime coin thrown from the observation deck many floors up, immediately knocking him out. He remains in a coma and bets are being placed at the Unsplash betting site when he is expected to wake up.

Or was it a penny?

Indian, Pakistani and Russian Anarchists Struck Back

Following this shocking (for some) discovery of millions of stolen images, hundred of thousands of fraudulent contributor accounts, mainly based in India, Pakistan and Russia were shut down and had their monies confiscated.

This caused what is now known as the “Microstock Riots” which lasted for 7 weeks, when those contributors joined forces on a Denial of Service attack towards ShutterFace. Apparently, millions of those citizens relied exclusively on Shutterstock’s humble few cents per download to make a living and feed their families.

Protestors during the “Microstock Riots” of 2023

Peace between India and Pakistan

However, it was not all bad news as this sole unprecedented act of solitary between traditional enemies, India and Pakistan, brought about lasting peace between the two nations, brokered by Dreamstime.

Stock Demolition Storms SS HQ (“Operation Occupy Empire State Building”)

The “Microstock Riots” weren’t isolated to South Asia. During this tumultuous year that was 2023, contributors from the Stock Demolition (on a mission to try to bring fair remuneration to stock contributors) gathered forces to “Occupy the Empire State Building”. Dozens of protesters made it up to the 21st Floor, but were so mesmerized by the view that all they could do is think about taking stock pics and videos before being arrested and charged.

Since this incident which were all over the WeTube, the Stock Demolition were labeled a “terrorist organization” by the US State Department and went underground.

Some of the more radical within the now terrorist organization – “Stock Demolition”

Positive Message from ShutterFace CEO, Stanley Pavhopesky Junior

It is important to recognize that we are living in a world that is extraordinarily different to where we were one year ago. As I write this, we are still grappling with a polarizing COVID-29 pandemic, our democratic processes have been challenged like never before, and we have witnessed protests in over 150 U.S. cities, and more than 60 countries in the fight for racial justice and equality.

Despite this, our team was inspired by the ways communities came together in solidarity: from small businesses, to front-line heroes, all displaying resilience, kindness and creativity in the time of quarantine. As we look to 2031, there is an underlying feeling of hope.

Here, we present our 20th annual Creative Trends report for 2021. ShutterFace is home to more than 1 billion images, over 200 million videos, as well as music, vectors, and illustrations. In the past year, I made the most of our extensive library to create cool video conferencing backgrounds, festive birthday cards, and engaging business presentations. And I’m not alone—millions of ShutterFace users globally search for images, videos and music tracks every day, and it’s the keywords they use that allow us to uncover our top ten trend predictions, and what will define creative expression and innovation in the year ahead. These trends fall into five categories: Graphic, Photography, Footage, Music, and the Trend to Watch.

The future looks bold, bright, and breathtaking. We have seen the best of people at the very worst of times, and it is our hope that the themes of empathy, integrity and innovation that we have witnessed in 2030 continue to prevail in 2031. At ShutterFace, we believe that we are stronger together. We look forward to embarking on this next chapter with you.


Stanley Pavhopeky Junior
Chief Executive Officer
ShutterFace

New Stock Image Emerging – SmellStock

I’m excited to announce that a new stock site is launching in March 2031 called SmellStock. Unique in its kind, buyers may download certain smells for a fee.

They’re looking for contributors and have put out a call to action on their WeTube page with a list of smells that are in demand for contributors to upload, including:

  • Fresh cut grass in the spring
  • Provence Lavender
  • Aged Roquefort cheese
  • Book from circa 1434
  • Arm-pit of Caucasian woman aged early 90s
Upload your smells and start earning!

I heard from the inside that SmellStock also teamed up with BigX to bring you some of the more exotic smells out there.

Won’t spoil you all the details just yet as I’ll be back soon with a full review of SmellStock and have already shortlisted some of the smells that I believe are trending and should sell for years to come.

Plans for February 2031

Will be back soon, with updates! Alex has gone fishing…hopefully I’ll get my weekly drone delivery from the mainland soon, which includes some new gear!

Alex has gone fishing…

Nuclear Turd of the Month

For the 30th time since I’ve started reporting, I’m awarding ShutterFace for Nuclear Turd of the Month January 2031!

Congrats!

Support the Brutally Honest Blog!

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. As well as being sued for those who may not appreciate my sense of humour when it’s clearly satire.

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 by clicking on the following link below:

Support the Brutally Honest Blog

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil (since 2028), still on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (September 2031??). I’ve devoted 18 years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer. 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

9 comments

  1. Great article, Alex, really loved what you dit to unsplash and shuterstock – turds deserved it.
    Looking forward to becoming an BigXXX contributor, lol.
    John Origenrator’s death is epic and proves that karama is not a nice lady.

    Liked by 1 person

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