January 2021 Brutally Honest Earnings Report – Nice!

Welcome back to the January 2021 detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times! I had a strange dream / vision the other day related to my January 2031 earnings and wrote about it as soon as I woke up, check it out!

Awarded the nuclear turd of January 2031 to….ShutterFace!

Back in the waking world, let’s see if we got the year off to a good start because November 2019 and December 2019 were both terrible.

Skiing in Madrid?! Probably a once-in-a-lifetime image

Supporting 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.

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 Jan)Net Revenue for Jan (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF5,023 (0)30.5
Alamy12,514 (88)114
Arcangel967 (8)00
Adobe Stock3,539 (8)340.75
Bigstock3,870 (0)10.4
Creative Market1,517 (5)00
DepositPhotos6,588 (64)210.31
Dreamstime6,842 (0)130.55
EyeEm277 (1) – (Partner)00
Fine Art America69000
iStock (Dec)6878 (46)900.4
Robert Harding384 (0)379
Shutterstock Editorial829 (30)00
Shutterstock10,711 (48) 770.24
Pond51,736 (0)00
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me324 (1)00
SignElements1,213 (0)22
Wirestock447 (65)33
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 292 

Now for clips…

AgencyNumber of clips in port (added Jan)Net Revenue for Jan (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock381 (3)00
Pond51,475 (14)00
iStock176 (4)77
Shutterstock1,140 (11)22
Total 9 

Total: $301 vs $461 in December. Compared to January 2020, where I earned $806, this represents a fall of 63% earnings.

Looking at the long-term

Shocking drops at SS!

Still bullish on clips despite everything…

I’m still bullish on clips and happy to share with you my fav uploaded in January.

Link to clip at Pond5

FuckerStock – Nice!

Had an absolutely abysmal month at Fuckerstock.

Really no major sales to report…just the usual 10-20cent subs ugh. In fact, the average RPI was just 24cents which is LOWER than someone starting out a year ago and earning from a sub (25cents). This is also the first time since early 2016 when I’ve missed out on a humble $100 payment level at SS.

Adding salt into the wounds, a 4K clip was sold for just under $2…

Let’s move onto more positive news, shall we…

iStock has overtaken SS in earnings for first time ever

I originally foretasted that Adobe Stock would eventually overtake SS but to my surprise the first agency to do so on my port is iStock with an OK result of $97 with the help of the following.

Arcangel Accepted Images

No sales on Arcangel this month and I keep on uploading. Some potential book covers presented themselves with the urban snow scenes from the recent winter-storm (Filomena) in Madrid. A total of five images accepted this month.

I’ve started some freelance writing for StockStudio.io and published a fun little article on Best Places to Sell Stock Photos – Transitioning to Book Cover Photography – check it out!

Alamy Live News is probably a waste of time (for me)

Staying on topic of the winter storm, I thought it was a good idea to upload some images from the storm to Alamy Live News (as well as Rex Features, now Shutterstock Editorial).

I made the application to the Alamy Live News team and only received a reply 17 hours later, thus rending the “breaking news” completely useless. I’ve written extensively about time is of the essence when it comes to uploading breaking news images.

What’s the point of Alamy Live News? There is no point.

Guardian of the Poor keeps Contributors Poor

Millions of people viewed my composite of a drone over an airport due to being featured on the Guardian of the Poor newspaper story entitled, “The Mystery of the Gatwick Drone“. Unsurprisingly the earnings earned ensured that whoever licenses to the Guardian via Alamy remains poor.

Gross price, so net price would be a whopping $3.26

Rex Features / Shutterstock Editorial

Whereas, Shutterstock Editorial have images up and ready for clients within a few minutes after upload. Prices are great as well. Here are my latest images uploaded this month of the snowstorm:

Link to my Breaking News portfolio over at Rex Features / Shutterstock Editorial

More recently, upon spending some time in Portugal during these more interesting times, I ventured close to a hospital and gathered some pics of the commotion.

Third wave is hitting Portugal hard…

Poor showing at Adobe Stock

Very poor month at Adobe Stock with only $34 on 0.75c/download. They should rebound.

$6 for this urban farming concept, captured in Milan, Italy

New macro Lens! 105mm Macro

I felt like treating myself this month with a brand new premium lens to add to my collection. Settled for the 105mm F2.8 prime lens from Nikon, which was on sale for 926 Euros (will take many months to pay off with my current microstock earnings but I don’t care).

Also a great portrait lens…which I’m keen to experiment soon with improving lighting conditions. What has impressed me most is the shallow depth of field, see below an example:

Uploaded to Arcangel as a potential book cover

DepositPhotos Contributor Royalties Change

Well, unsurprising after Shutterstock’s shocking payment schedule change, other small agencies are sheepishly following the trend. Latest turd to do so is one of the better earning minnows, DepositPhotos. See below the change (about a 12% reduction in effective earnings):

Before on left with after on right

Golden Turd of the Month Award

This was a particularly difficult month choose a turd as there were TOO MANY!

The criteria I use to select the turd of the month is relatively complex and includes some of the the following factors:

  • Well below average revenue for a longish period (I’ll usually let the agency off the hook if it’s a one-off month) – most important consideration;
  • Lots of crazy weird rejections;
  • Teaming up with one of the stupid free-download sites;
  • Something turdy an agency does like change the change the contributor agreement to the detriment of contributors, such as loosening licensing restrictions like SS did with the new payment schedule.

So with the above in mind, I’ve had no choice but award the coveted Golden Turd of the Month Award to….


Hey, that’s my pic (which sold for peanuts)!

Spotted my images this month in some places, which were for the most part sold for 10cent subs on Fuckerstock, which will soon lead me to the unemployment office.


Here’s a slideshow of my recently-spotted:

That’s it for this month, nothing more to report. Hope that February will be better…honestly, it can’t get any worse….

Is Microstock still worth it in 2021?

I can categorically say no, it’s not worth it unless those consider it some sort of hobby. In my case, I’ve relegated this side-hustle to a sort of a fun past-time to upgrade some gear once upon a time as discussed above and if there’s a bit left over to spend on travel (whenever possible, hopefully soon).

There’s more money to be made picking up loose change in supermarket shopping carts or turning cans/bottles over to recycling centres for a few quarters.

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 (mid-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. Sad times, we measure our success by assessing wether the damage was too big or bearable
    My turd of the month goes to Alamy as well.
    4 sales, each sale was 25 cents, 15 cents net.
    Overall 60 cents net from 10.000 images portfolio.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s now 2 months in a row that I didn’t make payout for Shutterstock (not seen since 2014)… I’m preemptively declaring SS turdburglar and douchenozzle of the year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have disabled my account at 15 jenaury 2021 in SS. I was 75% down against lenuary 2020. Newest photos in ss older times just rejected. Look at.. Keep upload on adobe. 35% up. The total income is down like yours. Keep working something will do. After covid.. think positive. Stop ss. Kostas greece

    Liked by 1 person

    • This would be interesting. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve approached publications directly and don’t have enough data to compare.

      Last time I did it in 2015, I earned 120 euros for a series of breaking news images in the Netherlands.


  4. Hi Alex

    It was an awful month for me too. It’s difficult to find the motivation to shoot and upload with these very poor sales

    But what’s Shutterstock Editorial? Is it different from the editorial images we’ve been submitting to SS for years?


  5. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am having problems with your RSS. I don’t know why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS problems? Anyone that knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!


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