February 2021 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to the February 2021 detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times! At least there appears to finally be light at the end of the tunnel. Seems like most of us will be able to travel relatively freely from the summer, I’m already making plans!

Typically Dutch scenes

Buy me a Coffee (or some octopus)!

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 those corporate clowns at Shutterstock shutting down my account for disclosing my sales on there.

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Loving my new 105mm macro lens

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

First for stills….

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added Feb)Net Revenue for Feb (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF5,023 (0)60.55
Alamy12,542 (28)14515
Arcangel975 (8)00
Adobe Stock3,540 (1)450.83
Bigstock3,870 (0)10.27
Creative Market1,517 (0)00
DepositPhotos6,600 (12)190.44
Dreamstime6,842 (0)260.54
EyeEm277 – (Partner)00
Fine Art America69000
iStock (Jan)6886 (8)810.43
Robert Harding384 (0)192
Shutterstock Editorial829 (0)00
Shutterstock10,713 (2) 1600.51
Pond51,736 (0)00
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me324 (0)00
SignElements1,213 (0)22
Wirestock472 (25)20.6
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 506 

Now for clips…

AgencyNumber of clips in port (added Feb)Net Revenue for Feb (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock381 (3)00
Pond51,484 (9)2929
iStock177 (1)33
Shutterstock1,141 (1)22
Total 34 

Total: $540 (vs $301 in January)

Looking at the long-term (major agencies)

Robert Harding – Q4 2020 Earnings Report

Robert Harding, apparently a premium travel stock agency as they describe themselves, reported on their Q4 2020 earnings. Haven’t uploaded anything new there for ages and still picking up some loose passive income change on my 384 images.

$64 for the last 4 months or $16/month average

As above, quite disgusting to see 1 and 2 cent commissions via Getty. Anyway, Robert Harding don’t impress me.

Strong month at Alamy, finally

After struggling for 10 months with average net sales of around $20 (including a Turd of the Month Award for January), Alamy finally pulled off a strong month at net $145 from 10 sales with the following sales, almost beating Shutterstock for the first time ever. Milan, Italy where I lived la bella vita from 2014-2018 featured heavily:

Back to uploading to Alamy Rights-Managed exclusively

I’ve one back to my original strategy of uploading most (with rest going to Wirestock) images to Alamy as Rights-Managed exclusive to avoid the very very low sales I’m reporting at the micros. The extra 20% in royalties just about swings it for me to make the decision. Will be back in a few months to report if this strategy bears any fruit.

Uploaded as RM exclusive at Alamy – “Everything will be alright” messages during the Covid-19 epidemic

Average month at Shutterstock

After a disastrous January, at least February produced an average (for the new normal) result with $162 on an average of 51cents/download (for stills). It’s a vast improvement on January ($79) but still well below the $314 earned in February 2020.

Two “major” sale to speak of, including:

$36.39 for this caipirinha shot overlooking Ipanema and Leblon beaches in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Saude!
A clean $30 for this summertime shot in Seville, Spain

As for clips, an HD sold for a whopping $2.60. Nothing else worth reporting from Shutterstock, just hope that March will show some improvements.

Oh nearly, forgot, I moved up a level and was blocked on their Twitter all on the same day lol

Adobe Stock is also struggling

Another frustrating month at Adobe Stock with only $45. In fact, the past 4 months have produced an average of only mid $50s. No sale above $3 to speak of. I’ll just assume it’s a bump no the road as I really expect great things from Adobe Stock in the coming months/years.

Best-seller for only $3. But nice to report that images from as far back as 2013 still still quite regularly. Back then I was living in the Netherlands

Average month at iStock (January 2021)

Nothing special to report at iStock in January with only $84 for 44cents/download and one small $3 clip sale.

Best-sellers for January 2021

Below average clip sales everywhere, both in volume and royalties

So far this year, very few (meaningful) clip sales to report all-around. My second clip for the year sold at Pond5 for $29. First time experimenting filming with the 300mm lens.

Link to clip

Total of 9 Arcangel accepted images

Despite some heavy rejections lately and no sales for a while, full steam ahead at Arcangel. Following 9 accepted images in February, making good use of my new 105mm macro lens, despite the hefty price I’m very happy with the investment.

Dreamstime Dream is coming true!

I left the best to the last as quite a decent month at Dreamstime as they’re on their to reach the status of a major agency as predicted in my dream in January 2031. $26 earned 54cents/download on average is pretty decent.

Hey, that’s my pic!

This month I’ve shortlisted the following five images I’ve spotted being used in the market.

Check out Cicero Castro’s Madeira Stock Photos

Happy to promote Madeira-based Cicero Castro’s new stock site, Madeira Stock Photos. Cicero is a fellow microstocker who looking for viable alternatives away from the usual microstock agencies. He has selected as a niche his home-island of Madeira, which offers some stunning nature and interesting culture that he will share with the world.

Best of luck, Cicero and I’ll be sure to report on how he’s getting on in a few months.

Update from Joas Souza of London Stock Photos

There appears to be a growing trend of contributors branching out on their own and I’ve recently interviewed Joas Souza, London-based architectural photographer as an example. After two months he has given me some good news that he has licensed his first few licenses keeping 100% of royalties.

Golden Nugget of the month

I’ve started a new normination where I nominate an agency that produced standout results. This month happy to award Alamy! Quite a comeback considering that they were awarded the Turd of the Month in January 2021! Despite being a hugely unpredictable agency, I have a soft spot for them and hope that they will capitalize on this great month and produce a fantastic March!


Golden Turd of the month

It’s with great pleasure that I nominate uber-turds, BigStock as the Turd of the month for falling to pay me even $1 from 3,870 number of images! It’s truly impressive how turdy they are and more impressive how they manage to stay in business.


Adam Melnyk has been impressing lately!

I leave this earnings report with an impressive clip by Adam Melnyk. You may recall I interviewed him a while back and he’s achieving excellent results with his clips and it shows. He will have a course out soon, I’m sure!

Speaking of clips, check out my latest interview with Timelapse specialist, Emeric Le bars!

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. The sad thing about Alamy is that 100+ net earnings on 10K+ images is considered ‘finally a good month’. I’m guilty in this approach too, but the truth is it is a bare minimum that you would expect on a big qiality port.
    In my ungrateful eyes, they are still pretty turdy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been reading Alamy´s forum and a lot of people have been getting 3 digit sales which I am very impressed to see.
    I haven’t sold in a while though, hardly any zooms.

    I have started with Arcangel and I am unimpressed with the way their keyworders are doing things. They keywords are quite bad and inaccurate. We have a chat in Telegram where we share all this between photographers. We are thinking that the keyworders are actually bots. How can a human being tag a middle age woman as a 10 yo boy?

    Anyway, still struggling to decide whether this photography path is any good atm, so frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sold my first ever shot at Alamy in February after 4 years……only have 70 images there so not surprising! Typical travel brochure shot of NL.BTW Alex….the Dutch woman in costume on bike using mobile phone would now get fined €95 for that little misdemeanor!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. problem with alamy is the amount of unpaid usage especially the newspapers the sum being the worst even the mighty times paying for digital usage and using half page printed spreads, el paiso uses a lot and pays whem caught, np resources checking whatsoever and the papers know it


  5. Thanks for sharing all of this info! I came across you while I was looking for success stories for Fine Art America and I have not really found any. I had an account with them years ago, uploaded several hundred images, had one sale in a year that did not cover the annual fee, and wound up deleting everything and closing my account. Recently I signed back up for the free account and I am wondering if it is worth the effort to jump back in. Still on the fence.

    I don’t know if it is because I’ve been with Alamy forever or because I’ve always been a regular uploader, it is the only agency where I make any money. I make a little bit at Pond 5 last year, but I might as well delete my small ports on the micros, I haven’t got a payment in years.

    All the best

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jim,

      I’m certainly not a success story at FAA lol Steve Heap at Backyardsilver has had quite a bit of success and written about it.

      It’s certainly a challenging time all-round but with travel picking up soon so should demand for travel images.

      All the best,



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