April 2021 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to the April 2021 detailed monthly report during these increasingly strange and desperate times! Finally, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, as the vaccines are (slowly) being rolled out…but boy is it taking long!

If you’re interested to see how I did in my March 2021 earnings, click here. In fact, you can see all my earnings going back to February 2019! For a perspective on a veteran within the industry, check out Steve Heap over at BackyardSilver’s April report.

People eating and drinking on the Main street (Calle Mayor) with curious buildings, street cafes – Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain

Covid April Blues

I’ve had a busy April despite falling ill with Covid for two weeks or so (all good now). Hope you’re all keep safe! I guess it was inevitable even with all the precautions…anyway.

This whole Covid episode made me realise just how important it is for me to take care of my physical health and I’m really looking forward, if possible, to get back to training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mat (making sure that my arm is intact)…perhaps I’ll head to an MMA gym and see what they’re up to and hopefully they will let me shoot.

Please Buy me a Coffee!

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.

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!

Busy Brutally Honest Guy – Many Articles & Interviews Published in April!

Despite the annoying bug, I’m happy to share with you below two interviews I published this month, as well as a blog post on my Arcangel rejections. Really enjoying putting together these interviews and many more coming up – (next one up is with Doug Jensen), here’s a link to all within the series.

Interview with Damian Nigro, Poker Photographer

Interview with Mat Hayward, Adobe Stock Artist Evangelist

Making Sense of 95% Rejection Rate at Arcangel Images (Book Covers)

One person I should interview lives in Salamanca…

Dangers of Street Photography, featuring the King of Salamanca

The other day I received a funny/sad email out of the blue from supposedly a street-painter in Salamanca who spotted his own pic (or most likely one of his contacts spotted and contacted him). The two images below were captured during one of the legs of my epic 2008 Iberian adventures, so funny it took him so long to reach out!

Anyway, here are the two pics of him but as you can see he’s barely identifiable:

Wide shot with the Plaza Mayor in the background
Closer up

Spanish Law on Shooting Strangers in Public

Being the boring lawyer that I am, I decided to search the Spanish law on street photography and turns out that Spain is one of the most restrictive countries in this matter. Apparently, taking photographs is considered an invasion to privacy (even in public places) and permission is required, with some exceptions.

This obviously throws the whole idea of capturing and submitting editorial photos in a legal mess, but as the risk is very small it’s not something I would worry about…in fact, a quick search in Alamy related to: “Spain, street” returns tens of thousands of hits.

Alamy results on Spanish street photography

Here’s a quick resource on Spanish Privacy Law capturing strangers in public.

Privacy Laws in Italy

Apparently, Italy has similar restrictions to Spain. A few months ago Alamy Contributor Relations contacted me out of the blue with the following email after they received a complaint of an image I captured in public of a kid playing in the snow.

No issues there and the images were duly removed. I suppose this would be the worst-case scenario.

Aggressive Shepherd-Painter on the attack!

Pastor (which means shepherd) was upset that I took the pic and was selling it. Instead of asking me for a copy (at best) of the pic or at (at worst) asking nicely for me to remove from the pic from sale, he started threating me in both English and Spanish.

Here’s some of the exchange (I’ve obviously scratched sensitive details):

Exchange with the friendly painter from Salamanca

Little bit of courtesy goes a long ways

You know what, if he was only a little bit polite / friendly with me and asked nicely I probably would have removed the images with no issues (they’ve never sold anyway).

But he was an idiot so I look forward to hearing from his lawyer (this being a civil matter and all)! Cabron!

This post has generated an interesting discussion over at the MSG forum regarding the legality of shooting strangers in public

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

First for stills….

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added Apr)Net Revenue for Apr (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF5,021 (0)20.25
Alamy12,694 (197)17211
Arcangel997 (2)00
Adobe Stock3,551 (2)400.75
Bigstock3,870 (0)20.27
Creative Market1,519 (0)99
DepositPhotos6,623 (0)130.36
Dreamstime6,867 (0)100.51
EyeEm277 – (Partner)00
Fine Art America6901515
iStock (Mar)6,907 (0)880.43
Robert Harding384 (0)00
Shutterstock Editorial829 (0)1818
Shutterstock10,722 (0) 1700.55
Pond51,741 (3)22
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me325 (0)00
SignElements1,213 (0)22
Wirestock648 (89)31
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 546 

Total: $546 (vs $518 in March)

As for clips, very disappointing…

AgencyNumber of clips in port (added Apr)Net Revenue for Apr (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock385 (0)00
Pond51,492 (7)00
iStock180 (0)83
Shutterstock1,143 (0)82
Total 16 

I’m seeing super disgustingly low prices on clip sales, more on this later on…

Just about sums it up….

Looking at the long-term (major agencies):

Alamy overtook Shutterstock for the first time ever!

Fantastic month at Alamy, finally

Finally, Alamy produced a fantastic month with 15 sales earning $172. In addition, interesting to report that for the first time EVER, Alamy beat Shutterstock in earnings (even if it was just by $2)! It was inevitable and I’m only hoping that Adobe Stock will soon overtake Shutterstock in second place.

The bulk of my earnings at Alamy came from just one image that earned me a sweet $273.65 (gross).

Rights Managed Exclusive Editorials on Alamy
I’ve been trying a very old strategy. I place my editorials all on Alamy as Rights-Managed exclusive which would potentially earn me 50% on direct sales and 30% on distribution sales. Behind this strategy is avoiding seeing very very low sales on Shutterstock and the other minnows. At least Alamy, as seen this month, CAN produce some bigger sales. Therefore, this month I uploaded 172 images to Alamy as Rights-Managed exclusive.

Where do the generic commerical images go?

The more generic commercial images I’ve been placing on Wirestock (which will inevitably end up on Alamy). But, most importantly, they do the keywording so the less time I can spend on that, the better…in return to giving them just 15% of earnings.

Speaking of other agencies, I highly recommend you to check out the article to get a feel for the market at the moment: Best Stock Photo Sites: Ultimate Guide with 20 Stock Photo Websites! (2021 Update).

New Normal Boring month at Shutterstock

Shutterstock produced a very boring new normal month at only $170 ($178 if you count clips), which means an RPI of 55cents in line with previous months. Broke another record, not a single still or clip uploaded to SS during the whole month of April, in a way I’m boycotting them…

No huge standout results except perhaps this fine artsy shots of tables outside a restaurant in Lucca, Italy which earned me $15.

As for clips, the saddest part is how two timelapse videos earned me $1.68 and $2.14 respectively. Gross!

Adobe Stock continues to struggle for me

Despite some very encouraging words from Mat Hayward, Adobe Stock Evangelist, I’ve really been struggling as of late on there with a series of months below even $50. Not quite turd territory but not far! To be fair, I only managed to upload 2 images on there compared to Alamy’s 197, for instance. So I’m probably very much to blame for the poor return.

AS best-sellers in April (not many high priced)

Not much to boast about…some top-sellers. Funny, how the same huge sale on Alamy also sold on AS for much less. Just goes to show that Alamy buyers probably don’t shop around

Very poor month at iStock

Another poor month at iStock with only $88 ($96 if you count clips) earned for an average RPI of 0.43cents. With all the border restrictions due to Covid, it was unsurprising that an image of a cross-border was used to illustrative an article.

In this case, they were images of the border crossing into Portugal (real) and the similar image of crossing into Belgium (fake, as manipulated with Photoshop).

Portugal x Belgium

Spotted the Portugal one used in this news piece:

As for clips, two sold at iStock:

Benagil, Algarve, Portugal sold for $7 – link to clip

The next clip was captured in Retiro Park, Madrid and sold earning me a whopping 61cents lol wtf?!

Link to clip

Only 2 Arcangel accepted images

I discussed in a blog post how Arcangel rejected some 95% of my images. So this month has been somewhat disappointing with only two of the following images accepted.

One sale coming soon!

Nevertheless, happy to report that one image was used as a book cover. Still waiting to hear how much I earned…

Brainstorming some new concepts to create

The airport + drone image that sold very hundreds was very much a 2019 trend, in light of Gatwick Airport being shut down for 2 days over a suspected drone.

Facial recognition instead of a boarding pass

These days, I’m looking to explore and create concepts related to travel during Covid and these include facial recognition in place of traditional boarding passes, obviously to avoid any sort of touching. A quick search on Shutterstock indicates that there isn’t too much on offer, so may just be a perfect time to start creating…

Link to this search

Hey, that’s my pic!

As usual, I spotted the following 5 images being licensed by buyers. Interesting to see the end-usages when thinking about creating concepts. Remember that beautiful images without a useful purpose are pretty useless as stock photos.

Golden Nugget of the Month

Hands down the Golden Nugget of the month award goes to Alamy! I guess after 8 months we made up, finally… they were just teasing me for a few months….you’ll see how this upward trend will continue!

Golden Turd of the month

Def breaking up with these two. This month two Turds were neck-on-neck or I should say Turd stuck to Turd…therefore, it’s an honour to nominate both 123RTURDS and BIGTURDS as the winners! Both earned me a whopping $2 each in April! Wohoooo!!!

Congrats 123RF and BigStock!

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. Thanks for the updates, Alex! I hope it’s okay to ask this, but what has your experience been with Alamy on getting paid for those big sales? How long does it usually take for the balance to clear. I was about to give up on Alamy, but had a $125 (gross) sale in March, but it still hasn’t cleared. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Alex,
    Thank you for your entertaining post!
    Could you advise please how Shutterstock editorial is different from Shutterstock? Are these separate agencies? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Alex, thanks a lot for your detailed reviews, very much appreciated! In regard to Alamy: why Editorial files would require adding Rights-Managed “on top”.. ? (isn’t “Editorial” restrictive enough and allowing to use content without consent /release..?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anna,

      Rights-Managed editorial or Royalty-Free editorial are essentially the same in that the use cannot be commercial.

      I’ve selected Rights-Managed because, in theory, the royalties tend to be higher than Royalty-Free. Also, the use tends to be more specific and one-off. In addition, I can only opt out of “personal usage licenses” on a Rights-Managed, those have been bothering me for a long time and Alamy appeared to be turning a blind eye to misuse for a long time.

      Best regards,



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