October 2021 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome to the October 2021 detailed monthly report during these increasingly normal times (on the surface at least).

Goodbye Summer! Captured in Cascais, Portugal

October Highlights

October was super busy for me and highlights include:

  • Super useful/interesting chat with Nash Mascaro, Sales Director at Arcangel who served me a large portion of humble pie and valuable tips on improving my approvals/sales over at Arcangel. I’ve gone over the conversation over and over and happy to share with you: Nash’s 4 Tips on regular sales at Arcangel below;
Some pics I captured at the Golden Series poker tournament in Gran Via Casino, Madrid – great to be back shooting tournaments!

Let’s get started!

View of Gran Via in Madrid, Spain from the Casino Gran – one of the perks of shooting at this marvelous casino

Previous Earnings Reports

If you’re interested to see how I did in my September 2021 earnings, click here. In fact, you can see all my earnings going as far back to February 2019! The more data the better in my opinion to analyze whether I’m going in the right direction…and/or simply to see how far some agencies are willing to fk over contributors (and cut them loose).

Don’t miss out on updates!

So you don’t miss any of the monthly earnings reports and blog posts, register for the email news alerts!

Golden Turd Normination – September 2021

Congrats to Shutterstock for “winning” the coveted Golden Turd of the Month Award for September:

September 2021 results

Read until the end as you’ll have a chance to nominate the Golden Turd of the Month Agency for October!

Buy me a Drone*!

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. You may also notice that I REFUSE to run annoying ads!

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 DJI Drone, by clicking on the following link below:

-> Support the Brutally Honest Blog! <-

*(just kidding, the price of a coffee would suffice)

Future drone pilot! Got some practice at Manzanares el Real, Spain

New castle at Manzanares el Real, Spain with the Serra de Sierra de Guadarrama in the background (where some scenes from Conan the Barbarian were shot nearby)

Some Blog Posts Published in October

Busy brutally honest guy published three useful posts in October:

Summary of chat with Nash Mascaro, Sales Director at Arcangel – 4 Tips on More Sales

Together with recently revamping their site and introducing a useful contributor app, which includes dozens of tutorials by David Wall, Arcangel have started to directly reach out to some contributors, such as myself, and offer some guidance.

You may recall that a few months back I published a blog post where I vented that I was received a painful 95% rejection rate. Really working hard to bring the rejection rates down and Nash’s advice has proved extremely useful, which I’m happy to share parts.

So, let’s get started on Nash’s Top 4 Tips on How to Have More Book Cover Sales.

Nash’s Tip Number 1 – Really Think like a Designer – More Copy Space, please

I know that although I’ve mentioned this previously on a blog post, Nash really hit home that all decisions within an image need to be done deliberately with the end-product in mind, namely a physical book cover. Designers at book publishers are busy people and will scan through results very quickly and will dismiss images which don’t have basic elements they’re looking for.

One of the fundamental elements is obviously copy space…turns out that I was not providing enough and not at the right places. Nash recommended, if possible, providing plenty of copy space both at the bottom and top of the subjects, even if this means artificially creating pixels using photoshop!

Let me illustrate this copy space concept with an old image that I’ve re-worked with this concept in mind:

Tried to create the silhouette effect so the kids are not identifiable

Nash’s Tip Number 2 – Really Think like a Designer – It’s OK to shoot horizontals but be deliberate

Submitting horizontal images seemed like something to avoid and I did, however they may have a purpose other than designers cropping to make verticals. Nash provided some insight that horizontals may be used to wrap an image all the way from the cover, spine and back (obviously for physical books only). See the dimensions below.


Placing the subject on their side

With the above standard dimensions in mind, Nash advised that it’s best to shoot verticals but if you do decide to shoot horizontal for whatever reasons (perhaps the scene lends itself), think about placing the subject on either side of the frame.

With this newfound in mind, I re-worked the following old/new image and submitted for review:

Cyclist in Guincho, Cascais, Portugal

Nash’s Tip Number 3 – Really look at what is for sale

Nash strongly suggested to download the new Arcangel contributor app, where you’ll see the final book covers by Arcangel contributors. This will give you an idea of which themes/concepts that may be trending. Nash highlighted that one such ever-green theme is the “Thriller” market – think of young attractive woman running away in the distance during a storm (sometimes with a cityscape in the background) as below in the far left:

Some latest Arcangel final images on book covers

Look for inspiration

Another source of inspiration would be to visit the e-stores of WHSmith, Waterstones, or simply Amazon. Simply look for book covers under such themes as: Thriller / Crime / Horror which will feature many concepts that, as a contributor, you may use to develop your ideas (never copy literally). Keep in mind that the more famous the book/author, the larger the potential royalties.

Here are some results taken from WHsmith under “Crime, Mystery and Thriller”:

Or venture into your local bookshop and wander through the aisles at some of the best-sellers, you’ll see that many images are sourced from Arcangel, Trevillion, Getty, etc. I often do this hoping that maybe, just maybe I’ll spot one of mine! 😀

In addition, you’d do well to check out the work of some of the top-performers at Arcangel and see how their style has progressed over the years.

Nash’s Tip Number 4 – Arcangel only care about the best of the best

Nash kindly confirmed that Arcangel quality control has become tougher during the past year or so, as suspected. This is not hugely surprising as Arcangel simply want the best of the best in content to show their clients and in turn, license prices are at a premium. Therefore, Arcangel are simply not interested in generic content that would regularly feature in most microstock sites which are currently licensed for subscriptions. That’s why they’ve managed to keep their collection under 1million images, while the likes of SS have bloated the collection to 300million+.

In fact, Arcangel is the antithesis of Microstock in many ways and I need to “unlearn” some habits, such as avoiding to shooting generic commercial concepts that would lend itself to repeat sales. Instead, I’m focusing on creating imagery that is “storytelling” with strong uses of symbolism and metaphors.

The hint of the woman’s smirk is revealing of perhaps something more sinister going on…

Quality > Quantity ALWAYS

Nash reiterated that they rather receive a batch of “10 good images than 100 mediocre ones”. Therefore, my batches of 50+ images of the past where I’m just “throwing things against the wall and hoping some will stick” shall not be repeated.

With this in mind, I’m going to make a conscious effort to better-curate my images and then slow down my workflow when post-processing. Basically, stop being a “uploading Jack-ass”! By the way, this shot at the last poker tournament was accepted into their collection, which I’m very happy about:

Putting words into action

Since the chat I’ve re-worked the following and uploaded for review:

Latest submissions (thanks Theo for the 9th and 12th)

Embracing rejections

Honestly, as always, I don’t mind rejections as they offer immediate feedback on improving and I fully embrace the challenges ahead to up my game on my way to becoming a seasoned Arcangel contributor with regular sales, such as Abigail Miles. If you’re looking to diversify your portfolio / specialize in book covers, be prepared to work super hard and expect many rejections on your journey.

Many more tips provided

We spoke about much more, such as selecting suitable models & poses, intelligent uses of colours and more on sought-after concepts, which are beyond the scope of this blog post (which is really about my October earnings)…so for another time!

Arcangel staff are very approachable and if you have a question about your own port, highly recommend to reach out. Thank you, Nash for your insight and initiative to reach out!

Arcangel – 15 Images Accepted in October

Sticking with Arcangel, no sales to report in October, however, I’ve done well with 15 accepted:

In other news…

Shutterstock Closes its Popular Contributor Forum

Methinks that the main reason why Shutterstock won the award above is due to shutting down the fun/useful/usually-friendly Shutterstock forum, pretty much so they could control the narrative (including harboring copyright thieves)…taking a page out of 1984. Below is their “reasoning” in some sort of weird Corporate-Speak:

Maybe Google will be able to translate Corporate-Speak to English one day…

Terrible management decision and I wouldn’t be surprised if Shutterstock management would be capable to completely mess up an ice cream stand business in the Sahara with the donkeys they’ve hired.

Shutterstock Contributor Forum Alternative

All is not lost since there is now a “Murdered Shutterstock Forum Refugee” thread over at the MSG Forum.

Let’s get onto the meat of this report, my earnings for October…

Detailed Earnings

As always, starting first with stills:

AgencyNumber of Images in port (added October)Net Revenue for October (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
123RF5,021 (0)60.31
Alamy12,918 (56)575
Arcangel1,055 (15)00
Adobe Stock3,561 (1)741.37
Bigstock3,870 (0)20.38
Creative Market1,521 (2)00
DepositPhotos6,623 (0)110.27
Dreamstime6,867 (0)40.59
EyeEm278 – (Partner)00
Fine Art America6902512.5
iStock (September)6,933 (5)720.54
Robert Harding (Q2 2021 monthly average)385 (1)51
Shutterstock Editorial
(formally REX Features)
857 (0)00
Shutterstock10,726 (0) 2610.80
Pond51,746 (0)00
Picfair5,632 (0)00
Photo4Me332 (2)00
SignElements1,215 (1)2N/A
Wirestock1,366 (159)182
Direct SalesN/A00
Total 517 

Moving swiftly onto clips…

AgencyNumber of clips in port
(added October)
Net Revenue for October (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock386 (1)2323
Pond51,510 (13)4545
iStock185 (5)11
Shutterstock1,148 (5)3813
Total 107 

Totals: $624 in October vs $839 in September

Looking at the long-term (major agencies):

average month for 2021

Now, as usual, lets break it down with results for the major agencies…

Average month at Alamy

Unpredictable Alamy was predictably underwhelming in October with $57 net on 11 downloads, on the following where Portugal has been features heavily:

Alamy review over at the Xpiks blog

Elijah published an interesting Alamy review over at the Xpiks blog, worth checking out.

Sticking with Xpiks, check out details on their new 1.7 version.

Adobe Stock, decent month

Decent month at Adobe Stock with $97 earned. Best selling image included a flooded car during a flash flood in Brazil.

As well as a clip of a timelapse of a highway which earned me $23.25:

Link to clip

iStockPhoto – continued disappointment…

Extremely disappointing month (September) at iStock with only $73 and 54cents/download on average. Best-sellers included a silhouette of a man on a roof which earned me $9…FML, microstock:

Silhouette of an unidentifiable man on a roof next to a ladder with copy space.

Which I assume was used in this promotion...

After a few great months at iStock during the early summer, peaking in August it’s been super disappointing since….

Shutterstock – super month

Best month at Shutterstock since the Chinese virus took hold (April 2020), which gives me some hope that things are finally picking up…and $299 with 80cents average a download is pretty impressive.

This month’s success is mainly down to an extended license for the following, which earned me $77.

On the clips side, 3 for $38 for the same drone clip overlooking Madrid that my friend captured in August and has been selling regularly.

Fine Art America – 2 Sales

Haven’t uploaded any new images on FAA for what must be two years since my premium membership expired. Nevertheless, occasionally I receive some sales, such as two for this month for the following totaling $25 net:

Just one nice sale at Pond5

A repeat sale in October earning me $45 for the following sky timelapse which I would like to repeat sometime soon on a changeable-weather in the Autumn evening/night:

Hey, that’s my pic + 1 clip!

Spotted 8 of my pics here used in various publications…

Also, very cool that I spotted one of my sold clips for the first time ever….being used by an Angolan news channel:


Golden Nugget of the month

Although I’m impressed by Shutterstock’s recovery, bringing in the best month since April 2020, I can’t bring myself to nominate those turds as Golden Nugget for demolishing the popular/useful Contributor Forum.

Therefore, this month’s Golden Nugget goes to Arcangel images for having the superb initiate to reach out to me and offer me guidance on improving my work. Thanks again, Nash!

You Nominate the Golden Turd of the Month

We’re back and again you will nominate your Golden Turd of the Month Agency!

Until next time…

How did you do in October, please comment below!

Until next time and thanks for following the Brutally Honest blog!

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 my current corporate job ends (soon!). I’ve devoted eight 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


  1. Thanks for sharing. Interesting is the extract from the interview with Nash Mascaro. I will try to put his advice into practice. My October, waiting for Istock, less sales, for fewer images uploaded in the previous two months.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alex, great post! I am an Arcangel contributor, I am realizing lately they don’t include title or description anymore when they do the keywording. I think this is something really important. Did u notice this? do you include descriptions in your photos in Arcangel?




  2. Hi Alex, thanks for your post. You give me always a feeling of escapism when reading your posts. What a coincidence. Some of your approved pix on Arcangel are like we were on the same vibration level those days. Maybe I should try to submit some of my pix there. Greetings from Italy

    Liked by 1 person

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