April 2022 Brutally Honest Earnings Report – Drone Special Edition

Welcome to the April 2022 detailed monthly report where as usual I’ll focus on all my stock earnings for the month. I’m also excited to share my first experiences as a drone pilot. Let’s get started!

Before we get started…

Supporting the 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 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 pastel de nata or a DJI Mavic Air3, by clicking on the following link below:

-> Support the Brutally Honest Blog! <-

As for the impressive DJI Mavic 3…

My first experiences as a drone pilot

After an eventful 30 months, which often felt like 30 years, I’ve bid my Madrid corporate-life goodbye. I’m finally back in sunny Portugal for a (long) sabbatical, where, among other endeavors, I’m also taking full advantage of my free time to learn how to operate my new Mavic DJI 2s drone, as well as obtaining all the compliance administration sorted in order to fly legally.

Overview of the EU drone regulations

Speaking about the regulations, if you’re based in the EU and considering purchasing/flying a drone, the following information may prove useful to be on the right side of the law:


How the regulations apply to my specific drone

As a summary, my drone is the DJI Mavic Air 2s, which weights 595grams and inevitably falls under the ‘Open Category’ classes C1/C2/C3 (subcategories A1/A2/A3). Worth noting that from January 2023 the rules will be changing in the EU in terms of the classifications (beyond the scope of this report).

At a starting point, after the pilot/operator registrations with national aviation authorities, are the A1/A3 online tests, which allows for quite restrictive flights as outlined above – main rule being to avoid deliberately flying over ‘uninvolved people’.

Eventually, my plan is to undertake the C2/A2 license would would allow me to operate with fewer restrictions (such as being permitted to operate at least 30 metres from ‘uninvolved people / and 5 metres at low super-speed). Currently, under the first step C1/A1 & C3/A3 licenses, I must maintain at least 150 metres from ‘uninvolved people’ and property.

Now that we got (some of) the rules out of the way, I’ll discuss my first flight.

First drone flight!

After loads of studying and watching hours upon hours of YouTube videos, I finally took the courage to fly my drone for the first time in the Algarve.

After a 15-minute hike, I managed to find a quiet spot far from people/property. I did my research before heading out (downloaded a Portuguese ‘Voanaboa‘ drone map app) and the air-traffic zone I would be flying was ‘close’ to Faro airport, thus restricting the height to a maximum of 30 metres (see below), which is quite low.

I was at the red dot, being at all times aware of the air-traffic zones around me

Happy to showcase my first-ever clip at sunset just outside Quarteira, Algarve, Portugal. Quite simple stuff as I get used to the controls. Just a basic forward motion towards the sunset, at only 20-25 metres above ground.

Gaining more flying experience and confidence

After a few more flights (always at remote locations), I’ve begun to have a better feel for the navigations and gimbal. As for the gimbal angles, I’m loving in particular the shooting straight down mode, which makes for great book covers.

Naughty Naughty me

As mentioned earlier, under the ‘Open Category’ I’m not allowed to fly over ‘uninvolved people’. But in the heat of the moment, this being a brutally honest blog and all, I just couldn’t help myself as it was too good of an opportunity to pass up when I spotted a couple strolling on the Algarve beach…naughty me! 🙂

The clip is from a super cool angle but I made a mistake and was too too short (only 3 seconds) as I pressed the wrong button (will still upload anyway). It’s also been shot in D-Log (unprocessed)…more on why later.

However, I made up for it with the following stills, which Arcangel has loved up, taking practically the whole batch. I’ve come a long ways from 95% rejection rates within a year!

Impressive stills resolution

In terms of resolution, I always shoot in RAW and one of the main reasons why I opted for a more professional drone (despite more compliance) other than the DJI Mini, for instance, was the option in shoot in high resolutions…in this case up to 5400px on the longest side, allowing me to crop in slightly as I did below to try to get more of the fisherman in the frame.

Slowly Mastering the remote controller

Gaining even more experience and confidence (hopefully not overconfidence), I’ve begun to think more about how to frame my shots for maximum commercial value. I suppose I’m one step ahead of most ‘drone newbies’ since I have quite a bit experience already with shooting standard stock footage, but of course this is much more complex situation as we’re dealing with changing altitude/pitch/yaw, etc.

DJI Mavic 2s user manual

Example of a more complex cinematic shot

The clip below (which I’ve colour graded) at first glance seems like quite a simple cinematic shot, but there’s a lot going on, for instance:

  1. A pause at the beginning and end of the clip, instead of an abrupt start/end. This, I’ve been advised numerous times, adds commercial value to the clip as makes its easier for a buyer to insert the clip within his/her storyboard;
  2. Going backwards smoothly;
  3. Descending smoothly to showcase the fixed fishing boats as they become larger in the frame;
  4. Avoiding birds/seagulls (they are proving to be by far the biggest challenge I’m encountering in Portugal!). See this tragic compilation of bird drone strikes on YouTube, as well as some good tips to follow if birds do start to get angry.

A still from the same scene:

So, I suppose that I’m making progress from that first clip in Algarve a month ago but of course still have a long ways to go…

Applied and accepted at Overflightstock

You may recall that a few months ago I interviewed Peter Chigmaroff, Director at OverFlightStock – Niche Aerial Photography/Footage Agency. Well, I got in contact with Peter mentioning that I’ve started using a drone and made the application to join Overflightstock.

Happy that I accepted under their Option2 (where they do all the post-processing work, hence why I shot that beach clip in D-log). I’ve sent them a batch and waiting to hear back on tips to improve, etc. Theo (bestravelvideo) is doing quite well on there and has close to 100 clips for sale.

Getting personalised coaching

My aim with contributing to Overflightstock, other than having sales above $2 as is currently happening at SS lol, is to have my own personal coach who will guide me on how to improve my technique, as Nash has been helping me at Arcangel. This in itself is well-worth it!

Other highlights this month worth discussing…

April Highlights

Two other highlights to discuss in April with the first being the exclusive interview with Canadian Mark R, Editorial Stock Footage Contributor, who was earning a steady income up until 2019 when his earnings collapsed and he has some ideas as to why.

Second up, love or hate them, Elijah asked Esmeralda Baños, Product Manager at Freepik, some interesting questions. Freepik is an image bank with its own production company that offers more than 10 million graphic resources, including vectors and stock photos for designers.

70 Accepted Images in Arcangel in April!

No sales to report in April but as I keep mentioning, this is a long-term game and I’m in not in a huge hurry (although my patience does have limits since I’m putting in a lot of efforts). Rather to keep focusing on uploading quality content.

Happy to report the following 70 accepted, which is very close to my February record of 73!

Also, guess who made the April spotlight that goes out to buyers (starting 1:06)!!! It’s a privilege to be featured among such great artists, including Abigail Miles for the feature, she was interviewed here last year.

Let’s move swiftly onto detailed earnings for all agencies I submit images to…

Detailed Earnings

As always, starting first with stills:

AgencyNumber of Images in port (images added April)Net Revenue for Apr (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Alamy13,476 (137)575
Arcangel (RM-exclusive)1,432 (70) 00
Adobe Stock3,641 (3)470.95
Creative Market1,572 (15)77
DepositPhotos6,907 (55)90.33
Dreamstime7,120 (50)100.59
EyeEm319 (12) – Partner Program only00
Fine Art America690 (0)00
iStock (Mar 2022)7,229 (20) 630.40
Robert Harding (Q4 2022 monthly average) – exclusive386 (1)121
Shutterstock Editorial
(formally REX Features)
898 (0)62
Shutterstock10,738 (11)940.33
Pond51,789 (0)22
Photo4Me352 (1)00
SignElements1,252 (5)0N/A
Wirestock1,714 (39)60.55
Total 313 


AgencyNumber of clips in port
(added Apr)
Net Revenue for Mar (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock415 (9)00
Pond51,603 (14)6130
iStock215 (2)30.5
Shutterstock1,180 (3)157
Wirestock80 (0)00
Total 79 

Totals: $392 in April vs $334 in March

Thoughts on earning just $392 this month

After disastrous February and March, at least April was a small improvement but still deep in the “turd-zone” in terms of earnings. As mentioned many times, anything below $800/month at this stage in the game is pretty much a waste of time (when thinking of this as a viable business).

Shutterstock in freefall

Most shocking of all has been Shutterstock’s demise, producing a first-time-ever, at least since I’ve started tracking (and probably ever), RPI low of an average of 30cents/download. Ouch!

Average RPI/download at SS in the past year…

Looking at the other major agencies, the RPI has remained historically relatively stable, particularly at Adobe Stock.

As for absolute $ earned, at only $94 for the month, this has been the second-worst month in the past 6 years. God knows how many fewer images I had on here in 2016!

Some positives, at least

Thinking about the grand scheme of things, outside of earnings, it was a great month as 70 book cover images added on Arcangel was a superb effort and I’ve started to produce some drone content which should start being licensed soon.

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

Alamy: Slight improvement

After more months than I can recall, at least April improved slightly with 11 sales earning me a net $57.

Own the blank page!

However, Elijah kindly shared me his results and he can’t say he had a good month at Alamy!

Adobe Stock: Continued continued continued continued disappointment…

April was almost identical to March and still very disappointing earnings at Adobe Stock as the volumes just aren’t there even if the average download prices are quite high.

iStockPhoto: Continued continued continued continued disappointment…

Another quiet month (March) at iStock with only $63. Only two relatively small yummy sales to report.

Shutterstock: Extremely disappointing

As mentioned earlier, extremely disappointing month at Shutterstock with the lowest Return Per Download that I have ever seen at 30cents/average/download. That place is going from bad to worse. No sales above $3 to report.

Goodbye Shutterstock Editorial (formally REX Features)

Sticking to the theme of just how disastrous Shutterstock is proving to me, I’ve formally stopped uploading my breaking news type images to Shutterstock Editorial / formally REX Features as the prices are just too low, especially for the risk I’ve been taken.

For instance, shooting minors outside a vaccination centre in Madrid to earn just 60cents is disgusting and just shows how far the industry is going down the dumps. Also, check out the royalties I’ve been earning on my “premium” editorial content!

You can see security heading towards me and I managed to escape on my bike!

So if and when I do shoot ‘breaking news’, I’ll put them up on Alamy Lives news instead.

Pond5: The Dancing Bear was hibernating!

After hiding for 4 months he has finally been located!

After god knows how many months, the Pond5 dancing bear has been located. Appears that he was hibernating during the winter and woke up super hungry in the springtime producing two noteworthy appearances!

Hey, that’s my pic !

Spotted the following 8 pics this month in use this month!

The Poll is back!

Until next time…

How did you do in April, please comment below! Hope it wasn’t as disastrous as mine!

Stick around as next month I have a couple of interviews lined up. You’ll also hear much much more about how I’m getting on with my drone.

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. 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.

Most recently I’ve gone all in on submitting book cover images to Arcangel Images. Oh and also recently purchased a DJI Mavic 2s drone and taking full advantage.

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. Great information, Alex. I wonder if a USA pilot license is accepted in Europe. I’ll have to investigate! One tip. I find that if you remove the little sticks from the controller and just use your thumb on the dome of the gimbal itself, it makes the drone easier to control. Worth experimenting with.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alex, what an informative and refreshingly honest blog. Love the drone piece, I am about to follow in your footsteps learning how to fly mine (in a very much deserted area). Came over to read your blog from your link on the Alamy forum (Celluloid Hero)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent and fascinating images from your Mavic DJI !!! Thanks for sharing! clever idea the Google maps.
    I would suggest the Pocket 2 DJi to complete your hardware: extra small, extra smooth video clips and high res panos. I bring it always with me 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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