May 2022 Brutally Honest Earnings Report – Special Drone Edition Continued

Welcome to the May 2022 detailed monthly report where, as usual, I’ll focus on all my stock earnings for the month. Overall, it’s been a busy May particularly with loads of drone content produced, including the following top-down bird’s eye view:

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.

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 or I’ll settle for the DJI Mini 3, by clicking on the following link below:

-> Support the Brutally Honest Blog! <-

May Highlights

Super busy month with four major highlights here on the blog!

Also, happy to promote Adam Melnyk’s blog post at BevisGear’s site on How to do a Moving Timelapse. I certainly learned quite a few things with some excellent tips.

Creating Drone Clips that Sell – Insight from Peter Chigmaroff, Director at OverFlightStock

So I mentioned in April’s report that I begun submitting my drone clips exclusively to OverFlightStock. So far so good, I have 62 up for sale on there for prices much more interesting than you would find at the micros. In fact, on average about 3/4x more.

Getting some feedback on my clips

Another benefit of signing up to OverFlightStock is a direct line with the Director, Peter Chigmaroff, who I interviewed last year. This month, Peter has kindly given me some super specific feedback on my uploaded clips, which he’s given consent to publish. Just imagine getting any kind of bespoke feedback at the micro agencies – never gonna happen.

Hi Peter, I would appreciate it if you offer tips/feedback on the initial batches? So far I’m doing more simple movements. But I can also start doing hyperlapses, etc. 

Your tech specs are good. 23.98fps at 4k UHD. Your movements are good. You don’t need a lot of fancy flying in this business. Hyper-lapses are not that popular. Drone operators love them but we rarely see requests for them. Day to night and night to day time-lapses are your best bet if you want to do these.

Would you suggest I upload less location-specific content…more generic in nature? For instance, unidentifiable fishermen, coastline, boats?

Locations can vary a lot. When you are at a seashore, get a shot relatively low to the water but that you feel is safe, flying straight out to sea and another shot flying straight back to shore. These all look different depending on the day and location so getting them each time is worthwhile.

Never spend a lot of time on one feature. Try and make your shots all appear differently. Your shots of the people have a low chance of sale only because they will qualify as recognizable. Harbours are hit and miss. Occasionally we will see requests to include a marina or boats but not often. Industrial harbours are much more popular. 

I see in your home landing page screenshots from various US TV serials that are popular. What kind of content sells there? A local city aerial, or something generic like a day to night time lapse, or a top river, a green forest? Or whatever else I could shoot? Do these serials buy urban or rural content? 

A lot of the aerial transitions that you see in shows is stock. Good nature locations is as popular as cityscapes. And when you are by a road, get a shot or two car tracking. Just follow a car for a few seconds. Any angle that is comfortable in an urban or rural setting. Keep it smooth and it is okay for the car to enter and leave the frame. Small towns are a good idea to include. Industry. Homes close up if you can get a property release.


Super cool advice from Peter, many thanks, that I trust will be useful in your own drone business.

Further Drone Studying

The studying never stops it seems, together with improving my skills as a drone pilot. So far, according to the DJI App, I’ve racked up close to 7 hours of flight time and haven’t crashed once, although have had some close calls with seagulls.

Drone Compliance in 2022 = Huge Headache

Here in Portugal (which applies to the rest of the EU), I’ve painstakingly gone through all the administration to ensure that I’m as compliant as I could be before taking off to avoid any legal issues. However unlikely, disasters can happen and if my drone hurt someone, damaged property or somehow ended up where it shouldn’t be, I could be in hot water. Just a quick search on YouTube at some of the crashes and it’s a cause for concern for authorities.

A1/A3 Certificates Obtained

Therefore, I’ve gone through the trouble of studying -> passing the theoretical A1/A3 online exam and registering my bird on the Portuguese national agency website Autoridade Nacional da Aviação Civil (ANAC), as well as an operator. However, the compliance doesn’t stop there.

Obtaining flight authorizations = pure joykills

One of the requirements in Portugal to legally fly a drone is to request ahead of time authorisation from the Autoridade Aeronáutica Nacional (AAN) each and every time you wish to fly.

Although AAN have responded quickly (usually within two days), some of the responses have been less than satisfactory. For instance, one request was to fly up to 60 metres and a distance of 400 metres but was conditionally approved at only 30 metres and 150 metre radius:

Nanny State with unreasonable rules…

Another request was outright denied on grounds of “national security”:

Ugh, Nanny State!

Tarkan Akdam’s experience flying legally in Portugal

Another pilot, Tarkan Akdam, blogged about sending out multiple requests for authorisations to fly in Sintra and outskirts of Lisbon and most were denied by AAN, he discusses the experiences of jumping through multiple hoops in this three-part series.

Small rant, Bizarre rules

Obtaining all the clearances is challenging and authorities are taking a super strict approach to drones. I’m not planning to film NATO bases to hand over the information to Russian spies…and there are many such bases in Portugal. In fact, detailed aerials are all publicly available on Google Maps anyway…


We should all make efforts to be compliant but when the authorities enforcing the rules are completely unreasonable it can be challenging and the hobby/profession becomes a pain. Worse of all, we should all expect that rules to become more strict in Europe.

Other drone pilots, what has been your experiences?

I’m curious if other drone pilots within the EU have had similar experiences when requesting authorisations within your respective Member State – please comment below. OK, rant over…

Onto the A2 License for greater freedom

Outside the authorizations, the next step in my drone journey is obtaining my A2 license. If I had purchased a drone that weighed less than 250grams such as the DJI Mini 2 or 3, I could fly up to 50 metres from “uninvolved people” / property (within the A1 category). No regrets though as I’m super happy with my 2s, particularly the resolution of the stills and how it handles windy days.

However, as I have a drone that weighs just over 500 grams (greater risks if it crashes, especially on someone’s head), I must operate within the A3 category which means a ridiculous 150 metres away from people / property! This is far from ideal, especially if I’m looking to monetize my bird for commissioned jobs, such as real estate (yeah, right I can live off stock income).

Staying far away from people in Cascais, Portugal

A2 Assessment soon!

Therefore, I’m embarking to undertake my A2 license which would allow me considerably greater freedom to operate, such as getting up to 5 metres from “uninvolved people” / property, at low speed mode. Or 30 metres at normal speed. Such a huge difference that would make!

This qualification isn’t so straightforward as in early June I’ll have to invest a few hours at a physical location for a sit-on theoretical assessment (for which I have to do quite a bit of studying), followed by live assessment with my drone. Will obviously provide updates as and when.

Hey, that’s my drone pic!

Meanwhile, back to study…and funny that in one YouTube video about the A2 license, “hey, that’s my pic!”

Enough about drones, let’s move swiftly onto my usual detailed earnings for the month:

Detailed Earnings

As always, starting first with stills:

AgencyNumber of Images in port
(images added May)
Net Revenue for May (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Alamy13,517 (34)6510
Arcangel (RM-exclusive)1,495 (63) 00
Adobe Stock3,641 (3)480.67
Creative Market1,574 (17)00
DepositPhotos6,960 (53)130.34
Dreamstime7,148 (28)130.59
EyeEm336 (17) – Partner Program only0.06 lol0
Freekpik51 (9)90.08
Fine Art America690 (0)2512
iStock (Apr 2022)7,270 (41) 1540.93
Robert Harding (Q1 2022 monthly average) – exclusive386 (0)30.5
Shutterstock Editorial 898 (0)6915
Shutterstock10,752 (14)1940.68
Pond51,796 (0)00
Photo4Me354 (1)00
SignElements1,257 (5)2N/A
Wirestock1,720 (6)41
Total 574 


AgencyNumber of clips in port
(added May)
Net Revenue for May (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock453 (26)00
Pond51,643 (21)00
iStock229 (14)0.14 lol0
OverflightStock – exclusive62 (62)00
Shutterstock1,201 (16)7210
Wirestock88 (0)00
Total 72 

Totals: $646 in May vs $392 in April

Thoughts on the month

Finally things are going in the right direction with May producing a “poor” month instead of the “disastrous” month as most recently. 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, so hopefully June will produce an “OK” month finally.

I’m encouraged by improvements in earnings at iStock and Shutterstock. Freepik also earned $9 on just 51 images in the first month, which is pretty good with many of the sales coming from this metaphor for the Microstock industry!

However, I’m disappointed with no footage sales at Adobe Stock Pond5, where combined I have over 2,000 assets.

Now, let’s go through each of the major agencies in more detail.

Alamy: Slight improvement

After more months than I can recall, at least May improved slightly with 10 sales earning me a net $65, with the following highlights making up the bulk of the sales:

Adobe Stock: Continued continued continued continued continued disappointment…

Adobe Stock and Pond5 are just two agencies that I just can’t get any momentum and May was no different to previous months with very disappointing results. The volumes just aren’t there even if the average download prices are quite high (close to $1/image).

Maybe they will repeat the Free Download scheme.

iStockPhoto: Finally a decent month

After God-knows how many very turdy months, iStock finally produced a decent month at $154 with a super healthy average of 90cents/download. Two large sales to report that totally skewed the average on the upside, with the first earning me $49.60.

St maximilian church and isar river summertime, Munich, Bavaria, Germany.

The second significant sale was captured in Venice and earned me $22.50:

Eye of Providence, inside triangle interlaced with circle above doorway of building in Venice, Italy – It represents the eye of God watching over humanity, or divine providence

Historically, things were looking quite bleak. Anyway, it’s only one month, I fully expect that June will go back to those depressing numbers (prove me wrong, iStock!):

Shutterstock: Quite Average

Two sales taken at Piazza del Duomo in Milan contributed to more than half of my earnings for the month at Shutterstock. From Winter to Summer!

On the footage side, a nice sale came in literally on the last day of the month earning me $47 of a simple shot of a ferris-wheel against a blue sky.

Link to clip

Shutterstock Editorial

Finally a decent sale over at Shutterstock Editorial (formally REX Features), for this image which earned me $65 ending up in one of France’s largest news outlets, Le Figaro:

Shutterstock acquire Pond5 – Exciting News!

We had some “Exciting News” this month with Shutterstock acquiring Pond5, one of the world’s largest video-first marketplaces for filmmakers and creatives. Also one of the few places left where contributors could set their own prices.

I’ve crunched some numbers, comparing my footage sales SS vs P5 and it’s clear that P5 is the winner in this battle, even if volumes are lower.

Details are still being ironed out, but it’s clear that this is bad news for contributors and puts further downward pressure on our hard-earned royalties.

Emeric Le Bars goes brutally honest!

Emeric Le Bars, one of the best in the industry for timelapse photography, asked Tom Crary, Pond5 CEO (for how much longer, nobody knows), some tough questions!

My thoughts on the interview

My thoughts on the interview is that from my legal background having worked on acquisitions, although Tom has tried as much as he could to be transparent, there is much he cannot say for legal reasons. Surely, Tom knows the plans that Shutterstock have with the existing assets on Pond5 and it’s not good news for contributors. All we have to do is take a step back and remember when Getty acquired iStockphoto and what that did to those earnings over at iStock. The same thing can also be said when Shutterstock acquired BigStock.

Interesting discussion over at the MicrostockGroupForum.

Mark R. gives his thoughts on the interview

Mark R. – Editorial Stock Footage Contributor, interviewed here back in April, gave his thoughts on the interview that he has kindly consented to share with you:

The more I watch that interview and the body language it says,  “You’re gonna get screwed”, Crary was at least honest in saying everything is an open question at this point, it is, he and the rest of the P5 crew are just Shutterstock employees now and probably not privy to the meetings and decision making being done at SS as how they plan to proceed with absorbing P5 but obviously there will be major cost cutting as there always is with a merger or acquisition.

Google for example is notorious for shutting down companies they acquire, usually in six months too so this truly is unknown territory, Crary probably doesn’t know anything at this point.

When I look at the facial expressions and the language Crary is using it reminds me of the other guys in the YouTube videos when they launched the exclusive program, shady and shifty, you can tell when someone is not being truthful, and if you look at Emeric’s reactions you can clearly see he knows he’s not been given straight answers, he knows because like any contributor he’s been screwed as well, we could all have no math education at all  but we know what we used to make and now it’s a small fraction of that and NONE of the answers the agencies are providing add up and the delicately avoid talking about the partners and wholesale deals and the revenue from that…….that’s the source of our massive losses…..that’s the one very sensitive thing that don’t want talked about and I think they’re all afraid of class action lawsuits if the truth ever got out.

Crary says business is good, it’s booming, there’s demand for stock, great….so where’s our revenue?, especially over COVID when travel was not possible?, stock should have been booming and it was but not for us because it was all going out the back door while we waited for customers to walk through the front door.

He talks about low priced and free content driving prices down, ok, so how about explaining how free and cheap make money for the agencies themselves?.  I have 10TB of editorial clips sitting on storage drives, if free paid the bills then why don’t I make a free site or post if for sale for free on various websites…….because a little kid running a lemonade stand would know that there’s no money in free.

Here you have the agencies saying , we need to drive down your prices, cheap cheap cheap is the way to go because oh look!, see all those free sites, that’s your competition….meanwhile the agencies finance or run the free sites themselves.  The real money is in the large volume deals that we don’t see. 

This Twitter thread from the Business Insider Tech magazine confirms what I’ve known all along about startups.

Mark R.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mark.

iStock goes on the attack

iStock / Getty pulled an interesting strategic move. Sensing that many Pond5 exclusive contributors are nervous about Shutterstock’s takeover, for the first time in a long time royalties are actually going up for iStock exclusive footage contributors and by quite a bit!

Interesting discussion over at the MicrostockGroupForum.

Pond5: No Sales to Report (Sad Bear)

Gone missing, again!

63 Accepted Images in Arcangel in May!

No sales to report in May 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. Here they are:

Hey, that’s your pic, Elijah

Also, so cool that when I was doing one of my usual market researches at the books section of a supermarket in Portugal, I spotted one of Elijah’s pics on the cover.

Arcangel loving my drone pics

It’s interesting to note that 25 out of the 63 images accepted this month are pics taken with my drone, mainly of the top-down bird’s eye view kind. I estimate that from the aerial batch something like 80% have been accepted which is much higher than my usual average of 30%. So yea, I’ll keep producing more of those especially since I let the drone do all the work!

Travel Guide by Fabio Nodari

Been chatting recently with Fabio Nodari, a friendly Italian guy who in 2014 made a culturally shocking move to relocate with his wife to Taiwan and then eventually China. He’s also a Travel Microstocker and has an interesting blog worth checking out with tips on where to visit and more crucial for us, how to monetize our assets when traveling. He also writes about how to sell your photos/videos as NFTs.

-> Fabio Nodari’s Travel Blog <-

Copyright: Fabio Nonari

Hey, that’s my pic !

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

The Poll is back!

Here are the results for April’s poll, with Pond5 leading the pack!

I’ll be back next month with the poll, so every two months I’ll get it up – one month Turd of the Month and another Golden Turd which would be the best Agency.

Until next time…

How did you do in May, please comment below. Hope you also witnessed a small recovery and you’re enjoying the start of summer!

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. First of all, thanks for your blog, it´s amazing. One question, I fly a Mavic Mini and I´m registered in Spain as an operator. This summer I will be going to Portugal, Do I need to register again in the Autoridade Nacional da Aviação Civil (ANAC) as an operator?


    • Hi JJ,

      You’re welcome.

      You won’t need to register again in Portugal as you’re already registered in Spain as an operator and EASA recognizes the registration across the European Union.

      What you would need to do though is request authorizations from AAN to fly, which I’ve described is a frustrating experience.

      Happy flying!


  2. Loved your info and article! I wish more people laid out earnings details. I left Getty and the Stock biz 3 years ago. Too much effort, zero support and declining earnings. Not a good combo. I am enjoying doing photos that I like and get more support and enjoyment from. I work a full time sales job that pays way more with benefits. Photography is a great hobby and a really lousy bizness as you know. However, kudos to you for keeping at it. Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post with lots of valuable information. I’m still interested in drone operator training, for photography and video but also, why not, as a future professional, given the direction of the microstock world…
    Thanks Alex!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Alex! I’ve just tried to send my portfolio to Arcangel and it was rejected, of course. I will try once again with some trite female silhouettes in red, but I was wondering if you actually think it’s worth it. The sales are worse every year according to your reports, and even though microstock agencies tend to throw us 10 cents for a picture, it is still 200 bucks at the end of the month. While Arcangel is very stable with its 0. Why are you still uploading to Arcangel?


    • Hi Vicky,

      Thanks for your message.

      Sorry to hear about your rejection, they are certainly picky and know what they want!

      I think it’s def worth it, I upload to them because I mainly enjoy creating these types of images (other than boring microstock) and they should begin selling regularly soon and for quite large amounts (on average).

      All the best – Alex


  5. Also, another question: have you tried to submit the same image twice to Arcangel? On Shutterstock and other microstocks rejections sometimes are weird, you upload again and it goes through. Have you tried the same with Arcangel? Some image that you think is really good but was rejected.


    • Hi,

      They encourage contributors not to upload rejected images on AC. I have gone back to previous batches, after many months/years, and tried something new. Has worked out well in some cases but in most cases it’s another rejection. Best to just shoot new content imo.

      All the best – Alex


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.