February 2023 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to my detailed February monthly report where, as usual, I’ll be focusing on my overall earnings for the month and other industry-related news. After a busy six weeks in Brazil, I’m back to relative calm in Portugal and enjoying some of that magical winter light while it lasts. Let’s get started!

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February 2023 Highlights

After a super hectic January schedule, things have calmed down this month but there are still some cool highlights:

Wirestock “Exciting News” Update

Don’t think that just because I may sing praises to one agency or another one month if they start to “misbehave’, they won’t hear it from me!

This month, Wirestock pulled a Getty/Shutterstock style nasty corporate move by announcing that they’ve getting rid of the free submissions/keywording for the vast majority of contributors – those with a lower than a 85% acceptance rate.

Rinse and repeat business model

So, it’s the usual tune of a new entrant in the market full of excitement and wanting to change the “unfair contributor paradigm”. Many contributors sign up and think that this time will be different. A few years pass and they slowly start doing away with the very benefits that made contributors sign up and eventually there are little benefits left.

Microstock Capitalism

I’ve worked in corporate settings for a long time and don’t have a naïve way to look at this industry (anymore). Wirestock, and all microstock agencies, have stakeholders that they have to report to every-so-often. These stakeholders are pure capitalists and simply want to see a return on their investment. Harsh words are uttered at board meetings and threats made to pull out investment, etc. Eventually, well-intentioned decision-makers must make difficult choices and try to squeeze contributors (some more) to keep investors happy. Rinse and repeat when a new entrant comes to the market and eventually reality sets in.

Lack of notice annoys me

So, the gist of the change is that contributors with above 85% all-time rating will still be able to upload 300 images a month for free to be keyworded and distributed. I’m all-time at 74.6% mainly due to dumping hundreds of leftover images to Wirestock, but had I known about this change a few months back I could have easily only uploaded more quality content that would be almost-guaranteed to be accepted to ensure I’m above threshold. Anyway, they caught me by surprise there.

Cynical Microstock community

As a community of microstock contributors, we’ve become battle-hardened to these types of “exciting news” and this certainly won’t be the last. This is almost nothing by comparison to what Shutterstock did in the middle of the pandemic and trying to frame it as somehow something positive for contributors. Also, I don’t think this merits such drastic action as you shouldn’t work with Wirestock anymore because anything I got from them was a bonus especially since they did all the admin and only took 15%.

Anyway, to get a hold of the pulse of the community, there’s a lively discussion going on at the MSG Forum.

Now let’s move onto my detailed earnings for the month…

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

Image Earnings

AgencyNumber of Images in port
(images added Feb)
Net Revenue for Feb (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Alamy14,735 (102)336
Arcangel (RM-exclusive)2,221 (71) TBD 1st week MarTBD 1st week Mar
Adobe Stock4,148 (111)640.67
Creative Market1.644 (0)00
DepositPhotos8,070 (72)110.34
Dreamstime8,151 (73)130.34
EyeEm392 (0) – Partner Program only0Peanuts
Freekpik718 (7)100.07
Fine Art America373 (0)1212
Gallerist2,488 (98)00
iStock (Jan 2023)8,067 (84) 820.69
Robert Harding (Q4 2022 monthly average) – exclusive447 (40)152
Shutterstock Editorial 923 (0)00
Shutterstock11,321 (39)920.32
Pond51,816 (0)00
Photo4Me393 (0)00
SignElements1,338 (10)0N/A
Wirestock1,960 (0)4N/A
Total 366 

Clip Earnings

AgencyNumber of clips in port
(added Feb)
Net Revenue for Feb (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock800 (46)4916
Pond52,118 (91)0
iStock548 (45)22
OverflightStock – exclusive92 (0)00
Shutterstock1,575 (69)16582
Wirestock102 (0)00
Total 216 

Totals: $582

Anyhow, now, let’s go through the results for some of the individual agencies.

Salamis (Shutterstock + Alamy + iStock)

Alamy is pretty useless and as usual was the fatty part of the Salamis sandwich.

Finally some decent clip sales

Shutterstock, on the other hand, produced a quite strong month mainly due to a surprising very mediocre $150 clip sale of some planes at Heathrow airport from back in 2019. Just goes to show that some buyers care more about the subject-matter than technicals – see blown highlights below:

Link to clip

Two clip sales at Adobe Stock

As for iStock, pretty average month.

Encouraged by drone sales, but depressed by average prices

So, the good news is that my aerial drone pics ARE selling, but the horrible news is that they aren’t be sold by much, especially at SS. I crunched some numbers for sales this year alone.

Robert Harding seems to be a good alternative for me when it comes to aerials

So, with the above pathetic average sale prices in mind, I’ve even more motivated to upload my aerial drone shots to RH and they’re accepting quite a few – link to my port on there here.

71 images accepted Images at Arcangel!

After a super record January where I had 138 images accepted, February was naturally more subdued with still a reasonable 71 images accepted. Happy to showcase them here on the slideshow:

Also, check out my new short ebook on some tips getting started as an Arcangel contributor, from an insider.

Congratulations to Cicero Castro – Another Sale!

Cicero Castro, based in Madeira, has just informed me that he had his second Arcangel sale – bloody hell! Link to his port at Arcangel.

Here’s the image before and after.

Update on becoming a YouTube Star

Getting over a nasty flu lately and my voice is not great, so will try to put together a first-ever YouTube earnings report for you in March, also with better lighting (perhaps portions of it will be outside).

Until next time and keep on walking!

Hope you enjoyed reading this report. How did you do this month, please comment below!

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. Thanks Alex! Lots of good information, as always. Subscribed to your YT channel
    So many decisions that affect the profits of photographers make me think, logically, that these companies are not having a very good time, making such drastic decisions for which contributors are losing more and more and making many of us consider leaving the business, but also because some of these agencies are going to end up the same, closing or selling their business. A kind of cleanup, perhaps, of both agencies and creators
    Do you know the Fallas? If not, now is the time! lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. I remember when “Picfair” came around and hoping to shake up the industry and I keenly uploaded to them, I think like 2,000 images and earned after 2 years $20. Bunch of clowns.

      We should all be mercenaries in this industry, where we can price our content put it up very high, no shame.


  2. It looks like microstock is completely dead for images, and soon it would be for videos. I suggest you to open a Youtube channel for your drone shots and other high quality videos, and let anyone download them. Also put a patreon or other donation link. Also enable ads. With 2000 high quality videos with good titles, descriptions and keywords, you can make in a year 10K – 20K views per day. Image how much you can earn from ads if you have 1-3 $ for every one thousand views + donations. I think it would be much better than to continue uploading them to microstock.


    • hi Alex,
      that’s a cool idea about free clips but allowing ads. something to sleep on. am glad to hear that your book cover venture is working out for you. nicely done. I am curious though, with your pretty decent portfolio (4200+/_) at Adobe – and number of years posting there – what is your current lifetime or weekly position? give or take. I can’t figure out how many contributors there might be at Adobe in total. guessing about 200k+. I suppose you are well into the top 10k. Tx.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Istvan,

        Not sure where to check the lifetime anymore! Can’t be that high, I only get an average of about 200 images a month downloaded on there and 1 clip a month, disappointing I guess.

        All the best,



        • tx Alex for replying. the position at Adobe is at the top left corner on the desktop. broken down to lifetime, this year, this week, etc. doesn’t matter much. only to see if your weekly status is better than your lifetime. that’s the only good measure.
          don’t you miss the guys from the Shutterstock discussion forum? the pink chicken and roadkill and Mihai stacking coins : )? I wish somebody started a new forum somewhere. you have fun now shooting in Lisboa! a great place to click. cheers.


            • those numbers are impressive Alex. my gut tells me that there might be somewhere around 200k to 250k contributors. Adobe keeps his cards to his chest. they won’t tell you how many. anyhow, you are way inside the top 10%. I am slowly but also getting close. and to “repay” your kind efforts to supply us with your monthly report, here is a link for you. this Slovenian dude gives away his 3 best selling “stock photos”. he exclusively submits to iStock (I am also there but with small volume). his no. 3 made $4600, his 2nd made some $7700 and his top made some 8600 bucks. its absolutely rare that anybody would reveal his top earners as you know. he is very generous in that sense. these pics are somewhat easy to make. I will surely try one of those. enjoy it. and the link:


              Liked by 1 person

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