Case Study: Will I Recover my Costs from my Recent Spanish Stock-Gathering Trip?

Time flies! It’s been almost five years since I published a practical case-study from a two-day trip in Italy, titled “Is Microstock a sustainable business model?” and four years since my Iberian Adventures updates where I discussed my best-sellers and why as well as other trips.

In the same spirit to those practical posts, having just returned from a 10-day trip to Spain, where I gathered stock content to upload to multiple agencies, in this post I’ll run down my travel costs and provide a detailed breakdown of the number of images/clips accepted, then ask the magical question, “will I eventually be able to recover my costs?” Let’s get started!

First of all, did I manage to recover my modest costs from my 2017 trip?

Before we get onto my Spanish adventure, Better late than never, almost five years on, I’ll see if I managed to recover the very modest $276 costs from the Italian trip where I uploaded just shy of 200 images. Four years should be enough time for them to run through their life-cycle!

So, I’ve done a quick check on my sales for those images using Microstockr and the returns from that trip were about $40 only, so not even close to covering my costs. Surprisingly, my best-sellers from that trip were from stopping by a roadside flea-market where I captured these types of images which sold for about $12 in total.

In second place were some sales via Robert Harding for a combined $10 of the Como Cathedral, which is not surprisingly low since I didn’t even bother to lens correct this image at the time! Yes, I know Elijah! 😀

Large shortfall to cover expenses

In hindsight I’m not so surprised that I didn’t even come close to covering my costs as the pics were quite mediocre. Plus I wasn’t really doing videos then which can be highly profitable. It was probably too short of a trip and didn’t really focus on capturing anything in particular which led to mediocre shots.

Anyway, personally it was a nice trip on a beautiful autumn day where I got lots of exercise, so no regrets…but purely as a business, it was a waste of my time! Now, let’s move onto my 2018 trip.

2018 Iberian Adventures – What Sold and Why?

Closer to the present, if you recall, I went on an super cool two-legged three-week Iberian adventure to France by car and eventually to Italy (by train) where I captured a whopping 2,300 images and 100 clips. I didn’t track at the time my expenses but wasn’t cheap (particularly fuel and accommodation). Nowadays, I’m sure this trip would cost perhaps 30% more.

2018 Iberian adventure itinerary going north on first leg and south on return leg

One year later, in 2019, I published a popular follow-up blog on what sold and why from the trip. Interesting results and some strong sellers especially from Spain. Won’t spoil the details here.

Four years on my top-3 sellers from that trip

However, even more interesting are the results as the images have gone through pretty much their whole life-cycle. So let’s see which images have performed the best and why, starting with Spain.

Now onto France (didn’t spend as much time there):

and last but certainly not least, Portugal (also didn’t spend too long there):

Did I manage to cover my costs?

Seems like in total I’ve earned close to $1,000 after four years which is pretty good to covering much of the costs, which again I didn’t keep track but overall, pretty good! Great news is that some of these continue to sell regularly until today, especially those top-earners from Spain.

What about clips?

Much more subdued earnings at only $60 from the 100 clips uploaded. All were uploaded in 4K so there was limited market potential there anyway.

Other Trips: Israel (2017) and Dubai (2018)

Seems like I came quite close to covering my costs on my Israel trip which was over a week, here are my best-sellers.

Dubai, on the other hand, wasn’t really a strong seller for me and didn’t cover many of my costs. Fortunately, I stayed with a friend so didn’t incur accommodation costs.

Now let’s move onto my latest adventure in Spain…

2023 Case-Study: Spanish Trip Details

With the above mixed results in mind I thought it was time to carry out the same exercise in 2023 with my recent 10-day trip to Spain, consisting of three nights in Madrid and six nights in Bilbao (with a daytrip to Santander). I took my drone with me so perhaps that will make all the difference when it comes to sales.

Ready to my launch my drone in a park in Bilbao

First of all, some caveats.

  • For 3/4 of the trip I managed to stay with a friend, thus reducing my accommodation costs. Not many people would be able to have this luxury so I have to be realistic how much an “average” traveler would pay for accommodation. I’ve included a modest hotel cost of $60/day which is about average for Spanish cities.
  • I enjoy eating out and drinking at more “fancy” places but could easily budget those types of expenses at more affordable places, although this was obviously offset by savings in accommodation in Bilbao. Nevertheless, I’ve included what someone would spend on average during a day, which includes breakfast/lunch/dinner at about 15 euros each with snacks/drinks in between.
  • Transport was from Lisbon and includes flight to Madrid/Bilbao (budget airline) and return bus to Santander. If you’re traveling from further away it may prove even more challenging to cover costs.

With the above in mind, here’s a summary of expenses from my trip:

Type of expenseTotal cost (USD equivalent at 0.92 exchange rate from EUR)
Accommodation65/day for 9 nights
Food35/day for 10 days
Miscellaneous 55 (museum entrances, boat trip, small purchases)

Thinking about Opportunity Costs

Now, for my time, I will consider an average of 3 hours/day of shooting, plus 2 hours/day of post-processing for a total of 50 hours. I did a shoot a lot but I also tried to relax some of the time and enjoy it as a pure holiday even sometimes walking around town without any gear which is great.

I consider my time to be worth roughly $10/hour, which is generous. Therefore, this “lost opportunity” cost would be around $500, where I could have worked 50 hours preparing pinchos / tapas at a bar in Bilbao (if they would hire me).

Total cost of trip = $1,740

Now let’s move onto the meat of the blog post, the content that I captured which were accepted.

Stock Content Details

Type of Content AcceptedQuantity accepted
Microstock images at various agencies*205
Microstock (drone) videos at SS, AS, P5, iStock*18
Robert Harding images9
Book covers at Arcangel110
Total assets342
*same asset at multiple agencies counts as 1

Is it worth it from a business perspective?

Back to the magical question, is it worth it (from a business perspective)? And secondly, will I eventually be able to cover my costs? The quick answer to both is, probably not, especially as returns aren’t great and travel costs have shot up in the past year.

The long answer, as always, is more complicated and we need to discuss what I got out of the trip and why, which I won’t get it into here. I would just say that from a personal point of view it was very enjoyable. Not everything we do in life is about making money.

However, this being a making money from stock blog, I would be content if I’m able to cover at least HALF my costs of the trip at about $870. Dare I make the prediction that I’ll be able to cover it in two years??!! Yes, I will make that prediction! If I don’t make it I’ll wave the white flag on this business for good!

Captured some cool stuff, some highlights

The reason why is that I’m confident that I’ll be able to cover half the costs within two years is that I managed to capture some quite unique content in an excellent way.

Here are some of my favourite from the trip from the three cities I visited.

Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain
Magdalena Peninsula, Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Santander Spain – April 6, 2023: Statue monument to Los Raqueros, Santander, Spain. Bronze boy figurines playfully situated at the waters edge with cruise ship in the background
Madrid, Spain

Favourite clip

Took my drone with me and flew a few times in Bilbao and Santander. Didn’t get to fly in Madrid as it’s apparently prohibited without prior authorization in the Madrid region. Would have liked to have flown more but it was what it was.

Out of all my clips, my favourite was overlooking Magdalena Peninsula in Santander. It was quite windy that day but the Air 2s handled the wind beautifully.

Book Covers, as always

In bookcoverland, these three were my favourite shot from the trip, but many many more captured and in total 110 were accepted from the trip (acceptance rate of around 40% which is pretty good).

Got tired of doing top-down aerial shots so going on the opposite direction and creating bottom-up shots
Trying to offset some costs from the hotel stay!
Captured during the boat trip up to Getxo near Bilbao

Upcoming trip – Malta!

I really like putting together these posts as they’re super practical for me and I believe also for you. What I try to hammer home often is to try to treat this “hobby “as a business and think of your costs. Only then will you really have an idea whether if it’s worth your time/effort as a side-hustle (god-forbid never as full-time).

I’ll planning to head off to Malta in mid-May and will create a similar post once I’ve finished the trip with more predictions with this sort of case-study format. In the meantime, would be super cool to hear from you about whether you’re able to cover some of your costs while traveling.

Until next time!

About Alex

Greetings, fellow adventurers! I’m a quirky guy currently stationed in sunny Lisbon, Portugal, on a grand quest to explore every nook and cranny of this beautiful planet while snapping jaw-dropping stock images and footage. It’s been a wild ride, dedicating a whopping nine years to perfecting my craft as a travel photographer/videographer and freelance writer.

But wait, there’s more! Lately, I’ve taken a plunge into the world of book cover images for Arcangel Images. Yep, I’m all in, diving headfirst into this exciting new endeavor. And let’s not forget my latest addition to the team – my trusty DJI Mavic 2s drone! I’ve been buzzing around like a kid in a candy store, capturing awe-inspiring shots from new heights. A Mavic 3 might just be on the horizon too, who knows?

And hey, I’m not just all about pretty pictures. I’ve even written a book about my adventures, sharing brutally honest tips on how to make it as a stock travel photographer. It’s my way of giving back and inspiring others with a unique insight into this fascinating business model.

So join me on this epic journey as we conquer the world, one stock photo at a time, and uncover the secrets of the travel photography universe. Adventure awaits, my friends! Let’s make some memories and capture the world’s wonders through my slightly offbeat lens!


  1. I love visiting your blog regardless of the topics. Of course the content that you are writing about are always extremely helpful and enlightening. BUT your photography is pure delight for me… You are one of very few photographers that manage to take my mind away from where it is to the places you’ve visited; I literally get the feeling of “being there” when I look at your photographs. I think stock industry is overly lucky to have such a talent like you with such a unique vision.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never broken mine out like that. I travel about 4 times a year to photograph, usually for specific content . I know I will never recoup the cost completely but hope to recover part. I don’t travel as in expensively as you but cut my costs by splitting motels with a companion if I can find one.
    BerryvineImage photography

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great article. And great to see the Spain earnings that went some way to covering your costs. The most recent shots with the drone are definitely impressive. Will Robert Harding allow you to monetize them though! I’ll have to write something like this for my Dubai trip, which cost about $1500 or so.

    Liked by 1 person

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