April 2023 Brutally Honest Earnings Report

Welcome back to the detailed April monthly report where, as usual, I’ll be focusing on my overall earnings for the month, including updates on (super reluctantly) giving away some of my images for free and reporting shocking clip sale prices where I’ve analysed some historical data as well as three other veteran contributors. Let’s get started!

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April 2023 Highlights

April was super busy starting the month with a trip to Spain, followed by a week in sunny Algarve where among shooting I also took part in a poker tournament where I finished in 8th out of 371!

Made it to the final table! Shot by Damiano Nigro

In terms of contents, here are some highlights:

Mirko (AKA View Part) Lifestyle Photographer – 2023 Course – Exclusive discount

In early 2019, I had the honour to ask Mirko (aka View Apart) Lifestyle Microstock Photographer, a few brutally honest questions about his success as a Lifestyle Microstocker. Later that year he published a Microstock Warrior course which is being well-received. He’s offering an exclusive limited-time-only $50 discount for what is valuable content on creating lifestyle shoots.

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Update on giving away some of my images for free like a fking idiot!

So, in the March report I began tracking the number of downloads for the free images over at Pixabay and Pexels as part of the experiment. As you can see this month there was a huge jump in free downloads at Pixabay.

AgencyNumber of Images (reluctantly) UploadedFree DownloadsDonations earned

One of my images was featured

Turns out that the huge jump in downloads was due to one quite ordinary image of a red lighthouse against blue sky was featured by the Editors on their homepage earning the “Editor’s Choice Awards” and has so far had over 26,000 downloads (which is almost as many as I’ve ever had for paid downloads on Shutterstock lol).

You’d think that at least a few of these 26,000 downloads someone would have the common courtesy to donate at least $1, but you can’t expect much from thieves, broke artists and basically human nature even after numerous requests.

The story doesn’t end there…it’s wack-a-mole time…

As part of the experiment, one of the aims is to try to see whether such images will be downloaded and re-sold by thieves at microstock sites. Lo and behold, I quickly spotted my red lighthouse in five thieving accounts (so far). Three in SS and two in AS. Probably elsewhere but I still need to look…

DCMA Notices

I sent in the proper DCMA notices to take down the images and hopefully have the accounts removed. To my non-surprise, both SS and AS within a few days took down the images but left the accounts otherwise intact, so it’s really a pointless task.

Dick isn’t the only one…

Why they keep the accounts is beyond me. These agencies should have a one strike and you’re out policy but instead passively wait (forever) for the copyright owners to send in a notice.

Copyright theft is a huge problem (and what are agencies doing about it?)

One thieving accounts leaves a trail for other thieving accounts ad nauseum. From a super quick search I found already these ten accounts with all stolen images with one thieving account having over 1,000 images. It’s pretty easy to spot since the same image is in multiple ports as you can see below with the pigeon.

This day in age why can’t agencies can’t develop an algos that detects similar images…

So many duplicate images on so many thieving ports…

I could do this all day but my time is valuable. I don’t mean to only pick on SS, this is a problem at all the microstock agencies although I have a much easier time finding thieves at SS. Reminds me of my good ol’ wack-a-mole days!

ContributorPort Link
SUDIPTHO KUMARhttps://www.shutterstock.com/g/SUDIPTHO+KUMAR
jv butthttps://www.shutterstock.com/g/jv+butt
Faruk skhttps://www.shutterstock.com/g/Faruk+sk
Md Sakib Bhuyanhttps://www.shutterstock.com/g/Md+Sakib+Bhuyan
Anas Ali Photographyhttps://www.shutterstock.com/g/Anas+Ali+Photography
Amir Hussain360https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Amir+Hussain360

I sent the above list to SS’s infringement team and they want me to do their work lol!

I simply replied that they need open their eyes to the obvious! I’ll check back in a few weeks and I fully expect that those accounts will still be active and probably have even more stolen images.

I’ll keep uploading like a fool

It’s a disastrous yet predictable start to this experiment, but the show must go on. Maybe I’ll get a donation (doubt it) but not expecting anything except more thieves taking my work. I’ve begun (reluctantly) uploading more “quality” content which should be picked up regularly. Watch this space. The experiment is just for a year then I’ll delete the accounts on there.

Let’s move onto the detailed earnings report. Perhaps there’s happier news.

Detailed Earnings Breakdown

Image Earnings

AgencyNumber of Images in port
(images added Apr)
Net Revenue for Apr (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Alamy15,041 (255)465
Arcangel (RM-exclusive)2,470 (139) TBD 1st week MayTBD 1st week May
Adobe Stock4,254 (86)690.70
Creative Market1.644 (0)00
DepositPhotos8,293 (179)290.52
Dreamstime8,334 (127)90.56
EyeEm392 (0) – Partner Program only00
Freekpik811 (86)140.07
Fine Art America373 (0)00
Gallerist2,656 (105)00
iStock (Mar 2023)8,289 (199) 600.51
Robert Harding (Q4 2022 monthly average) – exclusive439 (12)152
Shutterstock Editorial 923 (0)00
Shutterstock11,537 (184)930.34
Pond51,816 (0)22
Photo4Me389 (0)00
SignElements1,358 (10)2N/A
Wirestock1,960 (0)2N/A
Total 410 

Clip Earnings

AgencyNumber of clips in port
(added Apr)
Net Revenue for Apr (US$)Avg Return Per Download (US$)
Adobe Stock872 (34)52.5
Pond52,207 (45)5628
iStock (Mar 2023)636 (14)31
OverflightStock – exclusive92 (0)00
Shutterstock1,639 (36)234
Wirestock104 (0)00
Total 87 

Totals: $497

Salamis (Shutterstock + Alamy + iStock)


Not much to report on SS on the images side. However, on the clips side it’s shaping up to be a disaster as my clip sale average prices have nose-dived. Are you also experiencing many sub $2 clip sales? It’s not just at SS as you’ll see…


Nothing relevant to report.

Adobe Stock

This image, taken super early at Copacabana Beach, is starting to sell regularly at AS and has so far earned me $11.

Depressed prices for clips…


Nothing relevant to report on the images side.

Yup, you’ve guessed it…depressed prices for clips…


At least one decently priced clip sale at Pond5 for the popular sky timelapse to help offset the falling trend slightly.

How much have average clip prices fallen?

I’ve plugged in some numbers since January 2019 to try to answer this question, which you can see below.

So, what do I make of the above? Overall, things aren’t looking too great on the video side. Here’s a summary per year since 2018 when I begun shooting clips, reaching peak earnings in 2019 (historical average of $13/clip):

YearAverage net $ per downloadDownloadsNet earnings (USD)
2023 (until end-Apr)1142458

The big picture conclusion for my port

So, it’s clear to see that although volumes are holding steady (and even picking up pace this year), since 2019 the average net sale price has fallen by 35% vs 2023. iStock sales have always been terrible but the largest culprit for falling prices is….you’ve guessed it, Shutterstock where about half of my sales comes from.

This huge drop is without even factoring in inflation which has increased everything in price around 20% during the past two years (some places more than others) – double-whammy!

Is there light at the end of the microstock tunnel?

Comparing results with three other veterans, Elijah, Steve Heap and Adam Melnyk

Starting with Elijah who has been uploading regularly since 2020 (he’s asked me to keep his portfolio anonymous):

YearAverage net $ per downloadDownloadsNet earnings (USD)

Master Steve Heap

Now, Master Steve Heap, who has been uploading clips for a lot longer than Elijah and I:

YearAverage net $ per download

Ouch, from $30/average/clip to $7/average/clip is a fall of 77%. Hope Steve’s latest trip to Dubai will yield some sales.

Adam Melnyk, Stock Footage Extraordinaire

Since I interviewed, Adam Melnyk, based in Vancouver, Canada back in 2018, he has taken his drone footage portfolio (and terrestrial) to the next level, both in terms of quality and quantity – see link to his SS port here. Let’s take a look at his stats:

YearAverage net $ per downloadDownloadsNet earnings (USD)

Alas, a success story! Although Adam’s average download prices have dropped quite considerably from the 2019 peak by 41%, Adam has managed to keep his ship afloat by sheer volumes of downloads. That’s one way to do it.

Well done, Adam…perhaps a drone stock footage course soon, we’re dying to know your secret?!

Beautiful British Columbia

Record 139 images accepted Images at Arcangel!

No sales to report in April, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, the show must go on and I’ve worked hard this month to have a record 139 images accepted! Trips to Spain and Algarve helped diversify my offering. Happy to showcase the accepted images this month below on the slideshow. Note that it’s 4 minutes long so feel free to speed up if you wish, or slow down to take in the scene!

Until next time!

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 and perhaps a Mavic 3 soon.

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. To chime in about the free images experiment.
    Did the same 7-8 years ago. The same story – I was featured on Pixabay, tons of downloads, and not a single donation. To add insult to injury, when I asked to remove my files from there I was first greeted with “no can do” emails from the owner of the platform explaining that since this is a public domain license it is out of my hands forever and there is nothing that can be done. I was able to remove my files from there but it took literally months of quite angry correspondence and unpleasant conversations.


  2. Pixabay is a scam. The only ones profiting is the owner. I highly recommend tryng to build your own website for downloading free images. I dont know the exact outcome, but 46 images generating 26.000 downloads can be converted into pageviews and generating revenue from ads. 26,000 pageviews can generate upto 26$ from adsense. Can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yea, naive contributors think they will somehow get “exposure” or even donations while in the meantime just lining up the pockets of these rich liars. Not just Pixabay, goes for Pexels, Unsplash.


  3. Wirestock partners with Envato Elements. Do you have any sales from Envato? Please check your Wirestock’s account.


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