How Much Money I Made by Selling Stock Photos & Footage In 2019
I’ve been contributing to stock photography for 3,5 years now. I kind of pumped into it accidentally in 2016 when I was just looking for a good online photography community to join with. The community I found was EyeEm. So I uploaded my photos there and hoped to get a lot of likes and feedback. However, as you may guess, no likes, no comments, no followers nor anything else.
This is typical for almost any photography community as of today. People just can’t see your images behind all of the mass of images. Besides, you need to be truly talented and unique to get attention to your work.
I’ve always dreamed of being able to make living out of photography. So when I received an automatic message from EyeEm that some of my images were selected by Getty Images to be sold in the Getty platform, I was astonished. Could I really make money from this? I learned everything I could about Getty Images and found stock photography.
I had never even heard of stock photography before. I thought photos were sold only as prints or through commissioned jobs. It was a true eye-opener. That’s when I realized where most of the images everywhere around me actually come from. They are stock photos!
Over these years I’ve read everything I’ve found about stock photography. I’ve studied best-selling stock images, the art of keywording, SEO, tried to understand buyers and their needs and studied what kind of images companies and bloggers like to use on their websites. Stock photography grabbed me and have never let go.
Before I found stock photography, I was doing photography for the love of it. Stock photography gave also a direction.
Unlike social media influencers, you don’t need followers, likes or comments to be successful in stock photography. Success in stock photography is measured by money. And to get the money you don’t need 100 000 followers. However, you do need a lot of patience, determination, and dedication. A big heart so to speak.
So how successful am I? I’m still far away from my dream of becoming a full-time photographer so not that successful really. Nonetheless, I am able to pay a holiday trip or upgrade my gear with the income I get from selling stock media. Personally I’m happy with the results, but I’m also eager to go further.
So let’s cut the crap and go to the earnings charts… =D
Stock Media Earnings 2019
The year 2019 ended at the Best Month Ever (BME). December stock media sales exceeded the $400 line for the first time after 3,5 years of contributing. Thanks to Adobe Stock’s and Shutterstock’s footage and “biggie” sales. Especially Adobe Stock has shown strong momentum in the last few months and is quickly catching up with Shutterstock’s sales levels.
Adobe Stock and Shutterstock almost together reached the $400 mark in December as you can see in the graph below. This raises a question is it even worth it to upload any other platform?
IStock is showing growth as well. December sales were around $37 and 84 downloads. Their royalty rate is significantly lower than on other agencies though. Thanks to their royalty policies.
EyeEm used to be one of my top agencies until June 2019. After that, it has sunk into the abyss. However, sales in January 2020 showed some promising development so I’m not yet throwing the towel in yet. How it performed? That you’ll have to find out in my next earnings report.
Alamy has been quiet as always and so it seemingly remains in the future too.
Below you’ll find my total sales statistics from 2019:
- Total Earnings: $3,589.52
- Total Downloads: 3216
- Return per Download (RPD): $1.12
Shutterstock broke the $200 barrier for the first time in December. However, the earnings have been quite variable. In some months the sales are low, even way below $100.
So much depends on the footage and the “biggie” sales. If those aren’t coming, the earnings are low. That can be seen also in the Return-Per-Download (RPD) of a month. One “biggie” sale can in some cases actually double the earnings of a month.
Shutterstock continues to be my top-earning agency, but for how long. Adobe Stock is catching up quickly.
Below you’ll find the 2019 stats for Shutterstock
- Total Earnings: $1,561.31
- Total Downloads: 1775
- Return per Download (RPD): $0.88
(The grey pillars in the charts indicate the 2018 earnings & The black line indicates the Return-Per-Download)
I love Adobe Stock (AS). They are much more open towards the community than the other top agencies. Lately, they had a live webinar discussing the best keywording practices. That webinar offered loads of excellent keywording tips for the AS platform. I highly recommend checking that out.
They are also active in the Microstock Group Forum what can’t be said about the other top agencies. Participating in the community gives them a human face.
On the sales side, Adobe Stock has been strong lately and continues performing strongly in 2020 too. It may take the title of being my strongest performing agency in the near future.
Below you’ll see how AS performed in 2019.
- Total Earnings: $1,001.51
- Total Downloads: 877
- Return per Download (RPD): $1.14
Sales with IStock have been accelerating. In the last 2 months of 2019, the sales were close to $40. The sales volume in IStock is very high. However, because of the low royalties, earnings are low. If the return-per-download would be anywhere near Adobe Stock’s levels, the earnings would double. But this is what we have and just have to live with it.
Below are 2019 total statistics.
- Total Earnings: $204.68
- Total Downloads: 418
- Return per Download (RPD): $0.49
If you’ve been reading my earnings reports from last year, you probably already know how much I’ve been whining about EyeEm sales. EyeEm was one of my top agency until the sales just hit the wall in summer. It’s been heartbreaking.
However, the beginning of 2020 shows some signs of recovery. So I’m still hopeful that EyeEm will make a comeback!
Below the 2019 stats for EyeEm.
- Total Earnings: $759.15
- Total Downloads: 135
- Return per Download (RPD): $5.62
How about Alamy? Nothing really… It’s been really quiet. Some small sales here and there, not much else. Alamy has been the biggest disappointment in 2019. Unfortunately…
Below the Alamy earnings from 2019.
- Total Earnings: $62.87
- Total Downloads: 11
- Return per Download (RPD): $5.72
How Much Money I Made From Selling Stock Footage In 2019
How about footage sales?
The year 2019 was my first year selling stock footage. Therefore the sales amount was quite low. Also, my portfolio sizes are still very small with under 100 clips overall. I need lots of new content before I could even dream of regular sales.
However, the sales activity increased towards the end of the year and the beginning of 2020 is looking good too. Especially with Adobe Stock.
My total earnings from clips in 2019 were approximately $205 from 4 sold clips. I also got several sales from IStock. However, because the sales were only a few cents per clip, thanks to IStock’s ridiculous royalty policies, I’m not going to include those figures in here.
In 2020 I’m going to attend more on making footage. Especially time-lapses, because I think time-lapses are on higher demand than regular clips. High-quality time-lapses are also more challenging to make. Something difficult to do usually equals lower competition as well. Day-to-Night Time-Lapses for example or Drone Aerial Time-Lapses.
Overall I’m happy with how the sales developed in 2019. While my earnings in 2018 were $1,939.83, in 2019 they were $3,589.52. That counts approximately 85% increase.
For 2020 my goal is to reach sales over $4000. I’m also going to invest more of my time on making footage as the return-per-download is significantly higher than with images.
Another new area that I’m going to experiment with is 3D illustrations. I’ve already made some images with Adobe Dimension, which is a very simple 3D application to combine 3D elements with 2D imagery. Also, Blender, which is a free but surprisingly powerful full-scale 3D application.
As cynical as it may sound, but I don’t believe that focusing only on traditional photography in 2020 is going to pay off anymore. But don’t get me wrong. I think there’s a lot of possibilities with photography too, but you need to find those holes in the market or concentrate on producing lifestyle imagery.
You need to produce also unique images to stand out in the masses. That’s why I believe that applications such as Adobe Dimension my be a solution for that. It is so easy to add realistic 3D objects in the images and make unique concepts with it.
That’s all for now. Remember to check out new content every now and then or follow me on my social media channels. More content will be coming, but unfortunately quite slowly because I’m so busy with life. I’m preparing a posts on keywording for stock photography with a little bit of SEO, and about alternative ideas to produce stock media in 2020. So stay tuned and thanks for reading!