Articles in the portfolio Category
5 years in microstock photography! It went so fast. I started submitting to iStockphoto and then to other agencies in November of 2007. Perhaps, it’s time for some reflections. I will start with updating my selling statistics.
Return per Image (RPI)
I calculate RPI in reference to the total number of images in my microstock portfolio, so I can add RPIs from different agencies and examine the total RPI.
Any statistics for 2008, my first full year in microstock, are not reliable due to a small portfolio. However, next three years show …
Here is an update and another view of Return per Image (RPI) from my microstock photography. I calculate RPI in reference to the total number of images in my microstock portfolio, so I can add RPIs from different agencies and present a total RPI here.
I started microstock photography in the end of 2007 year. Any statistics for 2008, my first full year in microstock, are not reliable due to a small portfolio. However, next three years show systematic increase of RPII. Right now in July/August of 2012, my RPI experiences a serious summer dip. Will it recover? Will it go up?
During recent months I practically worked full time on microstock. Now, I am getting busy with other projects not related to photography. My microstock will be running mostly on autopilot with very limited submission of mew pictures for the next half of year or so. It will be interesting to check how my RPI will look in 2013.
Payout Structure from Microstock Agencies in 2012
Return Per Image (RPI) from Microstock Photography – Istockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Mid/Low Earners
Microstock Portfolio Return Per Image (RPI) – 2009-2011 Trends
Return Per Image (RPI) from My Microstock Portfolio – 3 Year Trends
After analyzing the long term trends in RPI (return per image) from my microstock portfolio I am looking now how much I am paid for a single picture download – RPD (return per download). It is just one factor affecting RPI and total earnings. Do higher image prices affect a volume of sales? Do they improve or not total earnings? These are open questions.
I derived $/download statistics for my 6 top microstock agencies (as in 2012). I smoothed monthly data from 4.5 years (9 months running average – thick lines) since I am interested in long term trends. However, I plotted original data (thin lines) for two agencies, iStockphoto and Shutterstock, to give you a sens of month to month variability (much higher at IS than SS). I included all types of licenses.
Going up and down around $1/download. High month to month variability.
Going slowly up, but maximum was in the second half of the last year when I got unusually high number of extended licenses. Currently ~$0.66/download.
In the two previous posts I looked at trends in RPI (return per image) from my microstock portfolio. Now, let’s look at the payout structure, i.e., how much (in %) of actual money is coming from different stock sites. I calculated it for the first half of 2012 (including payouts scheduled until middle of July).
Top 3: Shutterstock, iStockphoto and Dreamstime
Most of my microstock income is coming this year from Shutterstock. iStockphoto used to be my leader for several years. Dreamstime is slowly loosing ground in the top 3 group. It is the agency with the smallest part of my microstock portfolio online.
Middle Tier: 123R, Fotolia, DepositPhoto, BigStock, CanStock, Veer, and PhotoDune
7 agencies with regular payouts. It looks like Zoonar is also falling into this group. Earnings and payouts from Zoonar may be high, but are very irregular. Fotolia is going downhill and, recently, is behind Depositphotos.
with low and occasional sales. I am actively uploading to sites with fast submission process. Alamy is included here. I started to upload pictures to Alamy 6 months ago and have only about half of my microstock portfolio and a few RM pictures there. Actually, my uncleared balance at Alamy is much higher than payouts so far. I also keep my portfolio at Smugmug. In the second year, the sales are finally covering hosting fees of the pro account.
dreamstime, earnings, portfolio, shutterstock »
I have been submitting pictures to multiple microstock agencies for the last 4.5 years. Nowadays, microstock photography is my major source of income, but I don’t look at sale statistics too often. I just count and record my monthly payouts. Nevertheless, it is useful to check some trends time to time and try to figure out where this industry is going from the perspective of my portfolio. I use RPI (return per image) for this purpose.
To derive the total RPI for my portfolio I am using the total number of pictures prepared for microstock. This way I can use RPI to compare performance of different agencies. I can add RPIs from different agencies since the denominator, i.e., number of pictures, is the same.
This is a general picture showing the RPI for the entire portfolio and how much different groups of agencies contribute to this statistics:
(1) Top 3: iStockphoto, Shutterstock and Dreamline. In my previous posts I used to have top 4, but Fotolia dropped down as it is obvious from Figure 3.
(2) Middle tier: 7 agencies with regular payouts (Fotolia, 123RF, BigStock, CanStock, Veer, DepositPhoto and PhotoDune).
(3) Low earners with low and occasional sales. I am actively uploading to sites with fast submission process like Graphic Leftovers, Yay, FeaturePics, iSign, Zoonar.
Is my total RPI still growing or just reaching plateau? I guess I will learn after summer months.
RPI for my 3 top agencies. IS and SS are recently changing places. It looks like the performance of IS is not going down anymore. Unfortunately, DT is experiencing a stagnation or worse. I have the lowest number of pictures from my portfolio with DT due to their infamous “too similar pictures” policy.
Finally, middle tier agencies. The fall of Fotolia during last one and half year is really spectacular in terms of RPI. 123RF takes the first place in this group. DepositPhotos shows a nice growth. Generally, the middle tier agencies are smoothing jumps in the performance of major players and their contribution is growing.
I am not going to analyze my low earners – not enough sales data for any reliable statistics.
In June 2011 I posted 3 year trends in return per image (RPI) from my microstock portfolio. How it looks 6 month later? Here is an update for 2009-2011 years.
How RPI is calculated
Calculating RPI is straightforward for a single agency – just divide earnings from sales by the number of pictures in your portfolio there for a given time period, e.g., a month. It is getting more complicated when you are submitting pictures to multiple agencies. You cannot calculate RPI separately for each agency and then add those numbers together. That would be mathematically incorrect. You need to use the same number of pictures as reference for each agency, e.g., the average size of your portfolio.
I am submitting pictures to multiple microstock agencies. To derive the total RPI for my portfolio I am using the total number of pictures prepared for microstock. This way I can use RPI to compare performance of different agencies. My RPI depends obviously on the acceptance rate. So, the agency, which regularly rejects my pictures as too similar or duplicates, has a lower RPI in my system. The “similarity” issue is a major problem in the case of Dreamstime and to a much lower degree of iStockphoto.
After 4 years of my microstock adventure I have around 3800 pictures in my stock portfolio: 68% in iStockphoto, 83% in Shutterstock, 59% in Dreamstime and 66% Fotolia counting just the 4 top agencies. I do not analyze separately other agencies with lower sales, instead I am looking at total sales from them as “others” (Bigstock, 123RF, Canstock, Veer, Graphic Leftovers, Deposit Photos, PhotoDune, Panther Media, StockFresh, FeaturePics, Yay).
RPI (Return per Image) is potentially very useful statistics for a stock photography portfolio. However, there is a lot of controversy around it. Some microstock contributor consider RPI completely worthless. Others are using to predict future earnings from microstock or to estimate how many pictures they need to add to a portfolio to reach a certain level of earnings. There is also a common belief that RPI has to go down with a growing portfolio.
RPI as any other statistics to be meaningful must be based on a sufficient number of data. So, it is not a really reliable for a small portfolio or for an agency with low sales. There is certain irony here, since it would be the most useful when we just starting submitting to microstock.
Calculating RPI is straightforward for a single agency – just divide earnings from sales by the number of pictures in your portfolio there for a given time period, e.g., a month. It is getting more complicated when you are submitting pictures to multiple agencies. You cannot calculate RPI separately for each agency and then add those numbers together. That would be mathematically incorrect. You need to use the same number of pictures for each agency, e.g., the average size of your portfolio.
To derive the total RPI for my portfolio I am using the total number of pictures prepared for microstock. After 3.5 years of my microstock adventure I have around 3400 pictures in my stock portfolio: 64% in iStockphoto, 82% in Shutterstock, 60% in Dreamstime and 64% Fotolia counting just the 4 top agencies. I do not analyze separately other agencies with lower sales, instead I am looking at total sales from them as “others” (Bigstock, 123RF, Canstock, Veer, Graphic Letfovers, Deposit Photos, Panther Media, StockFresh, FeaturePics)
dreamstime, istock, portfolio, shutterstock »
Let’s look at the growth of my portfolio in iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Fotolia. These are my 4 top microstock performers providing 88% of income. I submit pictures regularly preparing between 50 and 100 new files each month.
The gray line above represents a number of all pictures (jpg) produced for microstock including rejects, multiple versions and files which were not submitted. So, this is a measure of my work and efforts rather than a number of files available for stock. I used that number as a reference to derive RPI (return per image).
After 3 years I have quite different portfolios in various agencies. Shutterstock has the highest number of my pictures (2269 by the end of October 2010). Nowadays they accepted almost all pictures. Dreamstime with 1,761 files takes the 2nd place. However, my DT portfolio is growing slower during last year than in other agencies due to their review policy (“too many similar pictures”).
My numbers for IS (1628) and Fotolia (1614) look quite similar, but those portfolio are quite different. FT accepts most pictures rejected by DT. My landscape and industrial pictures rejected by FT are usually selling in IS. It is interesting that the IS portfolio contains some unique pictures which were not accepted by SS, DT or FT.
earnings, featured, istock, portfolio, shutterstock »
dreamstime, earnings, istock, portfolio »
iStockphoto, ShutterStock, Dreamstime and Fotolia are considered nowadays a Big 4 among microstock agencies. Indeed, they bring together between 80 and 90% of my earnings from microstock photography. After 32 months of submitting the size and content of my portfolio at different agencies are quite different: iStock – 1425 pictures, Shutterstock – 2024, Dreamstime – 1586, Fotolia – 1392.
The above graph show percentage of my earnings from the Big 4 agencies and other mictostock sites during last 2.5 years. I plotted quarterly values to smooth out month to month fluctuations.
I started to submit my pictures to iStock in November 2007 and that agency dominated my earnings until I got accepted by Shutterstock. Then, Shutterstock took a lead for a year so. In the beginning of 2009 my sales at iStock started to grow and today iStock in my number 1 with 40-50% of all microstock earnings. Is it a permanent trend? My sales at iStock are slowing down despite of reaching a gold level which allows me to submit more pictures.
Dreamstime is holding number 3 in my microstock earnings with a pretty steady contribution of about 10%. The number 4, Fotolia, shows some growth recently.
All remaining microstock agencies contribute currently about 12% to my income. I can divide them into two groups: (1) agencies with regular payouts every month or every second month (BigStock, 123RF, CanStockPhoto, Panther Media) and (2) agencies where need several months or a year to reach payout level (Veer, FeaturePics, DepositPhotos, Graphic Leftovers).