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Microstock Earnings – First 30 Months

9 May 2010 6 Comments

Where are my monthly microstock earnings reports? I stopped posting them … December 2009 was the last one. I was busy shooting recently. And, those monthly graphs got a little bit boring. However, I am going to write some more general posts on trends in microstock photography from my own perspective.

I am trying to follow my microstock business model as described in my earlier posts: Am I Really Making Money from Microstock Photography ? Part 1 and Part 2. I treat microstock photography as a part time job (1/3 of my time = about 60 hours/month) and I tried to keep all related expenses below 30% of total sales.

How that business model works for me in practice? I ended the 2009 year with a little bit more than 40% in expenses due to a new Canon 5D/II camera with two lenses I bought by the end of the year. My expenses should go down to 30% when looking together at 2009 and the first half of 2010. However, I am not sure if my 30% model is sustainable in a long run unless I significantly increase my sales.

60 hours per month? Well, I am sure I am doing some overtime … I could record hours spent at my home table top studio and in front of a computer, but it would be difficult to clearly separate my part time microstock photography from pictures shot just for fun during paddling or hiking (some of them are ending up in my microstock portfolio).

I gathered 30 months of data including sales estimates for May 2010. So, let’s look at some trends.

Trends in my microstock sales from November 2007 to May 2010:
green bars – monthly additions to my portfolio, thick yellow line – total monthly sales,
green, blue and red lines – linear approximations of sales (trends)

Green bars in the above graph represent my work invested in microstock – monthly additions to my portfolio. These are all jpeg pictures processed for microstock including rejects. Thin yellow line shows my total monthly earnings. I approximated that curve with segments of a straight line to show some trends. I can see three distinct periods.

1. Green line – 10 months from February 2008 to October 2008. Slow, but steady growth at about $19/month. In March of 2008 I got accepted to Shutterstock, so I was submitting to all major microstock agencies. At that time, I was producing around 40-60 pictures every month.

2. Blue line – 12 months from November 2008 to October2009. It was a year of more rapid growth in my sales: $96/month. I believe it was a delayed response to the increased number of picture submissions. Between September 2008 and June 2009 I was making from 80 to 120 pictures every month. My earnings were dominated by Shutterstock, but iStock contributions were growing and passed SS in June 2009.

3. Red line – 8 months from November 2009 to May 2010. Slowing down in total sales! $45/month. IS is still growing, but SS sales showing a stagnation since BME in October 2009. I am producing and submitting fewer pictures during recent months, only about 60 per month. But, wait a minute! My pictures are not supposed to be better now? I am spending a similar amount of time shooting and processing with improved skills, a better camera, more expensive props …

Well, I will not try to make any predictions here. Next, I will show some trends in different agencies. iStock dominates my earnings nowadays. OK, but now, back to shooting!

Not many photographers are ready to reveal their financial data, but maybe you could share one piece of information. What percentage of microstock earnings do you spend to cover your expenses including investments in photo equipment?

My latest stock photos on Dreamstime Stock Photography Community

Some related posts:
Am I Really Making Money from Microstock Photography ? Part 1 and Part 2.
December earnings report
My microstock referral links for photographers:
Dreamstime, ShutterStock, BigStockPhoto, 123RF, FeaturePics, Panthermedia, CanStockPhoto, Graphic Leftovers, Deposit Photos

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