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Return Per Image (RPI) from Microstock Photography – Istockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Mid/Low Earners

10 June 2012 4 Comments

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.

Figure 1. Return per Image for the entire portfolio, top 3 earners, mid tier and low tier agencies. Thick black and color lines are 5 month running averages showing trends while thin gray lines show month to month variability.

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.

Figure 2. Return per Image for my 3 top earners: iStockphoto, Shutterstock and Dreamline. Thick black and color lines are 5 month running averages showing trends while thin gray lines show month to month variability.

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.

Figure 3. Return per Image for my mid tier agencies: Fotolia, 123RF, BigStock, CanStock, Veer, DepositPhoto and PhotoDune (only 5 month running averages are shown).

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.

Related posts:
Microstock Portfolio Return Per Image (RPI) – 2009-2011 Trends
Return Per Image (RPI) from My Microstock Portfolio – 3 Year Trends
Am I Really Making Money from Microstock Photography ? Part 1 and Part 2
My microstock referral links for photographers:
Dreamstime, ShutterStock, BigStockPhoto, 123RF, FeaturePics, Panthermedia, CanStockPhoto, DepositPhotos, Graphic Leftovers

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