6 Years of Microstock Income Graphed

How have your uploads affected your earnings and is microstock just as profitable today as it was a year ago, or six years ago?

Looking Back

Today I am looking back at last years earnings and considering what goals I want to set for 2011. To help me do this I created a graph covering my last 6 years  of microstock earnings and plotted them against the number of microstock images I had online.

Microstock Earnings

The thin blue line is my microstock income, the brown line is the number of images I had online (graphed on a secondary x-axis).

What I find interesting about a graph like this, is you can see the direct correlation between images online and earnings.  My earnings almost exactly follow my uploads levels.

How Quick Do Earnings Dry Up

A common question on the forum, is how quickly earnings start to dry up once uploading ceases.  This amount depends a lot on the site, Shutterstock being one site which benefits highly from constant uploads, but from my experience, earnings don’t suffer a whole lot when you take a break.   At the end of 2006 you can see I didn’t upload many images at all, yet my earnings stayed quite consistent.  I wouldn’t expect a drop of more than 10% – 20% in the short term (no uploads for 6 months).

Seasonal Ebb and Flow

Another interesting thing we can see with this chart is the seasonal swing of sales.  Each summer and December the graph takes a massive dive.  Fall and spring however, show good earnings.  As one would expect, the more you earn, the larger the seasonal swings become.  My summer dive in 2010 is a similar amount to my entire monthly income in 2007.

Is Microstock Slowing Down

I have heard some complaints lately of people earnings less each month than they were the previous year at the same time.  These are people with very respectable microstock incomes with good looking portfolios.  I can’t say I have experienced any reduction in income yet.   I feel this could be a result of two factors.  My portfolio isn’t that large, relatively speaking.  I have 6000+ images online. If I produce 2000 new images this year I will increase the size of my portfolio by 1/3, which should have a big effect on earnings.  Those photographers with a ‘large’ portfolio, let’s say over 10,000 images, have a much harder time making the same jump in portfolio size.  The second reason I feel my earnings are still climbing is because my initial microstock images were considerably less saleable than the images I have created in the last couple years.  Said another way, my RPI on new images is significantly higher than the RPI ever was on my old images so I don’t notice when my old images stop selling because my new images make up for those sales and then some.

How have your earnings changed throughout the years?  Post your comments below or discuss in the forum.

About The Author:

Tyler Olson works as a microstock photographer who also runs the MicrostockGroup forum and blog. Being so closely involved in the microstock community as a submitter, forum moderator and blogger, Tyler is able to keep updated in the constantly changing microstock marketplace.
Posted on January 10th, 2011 in Editorial | tags: ,
  • That’s very interesting Tyler! I saw a post on Twitter and just had to check it out. Good to know that increased uploads mean increased earnings (relatively speaking that is..) I have found the same thing and while my total time spend on doing stock work is considerably less these days as I have more assignments I do find that the overall income from microstock is fairly stable with the odd dive in between.
    Simone (better know as Fotosmurf in stockland)

  • Freedom

    “Those photographers with a ‘large’ portfolio, let’s say over 10,000 images, have a much harding[sic] time making the same jump in portfolio size. The second reason I feel my earnings are still climbing is because my initial microstock images were considerably less saleable than the images I have created in the last couple years. ”

    I agree with you. However, I also wonder if the photographers with large port have a lot of similar images, and because of their success and visibility, their best sellers are copied by others with the same or similar concept. Another comment is a lot of “newbies” are not truly newbies, they are extremely talented and highly competent photographers. As they enter the micro market, their high quality images will erode the market share of some older photographers.

    Maybe these factors also contribute to the drop?

  • I agree with you Freedom. Competing against oneself is definitely a problem for many. It doesn’t have to be a problem, but it certainly appears that some contributers reshoot many of their successful themes. This probably has both positive a negative effects. Reducing your sales on older images, but introducing new hotter images to compete with the current market.

    I also agree that competition is certainly growing. By both microstock shooters becoming more professional and professional shooters entering the microstock market.

  • catlady5353

    TY for your personal analysis of your work. It gave me “food for thought”. 🙂

  • Thanks for this very informative post Tyler.
    I notice that your summer slowdown appears to have grown in severity with the increase in portfolio size.
    I became full time in 2010 and I have noticed a similar trend: my 2010 summer slowdown in 2011 was about 5-10% with a portfolio size of 1600 images, and this year (2012) it has been 10-20% with a port of 3000 images.

    Did you notice this trend in 2011-2012?

    • Hi Ceeker. The summer slump in earnings makes bigger and bigger drops in terms of dollars but not in terms of percent (at least for me). Percent-wise it is pretty consistent. Last year my income was pretty stable throughout the summer (it actually climbed a little), but that is because I was uploading a lot.

  • Hi Tyler,
    Thanks for the quick response. As this is only my 2nd full year full time, I probably don’t really have enough data to make accurate assumptions, but your experience is encouraging! Thanks again!