Microstock Industry – 2008 Statistics

At the start of this year I ran a poll to get a picture of the microstock industry in 2008.  I presented a few of these results in a presentation at UCGX in San Jose as well as on the MicrostockGroup forum.  While gearing up to run the poll again (in January), I thought I would present a few more statistics from last year’s poll.  Some of the statistics you have seen before, but some should be new.

Edit: Also, please note that this is a somewhat small sample size from the microstock industry.  Dreamstime, for example, currently has 80,000+ contributors, while only 244 microstock photographers responded to the survey.  I have good reason to believe that the results give a fair picture of the industry, but given the large number of photographers who did not take part in the survey, there could be discrepancies.

It is going to be interesting to compare this data to the 2009 results in regards to industry outlook, agency success and hardship (failure), portfolio sizes, income etc…

Photographers who responded to the survey: 244

Male: 77%  Female: 23%


Average gross microstock income for all photographers: $10,000

Average gross microstock income for full time microstock photographers (those earning over 50% of their income from microstock): $34,700

Number of full time microstock photographers who responded to the poll: 34 (13.9% of respondents)

Do you feel the future of microstock photography is positive?


Here is a graph which shows the income of all the photographers who responded to the poll.    The majority of photographers are earning less than $1,000.  Only two respondents stated income over $100,000 with an interesting bump in the graph for photographers earning over $10,000


Compared to a graph which displays the number of images each photographer had online, we see a number of similarities.  There are really only a few people who are seriously putting time into microstock with a lot of people just doing it in their spare time.  This is to be expected however, as that is what microstock is all about.  Providing a platform to the hobbyist to sell their work.  Those who generate a full time income from microstock are the exception.


In 2008, when asked about the site which generated the most income, Shutterstock easily falls into first place with iStock a distant second.  Fotolia has been really gaining ground this year and it will be interesting to see if they pass Dreamstime or if the graph remains similar.

Which site generates the most income?


I find it interesting though, how Microstock is said to be UGC (user generated content).  It is indeed UGC as we can see by the number of hobbyists which submit and the mass number of photographers signed up at various agencies.  But the images on the microstock sites don’t look like user generated content – content which is amateurish, spontaneous and natural.  I find this quite odd because the industry seems to have been turned upside down.  The content which looks like UGC is all the rage at Getty and other traditional agencies, created by professional photographers (and recently Flickr invitees), while the UGC photographers on the microstock sites are creating clean crisp images.

If you are interested in seeing other results from the poll let me know and I can add them to the blog post, or if think something was missed in last year’s survey let me know it in the comments.

Here are last year’s questions

1 Are you male or female?
2 Your age?
3 Are you exclusive to iStock?
4 How much money did you gross from microstock photography in 2008?
5 Is microstock photography your primary source of income (over 50%)?
6 In the future do you hope to make microstock photography your primary source of income?
7 Are you happy to keep microstock photography your primary source of income?
8 How much did you spend on photography / computer equipment and software during 2008?
9 How much did you spend on microstock photography shoots?
10 What percentage of your total income is earned from microstock photography?
11 Do you feel the future of microstock photography is positive?
12 Do you activley submit images to Alamy ?
13 Which microstock photography websites do you actively submit to?
14 Excluding Alamy, do you submit to any Macrostock agencies?
15 Which macrostock sites do you actively contribute to?
16 On average, how many hours a week do you spent on microstock photography?
17 In December of last year, how many  images did you have for sale in the microstock marketplace.?
18 Do you have any employees or work as a team with anyone creating microstock imagry?
19 How many MONTHS have you been involved in microstock photography?
20 Do you have any sort of formal photography training?
21 Are you planning / hoping to go exclusive with iStock within the next 12 months ?
22 Are you considering becoming a non exclusive photographer in the next 12 months?
25 Do you plan to submit stock video in the future?
26 In 2008, On which site did you generate the most income?
27 In 2008 which site gave you the highest return per image (RPI)?

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 November 23rd, 2009 in Microstock Survey | tags: , , ,
  • Surveys that are regarded as having any reflection of reality must have a margin of error between +/- 5%. Most respected surveys have a margin of error of +/-3%. To establish this, you need to show what the total population size is of those who contribute to microstock sites. This information isn’t here. Then you need to show that the respondents are taken from a random sampling of that population. Otherwise, your data could be skewed in ways that taint the results. Lastly, the survey methods also need to be disclosed: where you got the population estimates, names, randomization methods, and so on.

    I realize that such efforts are potentially onerous, band that it doesn’t necessarily take away the “interestingness” of the results you got, but you may want to note that this is not a scientific survey at the top of the article, and that the results are purely anecdotal.


    • Thanks for the thoughts Dan. You are right – I should give a better idea of the population and how it compares to the data I received in the survey. When I presented the results at UGCX in San Jose I did compare my results to the contributer population of StockXpert, which showed a close corelation but I didn’t calculate how close. When I release the results for 2009 I will be sure to do so, as well as add a note than I am not a scientist or statistician 🙂