Microstock Survey – 2009 Results

Intro and Disclaimer

Sorry for the long delay.  At long last, here are the results from the 2009 Microstock Survey.  First off, a big thanks to everyone who answered the survey.  Hopefully we can all get some information from the the results that are interesting and useful.

First off, let me say that this isn’t a scientific survey.  I am not a scientist, statistician nor mathemagician.  This survey only gives a general idea of the current state of the microstock industry.  That said, I think it does give a very good general idea of where we are at.  This year we had 413 people respond to the survey giving a pretty good sample size.  The majority of respondents came from Microstockgroup forum but the survey was also announced on and received a number of respondents from twitter, numerous microstock blogs, the iStock forum, DPChallenge forum and a number of other spots.

In the first table below I have compared the number of respondents to the number of photographers on Dreamstime and Shutterstock and the respective portfolio sizes.  Unsurprisingly, it is pretty obvious that the active microstockers are the ones who answered the survey.  That said, there are still some very long tales in the results; ie. the majority of images and sales belong to a small percentage of artists.

Microstock Survey Dreamstime Shutterstock


413 92,647 231,815

Total Images Online

440,335 8,653,203 11,454,993
Average Images/Photographer
1156 93 49

The Results

Below you will find the general results from the survey which already include a number of interesting pockets of info.  Throughout the next few weeks (and months) however, I will extract more detailed stats which, amongst other things, should will give us a closer look at how the full time microstockers are doing, how the exclusive / non-exclusive strategy is working, how the stats compare to 2008, etc…  I will be including some of these in my 5 minutes at the New Media Conferance in Dublin next week and of course continue to post the results on the blog.

If there are results you are specifically interested in seeing, post your questions in the comments?

Basic Information:

Survey Respondents: 413

Female: 102
Male: 303
No Answer: 8

Microstock Photographer Gender

Average Age: 41
Median Age: 41


iStock Exclusive: 78
non-exclusive: 329

iStock exclusive

What was your gross microstock income for 2009?

Average Income: $10,654
Median Income: $2,560

How many images did you have online December 31 2009?

Average: 1156
Median: 600
Sum of  images of all respondents: 440,335

Is microstock your primary source of income?

Yes: 76
No: 330

Is Microstock your primary source of income (over 50%)?

Do you hope to make Microstock your full time income in the future?


Do you hope to make Microstock your full time income in the future?

Percentage of total income that comes from Microstock Photography?

Average: 28%
Median: 10%

Do you Feel Microstock has a positive future?

Yes: 305
No: 98

Do you feel the future of microstock is positive?

Which microstock sites do you contribute to?

Answer Count Percentage
Shutterstock (1) 267 64.65%
Dreamstime (2) 283 68.52%
Fotolia (3) 267 64.65%
iStock (4) 262 63.44%
StockXpert (5) 211 51.09%
123RF (6) 218 52.78%
Bigstock (7) 225 54.48%
Crestock (8) 66 15.98%
Veer Marketplace (9) 104 25.18%
Yaymicro (10) 62 15.01%
Featurepics (11) 60 14.53%
MostPhotos (12) 46 11.14%
CanStockPhoto (13) 132 31.96%
Other 73 17.68%

Which microstock sites do you contribute to?

What types of media do you submit to microstock agencies?

Answer Count Percentage
Photography (Photo) 378 91.53%
Vectors (vecto) 63 15.25%
Video (video) 47 11.38%
Audio (audio) 8 1.94%

What types of media do you submit to microstock agencies?

How many months have you been involved in microstock photography?

Average: 34
Median: 30

Are you planning / hoping to go exclusive with iStock within the next 12 months?

Answer Count Percentage
Yes (Y) 33 7.99%
No (N) 293 70.94%
No answer 87 21.07%

Are you planning / hoping to go exclusive with iStock within the next 12 months?

Are you considering becoming a non exclusive photographer in the next 12 months?

Answer Count Percentage
Yes (Y) 12 2.91%
No (N) 65 15.74%
No answer 336 81.36%

On which site did you generate the most income last year?

Answer Count Percentage
Shutterstock (1) 149 36.08%
Dreamstime (2) 19 4.60%
Fotolia (3) 32 7.75%
iStock (4) 92 22.28%
StockXpert (5) 1 0.24%
123RF (6) 2 0.48%
Bigstock (7) 9 2.18%
Crestock (8) 2 0.48%
Veer Marketplace (9) 0 0.00%
Yaymicro (10) 0 0.00%
Featurepics (11) 0 0.00%
MostPhotos (12) 0 0.00%
CanStockPhoto (13) 1 0.24%
Other 25 6.05%
No answer 87 21.07%

On which site did you generate the most income last year?

In 2009 which site gave you the highest return per image (RPI)?

Answer Count Percentage
Shutterstock (1) 71 17.19%
Dreamstime (2) 42 10.17%
Fotolia (3) 26 6.30%
iStock (4) 127 30.75%
StockXpert (5) 3 0.73%
123RF (6) 3 0.73%
Bigstock (7) 7 1.69%
Crestock (8) 0 0.00%
Snapvillage (9) 1 0.24%
Yaymicro (10) 1 0.24%
Featurepics (11) 1 0.24%
MostPhotos (12) 2 0.48%
CanStockPhoto (13) 0 0.00%
Other 38 9.20%
No answer 89 21.55%
Non completed 2 0.48%

[Discuss the results in the forum] or in the comments below.

What statistics are you interested in seeing?

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 May 31st, 2010 in Microstock Survey | tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
  • I forgot how it was in the original survey… was the income calculated per year or per month?

    • The income stat was for the whole year. Was that was you were wondering about? I’ll make that more clear in the blog post.

  • Yes, this was cousing the confusion. Thanks for the clarification!

  • Lisa Y

    Very interesting and comprehensive data Tyler. Thanks for taking the time to compile this 🙂

  • Tyler:

    Your survey produced some Great Data.

    On the question “On which site did you generate the most income last year?” I understand that 149 said Shutterstock and 19 said Dreamstime. What I don’t understand is what the parenthesis after the agency name means. I would have thought that Shutterstock should have been (1), but that iStock should have been (2) and Dreamstime (4). I don’t understand why the parenthesis numbers are significant or important.

    It would be very interesting to know the number of respondents who listed income in the following categories:
    In excess of $100,000
    Between $75,001 and $100,000
    Between $50,001 and $75,000
    Between $25,001 and $50,000
    Between $10,654 and $25,000
    Between $2,560 and $10,654

    If microstock is the primary source of income for 76 my guess is that some of those have to earning less than $25,000 annually because I doubt that there are 76 out of your 413 who are earning in excess of $25,000.

    I am surprised that almost one quarter of the respondents feel that microstock does not have a “positive future” unless they only measure “positive future” as being able to earn a full time living from microstock. As a supplemental income, I would have expected to see more to be feeling positive about the future of microstock.

    It was also interesting that, while 33 hoped to go exclusive with iStock in the coming year, 12 who are already exclusive (I presume with iStock) are finding the exclusive relationship less than what they hoped for and are considering going back to non-exclusive. It would be interesting to know some of the reasons for considering this move.

    • Thanks for the thoughts Jim. To answer your first question, the numbers in the brackets are just the order the sites appeared in the poll. It is the ‘code’ for the site. The same as for some of the other questions it says Yes (Y) No (N) for example. I pulled the images from the polling software which is why the ‘codes’ were still there.

      To answer your second and following questions, you’ll have to wait until next week at Cepic 🙂 I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise. I’ll post the answers here on the blog in future posts as well.

  • Great data analysis following a great survey. Your insight view of microstock is really appreciated. Thanks.

  • If find it interesting that there is such a difference between the median and the average income. Typically this would mean that you top 10% earn A LOT more than the rest, so their numbers pull the average up significantly. Would you say this is true?

    • Yeah, I would say that is very true. The people who filled out this poll are amoung the higher earners but even amoungst this crowd the majority of income goes to a relatively small group within it.

  • Hey Tyler, thanks for compiling this info. It would insightful if you ran the same survey for 2010 so we could see how things are changing within the industry from a contributor perspective. Any plan for that?

    • Hi,

      Yeah, I plan to run the survey for 2010 again. I will compare the 2009 survey to the 2008 results as well, hopefully I’ll get a little of this done at the beginning of next month.

  • Pingback: 2008 vs 2009 Microstock Statistics | Microstockgroup Blog()

  • Wait for this year report! 2010 🙂

  • the “no answer” stats are ridiculous big.. (don’t remember if I am in or out of this survey) but will for sure at the 2010

  • Thank you Tyler this is very usable data and the time you took to compile is much appreciated. Have a great holiday. Look forward to the 2010 report.

  • alfiesaden

    hello – is it just me !! can any one explain why when i type in the firefox browser “blog.microstockgroup.com” i get a different site yet whe i type it in google its ok? could this be a bug in my system or is any one else having same probs ?
    alfie saden