By Andrew Hudson Published: June 17, 2011 Updated: October 19, 2016
The first thing everyone wants to know is: how much money can I expect to make from microstock? So let’s look at some income numbers.
According to the excellent, the average income of a microstock photographer in 2009 was:
$10,654 a year
That’s $888 per month. This was for photographers that had about 1,000 images spread over six microstock sites.
“I think $1,000 a month is feasible, $3,000 with hard work. Remember that it is rather a long term thing so you might need 1 or 2 years to reach $3,000.”
— Laurent Dambies of Microstock Experiment
“$30–100 per month per 100 images you have had accepted on the top six microstock sites.”
— Steve Gibson at Microstock Insider
How many images do you need online to get this revenue?says:
Now these are accepted images. If we assume that microstock sites will accept about 60% of the images you’d submit, then you’d need about 2,000 images that you consider top notch.
RPI (Return Per Image)
An important metric that microstockers like to talk about is “RPI.” This stands for “Return Per Image,” which means the average income for one photo accepted online. Since each photo costs you time to shoot, process and submit, RPI is a good way to measure your hourly income.
In the, the average RPI was:
Annual RPI: $9.22
This is per year, and it’s tempting to think that you’ll get $9.22 each year for the rest of your life. But photos get old (just like us) and they grow unfashionable, outdated, and less popular (also just like us). If we assume that each stock photo drops in popularity by 20% per year, that gives us a lifetime multiple of about 5. So the lifetime income of a microstock photo is about 5 × $9.22=$46.
Lifetime RPI: $46
Now we have a benchmark with which to measure your time. If you can create and submit one acceptable microstock photo per hour, that’s a revenue of $46 per hour. Maybe you could work efficiently and improve this rate. But if you travel, rent a studio, hire models, buy equipment, or incur other costs, you have to take that into account too.
RPI Reported by Photographers
|$38||Royce Bair, The Stock Solution in 2005|
|$22.56||Lee Torrens of Microstock Diaries in Nov 2009|
|$14||Royce Bair, The Stock Solution in 2004|
|$12||Laurent Dambies of Microstock Experiment ($1/mth)|
|$9||Lee Torrens at Microstock Diaries|
|$3||Steve Gibson at Microstock Insider|
|$1.08||Microstock Adventure ($0.09/mth)|
“On average, contributors see $12–15 annual revenue per image (RPI).”
— Lookstat ( source).
RPD (Revenue Per Download)
How much you get when your photo is downloaded (licensed) by a customer.
RPD Reported by Photographers
|$1.40||Jim Pickerell for non-exclusive|
photographers at iStockPhoto
“On average, each download is worth around $2. If a photographer has 25,000 downloads since he joined in 2005 that means he’s earned around $50,000 from iStock.”
— David “Skyhobo”
Hi. This is the end! The remaining pages are just thrown together as I’m still developing this book. So it all looks like notes, which is what it is. Good luck!
$10,666 per month was the estimated income of Lise Gagne on iStock in 2006, according to David Walker of Photo District News.
According to DPhotoJournal, Yuri Accurs earned $64,000 from microstock in January 2008.
Each image is sold on average 100-120 times during its first year online. ( source)
$1.40 per download is earned on average by non-exclusive photographers at iStockPhoto according to Jim Pickerell “I believe the average gross sale for an image in the standard collection (not Vetta or video) is $6.50 to $7.50. … Non-exclusives earn 20 percent.”
$500,000 per month by Yuri Arcurs on i.StockPhoto alone in 2010. “Yuri Arcurs, the No. 1 producer, had between 357,574 and 367,574 total downloads in the last 14 months.” according to Jim Pickerell
Yuri Arcurs sells “about 2,000 [licenses] per day” (according to his website) “Yuri Arcurs Photography inc. has it’s headquarters in Denmark, Scandinavia and employs a dedicated full-time staff of twelve. Yuri has another 30 people in three departments around the world in South Africa, India and the US.”
Biggest seller photographer at Fotolia: MonkeyBusiness
Can you make this a full-time job?
“I started back in late ‘05, early ‘06 — I was paying my mortgage by mid ‘07 and then went all out full time with the loss of my full time day job in mid-2008. [He now has] just a little over 5,000 stock images.”
“If you can place about 2,000 good images with the right microstock agency, you could expect to earn about $28,000 dollars (U.S.) per year (your experience will vary, depending on your images).”
— Royce Bair, The Stock Solution photo agency, 2004.
“Combined, these four micro agencies produced an income of about $38 per image per year. My original sampling was with only about 100 images with each agency, and your results will vary.However, if a photographer can place a group of only 2,000 similar quality images on these four services, he could potentially make about $76,000 per year.”
— Royce Bair, The Stock Solution in 2005.
Typical Microstock Photographers
How much do typical photographers earn?
Other Earnings Data
- Erik Kolstad
- Laryn Kragt Bakker has earned $16,229 on microstock sites as of 8/26/10, mainly on Shutterstock.
RPI per Agency
How much does each microstock site pay?
RPI per agency:
- $0.88 Shutterstock ($956 from 1090)
- $0.86 Fotolia ($998 from 1160)
- $0.72 Dreamstime ($823 from 1131 photos)
- $0.24 iStock ($170 from 698)
- $0.11 BigStockPhoto ($135 from 1253)
- $0.06 123RF ($69 from 1245)
Total: $3.19 per month per image. $3,606 per month average in 2010.
From Royce Bair at The Stock Solution:
- Shutterstock – highest, about $14/image average per year)
- iStockphoto – slightly lower, about $12/image average per year
- Dreamstime – about $8/image average per year
- Canstockphoto – about $4/image average per year
25 Microstockers I Watch and Why
WordPress Sites/Themes I Like
- 25 Microstock Diaries
What advice can you give to an aspiring microstock photographer?
“Do some research (find a niche), be patient and have perseverance.”
— Laurent Dambies of Microstock Experiment