So how much can you really earn selling stock photos online?
Well, before I begin, I will say that I have personally earned well into 6 figures through stock photography and video and there are people out there who have earned a hell of a lot more!
As of February 2015, I am still planning all my uploads for both stills and video so for me to still be putting in a lot of effort, it must mean I think there is still a lot to earn in this industry…particularly with video as that is where stills were 8 years ago.
I am sure this part is why most of you are even reading this section. A love for and passion for photography is all well and good but if you can turn this into a thriving stock photography business then all the better.
Earnings are directly related to the effort you put in with regards to:
- Portfolio size (consistent uploading)
- The ability to learn and apply new techniques
- The quality of your images
- Applying new and fresh ideas that really stand out
- Persistence and desire to succeed
They say that the average stock photographer earns approximately $1 per image, per month so a portfolio of 1000 decent images will earn you $1000 per month. How long would it take you to shoot and upload say 10,000 images? Is it worth the effort for a consistent and residual $10,000 per month?
There are a few photographers, in fact more than a few, that have portfolios way over the 10,000 image mark and as an example, one in particular has 18,000 images at Dreamstime and has made over 100,000 sales from that site alone in the past 3 years!
Take into account he probably has these uploaded to 5 or 6 other sites, the value goes up with each sale and each sale is worth $1 on average and you can see the earnings potential.
(By the way, that photographer earn in excess of $1million per year from stock photography).
You get out of it what you put in.
If you could simply do with an extra $500 per month, that is easily achievable in a relatively short space of time but once you get there, you are already addicted!
Alamy pay between 40 and 60% depending on how the image is sold (directly or through partners etc). This can be quite substantial as my lowest Royalty Free sale at Alamy is $64 and my biggest sale is $453 (although I have actually had a sale for $3 since they introduced their Novel use scheme).
More info on terms and payments here…http://www.alamy.com/terms.asp
iStock photo pay just 20%, one of the lowest in the business but since they are the biggest, you should receive more sales. If you choose to go exclusive, your commission goes up to 40%.
Prices for images range from 1 credit for extra small up to 18 credits for extra large. Credits are approximately $1 each to buy but you receive discount for bulk orders. So, your earnings range from .20c up to $3-4 for extra large.
From the SS website: The current payout rate for Standard License 25-A-Day Subscription downloads is $.25 (25 cents per image download). After earning a total of $500, your rate increases to $.33 per download.
Once you surpass a total lifetime earnings of $3,000, your rate will increase to $.36 per download, and after you reach $10,000 in lifetime earnings, your rate will increase to $.38 per download.
Our current payout rate for On Demand Subscription downloads is: $.81 for the Small/Medium Image Size plan, and $1.88 for the All Sizes plan. After earning a total of $500, the rate increases to $1.07 per download for Small/Medium and $2.48 for All Size.
Once you surpass a total lifetime earnings of $3,000, your rate will increase to $1.17 for Small/Medium and $2.70 for All Size. After you reach $10,000 in lifetime earnings, your rate will increase to $1.24 for Small/Medium and $2.85 for All Size.
Additionally, the royalty for an Enhanced License image download is $28
I am personally on the higher band for all these and it really makes a difference so be inspired to get cracking! Shutterstock also (usually) give submitters a pay rise each year where the commissions go up a little…hint, hint SS…are you listening?
More details here: http://submit.shutterstock.com/earnings_schedule.mhtml
Update 2012: In February 2012, Shutterstock announced that they will be rolling out a new addition to their terms of service and potential earnings for contributors. This is called “sensitive use” for images.
As the name implies, your images, if opted in, can be used by buyers for the more sensitive issues. In Shutterstock’s own words:
A sensitive use might cause a reasonable person to believe that the subject of the image suffers from a physical or mental health condition; endorses, advocates, or believes in a particular product, service, cause or opinion; or is otherwise associated with an issue that some might consider controversial or unflattering.
Sensitive uses are subject to specific and important restrictions:
- Customers must indicate that the image is of a model and used for illustrative purposes only.
- Images may not be used in tobacco ads; in materials that are pornographic; or are used to market and/or promote adult entertainment clubs or similar venues, or escort, dating or similar services.
There will be no change in our policy regarding the use of editorial images.
Two important points with regards to this if you are a Shutterstock contributor:
- You are automatically opted IN to this scheme so if you want to opt out, you need to go to your account and do so.
- Earning per sale are a lot higher than standard rates and you can earn up to $75 per image sale!
Again, this shows that the microstock sites are still thriving and continuing to pave the way forward in ways that benefit all of us. If you haven’t considered Shutterstock before, now maybe the time to start!
Caveat: If you have models in your portfolio (friends, family or children etc) that may be against their images being used for this type of usage, please consider opting out. Also, maybe a change to your model releases to include this new option would be a good idea.
Update 2018: Just to let you know that my images are still selling well. Two images that I uploaded in 2006 were sold “on demand” yesterday which is always a nice bonus…
Dreamstime pay a healthy 50% for standard contributors and 60% to exclusives. They also have 5 levels of image pricing and each level is reached when your image receives a certain amount of downloads (subscription images or images purchased through a buyers subscription, pay .35c per download).
As your image moves through the levels, the payout for that image increases so again, you have an incentive to produce high quality photos!
- Level 1 image – 1-4 downloads
- Level 2 image – 5-19 downloads
- Level 3 image – 20-49 downloads
- Level 4 image – 50-99 downloads
- Level 5 Image – 100+ downloads
One credit = approximately $1
A level 1 Image will cost the buyer as follows (remember you get 50%)
- Extra small – 1 Credits
- Small – 2 Credits
- Medium – 3 Credits
- Large – 4 Credits
- Extra Large – 5 Credits
- Maximum – 6 Credits
A level 5 image will cost the buyer as follows (remember you get 50%)
- Extra small – 9 Credits
- Small – 10 Credits
- Medium – 11 Credits
- Large – 12 Credits
- Extra Large – 13 Credits
- Maximum – 14 Credits
We saw earlier that Fotolia operate on a ranking basis…
- Less than 100 – White
- Between 100 and 1000 – Bronze
- Between 1000 and 10000 – Silver
- Between 10000 and 25000 – Gold
- Between 25000 and 100000 – Emerald
- Between 100000 and 250000 – Sapphire
- Between 250000 and 1000000 – Rubis
- Above 1000000 – Diamond
…and each level earns you more money per image downloaded.
Their system is a little too complicated to add here so you can read up on the payouts and earnings potential here: http://en.fotolia.com/Info/Contributors
StockXpert offer .30c per download for subscription based sales and 50% for everything else. Pricing is as follows:
Extra small – $1
Small – $2
Medium – $3
Large – $4
Extra large – $10
Extended Licenses – 1 credit = $1
Multi Seat License 1 – 25 Credits
Multi Seat License 2 – 50 Credits
Physical Resale Items – 50 Credits
Electronic Resale Items – 75 Credits
Extended Print License – 100 Credits
Big Stock Photo
Big Stock Photo also offer 50% commission on all sales. 1 credit = $1
So you can make anywhere between .50c and $3 for a typical download and up to $60 for a special licence download!
BUT, you won’t get anywhere until you make that first move and start shooting great stock and uploading to the first set of agencies. You can stop reading now and go and grab your camera…