Adventures In Stock Photography

Male Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye Male Duck- Recently added to the stock portfolio. Hey, people buy duck photos. Go figure.

Here it is, early March 2021 and I’m ramping up my stock photography.

The goal this year was to attain an online catalog of at least 5,000 different images. Although I haven’t done a lot of work over the winter, and considering that I’ve pretty much gone through my archives and mined most of the decent shots, I still managed to inch towards my 2021 goal. I have about 4350 images, give or take on the micro stock websites and they continue to sell at a good pace.

I’d say that my average revenue YTD is currently on par with my best year, 2017. I saw a drop in sales during 2020, for a number of reasons, and I’ll blame the pandemic as the major contributor. But I also reevaluated the performance on all my stock agencies and have weeded out a few non-performers.

Another big hit came when Shutterstock decided to cut royalties to contributors down to about 10 cents per download back around the 1st of June of 2020. Their stock market share value was underperforming, so they came up with a scheme to increase their dividends to stockholders by taking money away from the contributors. It worked too. Their year end report indicates a $0.17 dividend per share earnings and their stock value has recovered. But all that was done at the expense of the photographers and other contributors, in a very money grubbing theft-like way. A lot of contributors evacuated the agency including myself and those who remain there are now the lucky recipients of about half of the revenue they would have otherwise made.

Shutterstock’s contributor royalties payable, as gleaned from their 2020 annual report for 2020, payments to contributors = $1,075,000 and for the previous year, 2019 payments to contributors = $2,168,000.  That’s close to a 50% drop. Those who remained with them as contributors can enjoy their pocket change and being ripped off. As for me, I’m outa there. I don’t work for free.

I also dumped Yay Images, a total non-performer. I sold less than $10 worth of images there last year. A total waste of time and effort.

Same with Panther Media and Can Stock, both big nothing burgers.

I’m on the fence with 123RF right now. I’m getting a few sales but nothing close to the better agencies.

One thing I have noticed with all the losers is the fact that they aren’t really near the top of the market when it comes to other agencies. They also tend to be the most picky and annoying to deal with. There’s a message there me thinks. The poor performers are the highest maintenance.

On the happy side, Adobe Stock is now my top selling stock agency, followed closely by Getty Images. What puts Adobe at the top though is the fact that they also give me a free subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud for being one of their top contributors, meaning I don’t have to pay for Lightroom Classic and Photoshop, which effectively adds another $120 of revenue a year because I don’t have to pay for it.

Getty Images also continues to generate a good amount of revenue for the business. Just barely behind Adobe and steady as a rock.

Another smaller stock agency, Dreamstime, has been going up, up, up with sales, to the point that it has nearly filled the void of leaving ShutterStock. Bringing up the rear is BigStock photo, which is owned by ShutterStock but run separately as its own business. I’m seeing a little drop off with BigStock though.

As for what is selling well. I’d say landscape photos are outselling wildlife photos by about 3:1. Train photos have been very popular this past year too. I’ll be working on that this summer. Train photos have always made money. We just need to see those trains back on the tracks so I can chase them down.

So, if you’re interested in getting into stock photography, I’d steer you towards Adobe, Getty and Dreamstime as viable sources of income. The rest are pretty much nickel/dime operations imo. Nothing ever stays the same.

This leaves me with a remaining goal of adding another 650-700 photos to the portfolio this year, and with the effects of the pandemic easing, I’m expecting revenue to go up about 10-20% the remainder of this year. So far, I’m on track. I just need to get out there and get the photos.

Your mileage may vary.