Realistic Income from Selling Stock Photos - Is it worth it?

 
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How much money I make selling stock photography

Each month I share exactly how much money I make selling stock photos (as well as videos) online through a detailed monthly income report.

In case you missed last month’s report, you can find it here.

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing with you exactly how much I make as a stock contributor on Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and EyeEm (and Pond5 for stock footage). I’ll also break down exactly how much money comes from photo sales and how much comes from video sales.

My goal is to not only keep myself motivated by tracking my own progress, but also to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that may help other stock photo contributors sell more photos and videos.

When I first started selling stock photos, I was so curious about what to expect for realistic income from stock photography. Is it worth all the time and effort that’s required?

Which is better - video, photo, or both? Are they both worth submitting or should I focus exclusively on stock video footage?

These are a few of the questions that we’ll tackle in today’s post. I’ll be focusing specifically on what I make selling stock photos and whether or not it’s worth doing at all.

Total Income from Photo Sales (in 2019 so far)

I’ll get right to it. Here’s what I have made so far this year from stock photography sales alone.

This graph breaks down my earnings by month and site (EyeEm, Adobe Stock, and Shutterstock).

Stock Photo Sales in 2019

In case it’s hard to see, here are the total numbers for the year so far from each site:

EyeEm Total Earnings for 2019: $9.73

Adobe Stock Total Photo Earnings for 2019: $30.68

Shutterstock Total Photo Earnings for 2019: $147.20

I should also note how many photos I have available on each site. This is important for estimating what might be realistic in your case.

To find an average, I divided my total amount of photos available by total sales for each site. This gives the average amount you’ll earn per photo, per year (more like per 8 months since it hasn’t been a full year yet).

EyeEm: $9.73 / 185 photos = $0.05 (average per photo ytd)

  • This means 1000 photos would earn roughly $50 a year.

Adobe Stock: $30.68 / 202 photos = $0.15 (average per photo ytd)

  • This means 1000 photos would earn roughly $150 a year.

Shutterstock: $147.20 / 444 photos = $0.33 (average per photo ytd)

  • This means 1000 photos would earn roughly $330 a year.

Obviously this gives you a very rough estimate as there are many factors take into consideration - like the quality of your photos and how well they are key-worded, but it’s a real life example that may be worth analyzing.

If you are already in the game and looking for more effective key-wording strategies, I highly recommend checking out this post all about the best ways to tag your photos, as well as exactly how I use the Shutterstock keyword tool across all platforms to generate the best descriptive words.

Strategies to sell more stock photos

Quality versus Quantity : Which matters more?

The short answer is both! Obviously, the more photos you have available for download, the better your odds are for success. Especially when you consider how many millions of stock photos are already out there. And there are some pretty good ones, I might add.

But you can’t stop there. It’s not all about quantity. You can have thousands of photos available, but if your photos aren’t any good (or at least not better than your competition), they’ll never stand out against the crowd.

I recommend two things:

1) focus on continually improving your photography skills

2) set a schedule to keep yourself motivated to upload more and more photos each month

If you can commit to doing these two things consistently, not only will your photos naturally improve, but you’ll simultaneously be building up a larger and larger portfolio.

Find a niche

I’ll add one additional factor - finding the right niche. Forget about trying to sell shots of beautiful clouds or a field of wildflowers. There’s just too many other good ones out there already. Instead, try to find a specific topic that isn’t already saturated.

Many of the photos that I sell are from the first few days after I had my first little girl. We spent a few days in the NICU with her. Photographer that I am, I of course grabbed a few shots of various medical things in the hospital. There’s one that says ‘NICU’ on her bassinet. It’s a simple photo that sells all the time.

This is a niche that I happened to stumble upon. This month is ‘NICU’ month. I had no idea such a thing existed, but guess what, it’s been a great month for a few of these photos.

Think about subjects that you enjoy and have easy access to shooting. If it’s a broad genre, like fishing for example, niche it down even further to something like fly-fishing, bass fishing, lake fishing, etc.

Best Selling Stock Photos

I thought it could be interesting to share a few of my best selling photos and how much they’ve each earned over the long haul.

The image below is a screenshot of my best selling stock photos on Shutterstock.

Take note mostly of the total number of downloads over the total earnings. The ones that were only downloaded 2 or so times are a bit skewed by a few purchases that went for a higher price than average.

best selling stock photos on shutterstock for 2019

Stock photography : Is it worth it?

Now that we’ve taken a thorough look at exactly how much money I make selling stock photos, let’s talk about whether or not it’s worth the time and energy.

If you’re new to stock photography, I’ll be the first to tell you that it does take quite a bit of time to not only sort through your photos and upload them to each site, but especially to properly keyword each and every photo one by one.

Of course, there are ways to copy and paste batches of similar photos, which I do recommend. But it still takes hours. And when your pay off is only $0.25-0.33 per photo… you have to ask, is it really worth it?

Honestly, it’s a personal question that only you can answer. But here are some things to consider.

It’s passive income.

To me, this is the number one reason why I am a stock contributor. I love the idea that I can put in the time to upload and tag and then my photos and videos will continue to earn money for me indefinitely.

It’s the best feeling in the world to go month after month earning hundreds of dollars while not doing a thing.

Time is money.

On the other side of the coin - if you’re limited on time and your time could be better spent on something higher paying, like earning a few hundred dollars per shoot. Then stock photography may not make sense for you, as it’ll take a long time to exceed those earnings with stock photography.

My kids are young and right now I am more focused on spending as much time with them as possible at home, so for me passive income makes sense. But rewind my life to 5 years ago and I was out making way more money on individual shoots than I do on stock photography. It comes down to your priorities and your stage in life at the moment.

Which is better: stock photography or stock footage?

Here is the critical divide that I have personally come to. For me, it’s obviously not a question anymore: I have found a lot of value in selling stock. I will continue to upload new media. However, the question for me now is whether it’s worth continuing to upload any more stock photos over stock footage.

To be honest, right now the answer is no. I am not adding any more stock photos to my portfolio. When I have the time to upload more content, I focus on adding stock footage.

Two reasons why I’m focusing on stock footage:

1) There are far less stock videos available than stock photos, which means less competition. This means a much higher chance that my clips will be downloaded over the competition than the same content with stock photos.

2) You earn SO much more for a single footage clip than a single photo. For one clip you’ll earn anywhere from about $20-40 versus less than a dollar per photo. Just take a look at a few months of my previous earnings and you’ll see where the majority of my earnings come from. And interestingly I have almost the same number of clips as I do photos. The videos make about 10x as much money on average than my photos.

If there comes a day that I run out of stock footage to upload, then maybe I will go back through my photo catalogs and upload those, but for now I just can’t justify the time spent doing photos over the amount I could make in the same way through stock videos.

Conclusions

If you don’t have the capacity to take stock video clips or if you have an abundance of great photos to upload, I don’t want to discourage you in any way. It’s all about what makes the most sense for you! If you can upload 1000+ photos and are happy with an extra $100 bucks from it each month then I say go for it.

I think it’s an excellent little side hobby to earn some extra cash, even if it’s not your primary source of income.

Wishing you all the best on this journey. Please leave any questions or comments below. What are your thoughts on stock photography? Still worth it??