Tuesday, December 26, 2017

6 Months on Shutterstock and Others: Earnings and Thoughts

December 26, 2017 - Vero Beach, Florida

While looking through my portfolio this spring, I realized that I had reached a point in my life where stock photography sales might make sense. At this point, I have thousands of good photos, many of which are unique, that can totally be sold online. Understand that this is a very long-term investment…and right now I have the time to get started, so why not!
This was my number 1 seller on Shutterstock for the first 4 months.

After a lot of research, I started with Shutterstock, figuring it would be the easiest to get a foothold on. Most others making money in the stock world recommend it, even if the average sale is only $0.25 per photo. The fact is, while other sites pay more, Shutterstock has the volume. As a side note, many sales make significantly more than this. 

The biggest problem I have with selling on these sites is the time commitment it takes. For the first year, I have spent more time than I can count keywording and adding metadata. I’m sure I’ve lost money on year 1 because of this, but I’m counting that over the course of 20 years I won’t remember. Furthermore, I’m getting better at the keywording game and automating the process through Lightroom.

The Numbers
So, how has it worked out? Here are my stats from the four sites I have been approved on. I’m posting this because I searched for information like this and could not find it. As you can see, on some sites I have pushed more photos, while on others I have waited to see what sorts of images sell. I have had limited luck on Alamy so far and I have only very recently joined iStock. iStock requires exclusive content, so I plan to experiment with how new shots as they come out. This is far from a full-time gig for me, and I would estimate that I am averaging 2 hours per week on stock photography.
Current best seller on Shutterstock

Joined April 2017
Total photos uploaded 241
Total rejections 70
Total number of sales 224
Sales as of Dec 18, 2017….$103.20
Average earnings per sale…$0.46

Joined May 2017
Total photos uploaded 76
Total rejections 3
Total number of sales 1
Sales as of Dec 18, 2017…$5
Average earnings per sale…$5

Joined July 2017
Total photos uploaded 29
Total rejections 0
Total number of sales 10
Sales as of Dec 18, 2017 $9.45
Average earnings per sale…$0.95

iStock by Getty
Joined November 2017
Total photos uploaded 44
Total rejections 1
Total number of sales 1
Sales as of Dec 18, 2017 ?? (doesn’t tell you until next month)
Average earnings per sale…??

What Photos Have Sold
The next question is, what has sold? By far, the most successful images are photos on Shutterstock and Dreamstime that I took during a Florida Christmas boat parade. The number one best seller is:

Most of these sites also publish a list of desired photos or some sort of photo assignment every month. As I build my stock portfolio, I'm looking for these as good opportunities to build my portfolio and do some "assignment" shooting. Dreamstime has a month assignment contest, which I've entered twice. Both times all submissions were rejected for various reasons which seemed bizarre, so I'm not really sure what's going on there.

I've used Shutterstock as my example for these rejection photos because their process has taught me how to succeed in other places. Notice, I have a lot of Shutterstock rejections, but not too many on other sites. That's by design to some extent. If there's one thing I've learned it's that it's impossible to predict. Sometime I'll submit a photo that I don't think is very good or that I'm sure would be rejected (like photos from the GoPro) but they will be approved. So if they like the photo or they think it could sell, they will overlook certain things. And just because Shutterstock says no doesn't mean someone else won't like it. 

Rejected...by Shutterstock. Accepted and for sale on Dreamstime.

Rejected for trademark/copyright. I'm not sure I agree.

iStock rejected this image for needing a property release.
I don't think this is identifiable in any way!

While the numbers look small, I’m considering this endeavor a success. I plan to continue uploading photos (and soon videos too) and letting my portfolios grow slowly. I now have a pretty smooth system for keywording, so it takes significantly less time to do the work than it has previously. Plus, it’s fun to go through old photos and put my portfolio to use. And I am making money off of the photos that I really enjoy shooting…beautiful beaches and sunsets and boat parades!

If you’re interested in selling on these sites and have found this info helpful, please use the following referral link to sign up!

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