Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

My #EyeEmPaid in 2017

I made $1,254.93 in four months with #EyeEmPaid, do you want to know how?

I have been writing this blog for four years, I have mentioned EyeEm a lot of times but so far I did not have a single article dedicated to them. That’s something totally uncalled for since they turned out to be one of the places that make good money for me month after month. In the first four months of 2017 alone, the royalties I received through them added up to $1,254.93 and I actually have some hopes this will continue to improve.

My #EyeEmPaid in 2017

The royalties I have made with #EyeEmPaid in 2017

For those who stumbled across this post and don’t know me yet: I have been doing stock photography for more than a decade, for the first half as a hobby on the side of office jobs, and for the last couple of years as a major part of my photography business. So I’m not new, trying around, I pretty much know what I’m doing. This certainly helps me thinking ahead as I already know all the pitfalls of trying to shoot for stock. I have been running this blog since early in 2013, written over 100 blog posts on the stock photography business and the places to sell and regularly keep posting little hints and news on my Facebook page. And I even wrote a book on stock photography which is available in German language at the dpunkt Verlag or any book seller.

Three things you need to consider when shooting with stock in mind

  • Avoid logos, brands and designs in your images as those will prohibit commercial use
  • Be sure to spend the time needed (it might be just two minutes) to prepare every single image before uploading
  • Be selective but consistent in uploading fewer shots covering a wide variety of topics

Logos are the biggest issue as there are plenty of them around us all the time. The little Nike swoosh on the shoes or even worse adidas’ three stripes along the pants, the RayBan logo on the sun glasses, the Apple logo on the iPhone or the Mercedes star in the city scape. Many of those can be fixed in post processing using tools like Snapseed of Photoshop Fix on the phone or editing software like Lightroom or Photoshop on the computer. However, it is so much easier when you already know what to look for while shooting. Sometimes a slight change of angle will already hide that small logo that was visible a second ago. Train your eye to look out for them and you’re half the way of getting more images approved for commercial use.

Design products are a bit more difficult: Apple, Samsung, Google have all sued each other for many years, fighting for their products to stay unique enough to give them an advantage. In the same way, they don’t like to see the most important protected elements of their designs in stock images as well. Using an iPhone as a prop in a stock image requires you to not only hide the Apple logo on the back but most of the unique physical features like the Home button and the antenna strip on the back. For modern cars, the same is true: Even just the head lights or the silhouette of a car can give away the brand and needs to be avoided if possible. Try to read up and learn quickly what can be done and what is a strict no-go if you want to make more from shooting images. (Read more about retouching images for logos on EyeEm’s blog: https://www.eyeem.com/blog/photo-editing-for-eyeem-market-101/)

I also want to mention the importance of being focused on uploading better images rather than more images. Volume certainly helps in increasing sales but if you upload another 10,000 random images of flowers on a meadow in spring time, you are rather unlikely to make significant amounts of royalties. Being selective in what you shoot, how you shoot, how you select the best of them and how you post process your images.

If you are looking for the right tools, I have written a blog post on the 8 apps I use most often on my phone on MyStockPhoto a few years ago: https://www.mystockphoto.org/8-apps-mobile-photography/ – with the exception of Hipstamatic (too destructive for stock images) I still use most of them, Snapseed and VSCO Cam still being my favorites.

After three years of uploading to EyeEm, I have managed to get around 1,000 images into the Market so far. That isn’t a big number, and there are others who have ten times more. But from what I have seen in numbers shared, I believe that I have a rather high hit-miss ratio and certainly make more than some of those who basically upload the whole set of images from their camera. I prefer to spend a few minutes on every image to optimize the contrast, the colors, if needed I crop for a better composition. I also try to add at least ten relevant tags (albums) to each of my images, even though EyeEm uses image recognition to add tags themselves. The most relevant ones (where I have been, what exactly it is that I have shot and how I shot it) are regularly missed. I am convinced: Spending more time on less images gives my images a certain advantage over those who are less selective in what they upload.

Three tips for getting the kind of images that might do better than average

Go the extra mile

Once every year I make the effort to get up extra early around 4am, take the first train down town to the center of the city and be among the few first ones around. Being able to picture places that are crowded in most of the images other people upload gives my photos an edge that others can’t provide.

Find that extra mile that you can go to make your images stand out from all the similar from the same locations.

Beyond the beauty shots

When it comes to shooting people, there are basically two kinds of photographers: Those who don’t dare to take images of people at all, and those who primarily shoot female subjects in the range of 18-30 years. Well, at least that’s what 98% of images on the internet suggest. I won’t try to talk you out of that, if you can get model released images with a young woman in beautiful places, you’re likely to still sell images.

However, thinking outside of that box of people that are seen all the time might also work well. Luckily, I have a very willing and cheap model working for me voluntarily all the time: Me. And since I don’t have any jobs that require representation, I can allow myself to grow my beard a bit longer than usual every couple of months, have my hair grow a bit longer, get dressed however I like and much more. Add some light that goes beyond the all-flat-no-shadows-softbox light in common microstock photography, and you might have a unique image of a person. Even a character sometimes.

Show something common in an uncommon way

Food photography is among the most popular themes in recent years, so many blogs around that topic and lots of people shoot their own beautiful images of any kind of food. It isn’t impossible to stand out of the crowd if you are really good at what you do. However, if you are more like me, you’ll never manage to get “above average” food images. I try to compensate by shooting unexpected images in themes where I can’t compete with the best. You can spend lots of time to prepare and arrange your food – but what food photographer takes an image of the plate after dinner is finished?

Full disclosure: I do contract work for EyeEm. However, I am not getting paid for promoting their market nor do I get any benefits (like my images being sold more prominently) in exchange for writing this blog post. This post is just describing how I feel about their offer as a photographer in this business.

Want to learn more about EyeEm and selling images?

We have started a Facebook group about the EyeEm Market earlier this year. Feel free to join the discussion.

Also, I am sharing news and opinions on the different ways to make money from images on my Facebook page.



  1. Hi Michael,
    Congrats on your Eyeem sales!
    I’m now considering adding this agency,
    Do you upload to Eyeem the same images you upload to other agencies? or keep a separate collection for eyeem specifically?
    Also do you upload mobile images only or also dslr images?

    • Currently it’s about 90% DSLR or my Sony a6000, and only about 10% mobile.

      I often upload images that are not available at microstock but I occasionally mix it to find out what works where. But I also upload some those images to other non-subscription sites, mostly smaller agencies with slightly higher prices than micro.

  2. Hi, thanks for sharing. That common things in uncommon way strikes me, I may have some new ideas.
    Btw, did the portrait and the finished food pics sell?

  3. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the great article! I have a question – when I upload imiages to EyeEm through the web interface, they don’t automatically pull the EXIF data from my images (caption, keywords). And I also can’t copy/paste all the keywords at once.
    Do you have any solution for this problem? I have quite a few files I’d like to upload there, but it will take ages if I’m going to enter all the keywords to all the images one by one.

    • Hi Greg, yes that’s true and rather unfortunate. EyeEm was mainly built as a community, not an agency, so they are using their tagging/album system. Also they never meant people to upload hundreds of images at once, it was built to share your occasional best shot of the day. When they added the market, they had to fit into that concept.

      We are all hoping they will eventually invest into making the system more friendly towards market focused contributors. For the time being, I rarely upload more than 3-5 images at once, and I try to upload them together through the web interface, not the mobile app. At least this way I can set the tags for multiple images at once.

      • Hi Michael,
        Thank you for the reply!

        Inspired by your article I decided to take a chance and started uploading my photos there. I wonder what are their review times? I have photos that sit under review for about a month already, but I’ve noticed that your images that are 5 days old are already on sale. Do you think they have a sort of ranking system where contributors with good content get quicker review times?

        By the way here’s my portfolio if you care to take a peek


        • Hi Greg

          First of all: Beautiful portfolio. Some in there will probably be too artistic to be commercially attractive but a lot of them are likely to get accepted and hopefully will make some money for you. 🙂

          EyeEm is using their image recognition tools to prioritize images. We don’t know exactly about the what and how but images they consider more likely to sell will be sent to reviewers faster. Others might have to wait in line, it can take 1-2 months.

          The whole system is slow and requires lots of patience. After the review, images are being keyworded, sent to partners like Getty, they make their own reviews and pick the images they want, then after a sale it can take customers 30 days to pay the invoices, sales are only processed once a month later. So a reasonable expectation to see the first sale is 6 months or longer. Then again, once in the system, your images are there to stay. At other agencies, I’m still selling licenses for images I shot ten years ago.

          I recommend making it a habit to upload a few images every week and just keep doing that for a year at least before taking a step back and review if the results are what you were hoping for. As I mentioned, I have taken three years to build a portfolio of 1,000 on the side of running the rest of my business.

          Cheers, Michael

          • Hi Michael,

            Again, thank you so much for your prompt replies!

            I’m glad you liked my portfolio. I understand that it will take time to start making money at EyeEm. I just wanted to be more clear on their review times.

            Yeah, it was kind of strange that one of my images from about a week ago was accepted into the premium collection and is up on sale, but all the rest of them are still under review – even the ones that I uploaded much earlier.

            I guess if our images are left to the mercy of an algorithm to begin with, all kind of strange things can happen 🙂

            Anyway, thanks again for your help and for all your articles – very good stuff!

            Have a nice day 🙂

  4. Michael, thank you for your time to show us some insight in your work and thoughts.

    I’m sitting on the fence about Getty, as I have a mixed feelings about the whole situation and the way iStock/Getty is heading. To say at least. :-/

    After everything being set and done – are you satisfied (revenue-based) with decision to leave exclusivity long ago?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Evian

      Yes, I am very happy with the decisions I have made. I have no regrets for the time I was exclusive with iStock since I have learned so much, had lots of fun and met great people. However, the more Getty took over the control, the worse it got (and still gets in my opinion).

      Dropping exclusivity has opened so many new doors for me that I haven’t even dreamed about four years ago. I did work hard on my photography skills and learned a lot. I probably could have done better on iStock with all the knowledge I have now but it is less likely I would have made the same experiences then.

      I do understand the economic reasons why some people stay with iStock/Getty. When you’re exclusive with a high amount of images entering premium collections, it can still make sense financially.

      All the best, Michael

      • Thanks a lot Michael.
        I have a relatively small portfolio of 1,1k images in total. I used to earn 1,3-2k $ regularly and was satisfied. But since the beginning of this year and latest changes of their system (ESP), my income dropped considerably. Various reasons: new images don’t sell well and/or don’t have enough exposure (a well hidden fact), there’s a drop in both credit & subs sales. Sub sales now earn up to 40% less due to their marvelous new accounting system etc. I’m struggling to keep it above the 4 digits limit.

        So I was thinking, considering I’m NOT in Stocksy, EyeEm etc., will it be possible for me to keep earning the amount I used to earn in Getty before these drastic changes as an independent? Because the way I saw things, shutterstock, fotolia and others are low-earners, especially if you are not a generic mass producer of images (and I’m not). Stocksy doesn’t have a call to artists and it would take months for EyeEm to catch up.
        I’m sure I’m not the only one struggling at Getty nowadays. There’s a little light left over here, but outside it seems there’s a complete darkness full of uncertainty for us exclusives.

        Again, thanks a lot!

        • Even though the quality of your images (subject matter etc.) is an important factor in your earnings, I don’t see how you can earn sums over 1K with portfolio of 1100 images on microstock agencies. But it just may be my own experience. I’ve never been an iStock exclusive contributor, and your numbers are very impressive to me. Just to give you an example – I have over 3K images on iStock (non exclusive) and earn there about $50 per month

          • Greg, a few years ago my partner has made up to $9,000 a month from less than 1,000 images as an iStock exclusive. There were pretty good times and it’s not all that long ago.

        • If you have still made that amount from a rather small portfolio (on Shutterstock & Fotolia, I’d think 5,000 or even 10,000 might be a “reasonable” portfolio size for someone ambitious), then you have to consider yourself lucky. Getty certainly has done its part to make the situation worse than necessary but they are not responsible for the massive flow of images into the market.

          Sales results like the one you mention are not completely unheard of even from non-exclusives but I think the chances are pretty slim to achieve that, especially when you have to start from scratch at other agencies.

          I would at least look out for a premium-priced channel (there are so many out there) if I were to give up exclusivity from your position.

          • Thanks Michael for words of wisdom. My portfolio is small but “curated”, I send only the best images that I can make. I will probably remain at Getty, for now, because what you said rings true. I won’t hide my disappointment, I have hoped it was not that tough in the indie world. It seemed as a brave and exciting new world for me, looking over the fence from the distance.

            I will try to find extra motivation to keep going where currently I am, despite the chronic decrease of new file sales and total lack of any real-time info. I fear it will only get worse over time, but I might or hope to be wrong.

            Keep up the good work Michael and thanks a lot!