March ends the first quarter of this year and is the third month of my agency independence.
One of the important changes obviously was the launch of Stocksy, the contributor owned image agency started by Bruce Livingstone. I am very happy and proud to be one of the initial photographers. Unfortunately, my portfolio on Stocksy is quite small so far as many of my shoots just don’t make the standards.
I wasn’t one of the lucky photographers who received an early sale on Stocksy but it just had a launch in the last week of March, shortly before the Easter weekend to give them enough time to iron out the bugs and performance issues which were to be expected after the go-live. Also, there is no marketing yet beyond the media coverage and social interactions spreading the word. I am hoping for Stocksy to become a source of income in May at the earliest and I will try to grow my portfolio. It just takes a few sales on Stocksy at their higher prices and higher percentages to make up for a lot of sales at microstock.
I stopped uploading old images for the time being as we focused on our own image selling site Stocksnippets. On the other hand, we produced loads of new images for Stocksnippets, and as they are not really unique we didn’t see any problem uploading those images across other agencies as well. It helped me grow my portfolio by more than 300 images on most agencies in March.
The exceptions being Dreamstime and iStockphoto with their upload limits: As a non-exclusive my upload limit is 30 images per week at iStock which resulted in only about 80 new images uploaded to iStock. I have enough images prepared to keep my queue busy for months, and I don’t expect to stop producing images soon.
Mirroring to iStock Partner Program and Getty Images
As almost everything on iStockphoto, the partner program mirroring isn’t working properly. Only about 360 of my 1,500 images had made it over to the PP sites Thinkstock and photos.com when I went non-exclusive. I assume many images are flagged as “not PP” because I had removed them while I was still exclusive, and those flags are not properly reset when going non-exclusive. New images are showing up very quickly (1-2 days after acceptance on iStock) on the PP sites. So my new uploading process will help with exposure on PP sites as well.
On the other hand, the removal of my former exclusive images from the GI website also did not work. This came in handy as I could still hope for some additional income from Getty sales during the transition phase. I had finally asked support to manually pull my images in March before Stocksy went live as I wanted to avoid confusion with the image exclusivity requirements at Stocksy.
With the iStock Partner Program and Getty Images sales only reported just before the end of the following month the whole picture of a month can only be judged 30 days later. I had reported about my February sales in a former blog post but since then I had 159 downloads added through the iStock PP worth $51.63 and I received $68.95 through 6 sales via the GI Sales.
As can be seen from the graph above, the three streams of royalties coming in from iStock directly, the partner program and GI Sales, provide for more than half of the total earnings, with Shutterstock making almost all of the rest. All other agencies combined made less than 10% of my earnings.
Counting these alone, GI Sales would be my number 3 and the Partner Program number 4 earner after Shutterstock and iStock direct sales. Combined, iStockphoto has in total provided $240, exactly half of which coming through the two connections.
Adding the $120 I made through PP and GI Sales, February totalled roughly $428 which is in line with an average month’ earnings I had in 2012. Actually it is 15% more than I had made in February 2012 as an iStock exclusive.
March sales and royalties
As expected, March showed a steep increase in overall downloads as my portfolio keeps growing on all agencies. No surprise that Shutterstock has taken the lead with more than 60% of my overall downloads. The total number has crossed 400 downloads in March – last time I have had such a high number of downloads was four years ago in early 2009. If the PP will add a similar amount of downloads than the month before, I will likely pass 500 downloads and reach one of my top five months for downloads since I have been selling stock imagery.
The royalties on the other hand did not match the February results. As reported the month before, there was an exceptional single sale on Shutterstock for $80 which counted for about 20% of the overall royalties. I can’t expect this to happen every month, and overall the number of subscription sales compared to single image sales was higher in March than in February which resulted in lower earnings per download.
Among the five agencies covered by StockPerformer (iStock, Shutterstock, Fotolia, Dreamstime and 123RF) I made roughly $260. Of those, iStock is still my number 1 earner with $115 and Shutterstock with $90 as second. I expect this to change soon as my Shutterstock portfolio will grow to a similar size this quarter. Fotolia is starting to catch up sales and has made about $30 in March. Dreamstime is a big disappointment so far with $16 in sales and limiting my portfolio by their upload limits, complicated process and their strict limitation of similar images. 123RF made another $7. On CanStock I sold 12 licenses for $9, Depositphotos had 9 sales for $5. All of these are “under observation” for me to see if it is worth spending any time with them at all, given the small amounts they have paid so far.
I expect another $50-60 to be added to the tally through the iStock PP while I have no expectation for money coming from Getty, neither through the iStock program nor through the Getty-Flickr collection. Sales on Getty are too random and apart to be relied on.
The total so far for March is $275 for roughly 900 images uploaded to most sites – at iStock I am almost back to 1,600 (I had about 300 removed earlier this year) and Dreamstime has only about 450 of my images. The total is slightly above my January results (of which I still had been an iStock exclusive for half a month) and about 35% below March 2012. I have high hopes that March will be the low point of earnings for me as April and especially May tend to be good months in stock sales and I keep my portfolios growing everywhere. On the other hand, it will take a stretch to beat May 2012 as that was a good month for me as well.
I don’t know if there are mid or long term effects of a growing portfolio but to be honest, the results so far are quite disappointing. Making less than $300 with almost 1,000 images online is far below my expectations. I had an assumption of making at least $0.50 per image per month which should add up to between $400 and $500 by now. I won’t give up hope yet, though.
And I still don’t regret the decision to go independent as it opened so many new doors for me beyond microstock: Selling directly, Stocksy, a macrostock contract – and actually a contract shoot which has no direct relation but probably my mindset would not have been open to get that contract if I had still been focused on producing for iStock exclusively. At 2010 or 2011 numbers it would have been hard to be optimistic right now but given my steep decline in 2012 I still expect to make more money from photography related sources this year easily. Stay tuned if you want to know if I will make that goal. 🙂