Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

Devaluation - (c) 2013 MichaelJay

Loss in royalties

I have been making good money on iStockphoto for quite some time. Never enough to make a living but that hasn’t been my goal nor did I have (or take) the time – until recently. So whenever I am talking about money, please be aware that things are different if you make $50 or $500 or $5000 a month. I will talk straight about myself, just be careful applying my results to you. 😉

 So this is my downloads (red) and royalties (blue) history over the last six years:

Sales 2007-2013 MichaelJay (graph: StockPerformer)

Sales 2007-2013 MichaelJay (graph: StockPerformer)


By the way, I was lucky enough to win an annual subscription for StockPerformer just before I dropped the crown, and as a stats freak I couldn’t be happier. Well, I could but I keep telling the two guys behind it on a regular basis and I am sure some of my ideas and wishes will end up in their product. Just to say: Highly recommended.

Back to sales: As you can see, after the typical hobbyist start with a few mediocre images (and lots of rejections), I had a steep rise in 2008. This was influenced by three major factors: I started to understand what stock is about; I had experienced from my very first lypse in London that there is a lot of technical stuff (thanks, Carole) I need to learn step by step; I was at a brillant lypse in Ljubljana, probably sales-wise one of the most successful ones in iStock’s history for all participants. My sales peaked when I had the Free Image of the Week and used that for cross promoting my Dollar Bin images. This led to thousands of additional downloads, helping me to reach the silver canister quickly.

After the peak, my royalties settled to a certain level, improved by another successful lypse (thanks to Evelyn & Joe and my fellow photogs from Florida). On the side of my office jobs, I only had so much time to keep a small flow of new images, not enough to improve but enough to stay constant. Then in late 2011, there was a clear shift away from keeping the blue flames on top which also hurt my three bestselling images. They had made a lot of money regularly, so it was impossible to replace those royalties with new images. Despite growing my portfolio by 50% within 18 months, my royalties dropped by more than half.

At one point I compared my royalties per image (RPI) and found that I am making about $500 with 1,700 images in my portfolio, averaging just $0,30 per image per month. This came at the time when I also had the “freedom” to experiment, so I decided to take the chance. Here I am, independent and happy, grateful for the experiences I have made and the people I have met but looking into a different future. Enjoy reading about my ride. 🙂

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