Monday, December 10, 2007

Personal milestone: 1000 photos sold on Shutterstock

Although I joined Shutterstock last year, I only started uploading 5 months ago and just reached this month my 1000th download.

Having earned $ 260 so far, it means also that I am only $ 240 short of the 20 % raise. Despite the fact that SS is the site with a lowest price per picture ($ 0.25) of all the microstock agencies I contribute, it is the biggest earner every month due to the high volume of sales.The two graphs below plots different parameters over the 5 month period: portfolio size, DL/UP ratio, performance, total earning.

After the first month, a perfect linear correlation is observed between the size of the portfolio and earnings (graph 1). Performance went down after the first month but it is slowly rising to the initial level (graph 2). Performance averages 50 % over five months which means that each picture of portfolio earns $ 0.50 every month. It is quite good but some contributors can reach $ 1 or more. The way to maintain or increase this number is to keep uploading small batches of pictures regularly and having from time to time a best seller. New uploads are usually downloaded the first day being on line then downloads slowly or quickly decline.

The ratio download to upload ratio increases steadily and is currently above 6 which is the highest of all sites. At the time of writing I calculated that 90 % of the portfolio was sold which is far higher than all the other agencies (top 10 pictures take 25 % of the total earnings).

It will be good to know at what size if any a portfolio is sustainable i.e generate a stable amount of money without uploading any new pictures. Some contributors are reporting what indeed revenues are falling with no uploads but a performance of $ 0.25 per picture should be realistic.

But it is time to resume uploading and work on the 2000 target….

Graph 1: Evolution of earnings with the size of porfolio

Graph 2: Evolution of performance and ratio uploads/downloads

Selected frontpage screenshots

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November earnings


A slight improvement (+15 %) over last month despite few holidays in US and Europe. All major sites had their BME except FT and DT. I started also submitting pictures to two upcoming midstock sites: mostphotos and symmetrical and was accepted on the Photoshelter collection a macrostock agency. A few words about MP and ZM below, I will go back to PS in another post:

Based in Sweden and described itself as “the most democratic photosite ever”, Mostphotos does not review the pictures. Prices at fixed at 25 euros and photographers get 50 %. There is no uploads limit and up to three pictures can be sent by http pretty quickly with automatic IPTC reading (ftp is available as well). People can vote for pictures and competitions are organized.
Some photographers @ microstockgroup have reported sales lately. It is certainly interesting to get paid in Euros for a change…. If you want to have a try at mostphotos you can click here

Zymmetrical is another midstock agency with a pretty sophisticated multilingual platform. Photographers can set their own prices from $ 3 to $100 for the largest size and get a generous 70 % royalty fee. Up to 5 pictures can be submitted by http with a minimum size of 640 pixels. Zipped pictures can be sent by ftp as well. Some photographers @ microstockgroup have also reported some sales. If you want to visit zymmetrical please click on the banner below:

Worth mentioning also, a new version of Prostockmaster is available this month which now includes Stockxpert and Alamy (123RF works again as well). Trial version allows to upload up to 5 pictures a day to 10 sites. It can be downloaded here. Note that for SXP, your password has to have less than 10 characters for PSM to work properly.

Microstock one by one
  • SS (+50%) BME. Clear winner once again taking a bit less than 50 % of earnings and another BME due probably to regular uploads all through the month. Performance is up compared to last month with 50 % (0.50 c per picture of the portfolio). It has also the highest downloads to uploads ratio of all sites with 5.27.
  • FT (-16%) Second again this month but despite uploading new pictures earnings went down and performance is only 7 % this month. It is the largest portfolio with quite a lot of exclusive pictures that is why FT can maintain its position. Like previous month an average of a bit more than $ 1 per picture sold. I have serious doubts about the search engine and some bugs from V2 are still there…. On the good side, rankings are working again.
  • IS (+54%) BME. It is always quite difficult to get pictures accepted there but performance is up this month to 21 % just after SS. Second also on the UP/DL with a value of 0.86
  • 123RF (+78%) BME. For the first time, 123RF did better than DT and got another BME. Performance is still low (3%) but sales are more frequent right now.
  • DT (-43%) Sales went down quite a lot this month. Global performance went down from 6 to 3%. Acceptance ratio: 64 %.
  • SXP (+15%) BME. Sales are progressing this month with some credit sales and two subscription sales. Reviews are still a bit lengthy but I think it worth staying there. Same performance than DT but gets two times & per download.
  • CT (+500%) BME. Less then 2 % of earnings but few sales this month made a BME. 100 + portfolio this month. They lowered the minimum payout form 100 to $50.

  • The others... I was surprised to get two sales at CSP (I do not upload there anymore). LO Piggy bank is stuck at $2.40: no sales this month despite a portfolio of almost 300 pictures. A new platform is up, we will see what happens in the next coming weeks. BSP still dead as well as SV and FP.

Miscellaneous stats

  • 377 pictures sold (277 on SS)
  • Days without sales: 0
  • Best day: $ 10.875 (21/11)
  • Most pictures sold in one day: 31
  • Top seller made $ 5.75

Detailed earnings

Figures in USD. Note: 100 % global performance is defined by a portfolio with an average of sales of $ 1 per picture. Ratio DL/IS is the ratio of all the time downloads over the total pictures of portfolio

% earning for each microstocks

Best seller november $ 5.75 (SS, new upload)

What's next ?

Investigate few midstock sites and resubmit some pictures on SS and IS. Also work toward the $ 100 a month on SS.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Experiment 4: horizontal versus vertical

Inspired by the post of Lorraine Swanson about shooting “both ways” ( I decided to put the idea to the test with three of my pictures. Like probably most of the photographers, I am always more inclined to take pictures horizontally than vertically . However sometime if the horizontal shot does the job, having its vertical version will be very useful if it has to be squeezed on a webpage or on a side of a magazine.
The pictures I used for this test were all accepted on their horizontal and vertical version on shutterstock and one them on Fotolia and Crestock.

So what happened ? For the billboard photo, the horizontal version is the clear winner and was sold on CT and FT as well. As far as the blue track lanes concerned, vertical has the advantage over horizontal. For the architectural picture, vertical and horizontal are very close, only time will tell if one of them takes the advantage.

In conclusion, this is no clear winner between vertical and horizontal but shooting both looks like a good option since it gives more choice to the customers.
Even if the horizontal version is the most popular, a vertical shot can bring an additional value to the picture which is the case of the billboard.
So I will definitely continue shooting and uploading both ways and will give a update in few months about this experiment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October earnings


A very good month well above september (+75%) with record earnings on six of the microstock sites and for the first time earnings were above the $100 mark.

Microstock one by one

  • SS (+ 35%) BME. Number one once again this month but only by few cents. Still a long way to reach $ 500 to get an increase in payment but eventually it will happen. A good mix of new and old pictures sold this month. For three months in a row, the best performing microstock with 43.3 % (0.43 c per picture of the portfolio). 100+ portfolio this month

  • FT (+ 435%) Finally, FT is doing better with earnings multiplied by three compared to last month making it a BME. Performance up from 2.8 to 8.9 %. However still no EL since June….. 500+ portolio.

  • DT (+ 3%) Sales are stable compared to last month but still a BME. Global performance of 5.9%. Acceptance down this month to 56%.

  • IS (+ 60%) BME and second best performing stock after SS with 14.9%. However a not so glorious record: only two pictures uploaded this month were accepted!

  • 123RF (+ 13%) Best month ever and 123RF continue its slow progression. I am not sure about the impact of the free pics the sales but I sold a large size of the free picture. Very fast review under 24h.

  • SXP (+ 400%) Few sales this month but very difficult to increase the size portfolio because of though reviews. Subscription sales started but not for me yet. Performance : 5.7%
  • LO,CT,BSP,CSP very slow month for these sites once again each having less than 2% of the earnings.
    Despite no uploads this month, few sales on CSP this month probably due to their special offer for subscriptions until the end of October.
    CT: new website version very sleek and fast but sales are still slow (1 this month)
  • Still no sales on SV and FP….

Miscellaneous stats

  • 275 pictures sold (184 on SS)
  • Days without sales: 1
  • Best day: $ 8.93 (11/10)
  • Most pictures sold in one day: 19
  • 1820 total pictures on 12 microstocks (328 exclusives on FT)
  • Top 3 pictures take 13 % of total earnings (all 3 new uploads)

Top three sales ($ 15.81)

Detailled earnings . Figures in USD. Note: 100 % global performance is defined by a portfolio with an average of sales of $ 1 per picture

% Earnings for all microstocks

What’s next?

  • Set new goal of $ 200/month by the end of the year

  • Continue uploads on SS,IS,DT,CT,SXP,123RF,FT,LO

  • Add 50 more pictures on SS

Monday, October 1, 2007

September earnings


A month of September a bit slower than expected but still a BME with 12 % increase in earnings which just managed to break the $70 mark. Overall, sales were less frequent than august with 4 days without earnings with week ends much slower than last month. Top three images made more than last month taking a bit more than 20 % of the total earning.
After FT, some other microstock agencies experienced technical problems (IS,DT,BSP) which confirms the fact that it is safer to be non exclusive especially with a small portfolio… Also acceptance rates are fluctuating for me this month: going up on CT, DT, going down on FT
The question I was asking last month is answered: amongst BSP,CT,123RF,LO,CSP, 123RF and CT are the clear winners in term of earnings.

Microstock one by one
  • SS (-2.7 % in earnings): For two months in a row the best site in term of earnings and portfolio performance. Performance a bit lower this month with 41.9 % ($ 0.42 per image of the portfolio) taking just under 50% of the earnings. Apparently the search engine was modified this month changing the pattern of the sales and giving advantage to old pictures. Review time is always under 24 hours …

  • FT (-12.1 %): Managed to hold its position this month but another disappointing month with again this month a decrease in earnings. Sales are very irregular also and a poor performance of 2.8 %. It is worth noting also that the reviews were more severe this month.

  • DT (+200 %): A nice surprise this month with an increase of 200% in earnings and a surprisingly excellent acceptance rate of 84.4 % (was 66.7 last month). Portfolio performance: 7 %.

  • IS (+18.3 %): A slight increase of the earnings compared to last month but without the technical problems sales might have been even better. Portfolio performance: 8.2 %.
  • 123RF (+337 %): The biggest increase among all the sites. I put some free pictures on my portfolio to see if it has really has an effect on the sales. Portfolio performance: 2.4 %.
  • CT: Few sales this month, apparently the marketing campaign pays off and it is worth mentioning CT eased it reviewing process so the acceptance should go up. Hopefully sales will continue next month.
  • SXP: First sales this month but unfortunately reviewing process was very slow which explains the small portfolio.
    LO,CSP: Not sales there this month despite uploads……
    SV,FP : no sales, no uploads…

    Miscellaneous stats

  • 184 pictures sold (134 on SS)
  • Days without sales: 4
  • Best day: $ 6.07 (06/09)
  • Most pictures sold in one day: 13
  • 1557 total pictures on 12 microstocks (328 exclusives on FT)
  • Top 3 pictures take 21 % of total earnings
Detailled earnings . Figures in USD. Note: 100 % global performance is defined by a portfolio with an average of sales of $ 1 per picture

Top 3 sales

What's next?
1. Focus on 8 microstocks: SS,IS,DT,CT,SXP,123RF,FT,LO and pause uploads for SV,BSP,CSP,FP
2. Upload at least 20 pics on SS

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Experiment 3: HDR and microstock

HDR photography or High Dynamic Range photography is a processing technique that I am using quite a lot to process my pictures. To have a quick glance to what HDR is all about you can read an article on wikipedia. HDR processing is always followed by a step called tone mapping, needed to convert HDR in a viewable format.

For the story, I came across my first HDR picture a few months ago on Flickr and was immediately intrigued by the vivid colors of the thumbnail. It was an architectural shot with stormy sky and the picture was spectacular, certainly different to all have seen before. I started playing with Photomatix and Artizen , two programs to process pictures as HDR and when I got familiar with them I started uploading pictures on FT then later to all the other microstocks including SS and IS.
HDR is hugely popular on Flickr (257,230 results for photos matching HDR and 7660 groups !!) but what about microstock ?
At the time of writing, a search with the term HDR returns 455 hits on SS, 443 on DT and only 217 on IS. HDR pictures seem to be a tiny fraction of pictures on microstock but it still difficult to know their exact numbers since I think only few people use HDR as keyword…

To talk about to my experience with HDR and microstock here are some numbers:
HDR pictures represent 60 and 65 % of my portfolio on SS and IS respectively.
Among the 5 top sales on SS, 4 are HDR. SS and IS are certainly very picky for noise so HDR processing has to be light. Others sites like FT or 123RF currently accept more extreme HDR shots.

How do I work with HDR?

My personal experience might be different to other people because it depends on your material i.e the camera(s) you are using.
I always process HDR from 3 JPEG (bracketing -1/0/+1). I just cannot get the same results using the RAWformat of my Olympus E-20…. but it is possible to do HDR with a single RAW.
Before processing the 3 pictures have to be perfectly aligned and often the software does not do it correctly. I do it manually with a very handy software called HDR Alignment Tool v2.0 developed by a photographer that you can find here.
You can always use a tripod of course but it is not always convenient....
Then it is just trial and error playing with the settings of artizen or photomatix to get the effect you want.

Pro and Cons about HDR in microstock

+ Boost sales
+ Increase the dynamic range of pictures
+ Produces vivid colors

- Increase the chance to be rejected (noise)
- Processing time consuming
- Storage ! (especially if you use 3X JPEG)
- It is easier to get “unnatural ” pictures than aesthetics pleasing pictures that will sold on microstock

Finally HDR does not work for all the subjects but with some patience and practice very interesting results can be obtained with architecture and landscape for example.

Some of my HDR microstock pictures are visible on the bottom of this page and for more example you can visit my Flickr page .
If you want to share your experience with HDR and microstock, feel free to comment this posting.

Good luck !


Flickr groups:

HDR artists:

Saturday, September 1, 2007

August earnings


  • BME (+ 60% increase compared to July)
  • Application approved on both Shutterstock and Stockexpert

Miscellaneous stats

  • 178 pictures sold (138 on SS)
  • Days without sales: 0
  • Best day: $ 4.27 (22/08)
  • Most pictures sold in one day: 16
  • 1291 Pictures on 12 microstocks (328 exclusives on FT)
  • Top 3 pictures take 13 % of total earnings

Microstock one by one

  • SS: I finally got accepted after my third submission! SS becomes my best site taking 55 % of the total earning leaving FT in the dust.... Impressive performance rate of 57 % ( $0.57 per picture on the portfolio) with 80 % of the pictures sold.. Submitted pictures were reviewed in record time as well! It will be interesting to see if the pictures will keep selling next month as SS had a subscription model it is not sure...
  • FT: After a very slow start the first week, sales started picking up but are well under July (- 52 % decrease in earning). I am not sure if the search engine is working so well, some of my best sellers before V2 are not longer selling. Poor performance of 3 %.

  • IS: Some sales this month but as read on some forums before sales take some time at IS to build up. I doubled the size of my portolio as well so it should help, acceptance rate is going up as well. Less earning than FT this month but a performance of 13 %.
  • DT: Some sales this month and same performance than FT (3%).
  • LO,123RF, BSP, CSP: very similar for the sales, only few ... An impressive numbers of views on CSP though
  • SXP and FP: Just uploaded a batch of pictures so I will see next month if there are some sales. Very slow approval time for SXP at the moment...
  • SV and CT: No sales this month…

    Detailled earnings . Figures in USD. Note: 100 % global performance is defined by a portfolio with an average of sales of $ 1 per picture

    Top 3 sales

It is worth noting that picture number 2 (train departures) was rejected by FT and 123RF for limited commercial value. SS did initially the same but accepted on a second attempt.

What's next ?

  1. Put my complete portfolio on SXP
  2. Upload at least 20 pics on SS
  3. Keep uploading on all sites except SV
  4. Raise prices of the exclusive pics on FT

September will be an interesting month with probably an increase in sales after the holiday season . It will be interesting to see what website will be number 3 next month, I expect to see soem changes there especially for FT which is loosing ground against DT and IS.

Amongst the new sites, we will see among BSP,CT,123RF,LO,CSP which will grab the last piece of the doughnut....

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Experiment 2: acceptance rates

Following one of my previous posting about the acceptance-rejection of a small batch of pictures submitted to different microstocks I would like to publish my acceptance rates on 10 different websites the last 3 months.

Ranking from lowest to highest approval rate:


Two comments here on FT and BSP . FT approval is a bit low due to the fact that this where I started contributing by sending average pictures, approval is better now.

I don't really know why BSP rate is so low (56%), my only explanation being that the style of my pictures does not fit with their agency.

IS is very tough on reviewing (27 % accepted) followed by SS, CT taking the smallest number of pictures (24 %) but it is clearly mentioned on their website.
On the extreme, I have 100 % approved on SV but I don't think it is too difficult they pretty much take everything but sell nothing as well....

Will post an update in few months to see how it is changing !

As always if you want to try different microstocks please use my referral links above, thanks:)

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July earnings

  • Made my first $ 100 on microstock

  • Bronze level achieved at FT (100 sales)

  • BME in general and BME on FT with 30 sales

  • Active portfolio of 900 photos on 9 microstocks (CT,CSP and 123RF as new)

  • First pictures sold on IS,DT,BSP,CT,123RF

    Ø What is next?
    My commission was raised to 52% at Fotolia for my exclusive portfolio but most importantly it is possible to raise quite a lot the price of the pictures and I already some increase in my exclusive earnings at FT
    Try Shutterstock again (will be the 3rd time) and SXP (second time)
    Keep shooting and uploading !

Below you will find a table with the details, earnings are in USD. Note: 100 % global performance is defined by a portfolio with an average of sales of $ 0.1 per picture.

Don't really why but you do need to click to enlarge !

My referral links

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Experiment 1 : Accepted of not ?

After selecting,editing,adding keywords and uploading the pictures you want to sell the first step will be to get them accepted which is sometime more difficult than expected ! Reviewing is very subjective of course and some agencies are tougher then others....
For this first experiment a series of 6 pictures belonging to various categories was uploaded and the outcome of the review examined. The following categories are represented:
  1. Animals
  2. Travel
  3. People
  4. Science
... and pictures uploaded to the following microstock agencies:

  1. Dreamstime
  2. Fotolia
  3. Istockphoto
  4. LuckyOliver
  5. CanStockPhoto
  6. BigStockPhoto
  7. SnapVillage
  8. Crestock
  9. 123RF
  10. Shutterstock

And here are the results !

Train departures board 1


Rejected: 123RF (minimum commercial value), SS (limited commercial value due to framing,cropping and/or composition).

Train departures board 2

Accepted:IS,LO,DT,CSP,BSP, CT,SV,SS (initially rejected for limited commercial value but accepted after resubmission after telling the reviewer that this picture was selling well on IS !)

Rejected :FT ( type of photograph), 123RF (Minimal commercial value)

Birds on wire
Accepted: FT, IS,123RF,CT,CSP,SV

Rejected: DT (lack of composition + poor optical performance),LO (similar image already submitted in the same batch),BSP (Poor composition or cropped subject ),SS (Noise, film grain, over-sharpening, or artifacts at full size)

Chasing the mouse
Accepted: FT,123RF,CSP,SV

Rejected :CT (underexposed),DT(lack of composition,lack of concept,poor lighting setup poor contrast or incorrect exposure.The area occupied by the isolated subject is too small, and by cropping the resulting image is under 3 Megapixels),123RF (Minimal commercial value), IS (overall composition of this file's lighting could be improved),LO (Focus needs to be sharper on the cat),BSP (Blurriness, sorry.. a little too blurry),SS (Your image is not in focus or focus is not located where we feel it works best)


Accepted: 123RF,FT,IS,CSP,DT,LO,SV
Rejected: CT (over/under exposure), BSP (Reason: Graininess/Noise),
SS (noise,film grain,artifacts,or pixalation at 100%).

Men at work
Accepted: 123RF,FT,CT,CSP,LO,IS,SV,SS
Rejected: DT (Poor lighting setup, poor contrast or incorrect exposure),BSP (Blurriness, sorry.. a little too blurry)

To summarize....

123RF(6/6) SV(6/6) CSP(6/6) FT(5/6) IS (5/6) CT(4/6) LO(4/6) DT(3/6) BSP(2/6) SS(2/6)

Even if this pool of images is relatively small, results of the reviews confirm some previous observations : reviews across agencies are not very consistent and some pictures are rejected for the wrong reasons (lack of composition,commercial value).
BSP is particular is not consistent at all, approving pictures with some noise and rejecting noise free pictures.It is also the agency with the lowest approval rate (2/6).
123RF, CSP, SV were the only agencies to accept all 6 pictures, IS is always very picky about noise but accepted 5/6.

It is worth noting also that review time was extremely different from few minutes to few weeks, SV and BSP being the the slowest of all 9 sites !
Also 123RF and LO are by far the easiest sites to contribute and IS is the more tedious.
This first experiment do not stop here but will continue for few months to see how these pictures are selling !
My bet is on the picture entitled "measuring", what is yours ?

My referral links

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Microstock Jargon

As you noticed there are a lot of acronyms in microstock so here is a quick memo about them !

FT,FL: Fotolia
SS: Shutterstock
SXP: Stockxpert
DT: Dreamtime
CSP: CanstockPhoto
SV: SnapVillage
IV: ImageVortex

EL: Exclusive licence
BEM: Best Month Ever
HDR: High Dynamic Range
IPTC: Press Telecommunications Council
EXIF: Exchangeable image file format

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What happened in June ?

As I just started this blog and to get a bit of history here what happened in June.
It was a quite interesting month actually with the dismay of FT (big bug of their V2) and the arrival on the market of Snapvillage, new baby of Corbis. The upload on FT being down for few days and a bit frustrated I decided to start contributing to other microstocks (IS,DT,LO,BSP,SV).
My applications on SS,CSP and SXP were rejected which mean that I have to wait a month to resubmit :( Anyway it was a good start and since all my pics on FT were exclusive, I had to start from scratch to build a new portfolio....
So here is on the table below the stats of June. No pictures have been sold on other microstocks except FT and the results are quite good with a average of $1.92 per picture sold boosted by the sale of two exclusive licenses.

All figures are in USD. Click on the table to enlarge

June highlights:

  • BME on FT
  • Pics uploaded on 5 new microstocks
  • 1st picture accepted on IS was a HDR architectural shot

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