Highs and Lows of Microstock Photography Royalties

This week I received my latest monthly royalty report from leading microstock agency – iStock. It highlighted to me the highs and lows of microstock photography royalties.

So What do I Mean?

Let’s start with the highs. One of my royalties was USD$145 for a single download of one of my images. That’s good news. Especially as the image was shot about 5 years ago and continues to sell. Based on today’s exchange rate, that’s about AUD$200 for a single sale. This type of royalty is uncommon, unfortunately! But when it does happen it is a very nice boost to the overall royalties for the month.


Australian dollars

Occasional big royalties make a significant difference

Now for the lows. One of my downloads generated a royalty of just USD$0.02. I’m really not sure how Getty Images and iStock justify such low royalties. This month I’m glad these small royalties were offset by several large ones.

What Should You Learn from Your Royalties?

I’d suggest not reading too much into individual month royalty amounts. Based on a few large sales, your monthly royalty income can vary significantly from month to month. Making any assumptions based on just one month, or even a small collection of months would be unwise.

So How Should You Assess Progress?

If you are looking for measures which reflect your progress I’d suggest 2 measures are worth looking at.

First is the total number of downloads from month to month. While royalties can vary significantly from month to month, your total download numbers are likely to be much less volatile. There will be seasonal differences in what is downloaded, but the variation in download numbers will not be as dramatic as the variation in royalty amounts.

money

Growing the size and diversity of your portfolio is the only sure way to increase royalties

Second is the total number of files in your portfolio. If you are serious about stock photography you’ll be adding new content regularly. Your number of future downloads – and hence your royalty income – will be determined by the size and diversity of your portfolio. If you want a number you can directly control, measure the number of files in your portfolio and make sure it’s increasing!

What’s the Wrap?

Be happy when the larger royalties come your way. Don’t be too unhappy when they don’t. Keep building your portfolio so that it is large and varied.

Thanks for reading the Highs and Lows of Microstock Photography Royalties. Happy shooting.

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