I have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here, and it continues to be a core part of my photography business. I shoot a lot and often have several stock photo series on the go at once. As a contributor to iStockphoto sales are reported once a month (around the 20th of each month) and payment is also made once per month (by the 25th). We are now near the end of August 2017 and so I’ve just received sales reports and payment for July 2017. July is often a fairly weak month (read this post on What is the Summer Slowdown in Stock Photography) but this year July has been my second best month of the year. Why would that be? I’ve done some analysis and here are 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales.
Let’s look at the analysis first.
For the month of July you can see that I had a lot of downloads where the royalty I received was very small. For just over half of my downloads (51% to be precise) the royalty I received for the client licencing my image was less than USD $1. It’s scary how little the photographer makes from these downloads. For 30% of my downloads I received between USD $1 and $5. For 10% of the downloads I received a royalty of USD $5 – $20, for 4 downloads I received a royalty between USD $20 and $100, and for 2 downloads I received a royalty of more than USD $100.
When we turn that into total revenue you can see that the 51% of downloads which generate a royalty of less than $1 combine to add up to just 6% of my total royalty income for the month. And at the other end of the spectrum, 2 large sales account for more than 10%.
When we combine these, you get the picture below.
So what does this all mean? And what are the 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales?
Lesson 1 – Expect volatility in your monthly stock photo income.
A few large sales had a significant impact on my royalty income for the month. Without those larger sales July would have been very mediocre. Unfortunately those larger sales don’t happen every month, and so there is going to be a lot of volatility in monthly royalty income. The larger and more diverse your portfolio is, the less volatility you will have. And a smaller portfolio with a narrower range of content is likely to have much higher volatility.
I have more than 10,000 images in my portfolio and still experience a lot of volatility.
Lesson 2 – Higher value sales do still happen
My highest royalty from an individual sale this month was USD $114. That is a good royalty from the sale of just one file. I’d prefer if these types of royalties occurred more often but it is nice to know they still happen.
Lesson 3 – Larger sales happen in unique collections
My larger sales this month all happened through the Getty Images website rather than the iStockphoto site or partner program sites. To get images onto the Getty website I upload through iStockphoto and nominate them into the Signature+ collection. If they are approved in the Signature+ collection they are automatically mirrored onto the Getty website. So getting more images into Signature+ is important for generating higher value sales.
Lesson 4 – There’s no money to be made at the low price, high volume end of the market
51% of my total sales this month generated very little income. Most of those sales were of very generic imagery where there is high demand but also high supply. While it’s nice to have your work downloaded, my experience is that there is no money to be made in low price, high volume generic images. I’m going to continue to focus on unique imagery and leave this end of the market to others.
It was nice to have a strong royalty income month in July. I hope the 4 lessons from this month’s stock photo sales are helpful in your own stock photography journey. Keep shooting!