Microstock Photography

Last modified on April 23rd, 2009

Just a quick question to the photography crowd out there. Does anyone have any experience selling photos on microstock websites? A couple of people have asked me if I’ve ever put any photographs on microstock sites. I haven’t, mainly because I feel pretty strange selling photos for 50 cents each. Truthfully though, most of my photos sit there collecting dust anyways and don’t make any money, so I was just curious if there’s enough volume on those sites to turn over any non-trivial cash-flow.

Drop a comment if you have any idea. Thanks.

10 responses to “Microstock Photography”

  1. mystockphoto says:

    Hi duane,
    selling images in the microstock photography world could be a fascinating experience. It’s true, you’ll get 25/50 cents each but you have to consider that the same photo can be bought so many times! If you have the right subjects and/or some specialistic niches and/or awesome pics, I think you can get good results. Here you can find a list of the most important stock agencies:

    Good luck and take care!

  2. Duane Storey says:

    Hey Roberto,

    Care to share any stats on how many times many of the photos are purchased?


  3. mystockphoto says:

    I have not a big portfolio, from 100 to 200 images; I sell hundreds of images considering ten agencies, price from 0,25$ to 5$, sometime an extended license (more then 10$).
    Also have a look at Lee Torrens microstockdiaries article
    Hope could be useful. Cheers,


  4. Andrea_R says:

    This is something I’m interested in as well, so I’m curious to see how it plays out.

  5. Kelly says:

    Hey Duane,
    At my company, we exclusively use iStockphoto as our stock photo source, and we buy tons from there. I think it’s a pretty popular site. Anyway, do a quick search and you can see how many times each photo was downloaded… I searched ‘Vancouver’ and this photo came up, downloaded 410 times:


    From what I’ve seen of your work, it easily matches that quality. Might take a while to work up to several hundred downloads, but, like you say, if the photo is just sitting in your collection anyway, why not?

  6. John says:

    I tested the waters with stock photography awhile back….didn’t sell any and found the submission process to be a lot of work for that $0.25 (or even $25 if you sell it 100 times) as you have to have a technically perfect photo, have to keyword the shit out of it and have to have releases for any people in the shots…then your shots are reviewed by editors and they can reject them for all kinds of reasons.

    I’d love to hear things have changed but after reading this post earlier this year, I think things have probably gotten more difficult rather than easier:


    That’s not to say there are probably a pile of people making serious money with their photos in microstock, it just seemed like a lot of work to get them into the system then you’re just another photo in a ginormous catalog for people to browse through.

  7. Duane/John Last month (March) my average download price was lowest on Shutterstock (.49) to highest on Dreamstime (1.59) per download. Still… I earned the most $ at Shutterstock at the end of the month with a few hundred subscription sales (.33), some on-demand sales ($2.48) and extended license sales ($28).

    The Shutterstock subscription model has been so successful that unfortunately most of the other sites have introduced subs over the last 2 years and it has brought down the average selling price – but still long gone are the days of photos for 25 cents. Outside of the subs program, if you are getting 50 cents for a download, it is for a very small photo that someone is likely using on a blog or a website.

    You can’t be too attached to your photos, beautiful art does not sell or it may be refused which might sting, especially when you know it’s good (but you do get used to rejection). Bright, happy, generic photos sell the best, but it’s not necessarily the most exciting stuff to shoot. Then sometimes I will see a photo of mine and think, “Man, did I get ripped off? I got like 20 bucks for the photo on that blanket and Walmart musta printed thousands of them!!!” But, at the end of the month it’s pretty great extra income. It took me a while to catch onto micro though, I was only signed up with one agency and took a year to make my first $100 and month to make my next.

  8. I think you hit the nail on the head with the part about them ‘just sitting on your hard drive’. There are two kinds of microstock photographers, those who upload less than 10 photos and see a few dollars come in but expect more, and those who spend more time at it, even full time and earn a lot more – in some cases enough to live on. It’s not money for nothing, and your photos have to be good, but yes you can earn money doing it enough to buy a new camera with a couple of hundred images left online for a year or so.

    if there was nothing in it there would not be 5 million + images on each of the leading microstock sites, they did not get that many images from people just dipping their toes in the water and trying it out, there are a lot of professional microstock contributors who do it full time

    The only sure way to find out is to do a little research and give it a go

  9. mystockphoto says:

    reply @Kelly. Of course iStockphoto is the ‘mainstream’ microstock agency. The other big agencies are Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Fotolia.

  10. orson says:

    Hi there,
    I have been selling my photos and illsutrations on microstock for more than three years and it gives my quite a nice income. If you want to more about it, check my site. The most interesting for you will be those 2 articles:

    1) How to start: http://sellinggraphics.com/14/how-start-selling-photos-illustrations-on-microstock

    2) What are the best sites: http://sellinggraphics.com/4/Best-microstock-sites-selling-photos-illustrations

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