MicroStock Photography - Share Your Experience

MicroStock Photography – Share Your Experience

microstock-photography-make-money.jpgHave you ever made money with your images through MicroStock photography sites?

Over in the Earning with Photography section of our forum we have quite a few members who are right into making money by selling their images from sites like:

(There are lots more sites and services around)

Today as a DPS community discussion I’d like to hear your experience of making money from MicroStock?

  • Have you sold images this way?
  • If so, what tips would you give those just starting out in MicroStock – to better their chances of success?
  • What type of images have you sold?
  • What kind of money is it possible to make?

I’m looking forward to the discussion around this topic!

PS: we’ve previously published a short tutorial on this topic at Microstock for Digital Photography Students.

Read more from our category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Todd September 22, 2010 01:56 am

    I have an article on my blog about this - my honest opinion of whether or not you can really make a living selling at microstock prices. Check it out: http://www.arenacreative.com/blog/microstock-related/can-you-really-make-a-living-selling-microstock-photography/

  • Rafal August 1, 2009 10:17 pm

    It's probably a dead topic, but I''ll leave my comment ...

    @Marek: I think it's even more than 70%, in my experience based on SS referrers it could be even 90% ...

  • Robert September 29, 2008 10:29 pm

    That is sad thing with photoshelter. If I knew that Photoshelter Collection was only considered as one year trial I would never spend time to send, and keyword my photographs there. Total waste of time. Alamy is another stock agency, more reliable I think. I must give it a try.


  • Marek September 29, 2008 03:45 pm

    I started to sell my pictures as microstock in the end of the year 2007. After 9 months I have a portfolio of 300-400 pictures in 6 or 7 agencies, but 75% of my microstock income comes from iStock and Shutterstock.

    If you are interested in specific numbers I am posting my monthly earnings (and payments) reports in my Pixels Away blog:

    It's easy to make a few $, but to reach an actual payment is another story. It is said that about 70% beginners are giving up before getting any payment from microstock.

    There are plenty on-line resources on microstock photography. I would suggest to start with Microstock Diaries:

    I was preparing a separate portfolio to submit to PhotoShelter, but this agency is closing!

  • Rosh August 26, 2008 10:58 pm

    I appreciate that Yanik is making a living doing what he loves. He's ahead of most people in this world. But, I think Yanik has the analogy wrong.

    I'd rather sell 20 images for $200 than 3000 for $4000. I would know I received closer to the photographs true value. The reality is that one quality image could fetch over $4000+ based on the usage. But, not if you sell through micro-stock.

    It is true you can make a consistent income buy working hard and undervaluing your images. But, again if you are that good, then your images should easily sell for a higher price.


  • Gillian August 22, 2008 08:21 pm

    I've been selling on iStock, Shutterstock and Dreamstime for a couple of years now. The most successful contributors do 'people' images (they require model release forms)and I'm not in that league. However I do earn some nice pocket money and I'm happy about that.
    BUT - and it's a big BUT - in my opinion, the bubble has burst. There are now so many contributors competing for the market and more joining all the time, and with the global credit crunch, things are changing. My income has dropped a lot - and with it my enthusiasm.

  • Robert August 22, 2008 12:01 pm

    It differ in prices, and types of licensing. Microstock usually is connected with RoyaltyFree (RF) licensing. Normal stock comes with more tradidtional RightsManaged licensing profile (of course You can choose also RF licensing for Your photographs).

    The Target is different.


  • Scott August 22, 2008 11:03 am

    Everyone keeps talking about microstock and stock, but I really don't understand the difference. All I get is that stick sells less but you make more per sale. How does everything work and how does stock and microstock differ?

  • Lpat August 22, 2008 03:28 am


    Was pretty happy to see this topic. I am a bare bones beginner but happened to luck out with a couple of beautiful shots on my vacation. When I went in to get them framed the woman actually told me I should consider trying to sell them.

    I had never ever thought of doing so -- I'm really new, I'm still learning about aperture, and besides, these were actually taken with my non-DSLR camera....

    What would be your advice? Should I try and see if anyone would be interested in them? (there's only a couple really worth trying). What does it mean to sell it? Do I still maintain the right to do whatever the heck I want to with it? I've just given someone else the right to do stuff with it? I'm a bit uneducated in this way!


  • mikeledray August 21, 2008 11:49 pm

    I love Shutterstock.com
    I have close to a 5000 image gallery there.
    I am on quite a few micros but SS for me is the very best.
    I am doing fairly well there and find that SS is basicly the only site I really submit to anymore.
    There are always naysayers about microstock or anything for that matter, but I for one Love the Monthly Income and ability to sell my images easily and feel safe and secure about getting paid out and not ripped off by sites that go "out of business" and dont pay out your commissions.

  • SurfOC August 21, 2008 03:26 am

    I have sold a few images at iStockphoto.. and a few others. I would have to say that I like the microstock sites which you can set your own prices.

    I think that you have to look at selling stock photos as a long term investment, and not looking to make lots of cash quickly. I think this is what most people think when trying to sell photos for high prices.


  • RePete August 21, 2008 01:01 am

    Being someone that is just starting to research this area of photography, does anyone have any tips or suggestions, other than "Don't sell your photos at microstock prices, but at stock prices?" For example, what kinds of photos to sell, and how best to tag/label them for best exposure?
    What are some of the better sites to sell, which categories are better sellers, etc? (If this is the wrong place for these comments, I apologize and ask someone to please redirect me to the correct place)

  • robert August 21, 2008 12:12 am

    I got in my microstock portfolios only few photos which were downloaded high number of times. There are few people who makes big money on microstock (eg Yuri Arcurs), but this is minority. If it comes to me, I would prefer to sold the image 10 times than 3000. With such amount of downloads Your image may become over popular (RF license allows buyer to use image multiple times), and some of the buyers are looking for original, 'fresh' images.

    Also, I do not like the feeling of being the weakest one, You must pay for all the stuff, and the agency (designer etc) who buys Your photogarph pays You thousend times less than to its office cleaner. It is Your choice. In my opinion nobody shoud price own work to low. If You do not price Your work properly, contrahents will be more likely to underrate You.


  • Image-Y August 20, 2008 09:58 pm

    HI Steve

    You can hire me as your wedding photographer if you want. ;) You can check out me fees on http://www.yanikchauvin.com/

    I know 2 people only doing macro stock with roughly the same amount of images that I have and they make the same amount of money that I do (give or take). People have this misconception that your image is only worth $1-$25. But when you sell that image 3000 times it's now worth a lot and you got more exposure. I would rather sell an image 3000 times and make $4000 than selling it 10 times at $400.


  • Robert August 20, 2008 09:31 pm

    Hey Yanik.

    If You like to get small fees for Your photographs I will contract You as my wedding photographer.

    Just calculate, how much more would You earn with Your images at regular stock, probably few hundreds times more than You got from microstock.


  • Sarah (sb) August 20, 2008 05:28 pm

    I have half a dozen photographs listed with fotolia and have sold a grand total of four! Yes, not mega-bucks, but it's a real confidence boost when your photographs are accepted and sold. My photography isn't at the level yet where I could sell them for a lot so the $1 price tags are fine with me. Saying that, though, I recently had 3 images accepted on shutterstock :-).

    I don't think I'll ever make a huge amount of money from photo libraries as I don't take the right sort of photographs (mainly natural childrens portraits) so I just can't get the volumeto generate.

    If you have the time to research and take the right sort of photographs then I think you can make a bit - well enough to buy the odd lens etc. You'd have to have hundreds of commercially attractive pics listed, though.

  • mackinawdreamer August 20, 2008 03:19 am

    Thank you all so much for this information. Fotalia rejected all of my entries but did take my fireworks. Just starting out and even though I have grande dreams of being this FAMOUS photographer (lol). I too would like to be able to get some pocket change from these 'award' winning photos (won 9 ribbons at the county fair, wooohooo!). I appreciate hearing from all of you on your input and find it of great value. I think I will try a little bit of everything. Thanks again! :)

  • Image-Y August 20, 2008 12:48 am

    I'm a pro photographer and about 70% of my income comes from microstock. I love it! I shoot what I want, when I want. I currently make a full time income and all my other contracts are just bonuses.

    Like any other job, I work hard at it. It's a full time job and there aren't any shortcuts. With that and my photography tutorial website (http://yanikphotoschool.com) I truly enjoy the freedom microstock has given me.

    I wrote a few articles that you might find useful:


  • Derek Neuland August 19, 2008 07:59 am

    I've uploaded my photos to a few microstock sites but have yet to sell any. The problem I have with microstock sites is the amount of time it takes to upload, label, describe, tag, and categorize your photos. With 5-10 big microstock sites, uploading 50 pictures to each one is a day's work. As they say, time is money and I still haven't decided if my time is worth the possibly little amount of money i'll make to start.

  • scott d August 19, 2008 12:38 am

    I sell some at iStockPhoto, but I save the very best ones for photoshelter.com because you can make serious cash there. iStock is ok over the long haul, but Robert really hit the nail on the head. You want to make money if they use that image on a large scale, and at $1, your not going to do so.

  • Pete Langlois August 18, 2008 11:56 pm

    I've never jumped into micro-stock. I sell my images directly from my website. I've sold images to individuals and corporations. Some of my photos are in corporate HQ's. I'm making more per image than microstock.



  • Pete August 18, 2008 06:29 pm

    I have sold some photos on Fotolia. and yes if I read the above comments, they are all true.
    what the microstock site did for me was give me confidence that My photos could sell. Now would be the time to move up the ladder. so to speak.
    As for what sold?
    pictures of wildlife

    Keep on snapping

  • Lucas Cavalheiro August 18, 2008 03:24 pm

    I sell my photos at iStock, dreamstime and Shutterstock. It's easy to make U$10,00/month. Just pick the best photos you see of laptos, cellphones, money, etc and repeat then.

    That are some kind of shots that sell very well: smiling/happy people with laptops is one example.

    If you do not believe you can earn some money with microstock you should see this http://www.microstockdiaries.com/yuri-arcurs.html

    I earn about U$50,00/month. Isnt' too much but $500 in 10 months = new lens/strobes/etc. If you see my portfolio (http://www.istockphoto.com/lucascavalheiro) you will know that it's not difficult to earn this.

  • Rosh August 18, 2008 11:24 am

    How did my comment get bumped from first to third spot? Interesting....


  • ChrisH August 18, 2008 09:46 am

    I just submitted some photos to alamy.com but it's too early to tell. Alamy.com is not a microstock sit but a regular stock sit since I figured bothering with the microstocks isn't worth my time. I'm not expecting much for it in return but a little pocket change to support this expensive hobby would be nice.

  • nedyalko August 18, 2008 08:57 am

    I've tried and they sad your photos are this and that so...
    ...no way I'm selling my photos again!

  • Sunnyman August 18, 2008 08:57 am

    I have tried getting in to one of those, but my pictures were not accepted. They said they already had too many flower pictures...

    As to making money: Since I've seen many images that have been downloaded more than 1000 times, I think you COULD make some extra money from this. BUT you have to be very aware of what "the market" wants, and upload exactly that kind of material.

    Pictures that may be successful are the kind that companies may use in annual reports or multimedia presentations.

    Good Luck!

  • Rosh August 18, 2008 06:44 am

    I’d never sell my photography for a $1

    I look at micro stock companies like multi-level marketing. The company will do well, but the individual players often get hurt, don’t earn their true value or even loose money after expenses.

    I’ll make it up in volume! I recall some dot-com companies saying that too. How many $1 images do you have to sell to make money? A lot. The amount of work it takes to create images to attract a couple thousand downloads each month is a full time job and a not very lucrative one at that.

    The reality is that if you are that good, just like in multi-level marketing, you would actually be better off in the main stream. Even Getty’s bad $50 photo rate would earn the creator a great deal more money, even with a lower sales volume.

    Micro stock has its place and so do multi-level marketing companies. Yes, some people actually make money. But, the big winners are the few and the companies themselves.

    If you are trying to earn extra money in photography, in my opinion, there are better places.


  • Simon August 18, 2008 01:04 am

    I've always been interested in trying to make a bit of money from stock photography, but I've always been of the impression that it's the boring,un instersting shots that sell well. That and the shots that allow other people to put their mark on them, not the sort of thing you'd go round showing off to your friends and family. As with most things, I suspect it's a trade-off between a desire to earn and an artistic desire.

  • Robert August 18, 2008 12:35 am


    I've got some experience with microstock photography, I participated into it over a year (my first months in stock industry). What can I say? Well it brings some money, but... why to do it if we can try normal stock agencies? Microstock agencies usually give You about 20% of the price of the image (they get 80% of it)... and so You get (in the best case) few $ from photograph. If You would sell the same image at normal stock agency like a Photoshelter (Now I'm photoshelter.com stock photographer) You get 70% of price (the agency takes only 30%). The price of image is far higher, and It can give You really nice income (for example, licence for publishing image at Bilboard in one country will bring You about 4000$ quit), If you sell Your Royalty Free license image at microstock it will cost only few bucks and they will be able to put it on every bilboard across the world with that silly price. Is it right? You paid few thousand bucks for camera body, lenses, flashlights, computer, and other things, You spend time to shoot, then edit and add keywords... they get 80% and... Is Your work worth so little money? I got one life, and want to get the best incomes from my work. That is why I left microstock (I still have in microstock portfolios some of my older, weak photographs from the beginning). Now every of my stock photographs are in Photoshelter. I do sale less photographs, but the incomes from these are far better than at all microstock sites I participated. Price Yourself.