What Will I Earn From Microstock?

Earn Money From Your PhotosIsn’t that the million dollar question.

Really, the answer is an annoying one – what you get out of microstock depends on what you are willing to put into it.  Gone are the days of people making a killing in this industry off just a few happy snaps with their compact digital camera.  But fear not – potential still remains. You may be surprised what those old photos on your hard drive could earn you. In fact, you could even turn a much loved hobby into a steady stream of income. At the very least, that can help pay for more camera gear!

Fact: There are many, many people making part-time or even full-time incomes from microstock photography alone. You’ll need many good quality images and a willingness to learn to be able to compete.

Microstock photography pays little per image – is it worth it?

Well that depends on your point of view.  If you are currently earning hundreds or more per sale from a Rights Managed stock agency and they sell multiple images per month for you, then you may want to reconsider joining microstock.  But for the rest of us, yes – it’s worth it.

While you may only earn dollars (or even cents) for your precious images, microstock works on volume.  For instance, on Shutterstock they pay contributors between $0.25 – $28.00 USD per download, and it’s not uncommon to sell a few hundred (or thousand) images per month there.  That soon adds up, and for most contributors (myself included) they are the highest earner out of all the agencies despite paying less per download.

Then you have agencies like Dreamstime (usually 2nd or 3rd best agency for me) with a pricing structure that earns you more per download when an image reaches different sales levels.  You can earn over $11 USD just for a standard download.  Plus more if the buyer wants an extended license (an option that allows them to use it for more things).

So as you can see, despite small revenue per image, when you work on getting a few hundred sales a month, from a few different agencies, that soon begins to make sense.

How do I receive payment from microstock agencies?

Finance GraphsHave a Paypal account?  Moneybookers?  Then you’re basically set.  Some even will use direct bank transfers.  Essentially, no matter where you live in the world, if you have access to the internet you will be able to receive your earnings each month provided you have reached the payout threshold.

What’s a ‘payout threshold’ you ask?  An earnings point determined by the agency that once reached allows you to be paid.  This differs with each site, with most being between $50-$100 in earnings required before you can get paid.  Once this threshold is reached most sites pay their contributors around the 15th of each month, although Shutterstock is the fastest to pay, sending out money around the 7th.  So for instance, say you have earned $100 from 123RF this month, then next month around the 15th you will automatically get that paid to you.

This method of payment prevents the libraries from having to deal with ridiculous payout requests of $1.36 or the like, and instead focus their efforts on selling your images to clients, while handling payment only once a month.

Why didn’t I think of microstock photography earlier!?

Exactly.  That’s what I thought once I began to see the results of microstock after only a few months.  Why, oh why, didn’t I start this a few years ago!  I had several hundred quality images just sitting on my computer for years not earning me a cent.  Now they are earning a growing portion of my overall income, with the best part being I can do other work while they earn money for me.

Don’t get me wrong – this is no ‘get rich quick’ scheme.  But when your options are either earn nothing and have no-one see your beautiful images or earn a constant income and get international exposure for your work, I know which one I would choose all over again.