Passive Income from Microstock Photography

Or, The Unexpected ‘Sleeper’ Hit

The image below is a masterpiece.  A work of art.  A thing of  beauty.  Right?  Nah.  Not even.

However, this little jewel has downloaded a stunning 282 times in the first half of February.   It has earned $93 for me during that time.  And what was I doing, while that money was pouring in?  A little web surfing, some grocery shopping, a tad of house cleaning, a few marketing calls, a couple of marketing emails, some nice long walks around the neighborhood.  In other words, for THAT money, I wasn’t doing a thing even remotely associated with that image.  Since I originally uploaded it, more than three years ago, it has downloaded more than 500 times, earning around $200.  I’m not exactly sure why there has been such a run on this particular image over the past 12 days, but I’m happy to take the money : )

Is $93 or even $200 a lot of money?  Right now, this red-hot minute in America…  Can I retire on it?  Not right now.  But that’s not the only image I have on microstock sites, nor is it the only angle I’m working.

So what exactly is microstock or a microstock agency?  Microstock photography is an offshoot of traditional stock photography.  The term ‘microstock’ was derived from the term ‘micropayment stock photography’.  Despite the fact I LOVE to talk and share information, Lee Torrens over at MicrostockDiaries explains it in far better depth and detail than I can.

I upload my images to three different microstock agencies: Shutterstock, iStock and BigStockPhoto.  In terms of upload approval and acceptance rates, BigStockPhoto is the easiest.  However, I have found I make the least money with them.  iStock has the toughest standards and accepts the fewest images uploaded.  Shutterstock falls in between these two for upload approval and acceptance, but they are far and away the agency I earn the most consistent money with.  In fact, iStock rejected the image above three times, due to issues with lighting. They were correct.  I shot that image right after I got my first digital camera and had not yet perfected my lighting techniques.  However, that has not stopped 500 people or businesses from downloading that image, now has it?

Microstock giveth….and taketh away.  The fact is, microstock agencies have opened up broader avenues allowing even more photographers to enter a once rarefied field.  Now, there really are places where you can upload your best stuff and make some money.  The downside?  There are two, in my opinion.  The first is, the marketplace is increasingly glutted with imagery, with everyone from the milkman to your mother entering the field of photography.  It has cheapened the product and watered down the revenue by paying more people less money.  However, even given that caveat, there really are people out there earning a GREAT living at microstock, like Lise Gagne, who can earn several hundred thousand dollars a year with iStock.  But recognize that Lise and others like her, is WORKING IT with fierce focus and dedication.  The other down side is the labor intensive upfront time and effort it takes to upload and keyword images, many of which WILL be rejected, no matter how good you are.  Perhaps the best way to view either of these microstock photography ‘negatives’ is with a positive attitude:

  • If you don’t put too much ‘stock’ (couldn’t resist the pun) in any ONE income stream, then you can enjoy the varying amounts of prosperity that flow to you through many different avenues.  A little money here, a little money there and before you know it, Jack is a very happy boy.  Jack?  Who’s Jack?  There are some who say I don’t know jack…..but that’s a story for another day!
  • Sure it’s a lot of upfront work.  But after you’re finished with the uploading and keywording, then you just forget about it.  I uploaded the image above almost four years ago and haven’t had to do a thing to or with it since.

So, why all this talk about microstock photography?  Because the best insurance against unexpected bumps in the economic road is multiple streams of income. Get as many legs up under your table as possible.

What can you do that others haven’t already done?  What can you do differently or BETTER than others?  What businesses can you partner with?  What package or bundle of services can you offer at a slightly discounted rate?  What incentive can you offer for referrals?  What related industries can you tap for growth and expansion?  What goals have you set, but are not taking active steps toward attaining?  What under utilized skill set do you need to pull down off the shelf and dust off?  What great idea did you have last year, that you KNOW is brilliant, but you’ve been too scared to implement?

If it’s true what they say, that time equals money, then the time is NOW.  Step up, step out and step toward your goals.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger... runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

one comment

  1. Great read as always, I love to hear people give the secrets out to success. I’ve a web-design side line that sucks my soul away, I also shoot portraits on the weekends (which I love) and work full time as a designer and portrait photographer. I dabbled and burned in small time stocks, I have a rental property that is a pain. I dream of a dot com… Every day I seek ways to bring multiple revenue sources in. I always thought stock photography does not pay for the amount of work you put in. We buy a lot of it at work here (perhaps some of yours!) so I see how it all ads up. But in relation to the amount of time key-wording and submitting… I’ll have to try it first hand to be a believer.

    Thanks for the leg up on it all though,