How Are Stock Photographers Doing in Late 2020?

Without a doubt, 2020 has been brutal on a lot of photographers across all genres, and as the year comes to a close, many of us are still looking for ways to diversify our income streams and increase our financial stability in 2021. This helpful video features a photographer discussing some of his side earnings in stock photography in November of this year and what a variety of stock photo sites are currently paying. 

Coming to you from James Wheeler with Photerloo, this great video discusses his stock photography situation in November of this year with a detailed breakdown by company. As you will see, Wheeler is not using this as a main source of income, but rather uploading mostly photos from his travels to create a nice source of passive income on the side. He has spread his images across a variety of services (15 are shown in this video alone), and while that certainly takes a fair amount of work, if you can develop an efficient system, that extra few hundred dollars a month for photos that might have just sat in your personal catalog can be nice to have.  Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wheeler. 

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jim hughes's picture

Interesting that there are no comments yet and I'm betting few people even watch the video. That's because for anyone who's done stock, it's a dead subject, there's just nothing more to say about it, we've moved on, etc. There's absolutely no money in it anymore and anyone who claims there is, isn't being honest about the time he's investing in it, and maybe not about what he's earning either.

Just my opinions, YMMV.

James Wheeler's picture

If I was going to lie about my earnings, I would have made them much higher haha.

What I have found through creating a Youtube channel about stock photography is that there are a number of people who didn't get the results they wanted when they uploaded their own photos to stock sites and these people are the vocal minority in Internet comment sections.  However, there are many other people who have tried and continue to post to stock sites because they are happy with the results.  When this vocal minority is presented with any information that contradicts their personal results it must be "fake news".  Just my opinions, YMMV.  

jim hughes's picture

Obviously the numbers show images continuing to pour in. And I'm sure a few contributors continue to do well, because they're very efficient, and very skilled at keeping on top of trends in imagery.

At one very (very) big stock agency, the TOS forbids even disclosing your earnings. So there's no way to know the truth.

It all depends on your personal "worth it" formula. If nothing else it's a good way to learn photography.

Robert Lype's picture

One of the biggest problems a lot of newer photographers have issues with is image rejection which is a big part of the process of be coming successful in stock work. In any realm of the photographic field the key to success is producing an sellable image to your targeted audience, in stock photography its a crap shoot due to the fact that the image has have multiple uses and the end product is unknown.
This takes a lot of rejections to figure this out us shooters who have taken the time to study the in and outs flourish.
As for the amount made your right the contracts prohibit earning disclosure for a good reasons there a lot of photographers that make a living in stock and have paid their dues and it none of anyone's business what we make. I will put it this way my gear is funded solely on what is made on my stock work.

Robert Lype's picture

Stock photography at one time was profitable and still is if you have put in a lot of effort to maintain a large inventory. The death of the profits came in with the digital world where free photos have taken over as well as lowering the quality standards.
If used as a supplement to your income as well as a means to lead to other jobs its a great tool. A lot of effort has to be put forth in order to be successful in stock work, one has to keep up with trends as well as needs. There are plenty of differnt venues available which one has to cautious of which outlets they use.
It takes a few years to see a good profit in my case I have been doing stock work for over 30 years which provides just a tad under 40 percent of my income. Even though the prices have come down over the years the effort that I have to put forth is a fraction of what it did years ago but the benefits out weigh the cost. The trick is to tie it into the other work your already doing.

Jim Greipp's picture

Over a dozen different sites - each one with their own submission and keywording requirements. With that amount of time, this is a good month?

The reason stock photography has been left for dead is that there are talented photographers - such as James Wheeler - who are willing to sell their work for 10 cents - or accept DONATIONS - are you a charity case or does your work have value? Not knowing the value of your work means you will never make any real money with stock photography or anything else in life.

The demand for stock photos has never been greater and photographers should be the primary beneficiaries. But they are not. Shutterstock and a host of other retailers - and that's what they are, they are not the manufacturers or creators of any content - rely on the naivety of talented individuals and keep the majority of the profit. They are the smart businessmen / women and the creative individuals are content with their dime a click.

And in case you are wondering, I do have a bit of experience, selling stock photos since 1987 (currently with Alamy) with an average of $10k sales per year.

james Tarry's picture

Personally sales in 2020 are up on 2019, not by a huge amount by any up is good considering the year.
I only sell through one site (Stocksy) as I dont have the energy to do multiples. Stock income certainly isnt enough to live off month to month but its a great supplement to the business and, takes very little effort and time (for me)

zave smith's picture

Two years ago an image of mine was used by Bank of America for a billboard. My take from Getty was $14.25. I had to ask myself, why am I subsidizing Bank of America and providing them with almost-free content. Never again.

Patrick Hall's picture

Where is this featured image from? It looks like elements of Charleston but composited in a strange way.