The 2013 Microstock Industry Survey

Hi all, its been a while. Writing a blog and taking photos really are two different things, and it seems I am more out taking photos and dreaming up new concepts which slows down things on the blog front.

But, first things first, here is to the new year. I wish you good health, love and success for 2014. We can now start reviewing 2013 and adjust our business plans for 2014.

Based on my overall photo sales, my total earnings of 2013 are 328% compared to 2012 (note: 2012 was only 10 months, started in February). My total images sales in 2013 are 325% compared to 2012. The majority of my revenue is generated by Shutterstock at 51%, Shutterstock generates 74% of my total image sales. Suggesting the Revenue Per Download (RPD) elsewhere is better. Fine Art America is my second earning and generates 21%  of my revenue at an RPD of 85$. Followed by:

Fotolia 6%
123RF 4%
Canstock 4%
Deposit 2%
Istock 2%
Direct Sales 2%
Zazzle 2%
Alamy 2%
Photodune 1%
Nationale Beeldbank 1%

So, 2013 was a good year, growth is slow, but it blew 2012 out of the water. If I can sustain half of the growth for 2014 I am well chuffed. My business, started in February 2012, made a loss in the first year, but already recorded a profit for 2013. Not bad for a start-up, which generally record losses in the first 3 years of the start-up. So there you have it, which brings me to the 2013 Microstock Industry Survey.

Microstock Survey


The microstock survey is an initiative from Tyler Olson. Here is what Tyler has to say about the survey:

If you enjoyed the previous years results, please share it around (last year we had 750+ respondents).  It would be great if as many people as possible can take part so we can get the most accurate results possible.
The survey follows a nearly identical flow to previous years (with a few tweaks thanks to comments) as it is nice to compare results from year to year and I feel it asks the basic questions we are wondering without taking too long to answer.
For interest, here is last year’s infographic and full results.
As a thank you to everyone who responds there will be a random give-away again.  There are a number of prizes up for grabs.  There will be one winner for each prize.  Winners will be drawn randomly (using a random number generator).  Prizes cannot be exchanged for cash.
StockPerformer has offered a one year Eagle and one year Sparrow membership ($400 and $125 value)
ProImageExperts has offered a $500 image editing package and a $400 image editing package (2 winners)
MicrostockSubmitter has offered a 6 month unlimited subscriptions ($250 value)
MicrostockGroup will give a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition ($399 value)

Those are some awesome prizes! I have my eye on the GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition so I will for sure fill out the survey and I urge everyone else to do the same. The more data Tyler can collect, the more accurate the results will be.  

The 2013 Microstock Industry Survey is now open for your input.  It shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes if you have your numbers ready.  And I am sure you have your numbers ready, as us photographers are aces in financial administration. 

Here are the results of the previous editions of the Microstock Industry Survey:

2012: 754 responses
2011: 709 responses
2010: 628 responses
2009: 413 responses
2008: 244 responses

Mini Interview with Tyler Olson

I also managed to ask Tyler a few questions about the survey and about MSG, so here is a mini interview with Tyler Olson:

Who Am I
I work as a self-employed photographer shooting mainly stock photography.  The majority of my work goes to the ‘micro’ agencies with a few images selected out to specialty collections.  I also run the forums over at and blog on Microstock.

1. Why did you start up MSG?
I started MSG back in 2006 because I missed a community devoted to discussing microstock photography.  At the time I was very active on but felt microstock deserved a forum of its own.  You can see that I modeled the layout of the front page of MicrostockGroup after DPC.

2. How do you find the time to be a successful photographer and manage MSG at the same time?
I use a lot of lists to prioritize my time and I work a lot in what I call seasons.  I’ll spend a month devoted to MicrostockGroup then spend several months doing mostly stock photography then a month devoted to another project, etc.  I find I work more effectively when I do this.  I still complete tasks in areas other than the ‘focus area’ for that season but it helps to keep my time and efforts focused and efficient.  I worked as a tree planter for quite a few summers when I was a student and if there is any job which teaches you efficiency, it is tree planting.  We were paid per-tree, so every time you could save 1 second of the time it took to plant a tree you would make nearly 10% more.  With not much more to think about other than efficiency, the concept was fairly well processed over the course of a few summers.

3. What is the best thing that ever happened on the forum?
I don’t know if there can be a single event that is described as ‘the best’.  Overall however, I think the best thing is that the forum is still alive and thriving after 8 years.  I really value the presence of various microstock agency reps / owners that visit the forum and provide feedback to the members, and obviously, all the members on the site are really great and are what makes MicrostockGroup what it is.  Being a microstock artist can be a lonely profession at times, having the social network provided by microstockgroup has been important to me and hopefully to other members as well.

Bonus question. What was the most surprising outcome you ever got from your surveys?
I don’t know that anything exceptionally shocking or surprising has come out of the survey, mostly just very interesting and curious information.  The majority of the data follows the 80/20 or 90/10 rule where 90% of the income is going to 10% of the artist, or 10% of the people have submitted 90% of the images etc.  This is the 6th year the survey has been run and comparing trends spanning years is becoming a highlight of the survey results.

That’s all folks! I would like to thank you all for reading my blog and for partaking in the 2013 Microstock Industry Survey. Please share the survey where you can, as it will benefit us all to have the most accurate collection of data.

Thanks again, and keep shooting.