Chances are you already got yourself thinking how much you can make with stock photography vs. stock footage. This article covers earnings, revenue per file, average per sale, the frequency of sales and all the differences in each side.

My goal here is to show photographers & filmmakers how the other side of the coin works and the way to follow if you plan to increase your income doing it (i.e., agencies, workflow, and best tools). I also want to help beginners with useful data so you can take your own decision on which path to follow.

The same content of this article is available in video format on my last YouTube video. You can watch it above.

Although you can do both using the same agencies and even the same equipment, there are significant differences you’d like to be aware. You’ll find different characteristics in the workflow, earnings, speed & number of sales, and various tools for both sides.

To ensure this analysis is as real as possible; I invited stock photographer & blogger Alex Rotenberg. Alex is famous for writing “The Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography” ebook. His eight years of experience made this a must read for every stock photographer. You can get it for less than $8 here.

1. Average revenue per sale in stock video vs. stock photo

To help you understand how much you can get with a single sale, transaction, we calculated our average earnings per sale considering Shutterstock only.

As a stock photographer, Alex gets an average of $0,74 for each image sale he does.

While as a stock filmmaker, I make an average of $24,74 for each video I sell. The maximum I did on a single sale was $125, while the minimum was $4,74.

However, you should always take in consideration that the frequency of sales is entirely different on each side.

Ok, a footage sale will bring you much more, but you have to know they happen with way less frequency.

While my best selling video has sold over 40 times, Alex’s best seller sold over 500 times.


2. Time for the first footage & picture sale to happen

Photos will always get more sales than footage. 

Alex’s first image sale happened 2-3 weeks after he was approved.

My first video took 5 months to sell. Alex’s first video sale happened after 6 months of his first video upload.

The indicator you should actually consider is Revenue per File per Year.


3. RFY (Revenue per File per Year) for each side

This indicator will take us deeper into the analysis of how much one can earn with each kind of file.

This indicator is used for different things. It helps you to compare and benchmark yourself against the market. I also use it to estimate how much I will make with each new approved file or quantity of photos/videos I need to make a desired amount of money.

If you’re wondering how to calculate your RFY, do this: Divide your total revenue on a year by the number of files you had on that period.

Before I disclose our numbers, let me remind you this isn’t a global average and depends 100% on the quality & variety of each portfolio.

Use the numbers below as a starting point to estimate how much you can make with each new file you get approved.


A photographers Revenue per File per Year:

Alex’s RFY usually is $1/img/year.

So, for example, if he wanted to make extra 1,000 per year, he would need 1,000 new photos to do it.


The footage Revenue per File per Year:

As a footage contributor, my Return per File per Year is $5,22. My portfolio is far from being decent. I’m curious to hear from other contributors.


Let’s find a global RFY?

I have this idea of building a collaborative & anonymous database of earnings so we can get a global return per file per year.  Let me know what you think about that.


How to increase your Return per File per Year:

1. Shoot better images

Well, that’s simple. Submit rare and exclusive files, and you’ll get better revenues.

 2. Submit to other agencies

We’re only considering Shutterstock in this calculus, so there’s still space to increase this number by submitting it to other agencies.

One easy way of doing it is using multi-uploaders.


4. Multi-uploaders: The quickest way to submit to many agencies at once

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Multi-uploader for Stock Photography

Alex highly recommends StockSubmitter to simultaneously submit to those agencies which are compatible with the program – which happens to be most of them. The software is available for trial for 30 images/per agency/per month. Even if you don’t want to pay for a subscription, you can use a built-in program for keywording.

Multi-uploader for Stock Footage

In the video world, there’s a similar tool called BlackBox that is crushing the market. You only have to upload and keyword your files once, and it will submit them to 4 of the major stock agencies: Shutterstock, Pond5, AdobeStock, and Storyblocks.

The platform is in its early days, but with big plans are for the future.


5. Most profitable stock agencies

Best stock agencies for photography

Alex submits to about 20 different agencies, but many of them aren’t within Microstock.

Within microstock, he currently submits to 14 agencies. Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock are his best and most consistent earners.

Shutterstock participates with 40% of his income. Adobe Stock gets him 15%, Alamy 15% too, 10% from iStock, and 20% from others.

Within Midstock, he submits to Alamy (highly recommend for editorial images), as well as Rex Features and exclusively to travel agency, Robert Harding.

He also enjoys capturing Fine Art Images and submits them to Arcangel for book covers, as well as Print on Demand: Fine Art America and Photo4me.

In his opinion, “… spreading images around (when possible) is the best way to receive the maximum income”.


Best stock agencies for footage

You can find more in-depth data in my 2017 Earnings Report.

In my personal experience in the footage industry, I mostly submit my footage files to Shutterstock, Pond5, AdobeStock, and Storyblocks.

I also submit to Getty/iStock, DepositPhotos, and seen some contributors having success on VideoHive.

There’s also space for exclusive high-end agencies like Dissolve and Filmsupply, though I have no experience with them.

Considering my 2018 numbers, I get 53% of my income from Shutterstock, 20% from Pond5 and 15% from StoryBlocks.

Pond5 and StoryBlocks are not a big deal for photographers but are huge for filmmakers.


6. Don’t take your conclusion yet. Let’s discuss the workflow first.

Although we made it clear that video files bring more income than images, there’s still a lot of things we should take into consideration before we take any conclusion. You can’t merely conclude Stock Footage is better than Stock Photography.

In photography, Alex spends from 30 to 90 seconds per image (except on individual cases).

For footage that is just impossible.

Adobe Premiere won’t even open in 30 seconds.

Videos will always take more time to capture, to transfer, edit, export, and upload.

Here are some points that make the workflow way easier for the stock photography side.

1. Files size.

No matter the quality you use, images will always take less space than video files. That also means video files will require a faster connection.

2. Editing time.

Needless to say, images will need less time to be edited and exported. That also means you don’t need a NASA computer.

3. Gear price.

There are expensive and professional gear on both sides, of course. But the equipment to get started on Stock Photography is way cheaper. In some cases, even mobile photography is accepted these days.

For photography, Alex suggests
– Sony A7R
– Nikon D3400
– Canon T6i

For footage, I recommend and use:
– Sony A7sII
– Panasonic GH5
– To start: Lumix GH4 or Canon 70D

4. Upload on Browser.

If you’re doing stock photography, most agencies will let you upload your files with their web uploader. For video, you can only do it through FTP. Is not such a big deal, but may scare some beginners.

5. Mobile App.

Stock photographers also have the advantage of writing keywords and metadata right from Shutterstock’s mobile app. It is useful when you have some spare time waiting for a train or something like that. This feature is not available for video files yet.


Final thoughts

My purpose with this article & video isn’t to tell you the way you should follow. Instead, I hope this gives you data and insights to take your own decision on which path to follow.

Alex brought a very cool concept at the end of the video:

“Being a stock creator is more like a marathon, than a sprint.”

Work with that in mind. You’re planning to grow in the long run. We’re talking about passive income. You’re building an income that will bear fruit for years to come.