selling microstock images on shutterstock

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Easy money, how much can you earn?

Microstock easy?

earn money selling microstock images easy?

It is the dream of many photographers or illustrators to turn their passion into a way of earning some extra money or even a whole income. Microstock photography is one of the easiest ways to make this dream come true. However, you have to note that I say easiest and not easy! But if you keep in mind that earning money with your passion is always easy money, microstock can become an ally in your photography journey.

Many websites claim making money with your photos or illustrations to be easy and that you will earn lots of money with it. They just promise you lots of easy money without showing the whole and realistic picture. Microstock is considered to produce a passive income. Once you have your images online they keep generating money for years to come. But you have to put a lot of active effort in it to produce a portfolio big enough to earn you thousands of dollars every month. For those who are thinking to make a living out of microstock. It is possible, but in the first 3 to 4 years you really have to work hard to build a high quality portfolio. And even then its possible you won’t succeed. Very few people make their whole income out of microstock, quite some make a part time living out of it, but most make a small extra income of a couple of hundreds dollars every month.

Earning a lot of money?

If you are thinking to start microstock with the idea to earn lots of money I have to disappoint you. Earning lots of money with photography is difficult. Find something else to earn your income. But if you are already passionate about photography and enjoy sharing your images with others, microstock might be perfect for you. Just see the money that you can earn with it as a nice extra bonus. It will be quite easy to make enough money to buy new photography equipment. With a small portfolio of 500 images it should be easy to earn a couple of hundred dollars a month. At the moment of writing I’m earning about 1400 dollars a month with a portfolio of a little more than 2000 images (2011 statistics). It took me about three years to build that portfolio. So for every image online I earn about 8 dollars every year. Not enough to make a living out of it (at least where I live), but quite nice if you consider the fact that I’m enjoying myself and earn money at the same time. However keep in mind that for most contributors the revenue per image per year is lower, and at the same time there are people who earn a whole lot more.

Image quality, quantity, knowledge and workflow effect income

The microstock sites are filled with high quality images you must compete with. It takes time effort and a learning process to built a good microstock portfolio. The good part is that once your images are online, they can continue to make money year after year. Microstock is considered to generate a passive income, but to obtain that passive income you will need a lot of active input. The better quality images, the more your images are suitable for microstock and the better your key wording and workflow, the higher your income per amount of effort.

It takes time to build a good portfolio but as time passes and your port grows also will your income. Some can create a whole income with 500 to 1000 images while others need 10,000’s or more to make a living out of microstock. In general you should expect 20 to 100$ per month for every 100 images uploaded.

The amount you can earn is dependant on various factors:

  1. time input
  2. image quality
  3. image quantity
  4. stock suitability of the images
  5. keywording skills
  6. optimizing workflow


You will have to learn how microstock works, what pictures sell and how set up a microstock workflow. Getting a few images accepted and earn some dollars is quite easy, but to earn your living out of microstock is a bigger challenge. Microstock is perfect for those who want a small extra income of a couple of 100$ a month. This can easily bee achieved with a moderate port of 300 to 500 images. Only the lucky and hard working few will be able to earn a whole income out of microstock.