Why Micro-stock Mega-sucks

By Jonathan Timar

I have been submitting my photos to Shutterstock.com for four years now. In a month I will close my account with them and never submit another photo again.

Here’s why; sometime over the next few weeks I expect to finally crawl over the minimum payout threshold of $75. I do not intend to spend another four years to make another $75.

I understand that there are many people who do in fact make decent money through micro-stock agencies. They make this through pure, raw volume. They are submitting hundreds of photos a month to multiple agencies in most cases. This takes up an alarming amount of time. Not only the time to upload the photos, which is considerable even over the fastest internet connection, but also to tag and describe each one individually, something that is impossible to automate.

I simply don’t have that kind of time. Not for such a puny payoff. In the four years I have had my photos on Shutterstock, 264 people have downloaded them, probably very few of whom are legitimate publishers, most were probably using them for cheap art for their walls. I don’t like that. My art is worth more than 25 cents a pop.

Most of my photos get rejected. It’s not because they are bad photos, it’s because the people who make the decisions are kinda stupid. I’m not being harsh, they actually are. I have had photos get rejected in one batch only to be approved when resubmitted, unaltered, in another one. The reasons given for rejection are dubious at best, and ridiculous at worst, and rarely are accurate. Usually they make me wonder if the person actually spent any time looking at the photo at all. I even had my most popular photo get deleted from my gallery after being there for a year with no explanation whatsoever. I found that fishy, to be honest.

    Keep In Touch

    Get the latest posts by email, plus exclusive content, offers, and free stuff just for subscribers.


    I don’t have time to spend uploading and tagging multiple photos in the hopes that they *might* get approved. Life is too short.

    You might be asking yourself why I didn’t close my account sooner. The answer is simple, by the time I realized what a waste of time micro-stock was, I had already earned a little bit of money. Not a lot, but enough that I wanted what was rightfully mine. I didn’t want to have given away my photos for pennies, and then never see those pennies. So I made up my mind to wait until the first payout before quitting.

    It took a long time.

    So you think you should still give micro-stock a try? By all means, if you have *lots* of time on your hands and you enjoy letting other people make money off your hard work while you get paid next to nothing, then yes, you should sign up right now.