That time my picture was stock sold for 50$

stock photography income passive royalties

By now, you should already know that I’m into stock photography. It’s a great passive income source, especially for travel photographers. I was already taking good pictures before I even knew what that was, so I didn’t have to change my process. I just started putting my work out there, and every once in a while it’s sold. Admittedly, as I showed in my last analysis, royalties that artists get are pretty low and can frustrate newcomers. It frustrates me as well!

I briefly explained that the reason for that was the subscription modes that most platforms employ. Meaning that clients pay a monthly fee and then get to acquire images for free (or for a low fee anyway). However, there are other ways to acquire stock photography and you don’t have to always signup. Websites also allow clients to buy pictures loosely, i.e. with no strings attached. Of course, they have to spend extra cash for that convenience, but that still happens.

In fact, it happens more than I’d think (fortunately). Usually, that gets me between 1$ and 5$. This is low, but still immensely higher than the minimum royalties I mentioned before. Some weeks ago I went to Shutterstock to check my balance (this is one of the platforms that does NOT send notifications). It baffled me to see an increase of 50$ in my account. I couldn’t ever believe that there was a mega peak of many small purchases of my images, but maybe a few of loose purchases could do it. Hell, I even thought it could be a mistake of some sort! As it turned out, a single picture of mine was the one to blame (yes, loosely bought of course).

After getting my first picture ever acquired in stock photography websites, this was my next (and latest) big achievement in this business. I was so happy about it that I wanted to thank the client, but evidently, you don’t ever get to know who did it. Surely I appreciate getting paid 50$ for the picture, but above all what I feel is pride. Someone chose my shot instead of all the other thousands and it suited someone’s particular requirements at that time. After all, what are the chances, huh?

This picture (seen next) is NOT, by far, one of my best shots. I was equally surprised THAT was the chosen picture for my highest earning so far, considering I have much better examples. So that tells me, and teaches me, that it’s all about the client and what he / she wants. Surely we can take the best possible pictures to begin with, but ultimately it’s all in their hands.


Poznan Cityscape

A panoramic view over Poznan’s Market Square and nearby rooftops.

So, about the picture. I technically call it a panorama, since it was based on 2 photos, but it’s a rather short one. I believe it was even taken against the glass windows of the top of the tower I was in. That tower was part of the National Museum in Poznan, in a section overlooking the old town / market square. I had spent too much time actually visiting the museum that I got to the top of the tower late and it was almost closing. The guard said I couldn’t go to the balcony already, either because of the time or the weather (it was raining). So I was stuck with the glass windows: one of the many classics of travel photography. I didn’t despair though. I had paid my ticket and I did my best to capture some scenes from above (check the full album here).

The 50$ also puts A LOT of things in perspective. For example, it nearly paid for my whole stay in the city (one night), in which accommodation and meals were cheap. If not, it paid for the time I spent adding metadata to the shots, not only on Poznan’s, but the whole trip’s. And in the end, it gives me a little more strength to keep up the good work. I know this won’t keep happening on a daily basis of course, but at the same time, my collection increases with every trip I do. So I’m hopeful stock photography will continue to be a good thing in my life.



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