Earnings Analysis - Which photos have the most potential

Remember back in high school when the seniors voted for most popular and most likely to succeed? Where are they now right? The most popular has been married four times and the most likely to succeed works at the supermarket bagging groceries. But that nerdy kid everyone picked on started his own Internet company and is married to a supermodel. You never can tell what the future may bring.

Looking at my earning recently I was struck by how little my most popular image has made. This background image has sold seven times so far but every sale was a subscription sale. Indeed the word background and images for backgrounds are in demand stock images. They are also not likely to be the end product after the designers finish with them.

In comparison this black and white vintage car image has earned just as much as the mist background but it did it with one subscription sale and two extra small purchases, perhaps for a blog.

Then we have this one that has only sold twice but once was a large image and once was a 50 credit print extended license. So what does this tell us about sales verse earnings? Well, its not always the number of sales that leads to earnings.

Which brings me to another concept. In economics class back in college we learned about the concept of "barriers to entry". Barriers to entry refers to how difficult it is for competitors to enter a market. For example these days any web based business has a lot lower barriers to entry than a physical factory for example. An online magazine has a lower barrier to entry than a printed magazine.

Stock photography has a much lower barrier than in the past. Low barriers to entry drive down the profits because of the ease that competition can flood the market.

You can also apply the concept to the types of photographs you take. What do you think the barriers of entry are to taking a photograph of a tomato? Even if tomato photographs are the most popular images among buyers, they can be taken with relative ease. Just about everyone on the planet these days has access to a ripe tomato even in the dead of winter.

So as you might guess, there are plenty of tomato pictures available on Dreamstime and elsewhere so the earning potential on a tomato photograph is very low.

Take a picture of something alive, in the right place, at the right time and in someplace not accessible to the masses and you have the potential to earn a higher profit.

The golden combination would be something rare but also highly in demand such as Wisconsinart's elusive Bigfoot photo. Get a photo like that and its worth its weight in gold. Provided you keyword it well.

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October 13, 2013


Thankyou , I enjoyed that very much and you have some good advice too!

March 16, 2012


Good point. I have some photos that sell pretty much every day - here and elsewhere - but when I add up the earnings they are not always as much as photos that have sold less but are more unique. Taken as a whole my background images have done quite well, but when taken as an individual images, not as well as some of my travel and editorial images, although these two, my most popular, have done well even on an individual basis. [imgl]12939076[/imgl] [imgl]http://www.12939076[/imgl]31 sales here)
(28 sales here - has made a about 10% more that the first one).
Actually, I thought that concept images where I used unusual props and my travel images had done better. But that's taking my entire portfolio into account (I'm not an exclusive). Here on DT these two background images are my best earners overall - I took them and several others the first day I got my lensbaby - and that set of about 10-15 images have paid for the lensbaby already - good thing since I don'...

March 15, 2012


Great blog, really enjoyed reading. I have a few photos which I didn't expect to earn me much money, but they did and still do.

March 15, 2012


Interesting idea !

March 14, 2012


Thank you for sharing with us your experience...

March 14, 2012


Great blog and agree with your analysis

March 14, 2012


A well thought out and well written post. My best selling image was completely due to being in the right place at the right time. Other of my best sellers are travel and culturally related images. I try to think of good concepts but sometimes have trouble. I also do not want to do a lot of images that there are already thousands of pictures of in the DT database already. It seems like that is not the recipe for success! May we both be able to tap into the reserves of under shot images that there is a demand for! Best wishes to you in that regard!

March 13, 2012


Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

What surprises me with my portfolio is that some of my food related photos are quite successful in spite of the fact that there are thousands of them at DT:

The Turkish iceman photo might be somewhat special:
 Turkish iceman 

but my corn cob, fish and grape photos are equally successful and really not special:

 Delicious Grape   Fresh fish 
 Corn cob 

Might be we should lean back a little bit, be happy, enjoy our sales and don't wonder too much why these photos were sold.

March 13, 2012


Good observation. I was thinking along these lines, and was thinking what do I have special here where I live something that other people no matter how talented photographers can not duplicate:

As I live in San Francisco Bay Area also known as Silicon Valley, it has a large concentration of world known high tech companies Apple, Ebay, Google. So I biked outside their headquarters and took a picture of the company logo. Not very exciting but it pays. I have a long list of companies I need to do. Trouble is these get downloaded as extra small or subscription.

March 13, 2012


Nice blog, great ideas.

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Photo credits: Peanutroaster.