Revenue Per DL vs Revenue Per Image Created

Posted on 11/5/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

In their reports to investors Shutterstock has always emphasized their steadily growing Revenue Per Download as well as their growth in the number of images offered to customers. But there is another figure that is extremely important to image creators. That is the Revenue Per Image In The Collection (RPIIC). That has been steadily declining since Q2 2014.

Revenue Per Image In The Collection (RPIIC) is important to creators because they have costs in time and money to create the images they make available to Shutterstock for licensing. Those costs have not been declining. If anything they are increasing. The only thing that has been declining is the creators return on investment.

The following chart makes clear what has been happening since Q2 2011. For the three years from Q2 2011 to Q2 2014 the RPIIC was relatively stable and showed some slight growth. But then the number of downloads per quarter started to plateau.

  Q2/2011 Q3/2011 Q4/2011 Q1/2012 Q2/2012 Q3/2012 Q4/2012 Q1/2013 Q2/2013 Q3/2013
Download 14.4 14.8 16.2 17.6 18.3 18.7 21.4 22.3 24.3 25.4
Rev per DL $2.01 $2.10 $2.14 $2.13 $2.22 $2.26 $2.30 $2.29 $2.33 $2.35
Images in collection 15.3 16.2 17.4 18.8 20.2 21.7 23.3 25 28 31.3
Total Rev 28.94 31.08 34.67 37.49 40.63 42.26 49.22 51.5 56.8 56.8
Rev/Image in collection $1.89 $1.92 $1.99 $1.99 $2.01 $1.95 $2.11 $1.98 $1.96 $1.81
  Q4/2013 Q1/2014 Q2/2014 Q3/2014 Q4/2014 Q1/2015 Q2/2015 Q3/2015 Q4/2015 Q1/2016
Downloads (millions) 28 29.7 31.5 31.2 33.5 33.4 35.9 38.1 39.8 41.2
Rev.per DL $2.43 $2.45 $2.52 $2.65 $2.68 $2.87 $2.85 $2.76 $2.86 $2.77
Images in collection 32.2 35.4 38.8 42.7 46.8 51.6 57.2 63.7 71.4 81
Total Rev. (millions) 68 72.8 80.2 83.7 91.2 97.5 104.4 107.3 115.9 116.7
Rev/Image in collection $2.10 $2.06 $2.07 $1.96 $1.95 $1.89 $1.83 $1.68 $1.62 $1.44
  Q2/2016 Q3/2016 Q4/2016 Q1/2017 Q2/2017 Q3/2017 Q4/2017 Q1/2018 Q2/2018 Q3/2018
Downloads (millions) 43.4 41.2 41.1 43.5 42.7 41.9 43.9 43.7 45.2 43.9
Avg Rev per DL $2.81 $2.91 $3.02 $2.96 $3.05 $3.23 $3.33 $3.40 $3.41 $3.40
Images/in collection 92.1 102.7 116.2 132 144.7 155.8 170.1 196.8 215.1 233
Total Rev. (millions) 124.3 123.1 130.2 130.2 134 141.1 151.8 153 156.6 151.6
Rev/Image in collection $1.34 $1.20 $1.12 $0.98 $0.93 $0.90 $0.89 $0.81 $0.73 $0.65

The managers at Shutterstock seemed to have determined that all they needed to do to grow revenue was get more images and find more customers. The number of images grew somewhat for the next year and a half, but the revenue didn’t grow nearly as fast. So in December 2015 Shiutterstock decided that they had to make it much easier for new contributors to add images to the Shutterstock collection.

Prior to that, in order to be accepted as a contributor the image creator had to submit 10 images for review and have 7 accepted. Now, new contributors only had to have 1 out of 10 images accepted for the doors to be opened allowing them to submit virtually anything and everything they wanted. From then on there has been very little review or control over what is added to the collection.

At the time most of the existing contributors believed this move would lead to a lower and lower quality offering. Many reported that in the previous year the overall quality of the offering has been rapidly declining as Shutterstock raced to add more images. Experienced producers said that acceptance of their new submission was very erratic with almost everything accepted in one submission and almost everything rejected in the next. The reasons given for rejection often made little sense.

As we look at what has been happening in 2017 and 2018 it seems clear that the addition of new images has little or no effect on the total number of images downloaded.

Shutterstock may have already found virtually all the customers who are willing to pay for the images they use, or have any significant need for images. And most of these customers need about the same number of images this year as they used last year. Just because your giving the customer a lot more choice doesn’t mean they are going to buy more.

There may always be a few new customers popping up who need one or two images a year, but that’s not going to lead to significant growth.

Time For Change

It should also be noted that much of the growth in Revenue per Download since Q4 2015 has probably been due to the increasing sale of video at much higher prices than still images. Video represents a very small percent of total downloads, but the higher prices help the average when video downloads are counted together with still images as one number.

If we had a true breakdown of Revenue per Still Image DL and Revenue per Video DL, and the total revenue generated by each, the decline in RPIIC for still images would probably be much worse.

It seems clear that a strategy change is needed. That probably includes a somewhat higher price for the imagery in greatest demand and making it easier for customers to find high demand images. It may also require spending some money on editing and improving keywording.

But since all of these steps would be moves away from Shutterstock’s founding philosophy, it seems unlikely that anything will happen.

Copyright © 2018 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Thomas Wear Posted Nov 5, 2018
    It seems to me that the Revenue Per Image In The Collection (RPIIC) can be a very good stat to watch for an individual photographer's images at an agency, since it can be a guide to how salable the images he or she is submitting are. The more on target the images, the higher the RPIIC, assuming relatively stable pricing and sales volume across the agency.
    It's also a potentially interesting metric for how well the agency is editing (or not) for their collection as a whole. You've noted the overall RPIIC has gone down as the agency has become less selective.
    Where I think the RPIIC is less valuable is in evaluating the overall success or revenue potential of the agency as a whole. Just having a bunch of less-salable images in the collection doesn't necessarily mean that sales and/or revenue as a whole will drop -- especially for photographers whose own work is well targeted and who see a growth in their personal RPIIC.
    So I think the good news is that unlike many other stats, the RPIIC is to a significant extent within the photographer's ability to improve upon, with well-targeted submissions.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff