2008 Income Survey: Geographic Conundrum

Posted on 4/30/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

There were some very surprising results when we compared U.S. photographers with those residing elsewhere. Average U.S. stock photographer revenues appear to be substantially below those generated by shooters living elsewhere—apart from the few U.S. respondents earning in excess of $500,000.

Over a quarter, or 34 (27%) of the 125 respondents, live outside the U.S. The gross income for this group was $7,025,596, and the stock income portion was $6,090,399. Thus, these photographers earn almost all (87%) of their freelance income from licensing rights to stock images, and the average return per respondent is $179,129. The majority—28 of 34—of non-U.S. respondents had gross incomes in excess of $100,000.

On the other hand, the gross income for the 91 U.S. photographers was only $6,775,562, and their stock income was $2,093,957, or 31% of gross. This makes the average stock photo sales of the 91 U.S. photographers who responded to this survey $23,011, and the average gross income is $74,457. Only 18 of this 91 had gross revenue in excess of $100,000. Obviously, stock represents a very small proportion of self-employed income for this group.

One might suspect that this conundrum was caused by a higher number of U.S.-based microstock photographers; however, this was not the case. There were 9 U.S. photographers who earned some income from microstock; 13 non-U.S. photographers from 12 different countries also participated in microstock. The gross microstock revenue for the non-U.S. group was $598,290, and their stock income was $404,038. The gross revenue for the U.S. photographers who produce some microstock was $494,831 and their stock revenue was only $141,116.

These figures are enough to call into question the validity of the entire survey. It is possible to believe that non-U.S. photographers are earning more than U.S. photographers from their stock photo sales, but not this much more. It is probable that non-U.S. photographers who were aware of this survey were among the most successful in their countries, while many of the more successful U.S. shooters did not respond to the survey.

It is also notable that all of those who earned more than $500,000 from stock were from the U.S. Including their revenue numbers would have made a big difference in the U.S. vs. foreign earning averages. However, we believe that the vast majority of photographers earn less than $500,000 in all geographic locations, and it is important to examine a sample of those who fall into this category.

U.S. photographers

The information in the following table takes into consideration all those who responded to the survey, including two California and one Florida photographer that each generated gross revenues in excess of $500,000. A total of 96 survey respondents live in the U.S. Their gross revenue was $12,409,310, and their net stock revenue was $8,028,064. Photographers from 27 U.S. states participated, with California having 22 respondents followed by Washington state with 15, Florida with 9 and New York with 7. The other 43 respondents were from 23 different states.

U.S. respondents in the top four states
State Number of respondents Gross revenue Expenses Stock-licensing revenue Stock-licensing revenue average
California 22 $10,027,762 $6,405,313 $4,569,002 $207,682
Washington 15 $1,455,480 $497,756 $801,210 $53,414
Florida 9 $2,429,250 $698,305 $1,315,097 $146,122
New York 7 $604,000 $271,000 $335,825 $47,975

Copyright © 2009 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


Be the first to comment below.

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