Something just happened that shocked the hell out of me. I made my first sale on Adobe Stock and was notified that I earned a commission of 18 cents.
At the same time, as we all know, it’s an expensive hobby with an ever-increasing wish list of new gear, travel destinations, etc. So if I can make a couple of dollars along the way, I am happy to do so.
For a while now I have been posting photos with several different stock companies. I do not sell that many, maybe one or two a month if I am lucky. Usually, a shot earns me somewhere between $15 to $30 depending on the license that’s purchased. Certainly, it’s no great income, but it’s something… and it’s usually more a morale booster to think someone liked my photography enough to want to buy it, and it helps push me out the door to keep shooting.
Not long after Adobe unveiled Adobe Stock, I started uploading photos to the service. From what I could read, the split offered on sales seemed in line with the other companies I sell through, and given that Adobe is a huge media related empire, it seemed like another good avenue to make a couple of dollars.
I awoke two days ago to see an email from Adobe saying congratulations I have sold an image. I opened the email to see this…
It took me a while to process what I had just seen. As I said before, I don’t consider myself to be a great photographer, but 18 cents in commission really knocked me back in my seat.
As best as I could tell, purchasing a ‘standard’ license of a photo cost $9.99 and an extended license cost $79.95. If we base it off the standard license sale of $9.99, then 18 cents in commission is less then 2%.
I decided to do some investigating to figure out how my commission could end up being so ridiculously small. My first stop was, of course, Adobe, and to be fair I received a very prompt and polite response.
That would be a subscription image purchase. Subscription customers receive a set number of images per month based on the subscription plan. This only applies to still core images and not video.
It looks like there was a $0.07 withholding. Have you submitted tax documents to your account? I can put you in touch with contributor relations if you have further questions.
So the good news is I was actually paid 25 cents, I shall be able to dine out tonite! I asked for my inquiry to be sent along and a little while later had this reply;
The top plan is $200 a month for 750 regular assets a month. Large subscriptions pay $0.27 to $0.57 an asset. The minimum payout guarantee for still images is $0.25.
You can find a detailed table showing royalty details at this link. https://helpx.adobe.com/stock/contributor/help/royalty-details.html
Upon viewing the links, I was reminded that the royalty rates they pay are 33% for stills and 35% for video. Something I was aware of when I started uploading to Adobe Stock and a rate that’s in line with what many other stock companies offer. What I really wasn’t aware of was how the artists are the ones who will suffer because of their ‘subscription’ service.
If I go by the basic ‘yearly’ plan of $29.95 a month for ten downloads per month, that makes each photo worth $2.95. 33% of that equates to roughly $1 commission for the artist. Their top plan is $199 a month and that gives you 750 downloads per month. This means they are effectively selling photos for 26 cents each. This explains why they consider their 25 cents minimum commission to be generous, I guess.
Adobe is a company who makes software primarily for the creative community. They make really good software that has allowed me to grow as an artist. In general, I can’t imagine the artistic community existing without many of their programs. So why is Adobe devaluing what the creative world does to increase their profits? How are we expected to keep paying them monthly fees for their software if they are driving down what we can earn so dramatically?
What Adobe is doing is simply following the market trend of paying the creative community less and less. Perhaps, however, Adobe can rethink their pricing with the understanding that if we the creative community continue to have our work devalued, eventually that’s going to come back and bite them because we won’t be able to pay for their software.
P.S. I understand I am free to post my photos wherever I like and no one forced me to sell my work via Adobe.
About the author: ‘Alan Smithee’ is a photography enthusiast and professional aerial cinematographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.