After figuring out that illustrations generate more revenue per image than photographs (see my previous post for details), I decided to examine which illustration categories do best. From a previous study of Index Stock's 2400 categories and subcategories, I had spotted certain hot spots. I expected sales by category for illustrations to closely follow the pattern of our overall library.
I was surprised to see some major differences. (Please note that my review uses only the 11,000 illustrations in our library. This is a relatively small set of images to study, and this collection does not have the coverage of subjects that our 1,000,000 image general library has.) In particular, people illustrations didn't do nearly as well as people images in general and concept illustrations were quite low. Here is a comparison of the ranking of all categories for illustrations and our overall collection. (I've linked the top fifteen to the relevant images, for your viewing pleasure!)
|Illustration Rank||Category||Overall Rank|
|29||Nature & Scenic||32|
|40||Sport & Leisure||42|
Some categories didn't generate any illustration licenses at all, during the period I studied. They included some fairly popular categories in the overall collection, such as "Crowd," "Farm Animal," "Dog," "Native American," and "Toy & Hobby." These should probably be target areas for those creating new illustrations.
When I dug down into the subcategory level, I saw a few particularly interesting areas:
Historical women. We have some great old poster-style images, that are doing well.
Nature & Scenic, desert. Hard to convey the dry landscape of a desert, with a photo. An illustration can put back in the contrast and colors that the eye sees, and the lens misses.
I've mentioned before that royalty free tends to undercut image pricing in the areas it has penetrated. There is a concentration of royalty free illustrations in the popular people and concept categories. This may be why the revenue of these categories is lower than expected.
If you are an illustrator, my information should encourage you. There are good opportunities to license your work via the rights managed market--or via royalty-free, if that is your direction. Go for simple images, with a central object or theme that is easily described. Use lots of color and take advantage of the power of illustration, to exaggerate the subject a bit. The result is likely to be a high-earning image and the envy of the mere photographers, who share space with you on sites such as ours.