How to Make Money on Shutterstock

There’s a big demand for the very best in excellent visual content today. Content creators, bloggers, and marketers need striking videos and images. As one of the top stock image sites, Shutterstock is a great vehicle for small businesses and even individuals to produce great pictures and other content.

This blog will walk you through some actionable tips and insights that will help you use Shutterstock effectively and become a contributor. If you’re looking to turn a passion for visual content into a source of income, read on.

The Shutterstock Platform: A Key Player in the World of Stock Images

A contributor here is a small business or individual supplying pictures, videos, illustrations, photographs, and other types of visual content on the platform. The idea is to license and sell what they share to buyers. That can include other content creators, marketers, and businesses.

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All visuals are high-quality because they adhere to Shutterstock’s requirements.

The amount of money you make depends on the demand for what you share, the pricing of the licenses, and a few other factors. Shutterstock has a tiered system rewarding contributors with more money as they hit certain download milestones.

What is Shutterstock?

This company is a big player in the global stock photography market. It carries a variety of different high-quality illustrations, videos, and high-quality images. It was founded in 2003 by Jon Oringer.

What is the Shutterstock Contributor Program?

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The program is designed for photographers, videographers, and illustrators. They contribute their creative content to Shutterstock’s library. Customers buy licenses to use the work in the library. In turn, the contributor gets a percentage as a royalty payment.

This program allows content creators to monetize their work for people who use it in web design, marketing, advertising, and other places.

How to Make Money on Shutterstock: A Step-by-step Guide

There are several steps to creating an account before you can start uploading images and making money. Signing up is about more than just creating an account with a username and password. Add relevant details about your expertise, including a profile pic and a bio. That helps to add to your discoverability.

Don’t forget the need to focus on high-quality content that is captivating and popular. Choosing the right keywords, tags, and titles boosts your popularity and bottom line.

Setting up Your Shutterstock Contributor Account

how to make money on shutterstock

Here are the steps to creating your Shutterstock account.

  1. Go to the Shutterstock website and find the signup or join tab.
  2. Next, you need to provide basic information like your full name, email address, and display name.
  3. After that, you’ll need to agree to the terms and conditions. You also need to verify your email address through a notification.
  4. Then you can log into your new account and take care of other aspects like adding a bio, highlighting your expertise, and a picture.

Now the fun part starts. You can start uploading and making money.

Choosing the Right Stock Photos to Upload

how to make money on shutterstock

Choosing the right stock photos to upload is critical. Stay up-to-date on the current market trends and what’s selling. You can also do some research on the styles, themes and subjects that have the best ROI.

Tools like Shutterstock Showcase can help you explore what’s available and make your photos more visible in searches. You can also look into editing features like the Shutterstock background removal tool to refine images.

You can look for markets that have high demand and low competition to make money.

How to Upload Images: Best Practices

how to make money on shutterstock

There are some technical requirements, like file formats. Shutterstock recommends JPEG, although they accept TIFF format. All the images that you upload need to be at least four megapixels. There are also some maximum file sizes listed here.

The Importance of High-quality Photos

how to make money on shutterstock

Quality is important for selling these photographs. Metadata is crucial. Photographers suggest that you always check on the feedback from clients too. It’s a great way to improve. Photo selling gets better when you pick an area of expertise.

Selling stock photos Using the Shutterstock Contributor App

how to make money on shutterstock

You can get this app from Google Play or The App Store. When you upload your pictures, you can check on the status at the Shutterstock Contributor Portal. This app allows you to track your earnings and sales.

Maximizing Earnings: Tips and Strategies

how to make money on shutterstock

Here are a few tips for making more money through the app:

  • Quality matters. Bad lighting and blurry images won’t be purchased.
  • Optimization matters. Use the right keywords and descriptions to get better search results.
  • Focus on photos that have commercial use.
  • Relevant content is important. Take photos of upcoming events and holidays.
  • Consistent upload schedules help you to sell.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

how to make money on shutterstock

Shutterstock contributors can face several different challenges. Most of these are easily overcome by viewing full-size images on Photoshop or Windows Viewer.

  • That’s the best way to eliminate color, noise, or excessive luminance before you upload.
  • Viewing the photos first will also highlight dust on the lens.

Some of the other hurdles include not using the right keywords. Research them thoroughly.

How Professional Stock Photographers Deal with Rejection of Uploaded Images

how to make money on shutterstock

Professional photographers use rejection to improve their craft. They analyze feedback so they stay resilient. They focus on quality over quantity and on market demand.

Selling Photos: Shutterstock Earnings

how to make money on shutterstock

Shutterstock is a widely recognized platform where photographers, illustrators, and videographers can sell their work to a broad audience. Through its intricate pricing structure, creators can earn money when buyers download their content. Here’s a closer look at how this process works:

On-Demand Downloads:

  • Definition: On-demand downloads allow buyers to purchase and download specific images or videos without committing to a monthly subscription. This method typically caters to individuals or businesses that need infrequent, high-quality content.
  • Earnings for Creators: When a buyer chooses the on-demand download option, the creator generally receives a higher royalty per download compared to subscription-based downloads. This is because the buyer is paying a premium for individual content rather than accessing a vast library for a set fee.


  • Definition: Subscription plans grant buyers access to a specific number of monthly downloads for a set fee. This is ideal for businesses or individuals who require a steady stream of content, allowing them to download multiple images or videos within their subscription limit.
  • Earnings for Creators: While the royalty per download for creators is typically lower under subscription plans, the potential for increased volume can offset this. In other words, although they earn less per download, the frequency of downloads can lead to significant cumulative earnings.

Advantages & Considerations:

  • Steady Income Potential: With subscriptions, contributors might experience more consistent downloads, leading to a steady stream of income.
  • Broadening Audience: Being part of a platform that offers both on-demand and subscription options allows creators to cater to a wider range of customers with varied needs.
  • Volume vs. Value: Contributors need to weigh the benefits of frequent but lower-earning downloads (subscriptions) against infrequent but higher-earning downloads (on-demand). The best strategy often depends on the type of content and its demand among Shutterstock’s user base.

In conclusion, Shutterstock provides a flexible platform for creators to monetize their work, balancing both immediate higher earnings from on-demand downloads and the potential of consistent income from subscriptions. As with any content platform, success often comes from understanding the audience, delivering high-quality content, and staying updated with platform trends and demands.

AspectOn-Demand DownloadsSubscriptions
Earnings per DownloadTypically higher royalty per downloadLower royalty per individual download
Potential Earnings ConsistencyLess predictable; reliant on individual content salesMore consistent due to the nature of subscription-based downloads
Volume of DownloadsMay be sporadic, depending on content demandUsually higher since subscribers tend to download regularly
Audience ReachMight appeal to buyers with specific, infrequent needsCaters to regular content consumers, e.g. businesses, bloggers, etc.
Flexibility in Content PromotionCan promote specific, high-value content for targeted salesContinuous addition of diverse content can be beneficial due to the breadth of subscription consumer needs
Feedback and VisibilityImmediate feedback on premium content's demand and valueSteady feedback on various content pieces and their popularity among subscribers

Success Stories: Learning from Successful Shutterstock Contributors

how to make money on shutterstock

There is an entrepreneur who is dedicated to refining their craft behind every Shutterstock success story. Following are a few excellent examples.

Jessica was a travel photographer who turned her passion into a rewarding career. She focuses on authentic cultural moments and strategic keywording.

John loves wildlife. He’s built an excellent collection of images and has the patience to wait for an outstanding shot. His portfolio is found in educational content and wildlife organizations’ publications.

FAQs: How To Make Money on Shutterstock

How Long Does it Take to Make Money on Shutterstock?

That depends on a few things like the size of the portfolio and the quality. Taking on a specific niche can also help if it’s popular. You should also spend time researching concepts related to stock photos. For example, understand questions like “What does royalty free mean?” Additionally, consistency helps you to make money. Uploading relevant content regularly keeps people engaged.

What Types of Stock Photography Images Sell Best on Shutterstock?

That depends on the market need. Business pics like those involving technology are popular. The same goes for stunning travel landscapes and lifestyle scenarios. Seasonal shots are also big sellers.

Can I Sell Photos Taken on My Smartphone?

Of course. A stock photo taken with your smartphone can rival those taken with a more expensive camera. Using proper lighting and composition helps.

How Can I Build an Attractive Shutterstock Portfolio to Become a Successful Stock Photographer?

Combining what you’re passionate about and then identifying a popular demand niche is a good start. For example, you may focus on Shutterstock editorial images from a particular geographic region. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on the latest trends to produce relevant stock photos catering to the latest in market demands. Don’t forget about metadata and compelling keywords.

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends. Rob is a freelance journalist and content strategist/manager with three decades of experience in both print and online writing. He currently works in New York City as a copywriter and all across North America for a variety of editing and writing enterprises.

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