If you enjoy taking beautiful photos, whether with a professional camera or your phone, you can make money by selling them on Shutterstock. Shutterstock is a popular platform with millions of monthly visitors and registered customers, making it a great place to showcase your photos as a beginner or professional photographer to interested buyers. If you’re new to selling photos on Shutterstock, our beginner’s guide will walk you through the process step-by-step, from creating a free account as a Shutterstock contributor to successfully selling your very first photo.
What is Shutterstock?
Shutterstock is an online marketplace for selling and buying photos, videos, and music. It was created in 2003 by photographer and entrepreneur Jon Orringer. John noticed that many people required affordable licensed images and decided to create a website to fulfill this demand. He began by adding his own collection of 30,000 images to the site’s library.
Shutterstock offers affordable licensed images and has become popular among marketing agencies, media networks, and global businesses that need commercial and editorial needs.
On Shutterstock, there are two main types of accounts: customer accounts for buying photos and media, and contributor accounts for selling your own photos. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of creating and using a Shutterstock contributor account.
What is the Shutterstock contributor program?
The Shutterstock Contributor Program is a platform that enables photographers and illustrators to sell their work and make money online. It is a major reason why Shutterstock is one of the largest online libraries in the world for photos and videos.
To join the Shutterstock contributor program, photographers and illustrators submit an application and upload their images, such as photos, illustrations, or icons. These become part of the library’s collection. When customers on Shutterstock buy these images, contributors receive payment for each sale.
Shutterstock has a large customer base, which makes it easier for potential buyers to find and purchase your images compared to other platforms. The contributor program on Shutterstock is one of the largest, and some contributors earn up to 40% of the total revenue from photo sales.
The great thing is that you don’t have to actively promote your images to reach your target audience. Simply upload your images to Shutterstock and let the platform take care of the rest.
How to start selling photos on Shutterstock
Anyone who can take beautiful photos, whether with a camera or a mobile phone, can become a Shutterstock contributor and sell their photos.
Signing up on Shutterstock is easy and free. To begin selling your photos on Shutterstock, simply follow the steps outlined below.
1. Create an account as a Shutterstock contributor
To create a Shutterstock contributor account and start selling your photos on Shutterstock, go to the Shutterstock contributor website by clicking on this link: submit.shutterstock.com. Click on “Start now” to begin.
Fill in your full name in the provided fields. If you want your full name to be displayed on your Shutterstock account, enter it in both fields. Alternatively, you can choose a different name.
Create a strong password and make sure to remember it. Accept the site’s terms and conditions, and click “Next.”
Check your email for a message from Shutterstock. Open the email and click on the activation link to verify your account, as shown in the image below.
Once your email is verified, you will receive a confirmation that your account has been approved. You can now provide your current address and mobile number to proceed.
When you see the notification displayed in the image below, you are ready to start uploading your photos and selling them on Shutterstock. However, before you begin, we recommend clicking on “Go to your dashboard” to complete your account setup before adding any photos.
2. Complete your personal account as a Shutterstock contributor
Before you start uploading photos and start Selling photos on Shutterstock, make sure to complete your account information. Here are the steps you need to follow:
Go to your Shutterstock contributor account settings and click on “Public profile.” Make sure you have a professional profile picture. You can also customize your Portfolio URL with a name that suits you.
If you have displayed your photos on your website or other platforms, include the links to those sites, as well as links to your social media accounts.
Add a tagline in the “About” section that includes keywords related to your preferred photography field. For example, if you specialize in landscape photography, mention it in your tagline.
Specify whether you will be uploading photographs, illustrations, and/or videos in the “About” section. Choose three types of images that represent your photography style.
Select up to five subjects that your photos typically focus on or revolve around.
In the “Biography” section, write a profile about yourself, your photography experience, and why you chose this field. Feel free to include any other relevant details.
By completing these steps, you’ll have a well-rounded account ready for selling your photos on Shutterstock.
3. Comply with Shutterstock’s terms
Contributors on Shutterstock can upload any number of images without specific limitations. However, there are guidelines for the types of images that are accepted for sale. Here are the requirements:
- Photographs must be in JPEG format. RAW files are not accepted. The image size should be between 4 and 50 megapixels.
- Vector images should be in EPS format and compatible with Adobe Illustrator 8 or 10. The file size should be below 100MB.
- Contributors must be at least 18 years old.
- Account holders need to verify their identity.
- Photographers must own the full rights and copyright to the images they submit. They should not use images that infringe upon others’ rights, including those sourced from social media or free libraries.
- Images taken with professional DSLR cameras or high-quality smartphones that meet the specified requirements can be submitted for consideration.
4. Uploading and selling your photos on Shutterstock
Once you’ve created your account as a Shutterstock contributor, you’ll have access to a user-friendly interface and dashboard. This interface will provide you with important information, including details about your uploaded photos and earnings.
To start adding photos, simply click on “Upload photos” in the top left corner of the interface. It’s recommended to upload one image at a time, as the process may take some time, as we’ll explain later.
Once you’ve uploaded an image, you’ll be taken to the main interface where you can submit your photos for evaluation and review by the Shutterstock team. It’s crucial to provide all the necessary information and details about each image during this step.
5. Add image information for selling purposes
When uploading photos, it’s important to provide accurate information to maximize your income when Selling photos on Shutterstock. Follow these steps:
- Select the file type: picture or illustration.
- Specify the intended use of the image.
- Editorial: For images that can’t be used for advertising or promoting specific products. Suitable for public places or if you lack permission to feature people or specific items. If you need more guidance on Editorial use, refer to the guide at: support.submit.shutterstock.
- Commercial: For other images.
- Write a description for the image. Include keywords that describe the content accurately (We’ll discuss keywords in more detail later).
- Choose the appropriate category for your photo. You can select up to two categories, such as wildlife, landmarks, food, education, people, and more.
6. Obtaining permission to publish, the Release
When taking photos, it’s important to consider permissions in certain situations. Permission to Release, known as a Release on Shutterstock, is an agreement between you and the people or properties shown in your photos. It confirms their consent to appear in your images.
There are three main types of permissions required for posting images on Shutterstock:
- Model release: If someone is featured in your photo, you need to upload a model release to Shutterstock and obtain their consent before selling the images.
- Minor release: This is similar to a model release, but specifically for capturing images of individuals who are under 18 years old.
- Property release: This is less common and only necessary when photographing privately owned and protected properties.
To understand how to request permission to publish, you can watch this video that provides clear examples:
If you can’t get permission to publish photos of people’s faces or private property, you need to choose the Editorial option for those images. We mentioned this in point 4 of the section on adding image information.
7. The importance of keywords
Adding keywords to your images on Shutterstock is important for attracting customers. When people search for specific images using Shutterstock’s search engine, your photos can appear in the results and be purchased.
Shutterstock’s search engine helps customers find images that match their needs. For example, if someone is looking for pictures of families, they would search for “Family” and see related images.
To increase the visibility of your photos, it’s crucial to include relevant keywords. This helps customers find and buy your images. Avoid using unrelated keywords because they won’t be helpful.
Shutterstock now offers a feature called “Keyword suggestions” that uses artificial intelligence to suggest relevant keywords for your images.
It’s recommended to use about 10-15 keywords for each photo you upload on Shutterstock to improve its discoverability.
8. Submit your photos for evaluation
After providing all the necessary image information, you can submit your photo for evaluation by the Shutterstock team. The review process usually takes 2 to 5 days.
If your photo is approved, you can start your journey Selling photos on Shutterstock. However, if it is rejected for not meeting the site’s policies, you will receive a notification explaining why.
Shutterstock will send you a confirmation email once your photo is reviewed. After the review is complete, you will receive another email with the final decision.
During the evaluation, your photo will be assessed for lighting, quality, focus, and the relevance of titles and keywords. It’s important to follow the site’s requirements. Images that violate intellectual property rights will be rejected.
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How much money can you earn by selling photos on Shutterstock?
You won’t make any money just by having your photos uploaded on Shutterstock, but you will make money when your photos are sold. How much you earn per sale depends on the number of photos you sell and the percentage you receive from each sale.
As a Shutterstock contributor, you get a percentage of the sale price for each photo that is sold on Shutterstock. The specific percentage you earn depends on the level you reach each year.
To explain it more clearly, there are 6 levels that determine the percentage of profits on Shutterstock, ranging from 15% to 40% for each image you sold. Shutterstock contributors move up to higher levels as they sell more images, as shown in the table below:
|Contributor access level||The annual quantity of images sold by the contributor||The percentage of earnings generated from each photo|
|Level 1||Up to 100 photos||15%|
|Level 2||From 101 to 250 photos||20%|
|Level 3||From 251 to 500 photos||25%|
|Level 4||From 501 to 2,500 photos||30%|
|Level 5||From 2,501 to 25,000 photos||35%|
|Level 6||More than 25,000 photos||40%|
The more photos you sell on Shutterstock, the higher your profit percentage will be. The minimum earn from selling photos on Shutterstock is 15% of the photo’s price, and the maximum is 40%.
It’s important to understand that only the number of photos you sell in a year determines your profit level. At the beginning of each new year (January 1st), your profit level is reset to the first level, which is 15%. For example, to reach a 30% profit, you need to have between 501 and 2,500 of your images purchased within one year.
Earnings from selling Enhanced photos are greater compared to standard photos.
Shutterstock has two types of licenses for selling images: Standard and Enhanced. The Standard license allows images to be used for editorial purposes like websites and blogs, but not for advertising.
Enhanced images are specifically designed for advertising and marketing purposes, and they have a higher price compared to Standard images. This means contributors earn more money from selling Enhanced images on Shutterstock.
In the section on adding images for sale, we mentioned that selecting the Commercial option licenses the image as Enhanced, allowing it to be used in advertising.
However, it’s important to remember that there are specific requirements for Commercial images. For instance, photographers need permission to feature people or private property in the image before it can be used commercially.
How to withdraw money from Shutterstock earnings
Shutterstock provides flexibility for withdrawing earnings.
Photographers can choose to withdraw their earnings monthly, from the 7th to the 15th of each month. They have the option to use PayPal, Skrill, or Payoneer for withdrawals. However, it’s important to have at least $35 in earnings before the money can be sent.
If the minimum earnings threshold is not met within a specific period, the money remains in the Shutterstock contributor account. It will stay there until the earnings accumulate and reach $35 or more in the future.
Tracking earnings is simple through the Shutterstock dashboard. It allows you to monitor the earnings generated by each photo, identify the best-selling photos, view the geographic locations where your photos are being purchased, and access other helpful statistics.
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Tips and tricks to maximize your revenue from selling photos on Shutterstock
Competition among contributors on Shutterstock is tough, so if you want to make good money, you need to stand out. Here are some simple tips to help you increase your earnings from selling photos on Shutterstock:
1. Build a Large Collection of Images
Having a lot of photos in your Shutterstock account not only increases your earning potential but also attracts more customers and boosts sales. Aim to create a diverse range of images covering different subjects.
2. Edit and Enhance Your Images
Use photo editing tools like Adobe Lightroom or Luminar Neo to improve the quality of your images. Customers prefer ready-to-use, professionally edited photos over ones that require further adjustments.
Learning professional image editing may take time, but the results will be worth it. You can find helpful articles on this topic to guide you.
3. Keep Track of Top-Selling Images
Stay updated on Shutterstock’s monthly “Shot List” which highlights the most popular topics customers are searching for. It provides valuable insights into frequently used keywords, allowing you to capture relevant images that have higher sales potential.
Before uploading an image, ask yourself if it’s suitable for commercial use and where it is likely to be used. Each image should serve a clear purpose and have a suitable market for its use.
4. Find Your Niche
To succeed as a photographer selling photos on Shutterstock, focus on the categories you are passionate about. If you love capturing landscapes, become a landscape photographer.
For those passionate about food or product photography, consider setting up a studio with the right equipment.
5. Be Patient
Selling your first photo on Shutterstock can take around six months due to tough competition. Stay committed by uploading 10-15 photos monthly to keep your account fresh with new content.
6. Stay Updated with Trends
Success on Shutterstock depends on understanding market trends. During events like the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for specific images skyrocketed. Stay informed by following the news, joining platforms like Reddit or Quora, or using apps like Exploding Topics.
7. Explore Other Platforms
Expand your reach beyond Shutterstock. Sell your images online on other similar platforms without creating new content. You don’t have to create new images; you can use the same ones you upload on Shutterstock and sell them on other sites. It’s a convenient way to save time and avoid the effort of capturing and editing new photos.
8. Experiment and Learn
Shutterstock allows you to experiment with your images and track their performance. Monitor engagement and focus on categories that generate the most interest. Learn from successful contributors and create similar images within those categories.
9. Stay Inspired
Follow Shutterstock’s “The Artists Who Inspire” series to gain insights from professional photographers worldwide.
Shutterstock Offers Great Opportunities to earn money. With millions of photos purchased each month, Shutterstock is an excellent platform to earn money from selling photos online. Compete with other contributors and showcase your exceptional images.
Use this guide to kickstart your career as a Shutterstock contributor and go for it!
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