Shutterstock Contributor Review – Discover Your Earning Potential

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Are you curious about becoming a Shutterstock Contributor? With the growing demand for stock photos, joining a stock photo agency can be an excellent way to earn extra income, and Shutterstock is one of the leading stock photo sites. 

In this Shutterstock contributor review, we'll explore the benefits of joining the Shutterstock Contributor Program and discuss how to get approved, as well as best practices for making money on Shutterstock. We will also consider both the pros and cons associated with being a contributor so that you can make an informed decision before committing to it. 

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Shutterstock Contributor Program Overview

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The Contributor Program here on the Shutterstock platform allows photographers, illustrators, and videographers to make money by selling their work. Through the program, contributors can upload photos, illustrations, or videos to the Shutterstock library and receive royalties whenever those items are purchased by customers.

Did you know that the stock photographer/stock photo contributor as a commercial figure appeared in the 1940s? More cool data like that is in our overview of the history of stock photography!

Shutterstock’s global customer base includes businesses of all sizes and individuals from around the world who use content from its library for websites, marketing materials, advertisements, books, magazines, and more.

The company also offers tools and resources designed to help stock photographers go through the approval process and maximize their Shutterstock earnings, such as lists of which type of images sell the most, tutorials on how to take better photos or videos, and an intelligent tool to simplify and improve image keywording, among others.  

Once approved by Shutterstock staff members after reviewing an initial batch of images (or videos), applicants become official contributors whose works can now be sold in the stock photo library.

Most stock photographers who turned Shutterstock into a successful side hustle follow several best practices when uploading content onto Shutterstock and other agencies, such as using keywords effectively so customers can easily find them, taking high-quality photographs or recording high-definition video footage, ensuring all submitted material is unique; creating multiple versions/angles of each image/video clip; and creating content on high demand based on photography trends. 

It’s worth mentioning that many contributors recommend having patience while waiting for your first sale since it takes time before people start buying your work. Since the earnings per sale are usually small, it can also take time to make the minimum payout amount and even longer to make a somewhat steady monthly income. 

Also important to highlight that here you can sell images under a royalty-free license for commercial use and also under an editorial-only license. Now Shutterstock also has editorial subscription plans.

Benefits of Joining the Shutterstock Contributor Program

Joining the Shutterstock Contributor Program is a great way to make money from your photography skills and artwork without investing much money or time. 

Becoming a contributor gives you access to an international marketplace with millions of potential buyers for your work. You have complete control over what you submit. And you get paid every time someone downloads one of your images or videos, even if it’s years later, so your submissions can pay off for a long time. 

Plus, no one can download your content without paying first; when they do, they get a license to use your work in certain established ways. Still, you retain copyright ownership and can continue selling the same image over and over, earning each time. 

As a contributor, you’ll have access to exclusive tools and resources that can help you maximize your earnings potential, too. Let’s go by parts:

shutterstock contributor marketplace > Shutterstock Contributor Review - Discover Your Earning Potential

1. Huge Customer Base and Global Exposure: 

Becoming a contributor gives you access to an international marketplace with millions of potential buyers for your work. More exposure to this large pool of people potentially means more downloads. It also means your work can be used and seen all over the world. 

2. Solid Legal Business: 

At Shutterstock, you have complete control over what you submit –though the company decides what to approve into its library–; and you get paid every time someone downloads one of your images or videos – even if it’s years later. 

Plus, no one can download your content without paying first. When they do, they get a license that authorizes them to use your work in certain ways –there are standard and enhanced license options available; an enhanced license has a higher selling price– but forbids them from uses that could affect you or your work negatively. 

Finally, the agency protects your images from unauthorized downloads and handles all the licensing processes on your behalf. 

shutterstock contributor earnings > Shutterstock Contributor Review - Discover Your Earning Potential

3. Earnings Potential and Easy Cash-Out:

Shutterstock’s royalty rates (the percentage of the sale price they pay you for each sale) are admittedly not the most generous out there (between 15% and 40% of the sale price); however, the company is very successful, has a large customer base, and is very active and serious on their marketing strategies, which results in more sales. There’s potential to earn more here than at other stock photo sites. 

Contributors get paid monthly via PayPal and other online money transfer methods when they reach a minimum of $35 in earnings. It’s that simple. 

4. Straightforward Review System: 

All content submitted must meet strict quality assurance standards before being accepted into the program. The review process includes technical quality and commercial value, ensuring only the best photos are available for purchase by customers worldwide.

5. Easy Uploading Process:

The contributor portal and contributor app are very user-friendly. With just a few clicks in the Shutterstock Contributor portal’s dashboard interface, it's easy to submit images quickly without any hassle or technical know-how required. 

shutterstock contributor tools > Shutterstock Contributor Review - Discover Your Earning Potential

6. Access to Exclusive Tools & Resources:

As a contributor, you’ll gain access to helpful tools like automatic and intelligent keywording, tips, workshops, and tutorials on different creative and commercial topics for selling images, lists of the type of content that customers are mostly after, annual creative trends, and more —all designed to help increase sales and boost earnings potential even further.

shutterstock contributor resources > Shutterstock Contributor Review - Discover Your Earning Potential

7. Creative Community Support:

Shutterstock represents a global community that comprises thousands of creative professionals who share their knowledge through forums, blog posts, and other resources—so you can always find support when needed.

Joining the Shutterstock Contributor Program can provide a great opportunity to monetize your creative work and gain exposure for your portfolio. Now let's look at how to get approved as a Shutterstock contributor.

shutterstock contributor global community > Shutterstock Contributor Review - Discover Your Earning Potential

How to Get Approved as a Shutterstock Contributor

Getting approved as a Shutterstock contributor is the first step for anyone looking to make money from their photography or illustrations on this website. To be accepted, you must meet certain criteria and submit samples of your work for their review. 

Submitting Samples

The first step in becoming a Shutterstock contributor is submitting samples of your work. You’ll need to upload 10-15 images demonstrating the quality and range of what you can offer on the platform. Make sure they are high resolution, sharply defined, well composed, and free from imperfections such as noise. The images should also represent different topics, so buyers have more options when searching for stock photos or illustrations.

A Shutterstock staff member will review your samples and either approve or reject them –including feedback in case of rejection. If you are approved, your images will go online and be available to sell, and you can start submitting more content to grow your portfolio and increase your chances for sales. If you’re rejected, you are welcome to work on the rejection points and try again. 

Meeting Criteria

In addition to submitting sample images that fulfill certain requirements, other criteria you and your images must meet to be accepted as a Shutterstock contributor.

  • You must be 18 years old or older and create a Shutterstock account in your name. 
  • You must be the copyright owner of all the content you submit and understand the licensing terms that will govern them if sold on the platform.
  • You must submit original content that doesn’t replicate or is heavily influenced by someone else’s work.
  • If you wish to sell the images for commercial use, they should not contain any copyrighted material, such as trademarks or logos, unless you have written permission from the owner.
  • For commercial use photos, all recognizable people featured in the image must sign model releases; the same goes for private property such as buildings or trademarks – they must include a property release.

These and some other requirements related to the type of content you can upload, the minimum and maximum file size for a photograph, standards for EPS files, and more, are detailed in Shutterstock's Content Submission Guidelines and include no offensive material such as nudity or violence, for example. 

Once these requirements are met, it typically takes 1-2 weeks for your application to be reviewed by Shutterstock staff, who will determine if you meet their standards for acceptance into the program. 

If approved, congratulations. You can now start uploading content onto their platform, where customers worldwide can purchase them directly.

With the right knowledge and preparation, anyone can get approved as a Shutterstock Contributor. Now let's take a look at some best practices for making money on Shutterstock.

Best Practices for Making Money on Shutterstock

Making money on Shutterstock is harder today than it was a decade or more ago. The competition is fierce, with hundreds of thousands of contributors and millions of images available. 

To ensure you have a real chance at monetizing your photos and maximizing your earnings, it’s important to understand the best practices for making money on Shutterstock.

Creating Quality Content

Quality content is key when it comes to making money on Shutterstock. Customers want high-quality images and videos to help them create professional projects. When creating content, focus on producing commercial quality: images that are beautiful and technically professional but also have strong commercial appeal – this will ensure that customers are more likely to purchase your work to use in their projects for things like marketing and advertising. Additionally, research popular topics and trends to create content that meets customer needs and wants. 

In terms of quantity, how many photos you upload and how often can affect your earning potential. Even today, when a huge number of images are uploaded every minute, the stock photo business is one based on volume: the more pictures you have online, the higher the chance to sell your photos. 

Finding Content Gaps

Another way of maximizing earnings as a Shutterstock contributor is by finding gaps in existing content offerings and filling them with new images or videos of your own creation. This could include taking pictures of unique locations or events or creating custom illustrations or animations based on customer requests. Doing so helps you stand out from other contributors who may be offering similar products – giving you an edge when it comes time for customers to make their purchasing decisions.

Optimizing Keywords

Finally, optimizing keywords helps increase the visibility of your work within search results pages (SERPs). Add keywords with relevant terms related to the subject matter of each image/video, so customers can find the images they need quickly and easily – increasing the chances they’ll select one of yours. It’s also important not to stuff too many keywords into descriptions as this could negatively impact SERP rankings; instead, focus on selecting only those words that accurately describe the product offered for sale.

By following these best practices for making money on Shutterstock, you can maximize your earnings and ensure that your content is attractive to buyers. Now let's look at the pros and cons of being a Shutterstock contributor.

shutterstock contributor additional collections > Shutterstock Contributor Review - Discover Your Earning Potential

Pros & Cons of Being a Shutterstock Contributor

Pros
  • Shutterstock Contributors can earn money from their work with very little investment and focus almost exclusively on the creative side of photography; you don’t have to worry about managing an e-commerce website, sorting out-licensing, or dealing with customers directly. 
  • With the right images, contributors can make a steady side income. This is an especially attractive option for those who have a passion for photography and want to monetize it and for professional photographers who want to add a revenue stream to their business.
  • The process of becoming a contributor is straightforward, requiring only that you fill out an application form and submit some sample images for review. Once approved, you will be able to upload your own photos and videos directly to the platform with ease.
  • You retain full ownership of your content once uploaded, meaning you can continue to use or license it elsewhere if desired – all while still earning royalties through Shutterstock sales.
  • As long as your content meets certain standards (which are outlined in detail on the site), there is no limit to how much money you could potentially make as a contributor – making this an excellent opportunity for creative professionals looking to supplement their income or even build a business around stock photography/videography services – although the latter is harder to achieve these days.
  • Contributing also gives photographers access to exclusive benefits such as earning from referrals, invitations to sell their work on partner sites or new collections, and more. 
Cons
  • Contributors must strictly follow the guidelines set forth by Shutterstock when submitting content; failure to do so may result in suspension or termination of one's account without warning.
  • The earnings per sale are very small, sometimes only a few cents per image sold. So it can take a while to reach the payout threshold at first, and there is no guarantee that a particular image will generate consistent revenue over time. Most stock photographers tend to upload to several other sites on top of Shutterstock to make a bigger income from all of them combined (still, you will likely not be able to quit your day job to live off stock photo sales)

FAQs concerning Shutterstock Contributor Review

Is it worth becoming a Shutterstock contributor?

Yes, becoming a Shutterstock contributor can be worth it. With the ability to earn royalties on your work and access to their global marketplace of buyers, you can potentially make a useful extra income from stock photography. Additionally, Shutterstock offers helpful resources such as tutorials and support for contributors to maximize their success with the platform. However, before signing up, it is important to understand all the details associated with being a contributor, and the effort required and have realistic expectations to ensure that you are making an informed decision.

How much can you make as a Shutterstock contributor?

Shutterstock is one of the leading stock photo agencies, and contributors can make a decent income by selling their photos through them. Generally speaking, Shutterstock pays out 15-40% of each sale to its contributors. However, their prices are considerably low compared to other photography businesses, so sometimes one sale can only represent a few cents in earnings for the contributor. Overall, artists who sell consistently do make a decent extra income from Shutterstock.
Contributors also have the potential to earn more money through referral programs or exclusive contracts with Shutterstock. With dedication and hard work, it's possible to make your contribution to Shutterstock worthwhile.

Does Shutterstock pay?

Yes, Shutterstock does pay. The company pays contributors for each image or video downloaded from the site. Contributors earn a base rate of $0.25 per download and can earn up to $120 per image depending on the image price, portfolio size, and performance level. Shutterstock also offers bonus payments for high-performing images, as well as other incentives such as referral programs and contests that reward contributors with additional earnings.

Is Shutterstock a good way to make money?

Shutterstock is a popular stock photo agency that offers millions of images, videos, and music tracks. It can be a great way to make extra money if you have the right photos or content to offer. With Shutterstock's royalty-free license, customers can use your content multiple times without having to pay extra fees each time, but also you can sell the same image over and over and earn more from it in the long run.  Additionally, Shutterstock has competitive rates for contributors, which makes it an attractive option for those looking to monetize their work. 
However, it is important to remember that success on Shutterstock requires dedication and hard work to build up a portfolio of high quality images that will attract buyers. And that what you can expect at best is a good additional income, not making a living out of it.

Shutterstock Contributor Review Conclusion

The Shutterstock Contributor Program offers an easy-to-use portal with plenty of helpful resources and tools to help contributors succeed. The program has great benefits, such as intelligent workflow tools and professional, creative assistance. 

However, it’s important to remember that success on Shutterstock requires putting in the work consistently and being patient until results begin to show. 

In today’s time, Shutterstock is a good option to make some extra money or test the waters with a photography business, but it’s unrealistic to expect to earn a living solely from it. 

We hope this Shutterstock contributor review was useful in helping you decide if joining the Shutterstock Contributor Program is right for you!

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Ivanna Attié
Ivanna Attié

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in StockPhotoSecrets.com and Stock Photo Press and its many stock media-oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

36 Comments
  1. Something else…

    I would like to know how many active contributors there are right now on Shutterstock, and the all-time number of downloads collected on the platform

    • Hi Damiano. According to the company, Shutterstock currently has around 2 million contributors worldwide. The last report on the total number of files downloaded is from 2018, when they surpassed the 1 Billion downloads mark. Considering their annual growth, one could educatedly guess it must be at least 2x-3x that number at this point.
      If you’re interested in more metrics about the agency, you might like to read our Shutterstock Statistics report.

  2. I have a question about the Shutterstock Contributor Program

    Which types of photos does shuttlestock contributor needs

  3. Something else…

    What does it mean when Shutterstock says your photo has been approved for data licensing?

    • Hi Carol, that message means that your image was approved to be used in datasets to train AI models developed by Shutterstock. This also implies you would be entering the new Contributor Fund, a program that compensates artists for the use of their work in AI training and AI image generation.
      Hope this helps!

  4. Something else…

    What to know more about “Eligible for data licensing” (after review) in Shutterstock, what does it mean and how is it different from image status as “Approved”?

    • Hello Vaisakh, “data licensing” refers to the possibility of using the images to train AI models. Since this year, Shutterstock is developing AI photo tools (like an AI image generator) and they also have partnerships with AI developing companies. They have a Contributor Fund, a program where you get monetary compensation for every time your work is used in AI training or AI image generation at Shutterstock. We are not Shutterstock representatives so this answer is for orientation only and you would need to contact them directly to confirm, but it would seem that your image(s) might not be approved for the stock photo catalog, but they were approved for AI training and you might need to decide whether you want to agree to that usage or not.
      Hope this helps!

  5. I want to know that if i use any picture in my facebook page, will I be able to upload the picture in the Shutterstock?

    • Hello there, quick disclaimer that we are not Shutterstock representatives so our answers are for orientation only. That said, Shutterstock’s contributor agreement is non-exclusive, so having used the photos on Facebook before is not an impediment to submit them to the agency.
      Hope this helps!

  6. I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    I need to join as Contributer

  7. I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    I’m thinking of uploading original all over print patterns on Shutterstock. How can I do this? How will I get paid if my print/prints are downloaded?

    • Sure! To begin as a Shutterstock Contributor, you’ll start by creating an account. Upon successful creation, you’ll be required to submit samples of your work for review. Once approved, you can then upload your all-over print patterns for customers to download.

      Payment comes in the form of royalties, which are respective of each time someone downloads your patterns. This rate ranges between 15% and 40% of the sale price. You’ll receive payments monthly through PayPal or other online money transfer methods when your earnings reach a minimum of $35.

      Success on this platform is often related to patience, continually uploading quality content, and ensuring your submissions are appropriate for customer needs. Every step related to this process is explained in detail in the article above.

  8. I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    If your pictures are approved are they automatically listed? Can you list your pictures on other stock photo sites?

    • Hi Debbie. Yes, once your pictures are approved, they are made available for license on Shutterstock’s website. And yes, the standard contributor agreement is non-exclusive, meaning you can submit and sell the same pictures on other stock photo sites. Do keep in mind we are not Shutterstock representatives, so our answer is for orientation only and it’s always best to contact Shutterstock directly to confirm this information.
      Hope it helps!

  9. I don’t know if Shutterstock is right for me as Contributor

    I take some very interesting pictures. A LOT OF THEM!!!I’d like to share them with someone other than just Facebook peeps.

    • Hi Angelique, there are many options of online photo communities where you can share your pictures and get feedback from other photo enthusiasts. But if you wish you can also try submitting them to Shutterstock (or other similar stock photo agency) to see if they’re accepted and then your images would not only receive more exposure but also potentially earn you a passive income. If you do the latter, do make sure to read and understand the contributor agreement terms, the licensing terms that would apply to your images, and especially read the section of our article above where we talk about having realistic expectations.
      Hope this helps!

  10. Something else…

    I want to join Shutterstock as a contributor but dont want to use PayPal as a payment gateway. What are other means of payment methods Shutterstock has.

  11. I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    Really insightful

  12. Something else…

    When a contributor submits a photo image for commercial licensing, does your editorial staff determine if the image requires a property or model release? If it does, do they automatically send it to editorial licensing?

    • Hi Suzanne. We need to first clarify that we are not Shutterstock and we do not represent them. This article is our review of the Shutterstock Contributor program. For final answers we recommend you to contact Shutterstock directly.
      That said, and as far as we understand, the submission system at Shutterstock (and most other stock agencies) leaves it up to you to provide model and/or property releases or not. If you submit images with recognizable people, private property or trademarks, and you want them to be considered for commercial licensing, then you must attach the pertaining releases to your submission. If you don’t, then the reviewers will only consider it for editorial licensing. In both cases, they’ll then apply the correspondent reviewing criteria to approve or reject the image.
      Hope this helps!

  13. When a contributor submits a photo image for commercial licensing, does the editorial staff determine if the image requires a property or model release? If it does, and none exists, do they automatically send it to editorial licensing? I understand the strict rules regarding recognizable faces and commercial storefronts with logo signs; but many images fall somewhere in the middle. Example: public crowds, city scenes where many buildings have signs.

    • Hi Suzan, It seems there might be a slight misunderstanding regarding their role and the processing of images for commercial licensing.

      Just because a model or property release is not submitted does not mean that your image will automatically be categorized as editorial. Generally, stock agencies, which manage these processes, do perform checks to ensure all necessary documentation is in place, but the onus is largely on contributors to provide these at the time of image submission. Editorial images often require special agreements and clearances, and it should not be assumed that images will be shifted to this category in the absence of required releases.

      We strongly recommend ensuring that you upload any necessary model or property releases with your images to avoid any delays or issues in the licensing process. The stock agency should also check these and remind you if anything is missing, aiding in ensuring all legal and ethical standards are met.

      Kindly note that these processes and standards are generally spoken only and can vary from stock agency to stock agency.

  14. I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    I am curious to know what you have to do to get started

    • Hi Tammy, as our article says, all you need to do to get started is to sign up on the Shutterstock Contributor portal and submit a batch of images. If they approve them you’ll become a contributor and can continue submitting images to be sold on the agency. More info on what type of images to submit and what requirements you should meet are also in our article, as well as on the Shutterstock Contributor’s guidelines and blog. Hope this helps!

  15. I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    What is shutterstock?and how to earn money on shutterstock

  16. Something else…

    Who sets the selling price of the stock image

  17. Hi Ivanna Attie,
    I have a question.Can I sell a photo on other stock sites including Shutterstock? Want to sell a photo on another site, is it possible?

  18. 🤓 I need more Information about starting as a Shutterstock Contributor

    How do I get started and what do I need?

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