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Artist Tips | How to Make Money Selling Your Photos on SHUTTERSTOCK

Shutterstock is one of the most famous communities of visual content contributors in the world.

Cash Tips & Tricks - Shutterstock purpose

It offers the best quality, royalty free stock images, photos, vectors, illustrations, footage, video, and music for nearly any application. 

1. Factsheet

Company typeFor profit
HQ locationNew York, USA
Founded date2003


Shutterstock was founded in 2003 by the American entrepreneur and computer programmer Jon Oringer. 

Creating his own online marketplace, Oringer initially uploaded 30,000 of his own stock photos and made them available via subscription, with unlimited downloads and a monthly starting fee.

Cash Tips & Tricks - Shutterstock timeline

Shutterstock began licensing stock video in February 2006. 

Shutterstock Footage operates similarly to their image library, offering video clips by subscription or on a per-clip basis.

Shutterstock Music debuted later, with new content submittable by contributors.

Business model

The company creates accessibility by providing a large database of stock photographs (over 88 million) that anyone can license. It also makes a wide selection of music and video clips available.

The company makes its images available at an affordable cost. Once visitors register on the site, the content can be searched and previewed for free.

Afterwards, customers can purchase images.

The content is offered under a royalty-free non-exclusive license


Shutterstock’s business model entails maintaining a robust common platform between two parties: contributors and photo-seekers.

1. Contributors: Photographers who upload their images and seek buyers.

2. Photo-Seekers: Entities that require photographs for business or personal purposes. This group can include anyone, but largely falls into the following categories:

  • Businesses: Use content for a broad range of external and internal communications such as digital and print ads, websites, annual reports, newsletters, brochures, presentations, and e-mail marketing campaigns. They range from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 firms.

  • Marketing Agencies: Require content to integrate into work they create for clients’ business communications. Users range from independent freelancers to major global agencies.

  • Media Organizations: Require content to integrate into work, which includes books, newspapers, magazines, film, television, and digital publications. Users range from independent bloggers to international broadcast and publishing organizations.

Top competitors

Besides Shutterstock, there are about 30 big photo banks. The most popular are 500px, Getty Images, iStock, 123RF, and Adobe Stock (prev. Fotolia) among others.

2. How to make cash

How does ShutterStock make cash

Shutterstock has three revenue streams:

1. On-Demand Revenues: Revenues generated through the purchase of fixed price packages whose quantities range from one to 60 downloads.

2. Subscription Revenues: Revenues generated through subscription plans ranging from monthly to annual.

3. Other Revenues: Revenues generated through enterprise and custom accounts offering multi-seat access, content licensed for editorial use only, and content bought through third-party application interfaces.

How do YOU make cash

Cash Tips & Tricks - How to make money with ShutterStock

Become a contributor:

The upload process is relatively simple. However, bear in mind that they do have submission guidelines in place for each type of content as well as a review process.

Cash Tips & Tricks - Shutter stock process

3. Admission process

The admission process is pretty simple.

Once the application loads, you will need to enter your information such as your name, username, and your email address

If you are registering as a business, be sure to enter your business name.

It is worth mentioning that your first submission requires you to submit a few of your best photos or illustrations. This content will be reviewed by in-house experts to make sure it meets the platform guidelines and quality expectations.

Once this first submission is approved, your account will be fully active. This means that you will be able to submit any type of files without limitation.

4. Expected income

At Shutterstock, customers have the option to purchase a monthly or yearly subscription, which gives them access to the image library and up to 750 image downloads per month. 

For those who only need a few images, there are on demand image packs, where users can pay to download a finite number of images (i.e. 5 or 25). 

Contributors always earn a percentage of the price Shutterstock receives for licensing their images, ranging from 15% up to 40% across 6 levels

As a contributor, you graduate through the levels based on your download count in a calendar year. The more content customers purchase from your image portfolio, the faster you progress through the levels, increasing the percentage you earn from each license.

When it comes to payments, Shutterstock pays its contributors on a monthly basis. Payments are issued through PayPal, Skrill, and Payoneer. They are calculated at the end of the month for contributors who meet their minimum payout amount and sent to your preferred payment method. 

A few things to keep in mind when it comes to payments include:

  • Your earnings will be reset to zero if you meet the payout requirements.

  • You will receive a notification email about the upcoming payment.

  • Payments are usually sent between the 7th and the 15th day of the month.

Note: In May 2020, the company announced that it will update its contributor earnings structure as of June 1, from a minimum flat-rate to a percentage-based model.

Contributor income may be reduced from the previous minimum payment per downloaded image of 25 cents to 10 cents, or 15 percent of sales, at the entry level, with author ratings reset to zero at the beginning of each year.

For futher information, I would recommend to go check the Earning rates of Shutterstock.

5. Feedback

Visual content is a powerful tool used by marketers and bloggers. It can increase audience engagement, brand awareness, and click-through-rate on websites.

No blog, advertisement banner, or landing page now can go on without high-resolution catchy images or videos. But hiring a photographer or graphic designer for every campaign is expensive and time-consuming. 

Selling your photos on a website like Shutterstock can bring you additional income (even if it is not big money) as well as more exposure for your photography business

Why not becoming a contributor then?

6. Site preview


Dan is contributing to cashtipsandtricks by providing his expertise as an investor and entrepreneur.

Cash Tips and Tricks 2020 - 2021