How to Make Money on Shutterstock

Make Money on Shutterstock


If you’re a talented photographer with impeccable photo & video editing skills, you should know that various online platforms offer you a great opportunity to earn passive income from your work.

A nice place for you to be is Shutterstock; it is one of the biggest marketplaces similar to the likes of Creativemarket where you can sell your photos and videos for a good sum of money if you know what you’re doing.

It’s essentially a bridge where people looking for high-quality videos and photos on practically anything meet with skilled photographers looking to sell their works of art.

However, the path to earning on Shutterstock is not straightforward. There are several aspects that you need to consider to avoid the various pitfalls on the way.

So, if you feel you have the skills to make a quick buck on this amazing microstock website, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we will take you through all the aspects that explain how to make money on Shutterstock.

As a preface to this article, if you’re looking to level up your skills before selling on Shutterstock, check out our articles on the best digital art classes and courses for designers and the best courses for coding, alongside our suggestions for hardware in our best budget laptops for graphic design article.

What is Shutterstock?


Before we get started trying to answer how to make money on Shutterstock, we need to know a bit more about the platform…

Shutterstock is a global marketplace where people trade high-quality videos and photos. It was launched back in 2003 and is headquartered in New York. So, it’s been in operation for just under two decades, garnering customers from all around the world.

The platform currently has a presence in at least 150 countries, providing digital imagery licenses. Shutterstock’s main aim is to connect digital contributors and buyers with a view of making successful transactions.

Photographers looking to make some money from their work can upload images to their photo library and get paid a commission when customers buy.

How Does Shutterstock Work?


Before we ask how to make money on shutterstock, we need to know how it works… here goes..

There are two kinds of accounts you can open on Shutterstock; customer account and contributor account. Contributors post their photos and videos whereas customers browse through them to find one to buy. But since our article is about making money on Shutterstock, we will be focusing on the contributor account.

Registering a contributor account on Shutterstock is a relatively straightforward process. From this point, your money-making destination will be in sight. You simply need to take some cool videos and photos, upload them on the site, and wait for a prospective customer to download them before you can finally get paid. That’s just about it!

So, if you have an eye for high-quality snapshots to go with unrivalled video editing and publishing skills, then this site can change your fortunes. According to the site, you can instantly start getting thousands of visitors and begin earning money, as long as you’re posting outstanding and high-quality photos and videos. Generally, there are three kinds of content you can sell on Shutterstock. These include:

Photo Selling – You can trade photos on the site as long as they are in JPF format and at least 4MP. This is to say that you’ll need a good camera with a high resolution for this.

Videos – You are also allowed to create and sell video footage on Shutterstock. The requirement, however, is that the video should be between 5 and 60 seconds. It shouldn’t go beyond these limits.

Vectors and Illustrations – Finally, you can as well create vectors and illustrations to sell on the platform. Submit your files in EPS format with a maximum size of 15MB on images in JPG format with 4MP and above.

Basically, you have various ways to earn from this remarkable website, as long as you have the skills needed. If photography is not your strong point, you can always try to create stunning vectors and illustrations on Photoshop and other such tools. Alternatively, there is still an income stream waiting to be tapped if you can create interesting short videos.

Types of Earnings


There are various ways you can get paid for your digital content on Shutterstock:

25-a-day Downloads – Clients have the choice to go with a monthly subscription whereby they can download photos over 30 days. Every time your image is downloaded, you receive 25 cents. However, the commission can increase to as much as 38 cents as you attain greater milestones.

On-demand Downloads – Customers can choose an on-demand subscription that enables them to download the images to a period of 1 year. In this model, you get $1.88 for every download. But it increases as your visitors and downloads increase.

Enhanced Downloads – An enhanced downloads license allows customers to download pictures for commercial use and the contributor receives $28 as payment for every download.

Referred Subscriptions – Here, you get a 20% commission by referring customers to Shutterstock. To do this, you can join Shutterstock’s affiliate program.

Single Downloads – If your photographs get sold as single images without a subscription, you get 20% of the sale price.

How do I get paid from Shutterstock?


There are three different payment methods that Shutterstock uses for its contributors. These are Paypal, Skrill, and Bank Checks. If you decide to choose the electronic methods of payment, the least you should have is $35, while for the Bank check method the minimum is $300. You can select any method above which you feel is most convenient for you once you meet the threshold and the money will be credited to you. Your earnings on Shutterstock are calculated on the 1st of every month and transferred to an associated account within the site after two weeks.

Once you have registered your account on the platform and created an appropriate profile, there’s a section where you are to submit your bank or Paypal details. You’ll then select your preferred method of payment in the settings section of your profile.

After filling up all the needed information and completing your profile, you can start uploading content and earning from it.

Note that the better the reputation you build, the more you’re going to earn.

Sell on Shutterstock

How to Make the Most of Being on Shutterstock


There is immense potential to make money on Shutterstock, but this does not mean it will happen naturally. You’ll have to go the extra mile and put in double the effort to compete with millions of other contributors. Check out the following tips to get the most out of your Shutterstock subscription:

Take Photos that Resonate with Sellable Keywords

Ensure that the photos you’re uploading on the site are related to the keywords you choose to use in their description. Remember that keywords should be highly marketable to get more customers to visit your portfolio.

Travel to Find Inspiration

Traveling offers a great opportunity to add a wide range of images to your Shutterstock portfolio. You get to encounter all kinds of people, items, buildings, nature, experiences, cultures, etc. that can inspire you to create a niche you feel would be exciting to customers of the site.

Get Inspiration from Other Photographers

You can also draw inspiration from rival artists on the platform. Try to visit their portfolio and browse through their content to see the stories they are trying to tell.

What emotions are they try to elicit?

And what strategy are they using to do this? It wouldn’t hurt to incorporate their methods into your work; just take care not to be a copy cat!

Stay Loyal to Your Style

Try to convince clients to like your style of photography and buy the images because they have been moved in one way or another. You don’t have to post pictures that are too commercial and easy to find. Your style is what makes you stand out and gives you an edge over other artists on the platform. Let this guide you into establishing a niche.

Follow Your Niche

Usually, photographers who turn out successful on Shutterstock are those that find their own niche and exploit it accordingly. This is something that nobody else can offer; whether it is cultural attire from different regions or photos that elicit a certain emotion, it is what will take you to the top. It doesn’t have to be something complicated; it can be a simple day to day experience if you have an eye for it.

Remember Your Passion for Photography

You have to be very passionate about photography to stay in this business. The key to experiencing success in stock photography is to love photography. This is where you’ll get the dedication to take tens or hundreds of photos every day, sort through them all, and choose the highest quality to upload on your portfolio.,/p>

While you don’t have to do it every day, you’ll still need to be passionate to remain consistent.

If you dont have a passion for what you do, then its a pointless question asking how to make money on shutterstock…

Research on Content Marketing Trends

Carry out research to educate yourself on the latest content marketing trends. Read more content, including magazines, blogs, web design sites, news, and other online media to have more knowledge than your competitors.

Nowadays, online marketing sources focusing on content can turn out to be the most influential media for photographers.

Uploading High-quality Content

One of the most important tips you can use is to submit high-level content consistently. Establish an unrivaled standard for your images and make sure that every picture you post meets the standard. Try to add these photos every day and ignore any mediocre pics that you find in your files.

Choose Themes According to Customers you Intend to Attract

First of all, select a theme to shoot based on the needs of customers on the platform. Look at what the most common search queries are and take your time to analyze different themes with that in mind. If you come across a theme you feel is in demand, be sure to make a brief to shoot. See how it does and find more themes to do the same with.

Keep it Authentic

When you are taking photos of an item; whether food, landscapes, or animals, try to make them look authentic.

For food, you can interest yourself in different culinary sites, read menus in cafes and restaurants, as well as peruse magazines and other publications on healthy eating. Don’t forget to follow the latest culinary trends.


You can also take advantage of the immense number of marketers, students, and designers on Shutterstock by ensuring that your work is tagged as much as possible.

People usually search images by way of descriptions, your photo tags should match any search terms that have been used closely. This helps to expand your visibility in search results and improves the chances of your work being seen, and ultimately getting downloaded.


Certain types of licenses available on Shutterstock will let you earn more. For instance, the enhanced license earns you more compared to the standard license. Your photos may be bought in packs, giving you more profit. Meanwhile, subscription packages have the lowest rates; they credit $0.25 to your account with every download of an image.

This rate increases as the money you make on the site increases. Top earners on Shutterstock get up to $0.33 for every image download.

Furthermore, you will receive varying rates based on your lifetime earnings and licenses, meaning anyone who has historically received more than you from the platform will typically be paid at a higher rate than you for every download based on just this fact.

The top-tier is the$10,000+ range and this will attract a 30% commission with an enhanced license. Many videographers and photographers earn on Shutterstock by directly selling their content.

However, this is not the only way you can get money, networking with fellow illustrators, artists, and designers can enable you to earn even further through referrals. This way, you get paid whenever there is a new entrant to the site; either as a customer or contributor.

The above key tips will assist you to have a more fulfilling time on Shutterstock and bring you success in the long term. Be sure to consider everything that has been pointed as you work on improving your portfolio on the platform.

Why the First 6 Months are Important

Since you are trying to sell photos, videos, and vectors on Shutterstock, you have to first learn how the platform’s search algorithm works! The search algorithm operates in the same way as Facebook and Instagram.

Your latest upload will be shown to clients almost immediately, and if it is liked and downloaded by a person, the site will show it to more people with the same keyword search. However, if nobody downloads your work shown on Shutterstock’s search queries, the platform will demote it to the back pages. In short, the first six months:

Will provide you with an idea about the niche you created and the content you’re uploading. If you don’t get any downloads after a month or so of continuous uploads on Shutterstock, it would be wise to try changing the niche and posting photos on a different niche. In some cases, your niche may be on-demand in certain seasons, for instance, if you’re posting photos related to holidays, you can expect more downloads on Christmas and other holidays, not in the middle of January.

This can be crucial to increasing your visibility in Shutterstock search queries.

This is because the algorithm will think you’re an active and constant contributor who can offer customers fresh content daily.

Can increase your content on the site because millions of stock photos are already sitting on Shutterstock.

So, if you are consistently posting content for the first six months, you will have uploaded at least 180 images. Even though this will be a drop in the ocean compared to the total number of images on the site, it is good enough for new contributors to earn at least a sale every day.

You need to get into the habit of shooting and uploading photos on the site. This means once you crossed the 6-month milestone, it’ll be easier for you to keep up the habit over time.

Now that you know what is expected from you in the first six months, don’t trouble yourself with pursuing multiple pieces of information. Instead, start by concentrating on a niche and see how the content you upload performs before you make a decision.

What are the Advantages of Earning Money on Shutterstock?


Shutterstock is the largest online marketplace for stock photography, and as such, it comes with its own perks. Let us look at the different benefits you get from being on this platform:

You can do What’s Passionate to You

There are thousands of photographers, both amateur and professional, who get into photography because they are passionate about it.

There is something like being able to tell a story with a snapshot; without uttering single a word. With Shutterstock, you’ll be able to continue what you love the most and get paid while at it. What better incentive could you ask for!

You Can Earn Passive Income

Passive income is money you earn even when you’re not working, which to many sounds like the best form of income. Once you’ve established a high-quality portfolio and earned a reputation to match, you can sit back and watch the money coming in without additional input. Imagine being able to count the money trickling into your account while sitting on the beach sipping a cool Spanish Mojito!

Large Market

As earlier mentioned, Shutterstock is the largest global platform for stock photography. It is available in more than 150 countries, so you can imagine the millions of customers who flood the site to find attractive content. This means if you’re a talented photographer, you have a higher chance of landing clients for your content. Never mind, the competition; if you’re uploading unrivaled content, you should be just fine.

Sell on Shutterstock

Challenges of Being on Shutterstock

While the prospects of making a quick buck on Shutterstock are nothing short of amazing, it is important to note that there are various challenges that you’ll likely encounter. Some of these include:

The Market is Saturated

Shutterstock was founded more than 16 years ago in 2003. There are currently at least 225 million files on the platform and an estimated 1 million more that get uploaded on the site every week. It doesn’t take mentioning for you to work out that the platform is saturated.

This means the competition here is cut-throat, so for your content to be visible, leave alone downloadable, it has to be of the highest quality.

Apart from that, you should work out a precise strategy of how you’re going to get your work to the top of the search results.

You Become Too Much Reliant on the Platform

Once you start making money on Shutterstock, you’ll find yourself being highly dependent on the site’s rules and policies. For example, assuming you spend the first few years building your stock portfolio to the point of earning a decent and constant income.

In case Shutterstock decides to change its policies in a way that affects your sales and rankings, you might find your whole business suddenly collapsing like a house of cards.

While you can try to diffuse the risk by diversifying into several photo banks, this is still a challenge you should always take into consideration.

It Takes a While Before the Money Starts Coming In

Generally, establishing a passive income stream takes time. This also applies to making money on Shutterstock. You possibly won’t receive any checks from the site in the first few months; heck, it may even last longer than a few years if you’re that unlucky.

So, you can imagine how frustrating it can be if you find yourself in such a situation; it’s easy to throw in the towel.

In the end, you need to be very patient and remain dedicated to building your stock portfolio even when you’re seemingly attracting nil downloads.

The bottom line is, money on Shutterstock doesn’t come fast and easy; but when it starts coming, it’s worth all the effort!

Sell on Shutterstock


Whether you are a photographer, a video editor, or illustrator, Shutterstock provides you with a fantastic opportunity to earn where you couldn’t possibly have thought of. With hard work, strategy, and perseverance, you’ll find yourself making a decent amount of money from your once unexploited talent. If you can be creative with your content and get people to like and download it, then this will be the start of a great money-making relationship with Shutterstock!

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