How to Sell Photos on Shutterstock: The Ultimate Guide

A Step-by-Step Tutorial for Earning Money with Your Photography

Are you an aspiring photographer looking to monetize your skills? Selling photos on Shutterstock can be a lucrative venture that allows you to showcase your talent to a global audience. With millions of potential buyers visiting Shutterstock, it’s a fantastic platform to generate passive income from your images. So, how do you sell photos on Shutterstock? Let’s explore the process step by step.

The Basics of Selling Photos on Shutterstock

Before diving into the details, it’s essential to understand the fundamental aspects of selling photos on Shutterstock. First and foremost, let’s clarify what Shutterstock is and why it’s an excellent platform for photographers:

What is Shutterstock?

Shutterstock is a global marketplace where photographers, videographers, artists, and illustrators can sell their content to interested buyers. With over 350 million images and videos available, it caters to various creative needs.

“Shutterstock empowers storytellers around the world by enabling them to earn money from their creativity.”

– Shutterstock

Now that we have a clear understanding of Shutterstock, let’s delve into the step-by-step process of selling your photos on the platform.

Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Photos on Shutterstock

Create a Contributor Account

To start selling your photos on Shutterstock, you need to create a contributor account. Here’s how:

  1. Visit the Shutterstock website and click on the “Become a Contributor” button.
  2. Fill in the required details, including your name, email address, and password.
  3. Read and accept the contributor agreement.
  4. Click on the “Sign Up” button to submit your application.

Once you’ve submitted your application, Shutterstock will review it and notify you via email once your account is approved.

Verify Your Identity

After receiving approval for your contributor account, the next step is to verify your identity. This process helps ensure that you are a legitimate contributor and maintain the quality and integrity of the platform. Follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Shutterstock contributor account.
  2. Click on your profile icon and select “Account Settings” from the drop-down menu.
  3. Navigate to the “Verification” tab and click on “Get Started.”
  4. Provide the necessary documents to verify your identity, such as a valid government-issued ID and any additional requirements specified by Shutterstock.
  5. Submit the documents for review.

Once your identity is verified, you can proceed to upload your photos and start selling on Shutterstock.

Familiarize Yourself with Guidelines and Best Practices

To optimize your chances of success on Shutterstock, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the guidelines and best practices for contributors. These guidelines provide valuable insights on what types of content sell well and help maintain the quality standards of the platform. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Image Quality

Ensure that your photos meet Shutterstock’s quality standards. High-resolution images with proper lighting, focus, and composition are more likely to attract buyers. Avoid submitting images that are blurry, pixelated, or have excessive noise.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Take note of any legal and ethical considerations when submitting your photos. Make sure you have the necessary legal rights and permissions for any recognizable individuals, copyrighted material, or trademarks featured in your images. Familiarize yourself with model and property release requirements as well.

Keywords and Metadata

Using relevant and descriptive keywords is essential for making your photos discoverable. Shutterstock’s search engine relies on keywords to connect buyers with the right images. Research keywords that are relevant to your photos and accurately describe the subject matter.


Properly categorize your photos to ensure they appear in the appropriate search results. Choose the most relevant category and subcategory for each image, allowing buyers to find your content easily.

Avoid Watermarks or Logos

Shutterstock requires that you do not include watermarks, logos, or any other branding in your photos. Buyers prefer clean and unobstructed images that they can use for their own purposes.

Organize and Upload Your Photos

Once you are familiar with Shutterstock’s guidelines and best practices, it’s time to organize and upload your photos to the platform. Follow these steps for a smooth uploading process:

Organize Your Photos

Before uploading, ensure that your photos are well-organized on your computer. Create separate folders for different categories or themes to easily locate and select the images you want to upload.

Prepare Your Images

Before uploading, make sure your images are properly edited and optimized. Adjust the exposure, color balance, and sharpness to enhance the overall quality of your photos. You can use photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop for this purpose.

Add Relevant Keywords

For each photo, add relevant keywords that accurately describe the subject matter. Think about what potential buyers might search for when looking for specific types of imagery. Consider aspects such as colors, emotions, concepts, and locations when selecting keywords.

Use Shutterstock’s Keyword Tool

Shutterstock provides a keyword tool that can help you optimize your images’ metadata. This tool suggests relevant keywords based on popular search terms, ensuring your photos have a higher chance of appearing in relevant search results.

Submit Your Photos

Once your images are organized, edited, and keyworded, you can proceed to upload them to Shutterstock. Here’s how:

  1. Log in to your Shutterstock contributor account.
  2. Click on the “Upload Content” button.
  3. Select the photos you want to upload from your computer or drag and drop them into the upload area.
  4. Shutterstock will process and analyze your images for technical quality and compliance with their guidelines.
  5. Once the processing is complete, review the suggested categories and add any additional metadata as needed.
  6. Click on the “Submit” button to send your photos for review.

It’s important to note that the review process may take some time, depending on the volume of submissions Shutterstock receives. Be patient and avoid resubmitting images unnecessarily.

Submit for Review

After uploading your photos, they will go through a review process by Shutterstock’s team. The review is an essential step to ensure the quality and adherence to their guidelines. Here’s what you need to know about the review process:

Quality Evaluation

Shutterstock’s team will assess the technical quality of your images, including factors such as exposure, focus, and composition. They will also analyze the images’ potential commercial appeal and whether they meet the platform’s content guidelines.

Review Timeframe

The review process typically takes between 1-7 days, depending on the volume of submissions. During peak times or holidays, the review time may be slightly longer. You can track the progress of your submissions through your contributor dashboard on Shutterstock.

Revisions and Resubmissions

If your photos are rejected during the review process, don’t be discouraged. Shutterstock provides feedback on rejected images, allowing you to understand the reasons behind the rejection. Use this feedback to improve your photography skills and make necessary revisions before resubmitting.

Quality vs. Quantity

While it’s essential to submit a sufficient number of images to gain exposure on Shutterstock, quality should always take precedence over quantity. Focus on producing high-quality images that meet the platform’s standards, as they are more likely to attract buyers and generate sales.

Pricing and Licensing

Once your photos are approved and live on Shutterstock, it’s time to set the pricing and licensing options for your content. Here’s what you need to consider:

Image Resolution and Pricing Tiers

Shutterstock offers different pricing tiers based on the resolution of your images. Higher resolution images generally command a higher price. Determine the appropriate pricing tier for each photo based on its resolution and overall commercial value.

License Types

Shutterstock offers various license types to cater to different buyer needs. Common licenses include Standard License, Enhanced License, and Editorial License. Familiarize yourself with the specifics of each license type to ensure you’re offering the appropriate usage rights for your images.

Pricing Strategy

When setting your prices, consider factors such as market demand, competition, and the uniqueness of your images. Analyze the pricing of similar images on Shutterstock to get a sense of industry averages and adjust accordingly.

Long-Term Value

Keep in mind that an image’s value may increase over time as it gains popularity and generates more sales. Shutterstock allows you to adjust the pricing of your images in the future, so monitor their performance and make necessary price adjustments when necessary.

Promote and Track Your Content

Having your photos available on Shutterstock is just the first step. To maximize your sales potential, you need to actively promote your content and track its performance. Here’s what you can do:

Share Your Portfolio

Take advantage of social media platforms, photography forums, and personal websites to showcase your portfolio. Direct potential buyers to your Shutterstock portfolio, where they can browse and purchase your images.

Collaborate with Other Contributors

Building relationships with other Shutterstock contributors can lead to collaboration opportunities and increased exposure. Explore partnerships for joint projects, cross-promotion, or even organizing photo workshops to expand your reach.

Analyze the Contributor Dashboard

Shutterstock provides a comprehensive contributor dashboard that offers valuable insights into your image performance. Use the data and analytics available to analyze which photos are selling well, understand buyer preferences, and optimize your portfolio accordingly.

Stay Active and Consistent

Consistency is key when it comes to selling photos on Shutterstock. Regularly upload new content to keep your portfolio fresh and attract buyers looking for recently added images. Stay engaged with the platform, respond to customer inquiries promptly, and maintain a professional presence.

Experiment and Adapt

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles, genres, and techniques. Keep an eye on emerging trends in photography and design to ensure your portfolio remains relevant and appealing to buyers. Adapt to changes in market demand and continue to evolve as a photographer.

Recommendations for Selling Photos on Shutterstock

Capture Marketable Content

When shooting photos for Shutterstock, focus on capturing marketable content that aligns with current trends and popular themes. Identify niche markets that have higher demand and tailor your photography to cater to those specific buyers. Experiment with different genres, concepts, and styles to expand your reach.

Optimize Keywords and Descriptions

Keywords play a crucial role in making your photos searchable on Shutterstock. Take the time to research and select relevant keywords that accurately describe your image. Avoid spamming or overloading your images with unnecessary keywords, as it may harm their discoverability. Ensure that your keywords are organic, natural, and contextually relevant to the photo.

Experiment with Different Styles and Techniques

Don’t limit yourself to a single style or technique. Embrace diversity in your photography and experiment with various genres, compositions, and editing styles. Expanding your repertoire can appeal to a broader range of buyers and increase your chances of making sales.

Regularly Upload New Content

Consistently uploading new content is essential for maintaining an active presence on Shutterstock. Buyers often look for fresh images, and regularly adding new photos to your portfolio can increase your visibility. Set aside dedicated time to shoot, edit, and upload new images to keep your portfolio up to date.

Engage with the Shutterstock Community

Networking and engaging with other Shutterstock contributors can offer valuable insights and opportunities. Join photography forums, participate in social media communities, and attend industry events to connect with fellow contributors. Sharing knowledge, collaborating on projects, and supporting each other can contribute to your overall success on Shutterstock.

Learn from Rejections

Rejections are a part of the process when selling photos on Shutterstock. Instead of getting discouraged, view rejections as learning opportunities. Take the feedback provided by Shutterstock’s review team seriously and use it to improve your skills. Analyze the reasons behind the rejections, identify areas for growth, and strive to produce higher-quality images.

Stay Updated with Current Trends

Photography and design trends are continually evolving. Keeping up with current trends is crucial for staying relevant and appealing to buyers. Follow industry blogs, study best-selling images on Shutterstock, and embrace emerging styles to ensure your portfolio resonates with the market’s needs.

How Do You Sell Photos on Shutterstock – FAQ

Can I sell photos taken with a smartphone on Shutterstock?

Yes, you can sell photos taken with a smartphone on Shutterstock. However, ensure that the image quality meets the platform’s minimum requirements. Focus on capturing well-composed, sharp, and properly lit images to maximize their market potential.

How much money can I earn by selling photos on Shutterstock?

Earnings from selling photos on Shutterstock can vary significantly depending on several factors, such as image quality, popularity, and licensing options. Some contributors earn a substantial passive income, while others see more modest returns. The key to maximizing your earnings is consistently producing high-quality, in-demand images that resonate with buyers.

Can I sell the same photos on other stock photography platforms?

Yes, you can sell the same photos on multiple stock photography platforms. However, it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of each platform to ensure you comply with their guidelines. Monitor your licensing agreements to avoid any conflicts or licensing violations.

Are there any copyright concerns when selling photos on Shutterstock?

No, Shutterstock protects your photos by offering licenses that grant specific usage rights to buyers while preserving your copyright ownership. Buyers are required to abide by the terms of the licenses they purchase, which dictate how they can use your images commercially. However, it’s crucial to ensure that you have the necessary releases for recognizable faces, trademarks, or copyrighted elements featured in your photos.

How long does it take for photos to get approved on Shutterstock?

The review process duration for photos on Shutterstock can vary depending on the volume of submissions. Typically, the process takes between 1-7 days. During peak times or holidays, it may take slightly longer. It’s important to be patient during this stage and avoid resubmitting images unnecessarily. Monitor the progress of your submissions through your contributor dashboard.

Can I sell photos that include recognizable faces or trademarks?

Photos with recognizable faces or trademarks require additional permissions and releases to be sold commercially. If your photo contains identifiable individuals, you must obtain a modelrelease from the person or people featured in the image. Similarly, if your photo includes trademarked elements such as logos or branding, you may need a property release from the trademark owner. It is essential to acquire these releases to ensure that your photos can be used by buyers without any legal issues. Without proper releases, Shutterstock may reject your images during the review process.

What are the most in-demand subjects on Shutterstock?

The demand for subjects on Shutterstock varies over time and depends on current trends and market needs. However, some categories are consistently popular, such as lifestyle, business, technology, food, and travel. These subjects capture everyday moments, global trends, and universal themes that appeal to a wide range of buyers. Keep an eye on emerging niche markets and industry trends to identify new subjects with high demand.

Summary: How to Sell Photos on Shutterstock

In summary, selling photos on Shutterstock involves a step-by-step process to maximize your earnings and exposure. Here’s a recap of the main points:

  1. Create a contributor account on Shutterstock.
  2. Familiarize yourself with Shutterstock’s guidelines and best practices.
  3. Organize and optimize your photos for upload.
  4. Submit your photos for review and make necessary revisions if needed.
  5. Set appropriate pricing and licensing options for your images.
  6. Promote your portfolio and engage with the Shutterstock community.
  7. Continuously upload new content, stay updated with current trends, and learn from rejections.

By following these steps, implementing the recommendations, and staying proactive in your approach, you can increase your chances of success on Shutterstock and generate passive income from your photography.

Take Action and Start Earning with Your Photos

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of how to sell photos on Shutterstock, it’s time to take action and start monetizing your photography skills. Begin by creating your contributor account, organizing your best images, and uploading them to Shutterstock. Remember to consistently produce high-quality, marketable content, engage with the Shutterstock community, and adapt to industry trends. With dedication and perseverance, you can turn your passion for photography into a profitable venture on Shutterstock.


The information in this article is based on online research and the author’s personal experience. It is subject to change, and readers are encouraged to verify the details and guidelines directly from Shutterstock’s official website.

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