How Much Can I Make on Shutterstock?

Curious about the earning potential on Shutterstock? Look no further! In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of making money on Shutterstock, one of the most popular stock photography platforms. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, Shutterstock offers a platform for you to monetize your creative skills. Discover how much you can make on Shutterstock and unlock the potential of your photography talent.

You might be wondering, “How much can I actually make on Shutterstock?” Well, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The amount you can earn on this platform depends on various factors, including the quality of your images, the demand for certain themes, and your commitment to consistently uploading new content.

According to a survey conducted by Photography Jobs Online, the average earnings of a Shutterstock contributor range from $0.25 to $120 per image download. This wide range implies that some contributors are earning substantial amounts, while others are earning more modestly. But fear not, as we will guide you through the process of maximizing your earnings on Shutterstock.

Earnings Based on Contributor Levels

When it comes to earning potential on Shutterstock, your photos are your currency. The more high-quality and visually appealing images you upload, the greater your chances of attracting buyers and increasing your earnings. Shutterstock offers different payment tiers based on the number of downloads your images receive, known as “contributor levels.”

Level 1: Starting Out

As a Level 1 contributor, you are just starting your journey on Shutterstock. At this level, you can expect to earn $0.25 per download. To reach Level 1, you need to upload between 0 and 99 images, with downloads ranging from less than 100.

To increase your earnings at this stage, focus on building your portfolio and experimenting with different themes and styles. Aim for high-quality images that stand out from the competition to increase your chances of attracting buyers.

Level 2: Stepping Up

Once you have surpassed 100 images and your downloads range from 100 to 499, you will move up to Level 2. At this level, your earnings per download increase to $0.33. It’s a significant jump from Level 1 and emphasizes the importance of consistently uploading new content.

To maximize your earnings at Level 2, explore popular trends and ensure your images align with what buyers are seeking. Adapt to market demands and capture images that have a high chance of attracting attention and downloads.

Level 3: Gaining Momentum

Level 3 is achieved when you have between 500 and 4,999 images in your portfolio, with downloads ranging from 500 to 4,999. At this stage, your earnings per download increase to $0.36.

With a solid portfolio and a growing number of downloads, you should focus on refining your skills and developing your unique style. Pay attention to customer feedback and adjust your approach to cater to their needs, ensuring a higher chance of downloads and increased earnings.

Level 4: Progressing Further

Moving up to Level 4 signifies significant progress in your Shutterstock journey. You will have between 5,000 and 24,999 images in your portfolio, with downloads ranging from 5,000 to 24,999. Your earnings per download increase to $0.38.

To make the most of Level 4, continue to diversify your portfolio by exploring different categories and themes. Look for niches that are in demand and capture images that have the potential to stand out and attract buyers in those specific areas.

Level 5: Reaching the Top

Reaching Level 5 is the pinnacle of success on Shutterstock. At this level, you will have 25,000 or more images in your portfolio, with downloads surpassing 25,000. Your earnings per download increase to $0.40.

To maintain and increase your earnings at Level 5, it’s crucial to consistently upload high-quality images and stay ahead of the latest trends. Continuously refine your skills, seek inspiration from other successful contributors, and aim for images that are not only visually appealing but also have a strong commercial appeal.

Maximize Earnings with Exclusive Content

If you’re willing to take exclusivity into account, Shutterstock offers an exclusive option for contributors. By submitting images exclusively to Shutterstock, you can earn higher royalties for each download. The exclusive content program rewards contributors with up to 60% of the sales price, compared to the standard 15% for non-exclusive content.

Earning Higher Royalties

By opting for exclusivity, you can potentially earn more on each sale since you receive a larger share of the revenue. This can significantly boost your overall earnings on Shutterstock. However, it’s important to consider the trade-offs before committing to exclusivity.

Exclusivity Pros and Cons


  • Higher Royalties: Exclusive contributors can earn up to 60% of the sales price, compared to 15% for non-exclusive contributors.
  • Increased Visibility: Exclusive images are often promoted more prominently on the Shutterstock platform, increasing their chances of being seen and downloaded.
  • Simple Upload Process: By focusing solely on Shutterstock, you can streamline your upload process and dedicate more time to creating high-quality images.


  • Limiting Distribution: By choosing exclusivity, you won’t be able to sell the same images on other stock photography platforms.
  • Reduced Flexibility: Exclusivity restricts your ability to diversify your income streams by exploring other platforms.
  • Higher Expectations: Exclusive content is expected to meet even higher standards in terms of quality and commercial appeal.

Consider your long-term goals as a photographer and weigh the benefits and drawbacks before deciding whether exclusivity is the right path for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

FAQ 1: How often will I get paid by Shutterstock?

Shutterstock has a payment schedule in place. Contributors will receive payments once their earnings reach the minimum payout threshold of $35.

FAQ 2: Are there any restrictions on the subjects or styles of images I can upload?

No, Shutterstock accepts a wide variety of subjects and styles. However, make sure your images adhere to their content guidelines, which prohibit offensive or explicit content.

FAQ 3: Can I remove my images from Shutterstock if I change my mind?

Yes, as a contributor, you have the freedom to remove your images from Shutterstock at any time. Keep in mind that removing images might impact your earnings if those images were generating downloads.

FAQ 4: Do I retain the copyright of my images when I upload them to Shutterstock?

Yes, you retain the copyright of your images. By uploading them to Shutterstock, you grant the platform a non-exclusive license to sell and distribute your images.

FAQ 5: Can I sell the same images on other platforms simultaneously?

Yes, Shutterstock allows you to sell the same images on other platforms. However, if you opt for exclusivity, you must refrain from selling the same images elsewhere.

FAQ 6: Are there any additional ways to earn on Shutterstock?

Apart from image downloads, Shutterstock also offers opportunities to earn through video footage sales and by referring new contributors to the platform.

FAQ 7: How can I increase my chances of getting my images approved?

Ensure your images meet the technical requirements and follow Shutterstock’s guidelines. Aim for unique and high-quality content that stands out from the competition. Pay attention to details such as focus, lighting, composition, and commercial appeal.


To summarize, the earnings potential on Shutterstock is a combination of factors such as image quality, contributor level, and the exclusivity of your content. By consistently uploading high-quality images, staying updated with trends, and engaging with the community, you can increase your chances of earning more on Shutterstock. Remember to weigh the benefits of exclusivity before making a decision.

Now that you have a better understanding of the earning potential on Shutterstock, it’s time to take action! Start showcasing your talent, refining your skills, and building a captivating portfolio. The more you invest in your photography journey, the higher your chances of success on Shutterstock.

Remember, it’s not just about earning money – Shutterstock offers a platform for you to share your creativity with a global audience. So embrace the opportunity, explore your passion, and unlock the full potential of your photography skills on Shutterstock!

The earnings mentioned in this article are based on average figures and individual results may vary. While Shutterstock provides a platform for photographers to monetize their skills, success and earnings depend on various factors, including the quality of the images, market demand, and individual effort.

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