Last updated: April 8, 2018
The easiest way to generate money from your photography hobby is by selling your photos through microstock agencies like Shutterstock. Well, not easy enough since there are some requirements you need to fulfill. The amount of money you will earn might not too much (assuming you are a photography hobbyist), but is there something happier than making money from doing something you love?
Shutterstock is the popular place to sell photos since it has a global reach. Not just photographs, the platforms also accepts footages as well as illustrations. If you are interested to sell your photos or illustrations through Shutterstock then you need to learn how it works.
Following are several things you need to know before getting started to register yourself as a Shutterstock contributor.
Wherever you are living in this planet, you can be a Shutterstock contributor as long as you have decent enough contents to sell. On the registration process, you will asked to upload a legal identity, which can be either ID card or driving license. In many cases, Shutterstock also requires you to upload your passport. One thing more important you need to prepare: photos (or illustrations if you are an illustrator).
You will be asked to upload 10 examples of your work and they will be reviewed by Shutterstock. 7 out from those 10 photos have to be accepted before you officially become a Shutterstock contributor. This is a challenging yet interesting part. You will learn to be a curator for your own works. The registration process of becoming a Shutterstock contributor isn’t as complex as you thought, as long as you have prepared the requirements. We have covered it here.
What kind of photos are accepted?
In order to get accepted, your photos have to be in a good quality. Keep in mind that your standard of good photo can be different to Shutterstock standard. In general, a good photo is the one that has a clear purpose. Your photos should have a good focus. A blurry photos will definitely not be accepted. Also, be sure that your photos have a good sharpness (less noise). The photos you want to upload have to be at least 4 megapixel in size. Also, they have to be in JPEG.
Shutterstock will never accept photos containing content that may be subject to copyright or trademark protection, like logo or brand names. For example, the photo below is not accepted since it contains a logo brand in the frame (notice the background).
Another important thing to know. If you submit portrait photos or other type of human-involved photos, ensure to enclose the model release. Your photos will never be accepted until you submitted the release model. Before submitting any photo, it would be much better to do some research to find out what kind of photos will be accepted by Shutterstock. If you have a photographer friend who already become a Shutterstock contributor, don’t be hesitate to ask her/him some advice.
How will your photo be sold?
Before requesting a contributor account, you have to position yourself as a customer first. You need to do so to learn how will your photos be sold by Shutterstock.
Shutterstock itself is a microstock agency. Primarily, Shutterstock sells your photos through subscription model, but it also offers several other buying options, including on demand. Shutterstock has several subscription packages for individual, team and enterprise. You will earn the commission each time one of your images or videos is downloaded by a Shutterstock customer. Remember that you are not the only Shutterstock contributor so chances are, it will takes some time before you earn your first download. Focusing on specific genre might is a good idea to be a successful contributor. You need to be different in a crowded place full of contributors.
On average, contributors need to upload about 100 contents before they get their first download. However, it’s not a benchmark. It all depends on the quality (and type) of contents you uploaded.
Earning and payment
Finally, this is the part you have been waiting for.
Just for a motivation. You can earn up to 30% of the sale price of your content. But remember that nothing is going overnight when it comes to business. It takes long process to reach that level. As a new contributor, you will earn 20% of the total sale. Looks high enough. Isn’t it?
But remember that Shutterstock is a microstock agency, which means that your photos are sold in a cheap price. Again, your photos are not sold individually (like Getty Images). Instead, they will be sold as packages. You will earn commission every time Shutterstock consumers download your photos. If calculated individually, your photos cost about $1 to $2. So, you will earn about $0.25 per photo downloaded. In other words, your photos need to get downloaded by 400 times to earn $100. Sounds challenging.
Your percentage rate will increase once your lifetime earnings increase. Lifetime earnings is the total amount of earnings you have earned from Shutterstock. Take a look at table below to check the percentage rate based on the lifetime earnings status.
|Your Lifetime Earnings as a Contributor||Monthly Subscriber Image||Percentage Rate|
|$0 - $500||$0.25||20%|
|$500 - $3,000||$0.33||25%|
|$3,000 - $10,000||$0.36||28%|
Shutterstock offers four payment methods which you can choose based on the service you use. The methods are PayPal, Payoneer, Skrill and Bank check. You can set the minimum payout yourself, but it should not lower than $50. In Shutterstock, payments are calculated at the end of every month for contributors who meet their minimum payout amount and are eligible to receive payment. If you selected the payment via Payoneer, PayPal or Skrill, the payment will usually be sent between the 7th and 15th day of the month.
Unless you are a full-time photographer, relying on Shutterstock as the main source of income might is not a too idea since the process of reaching minimum payout isn’t easy. Shutterstock is one of the world’s most popular microstock agencies with thousands (or even millions) contributors. The competition is crazy.
Conversely, it also has a big potential to become your major source of income, if you are good at finding loopholes and reading the market demands. The platforms itself is great, with an easy-to-use dashboard. Related to commission, everything is transparent. It also has a good community and supports. By far, Shutterstock is still one of the most recommended places to sell your photos and illustrations.