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Selling Photos Online with Shutterstock

Last updated on: 13th Apr 2023
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Did you know that you can earn by selling photos online and that it is one of the easiest and most fun ways to make money online? You are engaging in a creative process, maybe travel, doing things you love to do, and earn money with it.

It is also a great way to create a passive income stream. Your pictures will be available for customers to purchase long after you have uploaded them. 

Are you wondering how to sell pictures online and make money? Keep reading!

About Stock Photo Sites in General

In general, what stock photo sites do is handling the promotion, sales, and administration of pictures that photographers upload.

Exclusive stock agencies may offer single pictures for hundreds of dollars. These are called conventional or macrostock agencies.

Microstock agencies offer images for prices as low as $0.25 per download.
There are several types of plans, going from pay-per-download to subscription or credits-based plans.

Photographers get a part of this earning in the form of a fee.

Who is Shutterstock

Programmer Jon Oringer founded Shutterstock in 2003. He created an online marketplace where clients could download images. The initial collection started with 30.000 from his own stock photos.
This collection started to grow fast after other contributors began uploading.

By now, Shutterstock holds over 300 million images from over 1 million contributors.
They have offices worldwide, including New York, Montreal, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Singapore, and Toronto.

Shutterstock is a microstock agency that focuses on offering its clients Royalty-Free content through a subscription-based licensing model. This means that you, after buying the rights to use an image, do not have to pay additional royalties.

As they were among the first to implement subscriptions, they have an excellent base and a considerable amount of customers, downloading image after image.

Customers pay a flat fee that will allow them to download (buy) a certain amount of images per month.
Shutterstock also offers an on-demand pack that allows downloading a limited amount of images.

What is Different with Subscription-Based Platforms?

Well, for one thing, your earnings per downloaded image will be less. But…
On the other hand, you will likely receive a lot more downloads as customers can download a lot of images per subscription. 

Don’t think of selling photos as instant cash. It is a passive income stream, which means that you will receive earnings from your images as long as they are online.
In the end, price X volume X time will tell you how much a photo has earned you.

The most significant advantage of subscriptions is that it is more resilient
If you have a month with fewer downloads, subscription-based will still earn you some money

In numbers: 10 times $0.50 instead of 15 times will still make you $5, whereas 0 times $7.50 instead of 1 time $7.50 will leave you with nothing.

How to Sell Photos Online and Make Money with Shutterstock

The first step is to create a free contributor account. After you have confirmed that your email address is correct, you will have to provide your address information.

After that, you will have to submit some of your best work to be reviewed. Make sure that you read the Submission Guidelines and that your images are of the best quality.
There are different guides for submitting photos, illustrations, vector illustrations, and videos.

If you don’t pass the review, then don’t get too frustrated.
Just read the review, check your images or create new ones and try again.

Once you are accepted, the process remains pretty the same. You upload your images, create titles, descriptions, and keywords for them, and submit them for review.
If they pass, they appear in your portfolio and are ready to be sold.

There is also a contributor forum where you can ask questions, learn from others and find tips and tricks.

Once your balance reached the minimum payout threshold of $35, you will receive your earnings through PayPal, Payoneer, or Skrill.

If you have any questions, then reach out to customer support.
They respond in minutes if you ask anything on their chat!

How to Maximize Your Income

You need to realize that you are not the only one trying to earn from selling photos online.
These tips for selling photos online might help you increase your chances of earning with them.

Ensure that all your submissions comply with the guidelines and that they are of the best quality you can deliver. 
Quality is a process. Keep educating yourself and use professional software to refine your raw images.

You don’t have to be unique, but originality will make you stand out.
Imagine that, with over a million contributors, new images of daffodils aren’t very much in demand. Find another flower or create a unique composition.

Keep a calendar if you want to take advantage of seasonal trends. Uploading a batch with romantic-themed pictures on the 13th of February is too late for Valentine’s Day.

Check the work of others. Find inspiration in what they upload and find out if there is demand for that. If so, try to do better.

Frequently browse through the popular searches section. If a niche fits your personal preferences, then start planning shoots that deliver in that area.

And don’t forget that Shutterstock has an affiliate program.
Share a referral link on your blog, in your emails, or on social media to earn a percentage.

Is Selling Photos Online Profitable

There are too many factors to give you a straightforward answer. Some people are making a living out of it; some see it as a side hustle.

The way I see it is that you are making money doing something you love to do. 
Instead of letting those images catch dust on your hard drive, you are now making them earn for you.

Is Shutterstock Legit?

Most definitely yes.
I know that Shutterstock doesn’t rank high on TrustPilot. Still, I can only imagine that it has to do with the fact that many people take pride in what they create but can’t handle rejection too well.

I worked with Shutterstock before, and I can only be positive about how they treat their contributors.
Customer support is fast and excellent, and I had no issues whatsoever with payments over the years.

At this moment, I am in the process of dropping my exclusivity with another stock site so that I can reactivate my Shutterstock account.

Sharing my Experiences

You’ve read that I was a contributor before, so let me share my experience with them.

I tried it

Years and years ago, I found a site for selling photos online, and it intrigued me. I saw making pictures as a nice hobby, but I wanted to improve myself. If people were paying for my photography, it would mean something.

Finding that site made me wonder: Can I make money selling photos online? Is it worth selling photos online? Should I sell my photos online?
Not much later, I found Shutterstock, and I joined them too.

I never found Shutterstock to be anything else than very contributor-friendly.
Their user interface is straightforward to comprehend and will make it easy to work in batches.

I Like It

I have to admit that it has been years ago since I sold my images on Shutterstock.
The only reason I left Shutterstock was to go exclusive with another agency. As said before, I’m coming back home.

It Made Me Money

Back then, to me, it was more about learning than earning
I invested the money I earned in better, professional, equipment and software like Photoshop and Lightroom, but I had fun with it and learned a lot.
It allowed me to buy some nice hardware upgrades without having to use my regular income.

So, can you really make money selling photos online? Yes, you can!


From my own experience, I can say that it is possible to make money from selling photos online.

I used Shutterstock for a couple of years, and I can recommend them to anyone. It is an excellent site for selling photos online!

They are also great for beginners as they put a lot of effort into making things as easy as possible. The biggest issue you might encounter as a beginner is finding original images to contribute. 

Selling photos online, in general, is a great way to start a passive income stream. Some of the images uploaded years ago are still making money.

So? What are you waiting for? Join Shutterstock now.

What’s Next

Please share your questions or experiences with Shutterstock in the comments, and if you like this post, please share it!

As always, I am grateful to every visitor. Without you, I would be writing these posts. Thank you! You are awesome!

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Hi there!

My name is Jip, and I created the Side Gig Longlist to learn all I can about blogging and making money online.
Having decades of experience in information technology, I decided to explore all the non-technical aspects of blogging, marketing, and promoting.
I also happen to like sharing the things I know and learn with others.
This blog is my platform to experiment, learn, and share.

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