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How to Become a Shutterstock Contributor

How to Become a Shutterstock Contributor in 2022

Are you interested in learning how to become a shutterstock contributor? Shutterstock is one of the best platforms that can be used for a specific purpose. Likewise, you can buy and sell photos, clips, illustrations, and vectors.

Shutterstock has one of the most popular and unique microstock sites around. Marketing agencies, media outlets, and corporations alike from all over the world turn to Shutterstock for their commercial and editorial needs.

Over 100,000 photography professionals contribute to the Shutterstock Library.

Shutterstock Snapshot

  • Founded by photographer John Oringer in 2003
  • It is headquartered in New York City, but has a global presence
  • The Shutterstock Contributor community worldwide has received half a billion dollars from Shutterstock over the past 15 years.
  • More than 150,000 images are added weekly
  • Featuring over 200 million stock photos, vectors, and illustrations
  • It has been publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange since 2012
  • In 2016, Shutterstock reported that it had more than 100,000 contributors
  • It has an active customer base of 1.4 million people in 150 countries

How much can you make as a Shutterstock Contributor?

How much can you make as a Shutterstock Contributor

Shutterstock contributors earn revenue each time an image approved by a customer is downloaded. The amount of payment depends on two things: the license and subscription used for each download, and the level of your earnings.

Customers buy photos using one of two options: subscriptions and on-demand. Your earning level is based on your lifetime earnings, a Shutterstock subscription and on-demand downloads. Shutterstock has four lifetime earnings levels:

  • Tier 1: $0 – 500
  • Tier 2: $500 – $3000
  • Tier 3: $3000 – $10,000
  • Tier 4: $10,000+

Shutterstock Contributor’s Referral Earnings

In addition to making money by selling your own photos, Shutterstock contributors can also earn money by referring other photographers/contributors. During the first two years after a referred contributor is approved, you earn 4 cents each time one of their photos is downloaded. For videos, for the first year after your referring contributor is approved, you’ll earn 10% of the sale price every time someone downloads one of their clips.

You can also earn by referring clients to Shutterstock – 20% of the first payment, up to $200.

Keep in mind that Shutterstock reserves the right to hold your referral payments for up to 90 days from the date on which the contributor or subscriber you have referred created their Shutterstock account.

Read about 7 Best Freelance Websites to Make Money.

How to Become a Shutterstock Contributor

Shutterstock recently implemented several changes to make it easier for photographers to contribute their photos.

  • Simplified registration process. To become a Shutterstock contributor, all you have to do is enter your address and contact information, and then start submitting content. This makes it easier for shareholders to start making money.
  • Submit content. Shutterstock’s newly designed Contributor Content Uploader makes it easy to tag and categorize your content. It now offers suggested keywords, the ability to make multiple selections, and simpler options for content status. All this makes finding your content easier and reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to upload images.
  • Getting paid. Shutterstock now pays via Paypal, Payoneer, Skrill or check.

Shutterstock Account Registration

Shutterstock Account Registration

To be a Shutterstock contributor, you must be at least 18 years old. You also cannot share an account with anyone else. Depending on which country you are in, you must provide any legal documents – such as tax forms – that your country requires. You can only open one Shutterstock account unless you give you permission to open a second account.

  1. You must be the sole owner of any images or videos that you contribute.
  2. Your commercial images cannot include any kind of copyrighted material, such as sculptures, artwork, architecture, etc. To use, you must submit the versions.
  3. Images intended for commercial use may not contain any identifiable trademarks, logos or marks (such as license plate numbers). To use, you must submit the versions.
  4. You may not submit images that have been created in a “human rights infringement” manner.
  5. Do not add watermarks or copyright to your photos.

Shutterstock Contributor Account Regulation

  • Shutterstock will warn you, and eventually terminate your account, if they see recurring issues with your account activity or content submissions. Examples include:
  • Re-submit the same photos that were previously rejected without addressing the reasons for rejection.
  • Share a Paypal, Payoneer, or Skrill account with another contributor.
  • Submit photos they feel are ‘overly inspired’ by someone else’s work.
  • Copy someone else’s full description and keywords for their photo(s).
  • Spam address – i.e. repeating a word in the title
  • Spam Keywords – Use of keywords that are not related to the image.
  • Re-add keywords after they’ve been removed by the admin, edit the caption edited by the admin, or add restricted keywords after your content has been approved.
  • Use of inappropriate words (eg, sexy, nude, etc.)

Shutterstock Releases

Shutterstock requires more versions than some other microstock sites. Any commercial image that includes a recognizable person requires an adult-appropriate version or a secondary form. Pictures of private property require property release.

  • Nudity: Shutterstock allows nudity of “artistic value”, but the model must be at least 21 years old and a version and photo ID of the model must be provided. Shutterstock has sole discretion as to whether or not nude images are accepted. Images must not be x rated or contain any illegal content.
  • Artwork: Images that contain artwork—including sculptures, paintings, architecture, etc.—require property versions as well.
  • Old Images: Shutterstock may choose to accept old images if they are not in the public domain, but they must have a model and/or proprietary versions.
  • 3D Interiors: Interior 3D images must have a version of the software you used to create the image and that you have the right to license the content in the 3D rendering software.

The Bottom Line


Shutterstock is one of the most popular microstock sites in the world. As a shareholder, Shutterstock has many advantages. Their payout percentage is higher than some other microstock sites, the minimum payout amount is lower than most other sites, and they offer a few different options to help you make more money. Shutterstock is also non-exclusive, so you can share the photos you post on Shutterstock on other non-exclusive microstock sites.

Remember, when submitting to Shutterstock, you should upload new images regularly, rather than uploading them all at once. This allows your images to be displayed in the recent content area, increasing the exposure of your image.

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