Selling at Shutterstock

Why not make some money while enjoying the wonders of photography? With this thought in my mind, I have explored various stock image sites and sold some photographs too. Here is a list of pointers to improve your sales if you are thinking of selling at these stock-images sites.


(A photograph of hills. This image has been selling quite frequently on Shutterstock for reasons unknown to me. Nikon Df with Nikkor 18-35mm lens)

After registration, most of the stock image sites require one to pass an initial quality check test. The basic requirements are-

  • The image size should be more than a minimum size (4MP for shutterstock).
  • The image should be properly exposed. The histogram should be well bodied and spread across all the values. This rules out submitting any high or low key images for the quality test.
  • The sharpening should not be excessive or very low. (Sharpening). This is very important point that shutterstock considers.
  • The main subject should be well in focus with no signs of unintentional camera shake.
  • The photograph should not have any easily recognizable properties (buildings, monuments etc.) or faces. If they are there, a separate property release or model release is to be submitted which in my opinion is wasting your time and energy for passing the initial check.


Once you have cleared the initial quality check, you are now ready to use those images that have been lying around unused on your computer. For quick sales, follow these suggestions –

  • Use photos that have area around the main subject for inserting text. Too tight a crop is not good for selling images.
  • Stock image sites sell images for general use and not as works of art. Upload images that are clear, well exposed, sharp and can be used for various purposes.
  • Film grains, blurs, low or high key images, abstracts and other such terms which are commonly seen in fine art photography do not sell much on stock image sites.
  • Keep more than one images of each subject. Sometimes people buy similar photographs with minor differences to use in their projects.
  • Be on the look out for trends. Travel photos sell a lot before vacation seasons. Photographs of christmas decorations, trees and candles fetch good money before Christmas.
  • Keep model release ready if you are submitting pictures of people. For recognizable buildings, monuments, established brand-names etc, a property release is mandatory (Model Release).
  • For photographs meant for editorial purposes the above releases can be overlooked. (You wouldn’t try to get a model release from the heads of various countries after clicking their group photograph in a convention, would you?)
  • Search on the site for the images that are already available. It is futile to click more photographs of what already exists in plenty. Instead focus your efforts on adding something new.
  • Even photographs that you consider terrible may serve someone’s purpose. Remember- one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I have heard stories where people have paid good amount for photographs of dump-yards and even sewer pipes since that was what they were looking for.
  • Amount of earnings increase when you have a huge collection of photos available for sale. Remember that just creating an account will not generate money, sale of your photographs will! So, upload as many photographs as you can. You never know what your next customer might be interested in.



(This photograph has also been selling like a hotcake on Shutterstock. Earlier it was lying idle on my computer and now it has provided me enough money to buy some camera accessories)


Some of my photographs that have won prizes and admiration of many were rejected by stock-image sites. Few more such photographs are just lying idle without any buyers on these sites. On the other hand, quite a few of the photographs that are mediocre have sold multiple times. I use stock image sales as a supplementary source of income. For me photography is a passion rather than a business. I click photographs as I want to instead of what actually sells.

Why not sell the countless photographs that are already lying unused on your computer? Go ahead and start selling them.

I prefer shutter-stock for selling my images. Alamy and Getty Images are two other popular options. Shutterstock has subscription model and a single photograph can get sold many times. These small earnings add up pretty fast. If you are interested in selling your images there, visit – Submit images to Shutterstock

(If you sign up with the above link, it will help me through their contributors referral program. You will not be paying anything extra and there won’t be any deductions in your earnings from Shutterstock due to this referral program).


Why sell at all?

Extra buck or two doesn’t harm. Does it? Sometimes there petty amounts can add up to let you buy that piece of photography equipment you have been longing for. Money is obviously the main reason. There are two more reasons why I recommend selling on these stock image site –

  • Their quality check standards keeps your own photography quality above a minimum level. I now know the sharpness level that the site accepts and so now automatically that has become my bare minimum standard when it comes to tack sharp focus and sharpening applied during post-processing.  The same concept applies to focus, overall clarity of idea etc.
  • The second point that I tell is about the ideas that you might get. The stock image sites have a better collection of photographs than instagram, facebook, pinterest or any other non-stock image sites. Sure, these sites may have large numbers but with practically no quality check. Browse the photos on shutterstock on any subject and compare the quality of photographs on the same subject on instagram… and you’ll know what sells. In fact, if it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t sell. There has to be some substance in the composition, for it to sell.

So, sell on shutterstock, just to improve your own photography.


Increase your earnings

Here are some things to consider if you want to increase your earnings further –

  • Quality sells. No matter what people say, at the end high quality images sell more than average quality ones.
  • Numbers add up. I have said it earlier and I am repeating it again. Upload as many photographs as you can. Even your discards might be useful for some. Keep adding photographs to your collection.
  • Don’t click to earn. Capture photographs of what you love. Enjoy your photography and let your earning happen on their own.
  • Think of uses your photographs might have. Keep those in mind when you upload photographs. One such instruction that I had earlier provided is to keep enough space all around for text to be inserted.
  • Be aware of what is going on around you. Latest trends, news, burning topics sell more than simple landscapes.

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