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Shutterstock Monetization | Sell Photos

Shutterstock Monetization

Do you know that you can make money from the photos you take? It is possible to earn money through websites that stock photos. By learning Shutterstock monetization methods, you can earn income from the photos you enjoy taking. You can start making money by uploading your photos that you believe will attract attention to the site.

Shutterstock Monetization
Shutterstock Monetization

One of the biggest problems in websites, banners, social media platforms and special projects is the copyright of the images used. Designers prefer to work with free and copyright-free images. But this can become extremely limited and far from originality. As the importance of visuals increases, the search for original photos also increases. Stock photo platforms are also becoming more frequently used. Professional photographers upload their work to these platforms to make money selling photos.

Shutterstock is one of the most preferred stock photo platforms for its image variety and quality. Thousands of artists who have taken the opportunity to make money with Shutterstock have received more than $1 billion in payments from the company in 19 years. The company has made it a point to provide more profits to artists who gain traction. The more works customers license, the higher the commission rate the artist receives. There are currently more than 405 million images on the site.

Read more For other business ideas other than making money by selling photos, you can check our article titled Making Money from Social Media 2023.

Making Money Selling Photos

Every photo has a story. This story can have the value that website owners, designers and content producers are after. Especially on some special occasions or with different concepts, there may be many people and institutions that want to use the photos taken. Stock photography is a sector that emerged to meet this need.

Stock photo copyrights are photos that are taken by the relevant platform for a certain price, stored on the site and sold to third parties. Those who want to make money by selling photos sell the copyrights of their works to stock photography companies for a fixed fee or commission rate. The website sells the photos for a fee. Usually, the money earned for the photographer is a commission per download and license. The rest becomes revenue for the website. The way Shutterstock works is in line with the first model, which works on commission.

How to Make Money with Shutterstock

Shutterstock is one of the most established stock photography platforms. Making money with Shutterstock is quite easy. To start earning income on the site, you need to create an account in the Shutterstock contributor section. Account holders upload their content to the platform. After these two easy steps, the photos are ready to be displayed for users.

While Shutterstock pays royalties to photographers for their work, the site provides users with royalty-free photos. When a user downloads a photo on the platform for a fee, they gain the right to use that image as they wish. As he only gets the right to use it, not the copyright, he cannot make money by selling it to someone else. He cannot prevent someone else from using it.

If the user does not want the image to be used by someone else, they can license the work. In this way, he buys the copyright held by the platform. Shutterstock is no longer entitled to make money for the licensed work. For the photographer, this can be a disadvantage. The site eliminates this disadvantage by increasing the commission rate as the number of licensed products increases.

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Selling Shutterstock Photos

Among the factors that have made Shutterstock so popular are its experience in the industry, its portfolio of photos, and its customer base. Behind the development of these factors is the company’s success in selling photos. Shutterstock uses a variety of strategies to sell photos.

User-friendly design

The ease of use of the site is important for someone in search. Shutterstock’s design and tools help those in need of images quickly.

The right categories

The platform creates categories based on the search words most used by image seekers. Categories such as stock men, stock women, stock wedding photos facilitate the search.

Trend tracking, information and innovation

The platform keeps a close eye on trends to respond to demand. News images are among the most lucrative of Shutterstock monetization categories. In addition, Shutterstock creates categories that stand out during certain periods, such as Mother’s Day and wedding season. In its annual reports, Shutterstock provides information about the most searched words, the most in-demand colors of the year, etc.


The transparency of the site also makes it a center of attraction for artists and users. Earning policy and commission rates are clearly written on the website.

Shutterstock Alternative Sites

Shutterstock is one of the most trusted and used stock photo platforms, but there are alternatives in the market. Alternatives to Shutterstock can be found in the list below:


It is one of the most institutionalized stock photography websites. The company was founded in 2000 and acquired by Getty Images in 2006. In order to maintain quality standards, the platform sets certain rules for those who want to register.


Fotolia, Adobe’s website, was established in 2004. It allows you to benefit from Adobe’s quality and extensive database. It pays a commission per download. Commission rates range from 33 percent to 38 percent.


The company was founded in Ukraine in 2009 and acquired by Vistaprint in 2021. Commission rates range from 30% to 38%.

Shutterstock Average Earnings

Those who want to make money by selling photos can start working as a member of one of the platforms that provide stock photography services. Since you cannot upload a photo to more than one site at the same time, you need to find the most profitable site for you. You can make your decision by learning the average earnings of Shutterstock.

First of all, the main Shutterstock monetization method is revenue per download. For every photo downloaded, you get a portion of the amount the user paid. The commission rate starts at 15%. As your photos are purchased by users, the commission rate increases.

Number of Photos Sold in a YearCommission Rate
0-10015 %
101-25020 %
251-50025 %
501-250030 %
2501-2500035 %
More than 2500040 %

Other ways of earning from the platform are referrals. If an artist signs up with your referral, you will earn $0.04 from the downloaded images. If you refer a customer signup, 20% of the first payment will be credited to your account. The maximum payment in this way is 200 dollars.

The average income per photo ranges from $0.44 to $1.19. As your photos are purchased, your earnings will approach the ceiling.

Is Shutterstock Reliable?

Shutterstock is transparent for both artists and customers. Detailed information about their working principles, earning rates, and packages can be found on their website. In the blog section of the site, information such as the company’s earnings, the countries where the most money is paid, the highest earning artists are shared transparently.

Which is the Best Art Selling Website?

The best art selling site depends on what you expect from the site. This is determined by your level of professionalism, as well as the company’s terms of participation and earning opportunities. Before deciding on Shutterstock monetization, you can check out the comparison of commission rates.

  • Shutterstock: 15%-40
  • iStock: 15%-45
  • Fotolia: 33%-38
  • Depositphotos: 30%-38

In addition, the following points may also help you decide.

  • At Shutterstock, you can earn 20% on your referral’s first sale through customer referral.
  • With Depositphotos, you can earn 40% commission by joining their exclusive revenue sharing program.
  • If you sell over 25,000 photos, the commission rate on Depositphotos and Shutterstock is almost the same.
  • Fotolia has a minimum payment of $25.
  • iStock rates differ for non-exclusive and exclusive programs. Commissions for works you designate as exclusive photos start at 25%.
  • Referring artists is another way to make money on Shutterstock. If the works of the artist you refer are sold on the site, you can earn a certain amount of income from their earnings.

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