How does Shutterstock make money

Make money with stock photography

Uploading images to a stock photography company like Shutterstock is easy, free, and can be quite rewarding over time. When you contribute to Shutterstock, you retain copyright to your work and receive royalties every time a member downloads one of your photos. Below we've outlined the main licensing plans, how to distinguish yourself as a stock photographer and how to play the numbers game.


Do you need pictures for your project? Shutterstock's impressive archive of millions of images can help! Check out what our library has to offer.


What do customers buy images?
At Shutterstock, customers have the option to purchase a monthly or annual membership, which gives them access to our entire library and up to 750 image downloads per month. For those who only need a few images, there is also an on-demand model where users can pay to download a limited number of images (e.g. 5 or 25).

Our image library is powered by content from Shutterstock providers. Vendors always earn a percentage of the price Shutterstock receives for licensing their images, which ranges in 6 levels from 15% to 40%. As a provider, you graduate through levels based on your number of downloads in a calendar year. The more satisfied customers buy from your image portfolio, the faster you will get through the individual stages and increase the percentage you earn with each license.

How can I stand out as a stock photographer?

  • Avoid artificial images: When most people think of stock photography, the first thing that comes to mind are those cheesy shots of employees laughing in the break room of an office or lovers looking longingly into each other's eyes on a beach at sunset. When you take such clich├ęd photos, users won't download them, so stick with natural and believable images.

  • Respond to the media: The latest smartphones have features that were unimaginable a few years ago, including built-in cameras that take HD photos / videos. In fact, the latest generation of phones can even take pictures in 4K, a better quality than many cameras on the market. Most people view content on their phones, tablets, and computers anyway, so please keep this in mind when compiling photos for contemporary use.

  • Play the numbers game: Quality is definitely important in stock photography, but you also need to focus on quantity. We recommend that you set yourself a monthly goal (e.g. 50 to 100 pictures) to stimulate your income. The more images you have in your portfolio, the more consistent your source of income will be.

  • Be universal: Don't be afraid to do general work as long as it is useful for a specific audience. You must also be careful not to show any trademarks or person in your work unless you have express permission.