Shutterstock Contributor Review

Our Shutterstock Contributor Review contains everything you need to know about selling stock media with Shutterstock.

Make informed choices about where to sell your stock images. Is Shutterstock right for you as a contributor? Read on to find out. Also don't miss out on their Shutterstock coupon code here to save big.

Part 1: Shutterstock Contributor Royalties

Shutterstock is a well established stock agency. They are the industry leader in many ways.

Sales are very regular. Acceptance rates are high. Both the buyer facing and contributor facing websites work well and are regularly updated. All these positives leads to a very positive Shutterstock contributor review. Thus, they get our highest rating of any agency!

Over the last few years Shutterstock have added many new image licenses that they aren’t giving too much information about. Mostly (they tell us) they target high-volume corporate clients. Suffice to say though, these new licenses are earning contributors a lot of extra income. Some individual sales are netting people anywhere from $16 to $120 per image.

This is very welcome news, especially when some other sites seem to be dropping prices or commissions. Yet again Shutterstock seems to know how to win both buyers and contributors alike.

The even better news is that these ‘single image on demand’ sales, (or SOD) are increasing in frequency. This is helping push up the return per image (or RPI) of most contributors at Shutterstock.

They struck a deal with Facebook, meaning that every time someone uses an image that Facebook makes available in its advertising system from Shutterstock, the contributor gets paid a subscription-rate download royalty. As you can imagine, this has huge potential for a whole lot of sales.


20 - 30%


Stock photos
Editorial photos
Vector illustrations
Footage (including 4k)
Audio (invite only)


Credit packs
High-volume corporate rates

Part 2: Shutterstock Contributor Website & Apps

Not everyone likes upgrades to existing tools. Especially when you are very familiar with the old ones.

In the last few years site upgrades have brought some negative comments from contributors. But overall, it seems they are making an effort to overhaul what is an old code base dealing with hundreds of millions of images. Not an easy task.

2019 was a busy year for contributor related site upgrades. First was the upgraded image upload and editing pages, making image submissions generally easier. It included automatic keyword suggestions and the need to only upload an EPS file for vectors (instead of EPS + JPG).

At the end of 2019 they released a refreshed contributor dashboard that works on multiple devices (responsive, in other words). This also included an updated world map with an easier way of seeing where your images were licensed.

Finally, Shutterstock refreshed the customer facing portfolio pages for contributors. This is where you can show off your logo, bio, website link and sets of images. A welcome addition was the long-requested ability to group videos into sets as well.

You can't deny that the website has everything a contributor needs, and 99% of the time it works well. Features include:

  • FTP upload
  • Simple model release attachment
  • Automatic keyword suggestions
  • Real-time (or close to it) sales reporting
  • Gimmicky (but kind of mesmerising) world sales map, that tells you where your latest image purchases have come from.

Shutterstock Contributor is the mobile app for contributors who want to upload images on the road. You can check your sales, as well as get notifications of image reviews and more.

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Part 3: Shutterstock Contributor Earnings Experience

Let's be honest – any Shutterstock contributor review worth its salt needs to get talking about earnings. After all, that is why we are in this business, to make some money from what we love creating.

Shutterstock's slice of the pie has shrunk for me in recent years. At one time, they made about 60-70% of my stock income. Now they represent about 30-40% of my monthly income. I'm not sad about that. I'd rather have other agencies doing well too. Less reliance on one single agency is always a good thing.

That said, this agency is still a consistent earner with a proven track record of decent dealings with their contributors.

Yet they did change their Enhanced License payout from a fixed $28 royalty per sale to a percentage based scale. This effectively means a pay cut for contributors from January 2016 onward. Although it is not a welcome move for sellers, it does fit in their existing royalty tier structure. Custom Image (or SOD) sales are paid on the same percentage scale – 20%, 25%, 28% & 30% for the top tier.

Despite the library growing at a huge rate, contributors still report good earnings. Whatever Shutterstock are doing behind the scenes is working. They keep the client base growing and the contributor income (for many, at least) growing as well. Or at least, keeping steady for long-time contributors.

They also have become a major player for stock footage sales, competing with the popular Pond5. Their pricing for video footage is very good and their sales are steadily growing in this media format. For me they would represent the second highest earner for video, behind Pond5.

While they do sell audio, this isn't open to the general contributor. They make private arrangements with select contributors. They also focus on music more than other audio types like sound effects. Whether this will change in the long run is anyones guess.

Shutterstock Contributor Review Highlights


Regular daily sales but mostly subscription


Between 20% and 30%, top tier achievable


Modern website and mobile app available


Photographers, illustrators & film-makers

Part 4: Shutterstock Contributor Recommendations

Shutterstock works equally well for photos, vectors & video footage. All are in high demand here.

Shutterstock's search model favours new images quite heavily, although not as much as it used to. They have introduced new search functionality recently that has changed things around a bit. But all agencies keep tweaking their search results. Sometimes you win, other times you loose. But in the end it all seems to even out so that with any new search change you never get punished too heavily.

The one thing that used to put people off Shutterstock was their initial image acceptance test. You can read our tips for passing it and increase your chances. But there is great news in this regard – they have changed their requirements for the initial test, making it much easier for new contributors. Instead of having to pass 8 out of 10 images, you now only need 1 to pass successfully! Even still, this initial test can be tricky. But then again, you are asking to be part of the world's best selling stock library! Just give it your best, and keep on trying. The results once accepted more than make up for it.

My Shutterstock contributor review advice is simple – Sign up. Sign up now. You will not regret it.

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