How to Become a Shutterstock Contributor (Sell Your Photos)

How to Become a Seller in Shutterstock: A Comprehensive Guide

Zeshan Abdullah - Author
November 11, 2023
3318 0

Are you wondering why you should consider becoming a seller on Shutterstock? Here are compelling reasons to motivate you to take the plunge into the world of stock content creation:

  1. Earn Money: Selling your photos, illustrations, videos, and music on Shutterstock can be a lucrative endeavor. It offers a platform to monetize your creative skills and generate a steady income stream. Shutterstock pays you royalties for each download or purchase of your content.
  2. Global Exposure: Shutterstock is a massive marketplace with a vast user base, including designers, bloggers, advertisers, and businesses from around the world. By becoming a seller, your work will reach a broad and diverse audience, increasing your visibility and potential for sales.
  3. Passive Income: Once your content is uploaded and approved, it becomes available for sale 24/7. This means you can continue to earn money while you sleep, making it an excellent source of passive income.
  4. Build a Portfolio: Shutterstock provides a platform for you to build and showcase your online portfolio. It's an opportunity to develop your brand as a creator and gain recognition for your work within the stock content industry.
  5. Flexible Work Schedule: As a Shutterstock seller, you have the flexibility to create and upload content at your own pace. You can work from anywhere and manage your own schedule, making it an ideal option for those looking for work-life balance.
  6. Variety of Content Types: Shutterstock accepts a wide range of content types, including photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and music. This diversity allows you to leverage your skills in multiple creative areas.
  7. Community and Support: Shutterstock offers a supportive community of fellow contributors and resources to help you succeed. You can learn from experienced contributors and access helpful tips and guidelines.
  8. Contribution to Creative Projects: Your content can be used by individuals and businesses worldwide to enhance their creative projects. You become a part of the artistic ecosystem, contributing to various visual and audiovisual endeavors.

By becoming a seller on Shutterstock, you not only open doors to financial opportunities but also have a chance to share your creative vision with the world. So, if you're ready to turn your passion into profit and gain global recognition for your work, let's get started on this exciting journey.

Step 1: Creating Your Shutterstock Account

Before you can start selling your content on Shutterstock, you need to create an account. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  1. Visit Shutterstock: Open your web browser and go to the Shutterstock website (
  2. Click on "Become a Contributor": In the top menu, you'll find a link labeled "Become a Contributor." Click on it to begin the process.
  3. Sign Up or Log In: If you already have a Shutterstock account, you can log in. If not, click the "Sign Up" button to create a new account.
  4. Choose Account Type: You'll be asked to choose the type of account you want to create. Shutterstock offers both a "Contributor" and a "Customer" account. Select "Contributor" to proceed.

Once you've chosen to become a contributor, you'll be required to provide some essential information:

Username: Choose a unique username that will be associated with your contributor account.
Email Address: Provide a valid email address for account notifications and communication.
Password: Create a strong and secure password for your account.

After filling in your details, click the "Next" button to proceed with the registration process. You may be prompted to complete a CAPTCHA verification for security purposes.

Terms and Conditions: Read and accept Shutterstock's terms and conditions. It's essential to familiarize yourself with the contributor agreement to understand the platform's guidelines and expectations.

Verification: Shutterstock may require you to verify your email address. Check your email for a verification link and click on it to confirm your registration.

Complete Your Profile: Once your account is created, you'll need to complete your contributor profile. This includes adding your personal information, payment details, and tax information. This information is crucial for Shutterstock to pay you for your content.

Upload a Photo for Your Profile: Add a profile picture to make your account more personal and appealing to potential buyers.

That's it! You've successfully created your Shutterstock contributor account. You're now ready to start uploading your content and embarking on your journey as a Shutterstock seller. In the next steps, we'll guide you through preparing your content, uploading it, and managing your portfolio for optimal results.

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Step 2: Preparing Your Content

Now that you have your Shutterstock contributor account, it's time to prepare your content for submission. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Content Types: Shutterstock accepts various content types, including photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and music. Determine the type of content you want to create and ensure it meets the platform's quality standards.
  2. Quality Standards: Your content should be of high quality, with good composition, focus, and resolution. Ensure that your images are sharp, well-lit, and free from noise or artifacts. For vectors and illustrations, they should be well-designed and easily adaptable for various purposes.
  3. Model and Property Releases: If your content features identifiable people or private property, you'll need model and property releases to protect the rights of individuals and property owners. Be sure to obtain these releases when necessary.
  4. Keywords and Descriptions: You'll need to add descriptive keywords and titles to your content. These are essential for potential buyers to find your work. Use relevant, accurate, and specific keywords to maximize discoverability.
  5. Categorization: Choose appropriate categories and subcategories for your content. This helps buyers navigate and locate your work more easily.

Here are some additional tips for preparing your content:

  • Research Trends: Stay informed about current design and photography trends. Creating content that is in demand can increase your sales.
  • Edit and Retouch: Use image editing software to enhance your content. This may involve color correction, retouching, and other adjustments to make your work stand out.
  • Consider Commercial Value: Think about how your content could be used for commercial purposes. Generic, versatile content tends to sell well.
  • Legal Considerations: Ensure that your content doesn't infringe on copyrights, trademarks, or other intellectual property rights. All your content must be original or properly licensed.
  • Metadata and Copyright: Understand the importance of metadata and copyright. You retain the copyright to your content, but Shutterstock will have a license to sell it. Make sure you're comfortable with these terms.
Content Type Key Considerations
Photos High-resolution, well-composed, and free from artifacts.
Illustrations/Vectors High-quality designs that are versatile and adaptable.
Videos High-definition videos with clear audio and appealing content.
Music Original compositions with potential for various uses.

By following these guidelines and considering the specific requirements for each content type, you'll be well on your way to creating content that is attractive to potential buyers on Shutterstock. In the next step, we'll guide you through the process of uploading your content to the platform.

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Step 3: Uploading Your Content

With your content prepared, it's time to upload it to your Shutterstock contributor account. Follow these steps to ensure a smooth submission process:

  1. Log in to Your Contributor Account: Visit Shutterstock and log in to your contributor account using your username and password.
  2. Access the Contributor Dashboard: After logging in, you'll be taken to your contributor dashboard. This is your hub for managing your content.
  3. Click "Upload Content": Look for the "Upload Content" button, often located prominently on your dashboard. Click it to start the upload process.
  4. Select Your Content: You'll be prompted to choose the type of content you're uploading (photos, illustrations, videos, or music). Select the appropriate category for your content.
  5. Choose Files: Click the "Choose Files" or "Select Files" button to open a file dialog. Locate and select the files you want to upload from your computer. You can often upload multiple files at once for efficiency.
  6. Fill in Metadata: For each file, you'll need to provide metadata, including titles, descriptions, and keywords. Use relevant, accurate, and specific keywords to improve the discoverability of your content.
  7. Select Categories: Choose the appropriate categories and subcategories for your content. This helps buyers find your work within the Shutterstock marketplace.
  8. Model and Property Releases: If your content features identifiable individuals or private property, you may need to upload model and property releases at this stage.

Some key tips for uploading your content:

  • Batch Upload: To save time, consider batch uploading multiple pieces of content that are similar or belong to the same category.
  • Consistent Quality: Ensure that all uploaded content maintains consistent quality, style, and resolution to maintain a professional portfolio.
  • Review Metadata: Double-check the accuracy of your metadata, as it greatly influences the visibility of your content to potential buyers.
  • Follow Guidelines: Adhere to Shutterstock's content guidelines and standards to avoid rejections and ensure a smooth approval process.
  • Content Exclusivity: Decide whether you want to offer your content exclusively on Shutterstock or make it available elsewhere.

Once you've filled in all the necessary information and uploaded your content, you can submit it for review. In the next step, we'll explore what happens during the review and approval process.

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Step 4: Review and Approval Process

After you've uploaded your content to Shutterstock, it goes through a review and approval process to ensure it meets the platform's quality standards. Here's what you can expect during this step:

  1. Review Time: The review process may take some time. It typically ranges from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the volume of submissions and the type of content you've uploaded.
  2. Quality Evaluation: Shutterstock's review team assesses your content's quality, adherence to guidelines, and suitability for the marketplace. They check for factors like focus, composition, and noise for photos, and design quality for illustrations.
  3. Metadata and Categorization: Reviewers also evaluate the accuracy and relevance of your metadata, including titles, descriptions, and keywords. They ensure that your content is appropriately categorized.
  4. Model and Property Releases: If your content features people or private property, reviewers verify the presence of required model and property releases.
  5. Rejections: In some cases, content may be rejected due to quality issues or metadata inaccuracies. Shutterstock provides feedback to help you understand the reasons for rejection.

Here are some tips to increase the chances of your content being approved:

  • Quality Control: Prioritize high-quality content with clear focus, good lighting, and appealing composition. Avoid noise, artifacts, or over-editing.
  • Accurate Metadata: Ensure your titles, descriptions, and keywords accurately represent your content. Avoid misleading or irrelevant information.
  • Model and Property Releases: Make sure to have proper releases for content featuring identifiable individuals or private property. This is critical for approval.
  • Learn from Rejections: If your content is rejected, use the feedback provided to understand the issues and improve your future submissions.

Once your content passes the review process, it becomes available for purchase by Shutterstock customers. It's essential to maintain consistent quality and adhere to guidelines to ensure the ongoing approval of your submissions. In the next step, we'll guide you on how to manage your portfolio and track your content's performance on Shutterstock.

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Step 5: Managing Your Portfolio

Once your content is approved and available on Shutterstock, it's essential to effectively manage your portfolio to maximize your success as a contributor. Here's how to do it:

  1. Regularly Update Your Portfolio: Keep your portfolio fresh by adding new content regularly. This not only attracts more buyers but also boosts your visibility on the platform.
  2. Monitor Performance: Shutterstock provides tools and analytics to help you track how your content is performing. Pay attention to download statistics and earnings to identify trends and popular content.
  3. Promote Your Portfolio: Share your Shutterstock portfolio on your social media profiles, website, or blog. This can help attract more potential buyers and increase your sales.
  4. Optimize Metadata: Regularly review and update the metadata of your content. Keep titles, descriptions, and keywords accurate and relevant to improve discoverability.
  5. Respond to Customer Feedback: Engage with customer feedback and reviews. Address questions or concerns promptly and professionally to build a positive reputation.

Here are additional tips to manage your Shutterstock portfolio effectively:

  • Diversify Your Content: Offer a wide variety of content types, styles, and subjects to cater to different customer needs and preferences.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with design and photography trends. Creating content that aligns with current demands can increase your sales.
  • Participate in Shutterstock Challenges: Shutterstock occasionally hosts challenges and contests for contributors. Participating can help you gain recognition and increase your earnings.
  • Network with Fellow Contributors: Connect with other contributors on the platform. You can learn from their experiences, gain insights, and potentially collaborate on projects.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Define achievable goals for your Shutterstock portfolio, such as the number of uploads, earnings targets, or portfolio size expansion.

Managing your portfolio on Shutterstock requires dedication, creativity, and adaptability. By staying proactive and responding to customer demands, you can build a thriving contributor career. Remember that success may take time, so patience and persistence are key to achieving your goals.

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Here are some frequently asked questions that can provide you with additional insights into becoming a successful seller on Shutterstock:

  1. How much can I earn on Shutterstock?Your earnings on Shutterstock can vary widely depending on the quality and popularity of your content, as well as the demand for your work. Some contributors earn a modest income, while others generate a substantial revenue stream.
  2. Can I sell the same content on other platforms?Yes, you can choose to sell your content on multiple platforms. However, keep in mind that Shutterstock offers an exclusive program that provides higher commissions to contributors who make their content exclusive to the platform.
  3. Do I need professional equipment to get started?While professional equipment can enhance the quality of your content, it's not a strict requirement. Many successful contributors start with consumer-grade cameras and gradually invest in better equipment as they gain experience and income.
  4. How long does it take for content to be reviewed and approved?The review process can vary, but it typically takes a few days to a couple of weeks. Be patient and ensure that your content meets Shutterstock's quality standards and guidelines.
  5. Do I retain copyright of my content?Yes, you retain the copyright to your content when you upload it to Shutterstock. However, you grant Shutterstock a license to sell and distribute your work on the platform.
  6. What can I do if my content is rejected?If your content is rejected, you'll receive feedback from the review team. Use this feedback to understand the issues and improve your submissions. You can then re-upload the improved content for review.

These are some common questions that new contributors often have when starting their journey on Shutterstock. If you have more specific or detailed inquiries, you can refer to Shutterstock's official documentation or reach out to their support team for assistance.


Congratulations! You've reached the end of our comprehensive guide on how to become a seller on Shutterstock. We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and practical steps to kickstart your journey as a Shutterstock contributor. Becoming a successful seller on this platform requires dedication, creativity, and continuous learning. Here's a quick recap of the key takeaways:

  1. Why Become a Seller on Shutterstock: We explored the many benefits of selling your content on Shutterstock, from earning money and gaining global exposure to building a diverse portfolio and enjoying the flexibility of remote work.
  2. Creating Your Shutterstock Account: We walked you through the process of creating your contributor account, emphasizing the importance of accurate information and terms and conditions acceptance.
  3. Preparing Your Content: You learned the significance of content quality and the importance of obtaining model and property releases when necessary. Proper metadata and categorization were stressed for discoverability.
  4. Uploading Your Content: We guided you through the process of uploading your content, highlighting the need for accurate metadata and category selection for each file.
  5. Review and Approval Process: You gained an understanding of the review process and the importance of adhering to Shutterstock's quality standards. Rejections were discussed, along with the need for learning from them.
  6. Managing Your Portfolio: We discussed the importance of regular content updates, monitoring performance, promoting your work, and optimizing metadata. Diversification and staying informed were also emphasized.

Your journey as a Shutterstock contributor has just begun. With patience, persistence, and a commitment to producing high-quality, in-demand content, you have the potential to build a successful and rewarding career. Whether you're a photographer, illustrator, videographer, or musician, Shutterstock offers a global platform to showcase your creativity and earn money from your passion.

Remember that success on Shutterstock may take time, but with dedication and ongoing improvement, you can steadily increase your earnings and make a name for yourself in the world of stock content. We wish you the best of luck in your Shutterstock journey, and may your creativity flourish and your contributions shine!

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