Microstock Overview > Microstock Sites > Shutterstock (Dreamstime, iStock, Bigstock, Fotolia, 123RF, Deposit Photos)

Becoming a contributor

You may find it difficult to get accepted initially on Shutterstock. You will have to upload ten of your best photos for approval, and seven of these ten must be accepted for you to become a contributor. Failing this, you must wait another 30 days before trying again. Note: Do not submit any of the photos from your original acceptance attempt when applying the next time.

If you fail the first time don’t take it personally, and do try again. Four Oaks Online suspects that this may be a ploy to discourage the “not so serious” photographers.

Using Shutterstock

Uploading is quick and easy, and photo categories are simple and easy to choose from. If a keyword is misspelt Shutterstock will automatically suggest the correct spelling for you.

Photographs must be technically sound and free of digital noise to be accepted. You may need to use a program like Noise Ninja if your image quality is not up to scratch but don’t over do it. Images can be severely degraded if noise reduction is applied too aggressively. The minimum image size is 4 mega-pixel.


Earnings should start within a day or two of your photos being accepted. Although you may find this rather exciting, these sales soon start diminishing unless more new work is uploaded. However, this has still been my best earning site to date.

My best month thus far was $203,39 in June 2008, with 540 images in our Shutterstock portfolio.

Photographers are paid $0,25 per download and $20,00 for an Extended License download. An increase is awarded when overall sales exceed $500,00. Downloads then earn $0,33c each and Extended Licence sales $28,00 each.

As at August 2008 Shutterstock also offer On Demand sales. Payment to the photographer for these sales varies from between about $0,86 to $3,60 per download.

Other features

Shutterstock also run probably the best forum for microstock contributors.

Four Oaks Online site rating



March 2010: My best month so far was January 2010, with earnings of $488.09 from approximately 2100 images in the portfolio. Shutterstock's $0.33 payments have been increased to $0.36. Overall, Shutterstock remains the leading site in terms of revenue for photographers.

March 2012: October 2011 is now my new best month, with earnings of $674 from approximately 3300 images. Shutterstock now offer a total of 18 million images!