Photographer's Freedom

Beginner – Better – Business

How To Make Money Selling Stock Photos

You really can make money selling stock photos! You may not make your fortune doing this but you can earn a decent amount of money if you do the right things.

This post will explore Shutterstock, one of my favourite stock websites. I am not affiliated with them in any way, I have just found this to be the site I have made the most money from. I want to help you do the same.

Why Shutterstock For Selling Stock Photos?

As I said above, Shutterstock has been the most successful stock website for me. I find that I get more sales on Shutterstock, though I am signed up with other sites.

I find they are less picky about the photos they choose. For example, I signed up to Alamy a long time ago, and I found them to be extremely rules-driven when it comes to accepting images. They expect perfection and if you don’t deliver it – your photo wont be considered.

Shutterstock are a little more lenient. However, I have had images rejected by Shutterstock before also. This was due to various things, including visible logos and incorrect white balance.

How To Sign Up To Shutterstock

Firstly, you want to go to At the time of writing this blog post, the home page looked like this:

how to make money selling stock photos - shutterstock contributor home page screen shot
The Shutterstock Contributor home page as of 5-11-19

Click on the Get started button and the form below will come up.

how to make money selling stock photos - screen shot of shutterstock sign up form

Simply enter your Full Name, a display name (your “handle” on Shutterstock), your email address and a password for logging in.

After you have done this, you will see a pop up telling you that you need to verify your email address. Go to the email account you entered and you should see an email from Shutterstock.

Upon clicking the link in the email, you will see a window saying “Thanks. Your email has been verified.” After you click Next, you will have to enter some more details and you can also go in a set up your Profile.

Uploading Your First Stock Photos to Shutterstock

On your profile page, you will see a red button that is labeled “Upload Images.” Click on this to begin uploading.

The Shutterstock Contributor upload window.

Above you can see the Upload window. It’s so easy to upload your pictures, simply drag and drop them into the centre of the screen, or click on “Select multiple files.”

The images you choose will start uploading and will show a progress bar. Make sure that the images you upload are at least 4 megapixels or larger.

shutterstock upload window screen shot
Shutterstock Contributor image uploading.

When they have uploaded, click Next.

Submitting Your Photos

Once your images have uploaded, you will be taken to the Submit page. This is where you add a description for your pictures, put them into Categories, and assign keywords so they can be found in search.

The Submit page on Shutterstock. This is where the magic happens……

This step is extremely important. DO NOT MISS ANYTHING HERE. This step will mean the difference between actually selling images and sitting there, wondering why you are not getting any sales.

I will give you some tips in regards to this page in a bit….

Once all the information on the page has been filled out, click Submit and the image will be added to the Pending tab.

Shutterstock will review the image and notify you when it is live on the site for people to purchase.

Tips For Getting More Sales on Shutterstock

So now you’ve uploaded your images, just sit back and watch the dollars roll in!!!

I wish it were that simple. There are however some ways to increase your chances of making more from your stock photos, and I’ll tell you what they are right now.

3 Tips For Getting Your Stock Photos Found

how to make money selling stock photos - shutterstock submit page screen shot showing image options such as description and keywords
  1. Keywords – in order for your images to be found and purchased, this is the most important thing you need to get right.

    Use keywords that describe the image literally. Also use some that describe the mood of the image, or what it might be useful for.

    You can see on the right here that Shutterstock gave me some suggested keywords. Now not all of these will be relevant, but some are quite useful.

    You can see that I chose obvious things like “rock” and “pebble” and “beach” which describe things in my image. Also notice that there are keywords that relate to the mood of the picture, like “simplicity” and “peace.”

  2. Image Description – this is just as important as the keywords. In fact, it should contain as many keywords as you can cram into 200 characters!

    You can see that I have described the image in detail but also added information like “room for copy on the right.” This is important, as some people may be looking for a picture they can put text on.

    If your image has space for text, then say that it does. I used room for copy but space for text would do also.

    Notice I also added the words peaceful, reflection, meditation, and spirituality. These are all words someone might use when searching for an image like this.

  3. Use All That Is Given – Shutterstock allows 200 characters in the description, and up to 50 tags. You can see that I did not use all of these but I want you to make sure that you do.

    I know it can be hard sometimes to come up with the right amount of characters or keywords. However, the more you have, the more chances your image has of being discovered. Use all that is given.

Good Luck

womans hand with fingers crossed on grey background
Good luck to you

In summary, making money selling stock photos is not just about taking good photos. The quality of your shots matters, but not as much as the SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

You can have thousands of fantastic pictures online, however they wont be found by anyone if they don’t have the right keywords.

Be sure to put a lot of effort into taking decent photos however. Get everything right in-camera. Stock photography is a very different style. Look at lots of stock photo sites and see what type of images people are uploading. You will get a feel for what you need to shoot.

One Final Tip

Shutterstock send out regular emails with handy tips and hints in them. Make sure that you read these emails and learn from them. Especially the monthly Shot List. This lets you know what is selling, so you can take the right shots and increase your chances of a sale.

Good luck and thank you for reading How To Make Money Selling Stock Photos. Try my How To Make Money As A Photographer post for more tips about photography business.

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