Shutterstock.com Review - Sell your pictures online

Shutterstock.com is a stock photo service which pays $0.25/download for any images you upload to their site. At first I was skeptical, but it seems like a good way to earn passive income. Shutterstock has grown in size as well as their payout to submitters. Not long ago they were paying out $0.20/download. The increase in payout is consistent with their growth as a business. Remember that the payout is per download. This means that the same image could earn you multiple payouts.

The same thing applies to Shutterstock as to any passive income system. The "get rich quick" crowd always makes the wrong assumptions. They think it's a one time deal with some initial work followed by a constant revenue stream thereafter. For those of us with any entrepreneurial experience, we know this isn't true. The income is never as great as advertised. The work is never as easy as promised. However, do your homework and you can make this worth your while.

Requisites

  • Amateur photography skills or better
  • Good digital camera (dSLR preferred)
  • Substantial existing image library

This system has its specific caveats just like any other. First of all, think about what you'll be doing: submitting photographs. Then think about who is buying these. People pay a flat monthly rate to download images from Shutterstock. These are graphic designers, web designers, brochure creators, etc. This audience expects quality stock photographs. Don't expect to submit your blurry, poorly composed vacation pictures. Nobody outside your circle of family and friends cares about these photos. They're worthless to the target audience. This means you have to submit quality content. That being the case, are you a decent photographer? If not, you might want to move on and find something else to do. If you are, then continue on.

Your target audience

  • Graphic designers
  • Web designers
  • Newspaper editors
  • Marketers (for promotional materials: brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, etc.)

Assuming you are a decent amateur photographer, there are other considerations in deciding to join Shutterstock. How big is your library? Remember that only a small percentage of your photos are worth showing the general public. First of all there's the repetition. You might take 20 shots of the same subject and only 1 is worth keeping. Of that 1 photo, maybe it's still not worth submitting. Assuming that anywhere from 1%-5% of your library is worth submitting, a large library gives you more to submit. The more photos you have already, the easier it will be to test out the service. Rather than commit to actively photographing content for submission, submit what you already have. Then you can live your life and check back once in a while to see if your content is being purchased. If it's not, then at least you can consider submitting future content until you find out what's popular.

A big issue among photographers is rights retention. Many of the larger stock image businesses will actually take ownership of any images photographers submit to them. What makes this service even more enticing to amateurs as well as up and coming professionals is that you retain ownership of your photos. Not only that, but the submissions are not exclusive. This means that you can submit those same photos to other competing services like 123RoyaltyFree.

Pros

  • Easy monetization of existing intellectual property
  • Allows you to submit the same photos to other services
  • Their customers are high volume downloaders
  • Flexible content management (edit tags at a later date, remove photos, etc)

Cons

  • Minimum $75 balance before they pay you
  • More profitable alternatives exist for serious photographers
  • Tagging of photos is time consuming (this is not specific to Shutterstock)

Here's another exhaustive review of the service from the VisuallyMinded blog.

Check back soon after I post my initial results with this service. I'll post the number of images submitted as well as how many were downloaded.