Our Review: 

Anyone who has arrived here to learn more about #boycottshutterstock, I think this article on insideimaging sums the greed up quite well

Founded in 2003 Shutterstock is the largest subscription based photo agency in the world. They now add well over 1 million images to their collection each week. Shutterstock has reached one of the top positions in the marketplace by being innovative: they were the first to offer subscription microstock, first microstock agency to offer video footage and the first of the big microstock agencies to crowdsource editorial images. In April 2013 Shutterstock reported selling two images every second, more than 250 million images since launch.

Good quality statistics always make me happy, how many people have viewed my portfolio, and any sites that don't allow me to see just how many people are online and browsing make me nervous (I admit some of the biggest sites don't need to do this - you know it's going to be a lot of people with them), but when other smaller sites don't provide full information, just a box with "you have made 0 sales" I tend to be suspicious. Shutter stock is a site that provides excellent stats for numbers munchers like me.

Sales at shutterstock have a definite bias towards recently uploaded images, and acceptance of more unusual subjects is high (shutterstock appear to be letting their technology and users decide if an image subject will sell rather than the feelings of a reviewer). If you can get accepted then it's a good place to start selling and see immediate sales. Sales do tend however to 'drop off' for older images in your portfolio.

The red carpet program (shutterstock login required for access) offers services to photographers who are looking for assistance in accessing events for editorial photography.

Important note about the 'cost of a standard credit'
Shutterstock is a subscription service and you get paid each time one of the subscribers downloads an image, the subscribers pay different amounts for different lengths of subscription, I've based my cost of $0.50 per credit on their one day, 25 image download limit for $49. This is not really a good comparison to the other sites which allows a single download.

The subscription system at one time placed shutterstock into a different market compared to the other microstock sites, although other sites have copied and now offer subscriptions (compare subscription microstock sites) shutterstock is still well in the lead in this market segment. Shuterstock is still microstock, but it's microstock aimed square-on at the design professional or design group, not Joe Bloggs and his three hours on Sunday afternoon webblog. From what I can see from my results it's a good market to serve. I also feel that people are slightly less careful about what they download if they have a subscription, as they have the freedom to download a small selection of images and try them out in a design without paying any more than if they just downloaded one final image. This process saves the designer collecting comp images and then going back to download the full sized image for the selected design and rework it all. (obviously the designer has limits on their accounts and can't afford to go over those limits so they will only download images that they think they really need).

This site has carved out a slightly different market segment, and is difficult to compare directly to the other sites, but after several years of sales I have seen good results placing the site a number two in my top ten list.

Price per image below is calculated from the 'On Demand Subscription', (5 images any time over 1 year for 49USD). Images are significantly cheaper if a regular subscription is taken. Shutterstock also own the smaller microstock agency bigstockphoto which allows them to concentrate on their core business of subscription microstock and also take a share of the 'pay as you go' market.

Shutterstocks image collection grew by 10 million images in the 6 months to August 2015. As of 2020 they have 300 million images.



Shutterstock have been top of the sales ranking since overtaking istockphoto in 2010. Earnings (2015) from shutterstock for me are 5x that of their nearest competitor - and not too far from being more than all other agencies combined. "SS" Should be top of your upload list.



Visit the shutterstock photographers area


Useful Shutterstock Links:

Shutterstock.com/explore/the-shot-list - Shutterstock monthly updated list of what is in demand



Site Details
Media Types (in addition to RF Images): 
This site accepts editorial images
This site accepts glamour photography
This site accepts video footage
(sort by agency)
Real US$ Cost of 1 Standard Image: 
9 (compare prices)
Referral Scheme: 
Yes - 20% on sales of new subscriptions. As of 2013 no payment for photographer referrals previously $0.03 per image download from referred photographers forever. (compare rates)
Cost of a standard image (1600x1200) 2MP approx: 
9 Credits
Royalty Rate: 
From Jun 2020: Tiered in 6 Levels from 15% to 40% dependent on downloads Prior rates were $0.25 per image downloaded, $0.30/33 after $500 worth of downloads (compare)
Cost of 1 Credit (basic): 
$ 1
FTP Upload: 

Address: ftp://ftp.shutterstock.com
Username: Your email address


Length of Subscription (1,3,6,12 month),
Monthly: 25 images-vectors/day $249
Annual: 25 images-vectors/day $2559
(multiseat licenses on request)

(compare subscriptions)
Reseller: JSON YAML Perl (details: api.shutterstock.com) (list all)
Site Statistics
Approx. size of photo collection (0 = no current estimate): 
300,000,000 Images (compare)
Alexa Traffic Rank: 
153 (a measure of the site popularity, lower number is better)
Alexa 3 Month Change: 
-23% (measurement of the increase of site popularity compared with three months ago, negative is a decrease)
fan page link (list all)
@shutterstock (list all)
shutterstock.com (apr/13)
Overall Rating: 
9/10 (compare sites)

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2008-11-08 06:25
They ask me to scan my passport to verify my identity. Even banks don't do that. What's the point of doing that? Thank you.
Steve Gibson's picture

Proof of Identity

Steve Gibson on Tue, 2008-11-11 06:03

I'm not sure which country you are from, but where I live, yes the banks do ask for your passport and/or several other forms of identity to prove you are who you say you are when you open an account, and they take a photocopy of it.

Most of the microstock sites which require ID will let you obfuscate details like your passport number if you are nervous of giving out this info, and most accept just a drivers license. If they did not do this then how would they guarantee to their customers that you were a genuine individual selling photos that you had shot instead of a villain who was stealing other photographers work?

Come and live in Australia, I need photo ID to go an buy a drink in a bar, and I'm 33!!!

Steve Gibson
Microstockinsider.com Editor


Anonymous's picture

There's a difference between

Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 2009-01-16 21:03
There's a difference between showing someone your ID once at a bar and scanning in a copy of your ID and giving them a copy. The difference is that they now have a physical copy of your ID. What are they doing with that copy? What good is photo ID if there's no one physically standing there to verify it against? What good is photo ID in a community of professional photo shoppers? Any of the security controls for determining real or fake ID (such as texture, holograms, raised lettering are only verifiable on the actual ID itself. Do not give out your personal identification online unless you are looking for trouble!
Carol's picture

I agree. I applied to

Carol (not verified) on Fri, 2013-09-06 19:57
I agree. I applied to Shutterstock and reluctantly sent them a copy of my passport. I live in NYC legally, but I'm not an American citizen, so they asked me to also send them a copy of my visa. That was just too much for me. I felt uncomfortable enough giving total strangers a copy of my passport. They want my visa as well? Fuggedaboutit. I signed up with Dreamstime instead.
Anders's picture

Shutterstock is good

Anders (not verified) on Wed, 2009-03-11 21:05
I have mad quite a bit of money on Shutterstock. You dont have to be a professional photograper. It's a great way to pay for your camera equipment. Try it out - there is nothing to lose... Shutterstock 
Anonymous's picture

Giving Out Government Isuued ID

Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 2009-04-23 05:58
Last night I signed up on shutterstock and they asked me to scan my passport to them. I'm just wondering if there is possible that in the future some hackers can hack their "security" servers and get all those passport copies information and use them illegally. And, by giving out personal ID to shutterstock, does it means all the rights of the pictures will be own by them and not the photographer?
Steve Gibson's picture


Steve Gibson on Thu, 2009-04-23 07:00

Hacking is always possible (but unlikely), but that is why any secret or restricted government information on computer is only ever allowed on computers that are on a network that is physically isolated from any network that could be accessed from the Internet. If you work in such a place you have two machines on your desk, or work in separate offices for secret and non secret data

A couple of the agencies ask for scans of ID (and I don't like it either, the only way they get away with it is because they are two of the biggest). Most other online services either post something to your address, make an automated phone call or send/take money from your credit card or bank account to confirm your ID. I'm not sure why microstock has to be different.

I sent my drivers licence, and stamped the word duplicate across it in semi transparent text. Most forms of ID have copy protection devices built in, but this is more a point of identity theft than someone taking the scan and pretending to be you in person.

There would be far more personal data available if hackers broke into the computer of the bank that you use, and not all banks use things like digital certificates or tokens, some just have secure logins like the microstock sites.

Sending your photo I'd has no effect on the ownership of the images, they still belong to you. The sites ask for your ID to protect them against fraud, some people steal photos, upload them for sales then take the money they earn and disappear, this helps to make that rare.

Send your comments to their customer support, If enough people complain about it then perhaps they will use some other method for verificiation in the future

Shutterstock are tested daily by McAfee Secure, I trust them as to 1000's of others, so the choice is yours.

Ph0neutria's picture


Ph0neutria (not verified) on Sat, 2012-06-09 06:13
Before I uploaded my ID I had written over copy that it's for Shutterstock. Even if someone gets my copy of ID it couldn't be used.
Anonymous's picture


Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 2010-11-13 17:10
Beside the "gestapo/soviet" like process of ID verification (many weeks to get accepted just because I am not an US citizen and due to a complete ethnocentric and racist view of the world very typical of a certain kind of US corporations (not all of them fortunately), I realized that their main goal seems to cast out anyone standing out of the box. Who would like to work with prejudice oriented people ? It reminds me of the era of G.W Bush and I had clearly the impression of being suspected of some kind of plot just because I dared to register as a contributor. Not talking about picture selection which is strangely done very, very quickly with no valuable reason for rejection given whatsoever. As for support (what they call ironically their "friendly and knowledgeable support", when you ask a question, they don't answer but send you spam about completely different subjects. Is it total incompetence, arrogance or complex of superiority ? I will never know as I have no time to loose with totalitarian corporations.
Steve Gibson's picture

I can see why that was an

Steve Gibson on Mon, 2010-11-15 00:19

I can see why that was an anon comment!

ID verification is the only way an agency can find your true identity, they MUST do it to weed out those who steal the images of other photographers and try to sell them as their own to make profit. If you have nothing to hide then there is no problem with disclosing your ID. If you don't like it then use another site - you'll find that all of the major microstocks demand it.

I don't think race has any place in microstock, I'm not a US citizen either (but may as well be if you want to play a race card). Those comments about ethnocentric US might ring true for certain quarters of society I agree, but I'm fairly sure not from microstock. I doubt image reviews know anything more than your account nickname when they check your images. Most of the big agencies actively try to get themselves into markets outside the US by opening sales offices and multi-language support. You might argue that the whole world has become exploitative as it makes more sense for microstockers to work from a developing/semi developed country where costs are cheaper and sell to the US, but that's a big debate for another time.

Liz Milne's picture

ID for Shutterstock

Liz Milne (not verified) on Tue, 2012-06-12 12:51
Hiya, I wonder if you can give me a help, please, Mr G - you seem clued up on Shutterstock. I'm trying to sign up with them, I have sent my ID in three times now & they keep saying rejected, make sure it is in focus, & all as one file etc etc - I have a Zimbabwean passport, with right of abode in the UK, which is where I live - I used the front page of my passport, the visa page & a copy of a council tax bill (all in one pdf file); all in an attempt to prove who I am & where I live. Does that sound like what they need or should I use something else; unfortunately I don't have a driving licence or I would have used that straight away!? If you think the id detail is sufficient it may be that some of the wording is showing as blurry to them; they just haven't specified what it is they are don't like about what I've sent them! Many thanks :) Liz
Steve Gibson's picture

Contact Shutterstock

Steve Gibson on Thu, 2012-06-14 23:31
Hi Liz, I'm really not sure exactly what I can do to help, it sounds to me like you are sending enough ID to prove your country of residence, but thats not my decision to make. I'm assuming you have tried to contact them about the situation? they have contact forms and phone numbers on their site. "support@shutterstock.com" is the address currently listed
Anonymous's picture


Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 2011-03-22 15:29
One of the reasons ID is required is for tax purposes. If you can prove you are not a US resident then they do not have to deduct tax from your earnings, provided the country you live in has tax agreements with the US. In the absebce of ID they may assume US citizenship and deduct taxes from your earnings.
zrmedia's picture


zrmedia (not verified) on Mon, 2011-12-12 18:36
Shutterstock is the absolute bottom of the barrel. It’s the most arrogant stock site out there, which would be expected if it wasn’t also the worst stock site out there. For starters, they demand a passport or credit card number to even sign up as a contributor. No other stock sites have asked me for this much personal information and I can't believe they have the gall to begin a business relationship with such an insult. They also require you to fill in a "Captcha" blank whenever you log in, which is also insulting. I'm amazed that anyone ever signs up there, much less allows such a facist corporation to make the first dime from their hard work. I conducted an experiment after reading some negative comments about ShutterStock to see if it was worth my time to contribute: I uploaded 10 images. 4 were rejected for very vague reasons (they claim to make these reasons clear so that newcomers can learn from their mistakes, but no such luck). In addition, they make submitters wait an entire month before they can submit another 10 photos. This makes absolutely no sense and totally justifies all the negative things I’ve read about the site. So a month later, I submitted the exact same 10 photos. This time, 5 were rejected and 3 of the accepted ones had been rejected the first time! This proves that they have no set standards and whether you get accepted or not depends entirely on which reviewer you get and his/her mood on that day. Also, I have thousands of photos that I gave file names to for submission to other sites, and when I finally got accepted at ShutterStock and attempted my first batch upload, it failed due to a “critical upload error”. I looked for the problem in the forum and discovered that there can’t be any spaces in the file name or the transfer will fail. So I would have to rename thousands of files to upload them. All this trouble and you only make $0.25-$0.30 per photo. I posted my own comment in the forum about how ridiculous this was at The ShutterStock discussion forum and that comment was deleted within ten minutes. This level of arrogance is unheard of and it’s no wonder they’re steadily dropping in the rankings each month. There are plenty of other sites that review submissions properly, sell just as much content and don't treat you like a criminal at every turn. Trust me, folks, don’t waste your time.
Steve Gibson's picture

Consistent sellers

Steve Gibson on Wed, 2011-12-14 23:12

All i can say is they remain consistent top sellers for me (and a believe a lot of other contributors looking at some other sites/stats) you've chosen lot to let us all know what your portfolio consists of (vectors, illustrations, table top, models, landscapes etc) or it's size, so with little background info or evidence all I can do is take your comments with a pinch of salt - they just don't reflect anything else I have heard

Also lacking in credibility is the statement that nobody else asks for identity verification, I believe that all the major agencies have asked me for a scan of some kind either at registration or before initial payment. (or when such a policy is brought in then before the next payout).

Forums on agencies tend to be 'highly moderated'

Have a look at http://http://www.microstockgroup.com however they, like me, don't suffer dummy spitting and BS lightly.

Anonymous's picture

Mr. Steve Gibson

Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 2012-05-29 17:33
Mr. Gibson, we all see who do you working for... Shutterstock is no good. Even a registration is not working...
Steve Gibson's picture

Working for...

Steve Gibson on Wed, 2012-05-30 00:48

I think you might be among a very select few who think that shutterstock is no good.

Is there something in the review that seems biased or unfair? I've written my editorial standards here plus a disclosue about referral programs, I do not get paid to write these reviews... and I have plenty of harh words to say about the sites that are no good.

Anonymous's picture

+1After provided all the ID

Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 2012-10-03 19:03
+1 After provided all the ID copy etc to feel them safe. I had my 10 test photos rejected. They were all accepted by others sites such as Dreamtimes, fotolia among others (sites keeping quite good standard of quality for my impression). Fine, I said, they want to focus on other area of microstock photography. My frustration came when I found on their site similar pictures (of my city) with very poor lighting and/or composition at all. Random !
Dave's picture

You all sound like a bunch of

Dave (not verified) on Tue, 2013-11-19 04:10
You all sound like a bunch of hysteric chicks! The point is quite simple: SS sales well but has its standards. So, if you want to be a contributor you have to abide to those standards and accept their decisions about your files. Otherwise walk away, stop bitching around and use your precious time to contribute to other agencies instead! That's it...
Anonymous's picture

Isn't it possible

Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 2014-01-16 04:28
That rejections are par for the course, especially with new contributors? For instance, I am not likely to give up the best of the best when applying, I horde those files. Instead I try this and that to see what flies, SS knows you are holding out (like most probably do) and reject several (or all) to see if you will give up the goods on the second attempt.
Anonymous's picture

Shutterstock are assholes.

Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 2016-04-24 13:10
Shutterstock are assholes. Images which were shot under softboxes, perfectly lit, measured with light-meter, using live-view with 10x magnification and manual focus - were rejected for reason "Soft focus or blurry." Then images shot outside during a sunny day with a custom "sunny day" white balance on a Nikon d800e - were rejected for reason "incorrect white balance". Basically all the images other agencies accepted - Shutterstock rejects. Makes me think they either have visually impaired employee or some of their monitors are not properly calibrated. Or both.
Steve Gibson's picture

SS Rejections

Steve Gibson on Sat, 2016-05-07 00:21

They do have some perplexing rejection resasons, and I think now (2016) they and envato are the only regular culprits in arbitrarily accepting all or almost none of a batch that I upload (usually all or most images accepted, but randomly most or all in a batch are rejected).

It's the human component of the review process that is the problem and the range of cameras: If you look at an image from a mid range camera and lens after looking at something high end from expensive glass and it will always look dreadful; but if you look at the same photo after looking at a sequence of awful images from a cheap camera then that photo it will look great!

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