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 month. 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.
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.
www.microstock.top - Statistics from publicly available shutterstock profiles, listings of top hotographers (by upload)