Zenfolio | Autumn Sky Photography | Shutterstock Review

Stock Agency Reviews

Various stock agencies I am contributing to are listed on this page.  Reviews are based on individual experience.  Click on agency you want to learn more about on the sub-menu below.

Shutterstock    iStock    Alamy    Dreamstime    Adobe Stock


Shutterstock is probably best micro-stock agency around.  Main selling model is subscription based, which has slashed down individual image price and is in the root of agency popularity.  On surface it has poor impact on contributor earnings, but quantity more than adequately makes up for it.  Often quoted saying is that it is "better to sell an image 100 times for 25 cents, than 1 time for 25 dollars".   Other purchase model is "a la carte" (on demand), which pays considerably more but happens less often.   Biggest contributor reward lies in "Enhanced License" territory where images are sold for extended, commercial usage (such as book covers, calendars, etc.)


For anyone thinking about getting into stock,  Shutterstock would be my first recommendation  -- if your images don't sell here, they likely won't anywhere else either.  My best selling image on Shutterstock site is taken in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania in February 2010:

Serengeti IconsSerengeti IconsElephant and Acacia Tree Landscape in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa

Due to fairly unique composition it caught up and has several downloads weekly.  You can find my Shutterstock portfolio here

Contributor Earnings Breakdown

Earning Tier (Lifetime) Subscription

On Demand (Small/Med)

On Demand (Any)

Enhanced License
$0 - $500 $0.25 $0.81 $1.88 20%
$500 - $3,000 $0.33 $1.07 $2.48 25%
$3,000 - $10,000 $0.36 $1.17 $2.70 28%
$10,000+ $0.38 $1.24 $2.85 30%

In 2017 Shutterstock introduced SOD ("Single and Other") purchase model.  Contributor earnings wildly fluctuate -- from subscription price on low end to as high as $70-$80 on the other end.  Shutterstock does not support exclusive contributors. 

Contributor Experience

If you are interested in becoming Shutterstock contributor, process is quite easy.  At one time it was necessary to submit 10 samples of which 7+ needed to pass fairly strict technical acceptance criteria, but now only 1 image is required.  Follow this link to register as submit your initial image.

Quality Acceptance (QA) is very fast and often happens in less than 24 hours.  Editorial submissions have to follow specific caption format which is strictly enforced.  This is often one of hottest topics in contributor forum, as it tends to create fair amount of confusion.  Metadata (captions, keywords) can be modified any number of times after QA acceptance.  Overall I find QA process to be very good and believe that Shuterstock Reviewers are doing very good job.