Shutterstock - A One Year Review

I have been a photographer/illustrator with Shutterstock for a year now, and I've learned a lot. I've done some things well, and some things I am still learning, but overall it's been a good experience. 

Getting Started at Shutterstock

Wood fired kiln - detail

Wood fired kiln - detail

I bought a camera, a Canon EOS Rebel, last July 2016 right before I went away to summer arts camp. As a matter of fact, I spent several hours after I got there reading the manuals and looking quizzically through the viewfinder trying to figure out what I was doing enough to take a picture out in public without looking like a total idiot.

I took a few pictures that week during camp, and some of them have since licensed out. However, I was so underconfident in my picture taking ability, that I submitted vectors instead of photographs when I applied to Shutterstock. I figured they would be able to tell that I was a complete amateur, and I was pretty much correct. My vectors got me accepted, but very few photos made the cut.

Learning How to Use the Camera

Since I had invested in this camera, I thought it would be a good idea to learn how to actually use it, so I took a Photography 101 class at my local community college. That resulted in a lot of aha moments wherein I figured out a little more about the camera each week. It also resulted in more photographs being accepted, and more sales.

Learning What to Shoot

If you think you are going to find a subject that hasn't already been covered in the microstock world, think again. Someone has covered it, but there's also the chance that you have a particularly good angle on a subject that no one else has.

Mike and his first prosthesis

Mike and his first prosthesis

My breakthrough series happened to be a group of photographs I took of my husband. He lost his leg to cancer in early 2016, and he was still learning to use his first prosthesis when I shuffled him down to the local high school bleachers to do a photo shoot. He obliged my whim, and we spent maybe 20-30 minutes taking pictures. One of those pictures is now licensed almost daily on one microstock or another. It is my best selling photo on Shutterstock by far.

Working With Shutterstock

My largest online portfolio for the microstock portion of my work is definitely with Shutterstock. Working with them has been a very positive experience. If you are just starting out in microstocks, I would recommend Shutterstock to be your starting point for easy submission and quick wins.

Shutterstock has a great keyword finder tool that's very helpful, and they approve or decline photos very quickly, usually in a couple of days but sometimes in as little as an hour, depending on how backed up they are. While that may sound not fast, let me assure you that there are sites that take more than a month to review your work, so a couple of days is nothing.

Additionally, Shutterstock has a low payout threshold of only $35, so you won't be waiting until next year to get your first payout. 

Overall, I have been very pleased with Shutterstock, and it is making me money. Like any other site, the more images you have, the more likely your portfolio is to be found. However, when I started, I was working two outside jobs amounting to 60 hours per week, so my ability to go all in was just not there, but I still made money even on a severely limited time budget. So remember that you can start a side gig with microstocks, even with a job and family and all kinds of other obligations. It will grow over time even if you only get to put in a few hours per week. Why not give Shutterstock a try?