You might have thousands of followers or even an influencer side hustle, but there’s another way to monetize your content. Here’s how to get started with stock.

There are 95 million photos and videos shared on Instagram every day. That wouldn’t be possible without millions of Instagrammers creating beautiful imagery.

By submitting your photos and videos to Shutterstock, you’ll be joining a community of 550,000 contributors who create content that our customers depend on. Because of our contributors, we have a library of 245 million images and 13 million footage clips—and growing—with more than 1.5 million assets added weekly.

We support a global community of talented contributors. To date, we have paid $800 million to our contributors. By cashing in, it doesn’t mean you’re selling out: we offer contributors a non-exclusive partnership, which means you retain your artistic freedom and the content remains in your name.

So if you’re interested in turning your Instagram content into cash, here are five tips to becoming a Shutterstock contributor.


Tip #1: Take stock

The content you create, whether it’s photos or videos, is known as “stock.” (Our library also includes audio clips and illustrations.) It’s up to you whether you create content specifically for stock or upload archived content, such as photos or images from your Instagram account. The stock you create allows you to license your content and sell it repeatedly so it will be earning you money until your grandchildren have Instagram accounts (if that’s still a thing by then, but you get the idea).

Tip #2: Give them what they want

We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of what our customers want by analyzing our search data and listening to feedback. In turn this makes it easier for you to create stock that our customers will want. Here are some of the main elements to consider for your next photo or video shoot:

Take “Stock” of Your Instagram and Make It Work for You — Give Them What They Want
Strive for authentic, real-life moments. Image by Peathegee Inc

Keep it real. With mobile technology, everyone has a camera in their hands and is taking pictures or videos in the spur of the moment, creating authentic, everyday images. In other words, customers are far less likely to buy stock photos with modelesque colleagues laughing around a water cooler.

Take “Stock” of Your Instagram and Make It Work for You — Keep it Real
Showcase diversity in your work by including people of all ages, races, ethnicities and cultures. Image by Min Mohd

Diversity matters. We live in a diverse world, and being able to share content over social media in an instant has brought us closer (virtually) than ever before. Your work should reflect this reality by showcasing people of different ages, abilities, genders, sexualities, and ethnicities.

Take “Stock” of Your Instagram and Make It Work for You — Diversity Matters
We live in a diverse world: so show it. Image by Chris Wise.

Get local. Workplace culture differs around the globe. So, showing business people greeting each other by shaking hands might not make sense in Asia where it is customary to bow.

Take “Stock” of Your Instagram and Make It Work for You — Get Local
Dare to be a bit different. Image by Rafa Fernandez

One of a kind. Highlight the individuality that got you a following on Instagram and create images that can’t be found anywhere else.

Take “Stock” of Your Instagram and Make It Work for You — One of a Kind
Make sure to capture different shots of the same subject. Image by Canvan Images

Mix it up. Make sure you include a variety of different shots of the same subject to give your customers as much as possible to choose from.

Take “Stock” of Your Instagram and Make It Work for You — Model Releases
Obtaining a model release is important if you want to increase your earning potential. Image by Tania Cervian

Do the paperwork. Obtain model releases before every shoot. Why? They increase your earning potential big time. Without them, images can only be used editorially.

Tip #3: License to sell

As mentioned above, when you contribute to Shutterstock, you keep the copyright to your work. You will receive a royalty whenever a subscriber downloads one of your photos. What you earn depends on which payment plan consumers choose. Users can purchase a monthly or yearly subscription, where they have access to the image library and up to 750 image downloads per month, or à la carte, where they pay to download a specific number of images, such as 2, 10 or 25.

So, you’ll get more if the user downloads your image as an “On-Demand Image” (any size) versus a Monthly Subscriber Image. The user also has the option to buy an Enhanced Image for merchandising purposes. In this instance, you can earn 20% of the licensing fee (up to $80).

As an extra incentive, as you earn more, you’re paid more. Your royalty rate will increase once you’ve hit the $500, $3,000, and $10,000 earnings levels. As a new contributor, for example, you will earn $1.88 for every On Demand Image download, but once you make $500, that goes up to $2.48.

Tip #4: Words are important

You may have the greatest work in the world, but if no one can find it on the Shutterstock site then you’ll be missing out. That’s why making sure you have accurate keywords and titles on your images, illustrations, and videos is key. Once you become a contributor, you’ll have access to our keyword search tool that recommends the best keywords to help you improve the searchability of your work. For more tips on how to get your work discovered through keywording, see our blog post and Shutterstock Contributor Success Guide.

Tip #5: Get inspired

We know it can be easy to fall into a routine and take the same pictures over and over. But change is good, right?

For inspiration, be sure to check out our monthly “The Shot List” that gives you inspirations of what to shoot based on what people are searching for on the Shutterstock site.

Motivated? Get started today by visiting submit.shutterstock.com and sign up to be a contributor. Also, be sure to check out and follow our Shutterstock Contributor Instagram account. Who knows? Maybe your photo or video will make an appearance there soon.


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