The images and videos that perform the best on Shutterstock consistently have a few things in common. Here are five qualities to look out for in your contributions to make sure they get as many downloads as possible.

1. They have “commercial value”

“Commercial value” represents the likelihood that your image or video will be useful to a creative buyer. Since many images are licensed for commercial, corporate, marketing, or advertising uses, the more attractive and usable an image is for a broad number of uses — including both editorial and commercial uses — the more it is considered to have “commercial value.”

varuna | Couple with tent near seaside

2. They have both literal and conceptual meaning

An image of a surfer riding a huge wave represents literal subject matter such as a “surfer,” “wave,” and “surfboard.” But some images of surfing illustrate abstract concepts such as “risk,” “adventure,” “excitement,” “danger,” and more. Images that have both literal and conceptual meaning are more likely to be popular as stock images.

Pressmaster | Portrait of twin girls with opposite emotions

3. They have room for text

Go to the newsstand and pick up some magazines. Look at the magazine cover and flip through the spreads. Look at advertisements. How are designers overlaying text on the images? Are the images filled with visual clutter and distractions or are they visually simple and clean?

Mila Supinskaya | Woman on the grass

4. They’re inspirational

Images that inspire an emotional reaction are more valuable than those that do not. An image of a mountain climber celebrating on a peak can challenge our notions of what’s humanly achievable and can highlight new levels of aesthetic beauty.

5. They balance “aspiration” with honesty and authenticity

“Aspiration” is defined as a person’s desire to be something better. However — in the case of people — we can’t all expect to be bodybuilders, mountain climbers, or supermodels. Buyers often want images that balance positive values that we all aspire to with honest depictions that an audience will feel are both realistic and achievable.

Stokkete | A young boy dreams of becoming a superhero 

This article is an excerpt from the Shutterstock Contributor Success Guide. To download the complete guide in multiple languages, visit this page.

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Top image: Coffee by Sunny Forest