You’re motivated and ready to start submitting your work to Shutterstock. We’re excited to see your best work. Making money in stock photography is not only about having great content, but having that great content found by potential buyers. Before you start submitting, here are some pointers that will increase the chances of your images being approved, found by customers and hopefully downloaded, thus putting a little something extra into your bank account.

Familiarise Yourself with the Shutterstock Collection

Image by ESB Professional

Before selecting your first 10 images for submission, familiarize yourself with the Shutterstock library from the point of view of a customer. Search the collection for images and see what comes up. Try different keywords for the same topic such as:

  • Colosseum Rome
  • Colosseum Rome exterior
  • Colosseum Rome at sunset
  • Taking a selfie in front of the Colosseum Rome

See how the results differ and how relevant the results are to your search. Look at the lighting, how the models are posed, the composition of the shot. Read the titles of the most relevant results from your search. They should be descriptive, detailed, and most of all, relevant to that specific image. See what the best sellers are for your search terms the selecting the “Popular” tab. See what the most recent submission are the selecting the “New” tab.

View your Images at 100%

When images are submitted, reviewers are looking at many things including the quality of your content, such as focus, lighting, composition, sensor dust spots, and noise. Before submitting, view your photos at 100%. Things to look for:

  • Composition: Is the horizon line straight? Are there distracting elements coming into the frame? Can it be cropped better?
  • Focus: Is the main subject in focus? Is what is in focus appropriate? Is there camera shake or unintentional motion blur?
  • Lighting: How is the quality of light? Is the image overexposed or underexposed? Is the white balance appropriate for the subject matter?
  • Sensor Dust: Are there any sensor or lens dust spots? Are there any dust and scratches (if from a scanned negative or slide)?
  • Noise, Banding, Film Grain: Do you see banding in the sky? Or artifacting from lossy compression? How noisy is the image, especially if photographed at a high ISO?

Write Descriptive Titles

Titles are one of the most important elements in content discovery. One or two word titles are too vague to help customers find your work. Titling your image “Colosseum in Rome,” whilst accurate, is not descriptive enough to help customers find your image as there are hundreds of pages of content that come up when searching for “Colosseum Rome.” Take full advantage of the 200 character limit and take the time to describe your photo, pointing out elements which make it unique such as time of day (sunrise, sunset), what people are doing (standing, sitting, hugging), or the angle of the shot (bird’s eye view, low angle). The image below has a great title; it’s descriptive, accurate, and relevant.

Image by Zangrilli Andrea

A couple with an umbrella on a rainy day, are taking pictures at the Great Roman Colosseum (Coliseum, Colosseo ), also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. Famous world landmark. Scenic urban landscape.

Titles should be:

  • Descriptive
  • Accurate
  • Unique to the image
  • Thoughtful
  • In English (locations and Latin genus or species classification for animals is fine)

Titles should NOT:

  • Be a list of keywords (e.g. couple, umbrella, colosseum, rome, summer, italy)
  • Contain excessively repetitive keywords or phrases (e.g. colosseum rome, colosseum italy, roman colosseum, colosseum background)
  • Include special characters (e.g. ç, é, å)
  • Be a single word

Add Relevant Keywords

After titles, keywords are the most important factor in the discovery of your content. All of this time and energy in taking the photograph, making edits, and uploading it to the site will be for naught if you don’t have quality metadata to accompany it. You could have 1,000 images in your portfolio, but if the metadata is inaccurate, too vague, or too generic, the chances are pretty slim that it will ever be found. It is to your benefit that you take the time keyword your images properly.

Image by Msbrintn

The image above uses descriptive and relevant keywords, words that a customer could use to find this image.

Take advantage of the Keyword Suggestion Tool in the content editor. Based on the images you choose that are relevant to yours, an algorithm will suggest keywords for your image. Keep in mind that not every keyword will apply to your image. You will still need to select the words which are applicable to your particular image.

Choose Appropriate Categories

Choose the two categories that best fit your image. Most of the categories are self explanatory, however, please note:

  • Celebrities refers to famous people (Daniel Craig, Paul McCartney) NOT celebrations (weddings, birthdays)
  • Holidays refers to public or national holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter) not vacations or celebrations (birthdays and weddings are NOT holidays)
  • Food and Drink refers to food photography, not images where food in present
  • Vectors are for EPS files. If you do not know what a vector is, do not use this category as photographs are NEVER vector files

Attach Model and Property Releases

Image by Kamil Macniak

Model and property releases are required in some instances in order to license content commercially. Every recognisable person in an image requires a valid model release. In the image above, for example, both women are recognisable, therefore, two separate model releases are required.

Image by

Property releases are required for recognizable artwork, modern buildings, graffiti, tattoos, private residences, recognisable interiors, and other private property. Shutterstock accepts releases from a few other stock agencies, however, it is recommended that you use the latest Shutterstock model and property release, which you can download for free.

Remove all Logos, Company Names, and Brands

Commercial submissions must be free of all brand identifiers such as logos and trademarks. Markings such as the three Adidas stripes or the Nike swish are proprietary to those brands and must be removed before submission.

Check the Known Image Restriction List

There are many locations and events which are restricted in how they can be licensed; some locations cannot be licensed at all. Places such as Iguaçu Falls or the Jardim Botánico in Brazil require a property release for both commercial and editorial use, for example. Read over the Known Image Restriction List to learn which locations have special rules.

Know When Credentials are Required for Editorial Content

Image by Glynnis Jones

Credentials are required when submitting content taken at certain events or venues, such as a music festival or football match. Even if an event is held outside for the “public,” that does not mean you can submit the content for editorial use; credentials may still be required. Credentials are obtained from the venue that give a photographer permission to photograph an event Credentials must be submitted and approved by Shutterstock before that content can be reviewed.

Only Submit Work to Which You Own the Copyright

You may only submit content to which you own the copyright. For photos, that means that if you did not physically take the photograph, it is not yours. You cannot upload it, use it as a reference image, or incorporate it into a college. Content that is in the public domain cannot be uploaded either. Photos from Google Images, Wiki Commons, wallpaper sites, or free-to-use sites are not permitted.

Know the File Size and Colour Profile

Photos must be a minimum of 4MP and a maximum of 50MB. To find out how many megapixels an image is, open the image in your editing program, such as Photoshop, and view the image size in pixels. Multiply the width by the height.

For example:

2000 x 2400 pixels equal 4.8 Megapixels. This image is acceptable.
1200 x 3000 pixels equal 3.6 Megapixels. This is smaller than 4MP and is unacceptable.

Images should also be submitted as JPEGs in an sRGB colour profile. Please refer to Shutterstock’s technical requirements for all the details.

Images are usually reviewed within 5 days, usually less. After approval, content can take up to 72 hours to appear on the site or in your portfolio, so don’t panic if you don’t see it straight away!

Good luck with your first submission! Now get out there and shoot something amazing.