My photos were accepted at Shutterstock (my official Shutterstock portfolio)!


Backstory: A few days ago, I did a deep exploration of stock photography companies by exploring their compensation structure, content requirements, and others’ reviews (see here). Afterwards, I felt like I had a pretty decent grasp of the process, so I thought I would start digging through some photos that I could possibly submit and give it a shot.

Submission Process

Deciding on images: I narrowed down my potential list of photos to about twenty images and then carefully looked over the quality (full description from Shutterstock here):

  • Images were at least 1200 x 3000 pixels
  • In JPEG format

Editing: Next, I needed make some basic minor corrections, like white balance and adjusting highlights and shadows. Because I’m not an expert in photography and because this is just a side gig, I decided that it doesn’t make financial sense for me to pay for Adobe Lightroom, although I would love an excuse to purchase the software–Readers: Adobe is not paying me for advertising. Adobe: if you want to pay me to advertise, I’m willing to discuss the terms ^_^. Instead, I went with Rawtherapee, which is free. There are others out there, but I felt that this was the closest to Lightroom and there were some pretty thorough tutorials on how to use the software to inspect and edit my photos (YouTube tutorials: 1, 2). After editing my photos and inspecting them, I narrowed my selection down to 10 potential submissions.

Selecting Photos to submit: My decision process was driven by image quality (e.g., chromatic aberration; lens flare) and whether or not I could imagine an application for the photos. It’s helpful to ask yourself, “Who would use this photo and where and why?” Truthfully, the latter exercise filled me with a lot of doubt because I think it’s probably stronger to have photos with models acting out a concept like “success” or “using technology.” I got over it though because really, this is something I can keep in mind in the future when I’m taking more photos. Right now, it’s more about learning how to edit my photos and figuring out how to navigate the submission portal.

Submission Guidelines: After deciding which photos I was going to submit, I reviewed the guidelines and signed up with Shutterstock as a contributor. If you’re interested in signing up, I hope you consider showing some love and using my referral link–Full Disclosure: I would earn $0.04 for every image that someone downloads from Shutterstock, which is not taken from your earnings, for the first two years after you sign up (more details here).

Signing up and submitting for review: Signing up was simple. You provide an email and password; update your profile information; update your tax information; and then upload your photos. You have to tag your photos with keywords and provide a description of the photos after you’ve uploaded them. Shutterstock will make some keyword suggestions for you based on your image. I also found it helpful to look through a thesaurus for related words and to look through similar pictures and see how they tagged their photos. Next, you can submit. You should get an email confirming that you’ve uploaded photos and they will be reviewed shortly. I read around on the web that this could take a couple of days but mine were reviewed and approved within less than 24 hours! Impressively fast!

One thing you may experience is not knowing what to do next once you’re approved. Your photos won’t immediately appear in your portfolio, so if you’re like me, you may wonder if that means you have to re-upload those photos because that was just a review process and now you’re free to set up your portfolio. DON’T DO THAT. Digging through their forum, I saw that others had similar questions and were advised to wait. It may take another few days for the photos that were approved to show up in your portfolio. Again, this took less than a day for me.

Rejections: I did have one photo that was rejected:


he message said that it was rejected because I didn’t submit a model release form. I’m still a little puzzled by this because I thought that this image fits with their description of “silhouette of a unrecognized person.” It looks like I can resubmit it though with a model release form pretty easily. They even provide templates that you can use.

Your Portfolio: After reviewing reasons for rejections, if any, you can upload more photos for review and start sharing your portfolio. Here’s a screen shot of my portfolio so far: Portfolio



All in all, the process was super easy and way faster than I thought! I’m also pretty excited that basically all of my photos were approved–minus the one because of the model release form, but at least it wasn’t rejected on technical aspects! Now, I have to wait and see if anyone actually buys one of my photos. I should probably learn more about search rankings on Shutterstock in the meantime. I’ll share any updates and what I learn in a future post. I’ll also likely try submitting to other sites so that I can compare the process and hopefully my earnings. I’ll share details about that too.