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Selling photos on a platform like Shutterstock can be a great source of passive income for photographers. However, with the vast number of photos available on the site, it’s essential to know the best practices to stand out and catch buyers’ attention. Here are ten tips that could help you maximize your sales on Shutterstock, tips that also apply to other image banks on the internet (here is a list).
1. Understand market needs
This might be one of the most crucial aspects of selling photos on Shutterstock. The platform is used by a variety of users, ranging from individual entrepreneurs to large companies, who are looking for images for their design projects, blog articles, websites, and many other uses. Understanding their needs can increase the likelihood of your photos being purchased.
For this, you need to do some research. Find out what are the best-selling photos on the platform and analyse current trends in various fields like design, fashion, technology, environment, or food.
Don’t forget to think globally. Shutterstock is a global platform, so your photos can appeal to people from all over the world. Think about how your images could be used in diverse cultural contexts. For instance, we discovered that simple covers of the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo sold by the hundreds during the trial of the 2015 attacks: for many foreign media, it was the easiest way to show their readers / web users what it was about.
2. Pay attention to the Shot List
Shutterstock regularly publishes lists of what their clients are looking for. This is an excellent way to stay updated on what is trending and what is most likely to sell. Generally, the “Shot List” for the month arrives more than thirty days in advance. This gives you time to take new photos and submit them.
3. Be original or create a niche
This is a key point for better selling travel photos on Shutterstock. The platform hosts millions of photos, which means you are competing with photographers from all over the world. To stand out, try to offer unique images that are not already saturated in the market. Be creative and try to capture original perspectives or subjects.
Difficult? Indeed, so stand out with a speciality. Do you know how to beautifully capture the streets of Paris like no one else? Then, shoot away! This way, you will catch the attention of the platform’s buyers.
4. Follow Shutterstock’s guidelines
Shutterstock has specific guidelines regarding the type of images they accept. This includes guidelines on image size, format, resolution, acceptable content, and much more. Make sure to read and understand these guidelines before submitting your images. They are all here, but here are the main ones.
🖐️ The top 5 Shutterstock guidelines to follow:
- Image quality: Images must be clear, well-lit, and free of blur. Photos should not contain noise, compression artifacts, or pixels. Excessive or poorly executed modifications using photo editing software may also lead to rejection.
- Resolution and image size: Images submitted to Shutterstock must be at least 4 megapixels. However, they recommend images of 10 to 20 megapixels for optimal quality.
- File formats: Shutterstock accepts JPEG and TIFF files. Images must be in RGB or sRGB format.
- Intellectual property: If the image includes logos, trademarks, or any other copyright-protected element, it may be rejected. Likewise, if a recognizable person is in the photo, you must submit a signed model release. For photos taken on private properties, a property release is needed (read below).
- Unacceptable content: Shutterstock has strict guidelines on the type of content they do not accept. For instance, they do not accept images containing violent, offensive, or explicitly sexual content.
5. Use relevant keywords
When you submit your photos to Shutterstock, you must include keywords that describe your image. These keywords will help potential buyers find your photo. Make sure to use specific and relevant keywords that describe your image well.
6. Write an accurate description
The description of your photos is an extremely valuable tool to help you attract more potential customers. When you upload an image to Shutterstock, you have the opportunity to add a description of your photo. This description not only helps provide more context about what the image represents, but it is also used by Shutterstock’s internal search engine to help users find your images. Thus, an accurate and detailed description can greatly increase the visibility of your photos on the platform.
Try to cover the main details of the image: what does the image show? Where was it taken? Are there specific details or elements that are important?
For example, if you upload a photo of a sunset on a beach, you might mention the name of the beach, the city and country where it is located, the colours of the sunset, the possible presence of people, animals, or specific objects in the image, etc. However, avoid including unnecessary information or exaggerating the details of the image, this could deter users.
Using keywords in your description can also help Shutterstock’s algorithm to highlight your works and enable you to better sell your travel photos.
7. Submit photos regularly
To increase your chances of sale, it is recommended to submit photos on a regular basis. This not only keeps your portfolio up to date, but also increases your chances of being discovered by new buyers. Apparently, Shutterstock’s algorithm likes this practice!
8. Provide all necessary documents
Shutterstock is a very serious platform that respects the rights of all parties involved, whether it’s the photographer, the people depicted in the photos, or owners of private properties for example. And they are very strict about this! In order to respect these rights, the platform often requires two types of additional documents for certain photos: Model Release and Property Release.
But don’t rush! Shutterstock also wants to simplify the process for you and provides a template on its site that you can download, fill out, and upload when submitting your image.
💡 A tip? If you can’t get all the permissions, you can submit these photos in the Editorial section. This section is primarily for the media, with extended broadcasting rights. However, brands and companies will not be able to use them.
9. Create photo series
Creating photo series is another effective approach to increase your sales on Shutterstock. It’s a strategy that works well for several reasons: first, when you take several photos on the same theme or in the same context, it may appeal to clients looking for a series of images for a specific project. Also, by varying angles, compositions, or lighting, you give more choices to your clients.
10. Consider seasonality
Seasonality plays a significant role in selling photos on platforms like Shutterstock. As in many other sectors, the demand for certain types of images fluctuates depending on the time of the year.
The most striking example is Christmas. Clients look for photos of Christmas decorations, snowy landscapes, festive meals, gifts, etc. It’s the perfect time to offer this type of images. But do it several months in advance to make sure they are well indexed and visible to clients.