Shutterstock Contributor Earnings

Posted on 3/9/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Shutterstock has put together a very interesting Infographic related to Contributor Earnings. Everyone engaged in stock photography -- regardless of whether they have ever licensed an image through Shutterstock, or any other microstock distributor -- should examine this Infographic carefully. It contains a lot of important insights.

In 2014 Shutterstock paid out $83,605,000 to contributors living and working in the following areas of the world.

United States $7,646,000
Rest of the Americas $2,841,000
United Kingdom $4,247,000
Germany $3,361,000
Rest of Europe $51,715,000
Africa $608,000
Japan $572,000
Rest of Asia $11,475,000
Australia $801,000
Oceania $241,000
    Note: there is about $100,000 difference between the sum of all the areas reported and the gross figure reported. I suspect this is the result of rounding errors.
Note that the combined royalties paid to contributors in the U.S., UK and Germany represent only $15,254,000 or 18% of the royalties paid out. If we add Japan and Australia to the above, contributors in the 5 countries received a total of $16,627,000 or less than 20% of the total payout.

Some might have expected image creators in the U.S., UK, Germany, Japan and Australia would have produced the bulk of the images licensed. That is clearly not the case. Some might have expected UK and German image creators to be the European leaders. Combined they only produced about 13% of the saleable images. They other 87% came from other countries in Europe.

Some might have expected Japanese and Australian photographers and illustrators to have produce the bulk of Asian images licensed. Producers from these two countries only received 10% of the royalties from Asia and Oceania. The other 90% went to people working in other parts of Asia.

In 2014 the median payouts to contributors living in Belize, Dominica, Tanzania and Cambodia were greater the 2013 Gross Annual Product (GDP) per capita for these countries. These were places where producing stock imagery could be a viable business. Countries where Shutterstock made payouts to image creators for the first time included: French Polynesia, Nigeria, Laos, San Marino, Northern Mariana Islands, and Madagascar.

Global Trends

The inforgraphic also highlights the most popular image, video and music subject areas globally in 2014, and gives a number of visual examples in each area to illustrate the point. In general the popular subjects were:
    Image Trends- Blurred Backgrounds, Linear, Unique Perspectives

    Video Trends - Animation, Slow Motion, Aerial
    Music Trends - Optimistic, Quirky, Serene

Why Are Images Rejected

Shutterstock also listed the three top reasons why images in the Photo, Video, Vector and Illustration categories are rejected. They provided examples of the problems and explanations of what creators could do to avoid or solve those problems. Anyone interested in producing marketable stock images would do well to study this information.

Copyright © 2015 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Edwin Redzepagic Posted Mar 14, 2015
    Strange it does not say which counties comprise the "rest of the Europe" ?
    I would assume that it is mostly the former communist block?

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