Similar Content

Posted on 3/24/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Shutterstock may have decided the loading up of their collection with “Similar Content” may have gotten out of hand and may not be benefiting customers. They have recently changed their editing strategy and issued a notice to contributors saying, “Submitting subtle variations of the same image can be considered content spamming and is not permitted. We continuously evaluate our collection and remove images that do not meet our policies.”

Similar Content can include, but is not limited to, the following:
    •    Swapping/flipping backgrounds
    •    Flipping images vertically or horizontally

    •    Simple icons with any additional non-essential label, graphics, text or other elements that are not meant to be used by the customer
    •    Virtually unnoticeable cropping
    •    Minor adjustments to aspect ratio
    •    Images where the only change is the text, symbols or element colors
    •    Images where the only change is a filter

    •    Minor adjustments within images
    •    Stamps and graphics with only text changes
    •    Virtually identical variations of common designs (such as national flags)
To illustrate some of the problems they provide examples that will not be allowed including:
    Same image with different text.
    Same image with different aspect ratio or cropping.

    Same image in slightly different colors. ?Simple icon with non-essential elements not meant for use by the customer.
One argument for using the same image with different text is that every image will have different keywords given the text. When a customer uses a specific word that is on that specific image, only the image with that specific word of the hundred or more similar images will be shown. See these examples:
Thus, it the customer is looking for some way to illustrate a concept using a particular word or phrase the photographer’s image comes up. If the customer was simply sorting through backgrounds on which they could place their word or phrase the search might be more difficult and the customer might not find this photographer's blank background.

It would be interesting to know how many of the 116 million images (end of 2016) in the Shutterstock collection fall into this “similar” category and how much the collection would be reduced if 100 similars were replaced with one or two images.

For some time contributors have been complaining about new, large submissions of similar content from the same creator pushing existing and older content farther down in the search return order to the point where it is no longer seen. Solving this problem is difficult.

Shutterstock’s goal is to make it easy for customers to find exactly the content they’re looking for quickly and easily.

Copyright © 2017 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:  


  • Peter Dazeley Posted Mar 27, 2017
    this really isnt going to help the customer search experience, but I think it is an understandable reaction - maximising a creator's investment with the continuing slide downwards of cheaper and cheaper licenses . I can remember the days when the value received by the customer represented the fee received by the creator. Where did it all go so wrong?

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