Understanding Editorial At Shutterstock

Posted on 2/24/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

An editorial photographer in London pointed out to me today that he has to notify Shutterstock when his pictures are used in order to get paid.

Evidently Shutterstock doesn’t know that it is standard practice of many publications in the UK not to notify the agency when they use an image. Instead, they wait for the agency or the photographer to call them or send them an invoice.

This works – to a certain degree – for UK photographers because they know that they have to keep watching the UK newspapers and magazines for their pictures and send the publication an invoice every time one of their pictures is used. To the rest of us in the world this is a very strange business practice, but it has been going on in the UK for a long time.

Editorial agencies in the UK know that they must keep watching for use of their images and send invoices. Alamy, for example, subscribes to all the UK publications and has a team of people going through them to find Alamy pictures.

This could be a particular problem with Shutterstock Enterprise customers who have access to unwatermarked previews. Only the publication knows which of the downloads are actually use and they may be waiting for Shutterstock to send them an invoice. If Shutterstock doesn’t have a team searching the publications of their Enterprise customers, they may not know what is being used.

According to the photographers I’ve talked to, this problem has happened more than once and Shutterstock’s response has been, “Let us know if you see one of your images.” Good luck to photographers who don’t happen to live in the UK and regularly read UK publications.

The editorial business is very different from the traditional microstock business and it is not clear that Shutterstock gets it.

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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • Sheron Resnick Posted Feb 27, 2017
    This practice used to happen in the United States as well, and was quite common. Years ago we often acted as a "clipping service" for our 20/20 Software clients. We've had no indication for quite a number of years that it still happens here.

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Mar 2, 2017
    Shutterstock sent the following clarification:

    “Shutterstock Editorial is powered in part by our team in the UK with decades of experience identifying usage in publications using a variety of methods, including client-prepared reporting, monitoring of download activity and a manual process similar to what has been described in the article.” 

    I have also been told by other stock agencies that this problem of publications failing to report when they use an image is not limited to the UK. Evidently, it happens in other countries as well. There are certain publications that must be regularly monitored in order to insure that the image creators are properly compensated for all uses.

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