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Having opened in 2003, Shutterstock changed the way the microstock industry worked by offering a subscription based service instead of a 'credits' based service. Buying a Shutterstock subscription allows a client to download up to 25 photos a day. This may sound like a lot but Shutterstock has almost ten million photos to choose from so it would take a very long time for a client to run out of things to download. Shutterstock also offers extended license sales and has recently started to offer 'credit' sales as well. Regardless, they still focus mainly on their subscription model which continues to be their most lucrative.
Shutterstock provides many different types of media. In regard to photography, they accept royalty free and editorial stock photos. Shutterstock also includes graphics in this library and has a separate library of stock video footage.
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Photographers get paid for three different types of sales with Shutterstock. The different types of sales are subscription downloads, extended license sales (known across the microstock world as an EL), and On-Demand or 'credit' sales.
The amount made by photographers for a subscription sale is based on how much money they have made with Shutterstock in the past. Sounds a little weird right? Well, it may sound weird, but this makes perfect sense. This is Shutterstock's way of rewarding those who have had success on Shutterstock and continue to grow their Shutterstock portfolio. The base commission for a subscription is 25 cents. Once you make 500 dollars, your commission will be raised to 33 cents per download. The next raise is obtained when you reach 3000 dollars, bringing your commission to 36 cents. The last raise brings earnings to 38 cents per download, once your lifetime earnings reach 10 000 dollars.
Commission for an On Demand sale depends on the resolution of the photo. The 'Small/Medium' plan pays out at 81 cents and the 'All Sizes' plan pays $1.88 per download. Like the subscription commission, On Demand commission goes up with your lifetime earnings. The raises occur at the same increments, at 500 dollars, 3000 dollars and 10 000 dollars. At these increments the 'Small/Medium' plan goes up to $1.07, then to $1.17 and lastly $1.27. The 'All Sizes' plan raises are as follows: $2.48, then up to $2.70 and finally capping at $2.85.
Shutterstock's highest paying commission is for an EL sale. This is a flat fee sale worth $28.00.
Shutterstock pays their contributors via PayPal, Moneybookers or by paper check. The minimum payout for PayPal and Moneybookers is set by default to $100, but can be changed in your Shutterstock account. If you wish to receive a paper check, then you will have to accumulate $300 in earnings before being paid. You may think that making a significant amount of money with Shutterstock is next to impossible when you only make 25 cents per sale, but many of their contributors have proven that money can be made, lots of money.
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Tools, Contests and CommunityRating
Shutterstock provides a wealth of tools to its photographers. Some of these tools include FTP access to upload new files, a contributors forum which has a very active community, the ability to create mini-galleries to help advertise your work, and something they call the 'Red Carpet Program'. The Red Carpet Program was created to help Shutterstock photographers gain access to special events to take photos. If Shutterstock helps a photographer get into an event, it is under the agreement that all photos will be exclusive to Shutterstock. One of Shutterstock's new tools integrates with Twitter, announcing how many sales or accepted photos you have each day to help promote your portfolio.
Other features that Shutterstock has to help highlight their star users is a free photo of the week. They also feature six themed lightboxes a month, each showcasing 60 photos or graphics. Shutterstock does an amazing job of promoting what they do. It is no surprise that Shutterstock and its contributors continue to grow and succeed.