2.2 Shutterscapes 2: Landscapes of Place posts

Presentation: Stock Image Libraries

A key aim in this module was investigation of the differing requirements of major stock image libraries and landscape photography libraries and then submitting relevant images and starting to get concrete professional and audience feedback on my work.

Stock Photography outlets

  • Shutterstock: a good place to start because they give good support materials and useful technical feedback. On You Tube many contributors make most of their income from Shutterstock because of volume of sales
  • iStock Photo (part of Getty Images): photos, illustrations, video. Take 45% commission.
  • Pond5
  • Alamy
  • Dreamstime
  • Adobe Stock (took over Fotofolia)
  • Smugmug Pro can make good money. Make own website and pricing.
  • Foap: amateur phone Ap where you can sell direct from your phone
  • Clashot: sell photos through an Ap you set your own price 50-80$
  • Snapwire
  • EyeEm


I identified Shutterstock as the best place to start because You Tube contributors said Shutterstock was easy to use and very good at giving technical support and feed back.

Shutterstock Technical Guidelines

Inspect all images at 100% resolution

1) For Commercial Stock: trademark issues (send as editorial)
  • no brand names
  • no IPP
  • keywords should not contain trademarks
  • no isolated pictures of single buildings and avoid landmark modern buildings
2) Noise
  • filmgrain
  • compression artefacts
  • posterisation
  • check skies and shadows
3) Composition/Concept
  • what is concept? what could it be used for?
  • arrangement not optimal. leading lines, rule of thirds. use in-camera grid
  • distracting elements
  • horizon line crooked
  • negative space so customers can insert text
  • shoot from different angles
4) Focus
  • Focus a bit too soft. try single and continuous focus
  • Camera shake: stabilise yourself against a tree, elbows in and don’t breathe
  • avoid zoom lens or move closer
5) Exposure
  • under or over-exposed – use histogram and correct
  • not good lighting
  • avoid midday, ‘golden hours’ 1 hour before or after sun
If rejected
  • look at on-line resources
  • use critique section on forums
  • sometimes they do make an error
  • make correction and re-submit

So I started to develop a quite diverse portfolio – following You Tube advice not to specialise at this stage or narrow my stylistic options. Before selecting images and places to work on I did a search of the Shutterstock image library to see which subjects, places and styles were over-represented and for which places and styles I could fill a market gap that was in line with subjects and styles that appeal to me. There were few images for all the places I selected, and the images that did exist were overwhelmingly high/over-saturation high over-sharpness images. Many of which I find very ‘over the top’ – but was not sure if images were that way because they were what the market wanted or whether other types of image might be successful also.

See Shutterstock Experience

The general advice from You Tube contributors with long experience of stock photography with similar tastes/social aims to my own is to develop a range of different types of image and style. This means that the numbers of people discovering your images will be much larger, encouraging them to then look at your whole portfolio. This also serves to test a number of different market and types of user. Then once something sells, to produce more of that style/subject matter and develop a number of niche markets. This is a different approach from higher end professional photography portfolio sales where it is important to have a more distinctive ‘voice’.

My Shutterstock portfolio includes:

  • Lake District (48 images in colour and monochrome processed in Lightroom and/or Viveza)
  • Norfolk: Burnham Overy Staithe (34 colour images processed in Lightroom, including abstract seascapes)
  • Suffolk: Orford Marshes (10 colour, monochrome and split tone images processed in Lightroom and/or Silver FX)
  • Norfolk: Hunstanton (39 ‘English seaside on a cold New Year’ colour images processed in Lightroom) and Norfolk: Cromer (5 colour images including 2 that were substantially processed in Lightroom to correct lighting and perspective, and 2 ‘nostalgic sea-side images in Analog Pro)
  • Cambridge: River Cam (17 abstract and 17 semi-abstract images and 18 ‘Abstract reflections’ that I aim to develop further together with more ‘Edgelands’ images as part of Assignment 4 ‘Cambridge Chronicles’
  • Suffolk: Aldeburgh (28 high colour images of Aldeburgh Carnival 2016 around ideas of ‘Englishness’ and ‘English Holiday’ ‘English seaside’ and quirkiness processed in Lightroom only) that I intend to revisit as part of work on ‘English seaside nostalgia’ together with:
  • Suffolk: Orford Quay (16 ‘Brexit’/’British’ images processed in Lightroom that will form part of Assignment 5 ‘A Very British Day Out’ together with photos of National Trust’s Orford Ness for which I need a professional photographer’s license to publish)

My experience so far has been broadly positive – good resources database on areas like intellectual and privacy rights, technical tutorials and quick and helpful response to some queries I had. I have learned a lot technically. and the experience has taught me a lot so far. Most of my 220 images were accepted when submitted first time (having consulted all their documentation first). The main reasons for rejection have been because of issues like titling, editorial vs commercial categorisation or keywording. Only 3 have so far been terminally rejected on jpg quality issues, but even these I think I plan to re-submit as more artistic creations using NikFX.

Sales have been less successful. Shutterstock is generally considered by You Tube contributors to give highest income because of volume of sales rather than percentage of price. But in order to make substantial income you need to have around 2-3,000 images and constantly have a drip of new images going on. I have so far sold two images for the huge total of USc50! The first download was someone local in Isleham, Suffolk and the second someone in Korea.

The first two images are suitable for backgrounds, rather than editorial. They are also desaturated and different from the overwhelming majority of highly sharpened and highly saturated tourist images. Possibly this distinctive style is one of the ‘niches’ where I may eventually choose to focus. Particularly as I enjoy the experience of taking and processing these types of landscape image and would like to develop my photographic as well as software processing skills.

Carnival image

A third image accepted after two months (showing that images are not necessarily lost) was

Adobe Stock