Getting Started with Microstock

Make Money With Stock Photos

What is Microstock photography?

Everyone knows what a stock photo is right? (If you’re not sure, keep scrolling, my posts typically contain stock photos!) They are used for everything – magazines, websites, brochures, blogs, news outlets, everything.

*My posts sometimes contain affiliate links. If you were to make a purchase by clicking an affiliate link, I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you*

Microstock takes the stock photo game and brings it to photographers on all levels. Photos are bought and sold via the internet and then you receive “micro” payments.

Yep, I said you. 

Did you know that YOU can take photos and sell them for extra cash? Microstock agencies allow even the most novice of photographer to sell their photos as long as the composition and quality is good.

Over the last few months I have been uploading and selling photos and making a little extra money and I’m just getting started.

Both of these Seattle skyline photos that I took have sold on Shutterstock:

There are several Microstock agencies out there and they all have MILLIONS of photos. That can seem discouraging at first. Why join an already saturated market? WHY NOT?! If they are making money so can you! And Me!

The wonderful thing about creative hobbies and professions is that there is no set standard or protocol for the way something HAS to be. You never know who is going to look at something you created and say “Wow, that’s amazing!” or “That’s just what I was looking for!”.

Here are the very basics in order to join me in making a hustle out of a hobby!

Getting started

First of all you need a camera! There are contributors out there who get by using iPhone cameras…I am not one of them! I use my trusty Canon Rebel. Its an intro DSLR which is perfect for my skill level.

As far as equipment goes, that’s it! If you have a camera you’re ready to go.

Now how exactly do I sell the photos?

You will upload your photos to a Microstock agency and buyers will find and buy a licence to use your photo from the agency.

Shutterstock is arguably the most popular Microstock site on the internet. 200 million photos, video clips and illustrations are available for download from Shutterstock with more than one million items being added each week.

If you’ve surfed online you’ve probably seen an image from Shutterstock. I’ve chosen to focus on this company for my Microstock journey although there are several other companies to contribute for as well.

You can sign up to be a Shutterstock contributor HERE

Diving into Microstock photography to make a little extra cash is easy. Being a contributor is 100% free and the best part is Microstock is passive income. A good photo uploaded and approved can continue to make money over and over again.

Take good photos, upload them, make a little extra cash, repeat.


The very first time you will start by submitting at least ten photos in a batch to Shutterstock for review. You will also have to provide basic legit info such as your full legal name, provide identification and payment information (for you to be properly paid of course). To be accepted as a contributor you must have at least one of the initial ten photos approved. Try to submit your very best! If you do not get approved with the first batch do NOT be discouraged. Identify the reasons listed for rejection by the reviewer and adjust accordingly.  Also, the reviewers are human and they make mistakes sometimes. Don’t take it personally. Try again.


Many contributors will argue with you about what will sell or will not sell.

I will keep it simple.

If approved by Shutterstock then there is a possibility that it will sell.

The other day I saw someones low lit cell phone photo of athletes foot sell. However there are photos that will sell BETTER and more often than others.

Don’t be discouraged from uploading that sunset shot you took last night but keep in mind that there are over 4 million sunsets already competing for buyers on Shutterstock. Think of NEW or unusual ideas. What are the hot topics right now? A google search of current topics lead me to creating 3 photos that sold almost immediately. Be conscious of what you are shooting and think of how you will present it to a potential audience. Consider WHY people need stock photos and how you can fulfill that need. Is your photo one that you could see in a brochure or on a website? If you can then you’re on the right track!


This is pretty simple with one catch. If there is a recognizable person or owned property in your photo you MUST have a signed release from that person or owner in order to have it approved for sale. No, you cant sign a model release for your own children however an adult who is not immediately related can sign as a witness. The reviewer will always error on the side of caution when it comes to a model/property release. Shutterstock has model and property releases available for download here:

The model release catch?

Editorial photos.

An editorial photo could be used for a blog (like this one!) newspaper article or magazine etc instead of being used commercially to sell a product or service. Editorial images are generally newsworthy, informational or relevant to current events. Typically editorial images do not require a model release. Contributors must mark these photos as editorial and must follow the editorial guidelines linked below for submission.

Announcing: Shutterstock’s New Editorial Guidelines


You will not get rich with Microstock. That’s not the point though is it? The point is to make money and any money is good money! I got into debt a few dollars at a time and that’s how I intend to get out of it.

Shutterstock’s payment tier breakdown from their website can be found HERE

The minimum payout amount is $35 and payment is via Payoneer, Paypal, Skrill, or bank check.

So, are you ready? Sign up as a Shutterstock contributor HERE

There is SO much more to it and we will venture down that path but for now start shooting and selling!


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