Best sites for selling stock photos: Shutterstock, Pond5, or Adobe Stock?

June 28, 2019

Where are the best sites to sell my stock footage and photos online?

With so many available options for selling photos online, the burning question remains: which stock sites are the best?

Each and every one of these sites takes a significant amount of time to upload and keyword all of your footage, so it is important that you narrow down which ones are actually going to be worth your time.

After two years of selling stock photos and videos online, I am going to break down for you my experience with three of the tops sites that I use and how they have performed for my overall portfolio. I’ll analyze a few key aspects:

  • Total dollar amount earned
  • Ease of upload and tagging
  • Other key differences to note

Before we get to the numbers, let’s take a look at the three sites that I use most consistently and why.

SHUTTERSTOCK

This is likely one of the most well known websites and for good reason - they have a catalog of millions of images. This can be good or bad.

Obviously they are selling a lot of content with that extensive of a catalog, but that also raises the stakes for actually getting noticed. It might take a little more time as a small fish to break into that big of a pool.

Shutterstock has some really helpful tools to help you with your uploads, as we will discuss more in a moment. Or you can check out my post on exactly how I use the Shutterstock Keyword Tool, which has been a super helpful tool recently.

I also enjoy the Shutterstock community - they have a forum just for contributors where you can go and ask questions, as well as see how others are doing.

Lastly, Shutterstock allows both video and photo uploads, which is good to know, depending on what you will be focusing on for your sales.

Here is the earnings breakdown for contributors. I have included an image of the chart, since it is a bit complicated. You earn higher percentages once you reach certain dollar thresholds for your overall sales.

For photographers and videographers interested in starting a contributor account with Shutterstock, start here.

BECOME A SHUTTERSTOCK CONTRIBUTOR

shutterstock earnings breakdown

POND5

The next website we will be analyzing in Pond5.

They used to be known for their stock photography sales, but in the past few years I believe they have completely transitioned to solely video sales. This is something you need to know up front if you are looking to sell mainly stock photography. This website would definitely be not worth paying attention to in that case.

For video, however, it is quite widely used.

Another great feature about Pond5 is the ability to set your own price for your video clips. Neither of the other sites give you this freedom. They also give you a pretty good percentage of the sales. As a non-exclusive contributor, you will get 40% of the price for each and every piece of media that you sell.

Recently, they added a new program for exclusive contributors. If you agree to only sell your footage through Pond5, you get 60% of the price paid for each clip.

ADOBE STOCK

Lastly, we will take a look at Adobe Stock. Like Shutterstock, you will be able to sell both photos and videos here.

I believe they are the newest and as such the catalog is not as extensive as the others. But I know they are growing rapidly. This is a great opportunity to get in early and hopefully see some real growth in the future.

The royalties you can earn with Adobe are 33% on images and 35% on videos.

Let’s go ahead and jump right into the numbers across all three stock sites.


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1 | TOTAL AMOUNT EARNED

2019 Earnings By Month Across Three Major Sites

2019 Earnings by Month Across Stock Photo Sites

As you can see, Shutterstock is clearly the most consistent and best performer in terms of pure dollar amount earned per month.

This is important to me as I am using stock photo sales primarily as a means for passive income - it is important to me that I have a somewhat accurate and consistent outlook at what my monthly income is going to look like.

Pond5 on the other hand, was the least consistent. In January I earned just under $25, in February I earned $325, and then right back down to under $25 by March. I won’t complain about February, but those are some wild swings. In case you are interested, here are the three clips that sold in February.

Pond5 earnings

(Someone downloaded these three clips for a sweet tune of almost $300.)

Last but not least, Adobe Stock has pretty consistently performed close to the bottom as far as earnings go (on average about $40-50), with April and June bringing in next to nothing.


2 | EASE OF UPLOAD AND TAGGING PROCESS

I have yet to use any external software to help me in this process. It may be something to consider once I either get overwhelmed with the process or profitable enough to justify it. But for now, I upload to each site individually and usually copy and paste keywords across the sites as I go.

Shutterstock has the easiest tagging process in my opinion and I typically start there. Just recently they have implemented their keyword tool on the submit page, which I’ve found to be quite handy.

Shutterstock keyword tool

EASE OF UPLOAD

For photo uploads, all three sites will allow you to upload directly through their main website. For video, however, it is a bit more of a process.

Shutterstock and Adobe Stock both require video files to be uploaded through a third party ftp manager. If you are unfamiliar with this process, you should check out my step by step guide to uploading footage to an ftp.

Pond5 allows you to upload directly through their website, which is nice because it skips an extra step of having to open yet another program for uploads.

APPROVAL RATE

Adobe Stock is by far the most picky when it comes to what they will or won’t approve. It could be any range of reasons from technical to ‘not meeting creative standards’ and everything in between.

adobe stock refusal

Shutterstock can at times be somewhat picky, but not nearly as much as Adobe.

Shutterstock seems to be the most picky about having a correct model release and occasionally they will reject an image because it has too much noise or shakiness.

Pond5 is the most open approval you will get. They reject almost nothing.

The only clips that have ever been rejected were in cases where I forgot to attach a model release.

As a rule of thumb, you can always try to upload an image or clip a second time, as I have found that some ‘reviewers’ on these sites are pickier than others. What doesn’t pass with one, may get passed the second time around. If it is for a reason that you cannot easily change, it may be worth trying for a second review.

3 | OTHER KEY DIFFERENCES OF NOTE

At some point I will do another analysis breaking down earnings by type - photo, video, or motion graphics. This is somewhat reflected in dollars earned on each site, but may not be especially obvious, so I’ll explain.

On Shutterstock, I sell both photos and videos pretty often.

I sell more photos by quantity, but the price ($0.33 per) is so much less than videos (about $20 per) that the dollar amount I earn is much higher from videos than photos.

On Adobe I sell more photos than videos, but again the dollar amount is overall much lower, which contributes to why my earnings seem much lower overall.

Lastly, Pond5. I don’t even upload photos there anymore as they NEVER actual sell. I think I have sold one over the past two years to be exact. If you are exclusively selling still photos, I would say don’t even waste your time with Pond5.

4 | MY TOP PICK

If I had to pick one favorite, I would say Shutterstock. To give it a try, start your own contributor portfolio here.

It is the most consistent high earner, with the most ease of upload/tagging. Of course, I am still planning to continue uploading to all three, as the occasional extra sale here or there so far does make the effort worth it.

I would love to hear more thoughts from all of you. What are your favorite sites to upload to and why?

Hi, I'm Beth.

I started Handcraft Films to give other filmmakers and photographers the gift of documenting their own stories for years to come. I hope you'll learn something new and share your creativity here.
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