My Top 5 Enhanced / Extended Licenses at Shutterstock

In the buffet that is stock photography, try to think of subscription earnings as the appetizers. They’re tasty but insufficient. To feel really full you’re looking forward to the main course, to me these will be those juicy Enhanced Licenses.

What are Enhanced Licenses?

For the sake of convenience I’ll just call them as SS calls them, Enhanced Licenses, but they can fall under the categories of Single on Demand. Alternatively, they can be called “Extended Licenses”. I’ll just keep it simple and group it in all as “Enhanced Licenses”.

Most clients only have limited usages for images, usually for web usage to promote a product and/or service, or in the case of editorials, to support a newsworthy story in a non-profit type of way.

However, some clients with a larger budget, may have more extensive requirements, including merchandising (putting your image on a product) and larger print runs. The following are the main differences between a standard and Enhanced License on Shutterstock:


I’m only using Shutterstock as an example but other Microstock sites have similar rights, although last year Dreamstime got rid of their Extended Licenses altogether.

How much can Enhanced Licenses Pay?

Next time someone at Alamy says that Micros only pay peanuts I’ll have to send them a link to this blog post!

Enhanced Licenses can pay quite well…in fact up to $120! That’s quite a few subs…Here’s the full Shutterstock Earnings Schedule:


As you can see above, there’s quite a big pay jump between $500 and above (8 cents per sub and 60 cents per On-Demand Download).

Now for some of my top 5 Enhanced Licenses

Ok, now that I got through the obligatory introduction, here are my top 5 Enhanced Licenses of all time on SS. I’m using SS since it’s by far my biggest earner. Later I’ll try to draw some conclusions so you’ll have a higher chance of getting a windfall download.

5. Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy


4. Ecuadorian Andes Vegetation


3. Skiers on Chairlift with Alps background


2. Grass and blue sky copy space panorama


1. Palm Tree at Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro



From looking at the above, why did a buyer choose any of those images. I can think of a 5 reasons:

  1. Copy space: They all have plenty of space to insert text, if necessary. In the case of #2, something like 80% of the image can be used for copy space.
  2.  Commercial shots: All of the above are non-editorials meaning that there are no restrictions on use to promote products and/or services. My biggest editorial windfall has been a respectful $45 and that’s been an exception since most are much much lower. The beach was a tricky shot since I had to blur out all the people but as you can see with the payout, it was well worth the effort. In addition, the shots are simple with one clearly identifiable subject that even a 5-year old could understand (no room for fine art subjective interpretation).
  3. Vibrant: I think being vibrant (not saturated) made it stand out in the thumbnails.
  4. Keywords: I worked my ass off to get the best possible captions and keywords so buyers could find these images among the masses/
  5. Luck: A buyer needed that image at that time and he/she found it. Some things we can’t explain, but we have to recognise that luck plays a part…just as having great images ignored may be unlucky. In the end we all have our share of good and bad luck. What you can do is work hard on those 1-4 to have a higher chance of getting lucky.

Now if you’re curious about which are my top 5 selling images on Shutterstock in all time, see this link.  Keep in mind that the post is some 8 months old but those images keep on selling way past their prime.



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