There are not many occasions when one will find oneself seeking an image of a cat in smart clothes with money and red caviar on a white background. But there may well be one occasion when one will find oneself seeking an image of a cat in smart clothes with money and red caviar on a white background. This being the Internet, actually, there will probably be two or three.
For such occasions, when they arise, your best bet is to turn directly to an image service like Shutterstock. The site, as the documentation for its upcoming IPO makes clear, is a web community in the manner of a Facebook or a Twitter or a Pinterest, with its value relying almost entirely on the enthusiasms of its contributors. But it’s a community, of course, with an explicitly commercial purpose: Shutterstock pioneered the subscription approach to stock photo sales, allowing customers to download images in bulk rather than à la carte. Shutterstock is e-commerce with a twist, and its success depends on its contributors’ ability to predict, and then provide, products that its subscribers will want to buy. The site is pretty much the Demand Media of imagery — and its revenues, for both the company and its community, depend on volume. […]
Shutterstock has a team of reviewers charged with ensuring editorial consistency and quality — and in 2011, only 20 percent of applicants who applied to become Shutterstock contributors were approved, Scott Braut, Shutterstock’s VP of content, says. And less than 60 percent of all the images uploaded by those approved contributors were ultimately put up on the site. For each download their photos receive, photographers will get about $0.25 U.S. — and more if they’re oft-downloaded contributors and/or the purchaser has a high-level subscription.
Read more. [Image: Shutterstock]