Editing for Shutterstock Custom Assignments


Note: This article is primarily learning material for current Shutterstock Custom contributors. Interested in becoming a Contributor? Click here to learn more and apply.

Every assignment at Shutterstock Custom is different. The products, the brands, the seasons, environments, and model requirements can all change. When you receive a Shutterstock Custom assignment, you also receive a brand’s specific moodboard, guidelines, and other technical requirements that you need to adhere to. However, when it comes to editing for Shutterstock Custom assignments- there is a standard guideline that you should always follow.


In this blog post, we’re going to go over exactly what’s required for you in post-production for all the content that you submit for Shutterstock Custom assignments.

Please note: If you receive an assignment with specific editing guidelines, please prioritize those guidelines over this general process.

Before you shoot

Your exposure and your white balance are two key attributes that make up a well shot photograph. These two things can be controlled in camera before you start shooting. We're outlining a few tthings to keep in mind while you are shooting so that you correctly expose your photograph.


Lighting: Ensure your photographs or videos are properly exposed and have the right amount of light when you are shooting. If a shot is correctly exposed, it’s easy for us to edit the tones and tools to match the brand’s look and feel.

Composition: Composition is something we can’t edit in post-production (for the most part). How you style and compose your shots for Shutterstock Assignments is pivotal to the assignment being successful, as a lot of our brands have very specific shot lists you need to adhere to. 

Subject in focus: Ensure your shots are sharp and your focus is on the subject you are trying to capture. You can’t fix focus in post-production, and if you’ve focused on the wrong part of the frame, that’s also a nearly impossible fix. Check out this blog post for a guide to aperture, and what aperture you should be using for the shots you require.

After you shoot

We want to see photographs that look as natural as possible, however, if you have incorrectly exposed or set the wrong white balance, you can correct these in post-production. If you need to fix these, we ask that you submit lightly edited high resolution JPEG’s or video clips to correct this.


What does lightly edited content mean? 

Lightly edited content means touching up your brightness, contrast, highlights, shadows, and color-correcting to ensure your photograph looks as natural to how it was shot as possible.

Exposure: Using your editing software, you can try to fix the exposure on your photograph if it’s under or overexposed. The tools you can adjust are brightness, contrast, levels, curves, shadows, and highlights. Only adjust these until your photograph has achieved a good exposure.

White Balance: If your colors appear off, you may have to do a color correction on your photographs. Adjusting your colour balance lets you adjust the colors of your photo’s shadows, midtones, and highlights. You can find the color balance corrective tool under your adjustments.


Why do we ask for lightly edited content?

We have a fantastic curation and post-production team who is responsible for editing your content to match a brand’s specific look and feel. By submitting content that has only been white-balanced and color-corrected, we are able to process these to match the brand’s exact requirements.

Submitting content without your usual editing process can be nerve-racking, we understand that it’s tempting to add a quick edit or filter onto a photograph to make it stand out when you submit it. However, our team is technically trained to understand that lightly edited content has the power to become incredibly diverse visual assets in post-production. All it takes is awesome photographers and videographers to create impeccable content to get started with.


What not to do

Here are a few things that we do not want to see in any submitted content for Shutterstock Custom assignments. 



Using any sort of filter in Lightroom is really tricky for our team to edit. These presets are great for personal work, but please refrain from using them when you are submitting photographs for Shutterstock Custom


Trademarked logos + locations

If you find other brands logos in your photographs when you are shooting for a different client, do your best to photoshop them out of the frame or inform your Project Coordinator to see if a reshoot is necessary. You should be aware of all trademarked products, characters, locations, etc. that you cannot include in photographs. For example, did you know you can't shoot the Eiffel Tower at night? Here is a great guide from the Shutterstock team on image restrictions you should look out for.

We hope these examples help you understand how you should be submitting your photographs to Shutterstock Custom assignments. If you have any questions or concerns when you are on a project, get in touch with your Shutterstock Custom Project Coordinator directly for additional support.

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- The Shutterstock Custom Contributor Community Team