Shutterstock has been the go-to source to get quick photographs for me and everyone else for a decade now. But those photos are taken by professionals, who need to get paid for their efforts, not to mention Shutterstock’s operating costs. Despite all that, many online users try getting images without paying for them, which is fair, considering the cost per image can get as high as $199 at Shutterstock.
However, many employ illegal methods to get free images. Because it’s online, they don’t realize it is the equivalent of stealing in a store—yet, the consequences are usually more severe. In recent years, I’ve noticed that services promising free Shutterstock images through illegal methods have been gaining in popularity at an alarming rate. These methods promote copyright infringement, which is a serious legal offense. And I am not talking about a slap on the wrist crime, but penalties of up to $150,000 in the US. True, you will probably get away if you use the image offline, such as decorating a wall or a phone wallpaper, but you should not, and I cannot stress this enough, use stolen images online.
Yet, there are ways of getting Shutterstock images without watermarks completely free and legitimately, and there are a few paid options as well. My favorite is using the free trial, during which you can download up to 10 royalty-free photos, vectors, or illustrations.
- Go to the Shutterstock free trial page.
- Click the “Try for free now” button.
- Create a free account.
- Enter your payment information (you won’t get billed).
- Confirm the free trial.
The watermark will be automatically removed when you download the image from Shutterstock. The only legal methods include downloading images with a free trial or from the free collection, an active subscription, or an image pack.
1. Use Shutterstock free trial
Shutterstock offers a 30-day free trial that allows you to download 10 stock images for free. It also allows you to use these free downloads for commercial purposes. This is the best option to get lots of royalty-free images from Shutterstock without a watermark safely.
The only downside is that you have to enter your credit card information. Although it is 100% secure, you won’t be charged if you cancel the free trial before the 30 days are up.
The free trial is available only with the FLEX Subscription of 10 credits per month, worth $29 a month. Images downloaded this way will be licensed under the royalty-free Standard License.
How to get the free trial
- Go to Shutterstock’s website. You can use this link to safely redirect to Shutterstock’s free trial page.
- Click on “Try for free now”. The free trial page changes occasionally and can differ based on your location, but you should be able to find a big red button that says “Start free trial”.
- Sign in to your Shutterstock account. If you don’t have an account, you can create one for free by connecting it to your email or Facebook.
- Enter your payment information and confirm. You will have to enter your credit card information, name, and your address. Please note that Shutterstock is legitimate and won’t steal your credit card information. On top of that, the site is encrypted, so all your information remains secret.
- Download photos. You should now be able to access Shutterstock images without watermarks for free. If the free trial doesn’t automatically apply to your account, you may need to enter the code “TRYFLEX10” to activate it manually. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before applying for the trial.
» More: Find more Shutterstock coupons
- The free trial previously had a policy that required users to cancel at least 4 days (later shortened to 2 days) before the end of the trial to avoid being billed. This policy has since been removed, and you can cancel the trial anytime. However, we still recommend you cancel the trial before the 30 days are up to avoid any potential issues.
- The free trial used to apply to the standard image subscription of 10 monthly downloads, which has since been substituted with All-in-one subscriptions. Now, you can download 10 images, 1 video, or 2 audio tracks + 2 images.
2. Subscribe to Shutterstock’s newsletter
By subscribing to Shutterstock’s newsletter, you get one free image and one free vector each week delivered straight to your inbox. To sign up, simply create an account on Shutterstock’s website and opt-in to receive promotional offers.
How to get it:
- Go to Shutterstock.
- Create a free Shutterstock account.
- Confirm the email address.
- Wait to receive one photo and one vector in your inbox.
Check back every week to get one free photo and vector. If you don’t get them into your inbox, go to Shutterstock’s free download page, and download them from there. The only downside is that you have no control over which image and vector you get.
3. Download free collections
Did you know that Shutterstock has a collection of free stock images that are high quality and do not have watermarks? These images can be downloaded in packs that are organized by topic.
Like the images included in the free trial and newsletter, these free collection images can be used for commercial purposes and have unlimited prints. Additionally, the photo and vector you receive each week through the newsletter are royalty-free and can be used for commercial purposes without watermarks.
How to get it:
- Go to Shutterstock.
- Go to the free image collections.
- Select an image pack.
- Download the image pack.
- Unzip the images.
- Hundreds of free images
- Shutterstock Standard license
- Organized in packs where many of the images won’t be useful for you
4. Free images for students
Students can access 47 free stock images for their class assignments and creative projects by signing up with an email address and password on Shutterstock and verifying their student status
How to get it:
- Go to Shutterstock.
- Go to the lip student free pack page.
- Sign up with an email and password.
- Wait to get verified.
- Enjoy your free images.
For a while in 2019, you could also get a free MackBook Air by creating the best project for the creative challenge, which resulted from a partnership between Shutterstock and Lecture in Progress.
5. Shutterstock’s subscription plans
Shutterstock’s subscription plans offer a cost-effective way to access stock images without watermarks. By paying a fixed monthly fee, subscribers receive a certain number of credits that can be used to download images, videos, or audio tracks. There are six different plan sizes and three durations to choose from, with the annual plan billed upfront being the most affordable option starting at $0.22 per image.
|Credits per month||Monthly||Annual (billed monthly)||Annual (billed upfront)|
You can use the credits to download images (photos, illustrations, vectors), videos, or audio tracks. Each content type costs a different number of credits:
- Images: 1 credit
- Video: 10 credits
- Audio tracks: 4 credits
For subscriptions, you may also use our Shutterstock coupon code to save an additional 10%. Such low prices make Shutterstock one of the cheapest stock photo sites, while its large library and decades of trustworthy service make it one of the best stock photo sites.
- Commercial license
- Download any of the 410+ million images, 25+ million videos, and tens of thousands of audio tracks
- The annual subscription with 10 credits comes with a 1-month free trial
- 20% discount on annual (billed monthly) plans and 32% discount on the annual (billed upfront) plans
- Starts at $25 per month
- The Enhanced License is not included
Shutterstock subscriptions used to be separated for each content type (images, videos, audio tracks). In the second half of 2022, Shutterstock introduced unified All-in-one subscriptions (previously FLEX).
6. Shutterstock’s on-demand packs
Image packs are your best choice for unwatermarked images when you don’t need them regularly. While they are more expensive than subscriptions, you get more freedom. This is because you may use them at any time.
|2 images||$29 ($14.50/image)||$199 ($99.50/image)|
|5 images||$49 ($9.80/image)||$449 ($89.80/image)|
|25 images||$229 ($9.16/image)||$1,699 ($67.96/image)|
With image packs, you can also get the Enhanced license that you cannot get otherwise.
Shutterstock image downloaders
Shutterstock image downloaders are illegal tools that promise to provide Shutterstock images without a watermark. However, most of them don’t work and may contain computer viruses.
We are only telling you about this method to warn you against it. We’ve noticed that several other websites promote tools that provide Shutterstock images without a watermark for free. We’ve tested all of them to see what they’re all about. And while some work, they are also frauds because they infringe copyrights—in fact, you are by using them.
When you buy a stock photo, you pay for the right to use it. That right is linked to a royalty-free license, your proof of payment. This way, the author of the photo gets paid for their work.
On the other hand, when you procure a photo illegally, you don’t have the right to use it. Because to use someone else’s intellectual property, you need their permission. You can get that permission with a license. However, when you use a stock photo without having the right to use it, you’re infringing the author’s copyright. And if you get sued, it can cost you a lot of money.
Here are the 3 top problems with Shutterstock image downloaders:
- They usually don’t work.
- They may contain malware.
- They are 100% illegal, and you are not allowed to use the photos you get with them.
Frequently asked questions
How can I remove the watermark from Shutterstock images?
There are many ways to remove the watermark from Shutterstock images, but you shouldn’t do it illegally. This includes using 3rd party tools that remove the watermark after you provide the link to the photos. The best and legal way to get Shutterstock images without a watermark for free is through the 30-day trial that gives you 10 royalty-free images.
How can I download Shutterstock videos without a watermark for free?
There is no legal way of downloading Shutterstock videos without a watermark for free. Illegal tools that remove your watermark might get you in big trouble. The best way to get Shutterstock videos without a watermark is to buy them with subscription plans.
Can you use Shutterstock images for free with a watermark?
Yes, you can get 10 free Shutterstock images with the free trial during the first 30 days. Another option is creating a free account, for which you get one free photo and one vector to your email inbox each week.
Is it illegal to remove Shutterstock’s watermark?
Yes, it’s illegal to remove Shutterstock’s watermark from images without paying for the license first. By doing so, you’re infringing the copyright, thus putting yourself and your project at risk of a lawsuit.