In an intriguing twist, Shutterstock—a go-to platform for royalty-free images, video, and music—has rolled out a new plan that’s making waves for its quiet introduction. Officially labeled as the “Essentials Plan,” it first showed up on October 18, 2023, according to archival data from the Wayback machine.
Surprisingly, neither Shutterstock’s website nor any other news sources have so far shed light on this new offer. Currently, details of the plan are available only on the company’s Pricing page and here on Photutorial. Also, based on some experimenting with a VPN, the offer is currently available in the US.
What’s in the plan?
For a simple fee of $9.99 per month with no long-term strings attached, the Essentials Plan serves up some appetizing perks. Users get unlimited downloads from a starter set of 3.5+ million images. With an active Essentials subscription, you get a 15% discount on all standard license images. This price does not include VAT/GST/HST, and you cannot use Shutterstock coupons to reduce its price.
When searching for images, a fresh filter option stands out: “Get unlimited access.” Selecting this reveals more than 3.9 million stock photos, 3D objects, vectors, and illustrations—all part of the Essentials collection and included in the $9.99 monthly price. Each image from this collection can either be bought through a 5-image pack or obtained for free under the Essentials Plan.
The Essentials Plan isn’t just about images; it brings in creative AI features that allow users to edit any Shutterstock images to create eye-catching designs. Once downloaded, these edited images are yours to keep, even if you decide to part ways with the plan.
The Essentials Plan Agreement makes it clear that the plan works in tandem with Shutterstock’s standard License Agreement Terms of Service (TOS). Customers who kick off with a free trial must cancel it before it expires to prevent automatic conversion to a paid plan. The automatic renewal feature can be disabled any time from the user’s Account Plans page.
Fees don’t include any potential taxes. Refunds are generally not on the table, but some exceptions exist for EU residents who cancel their plans within 14 days and haven’t used any content.
Is it worth your money?
Considering how inexpensive it is, one can’t help but question the quality of the images included in the Essentials plan. My first impression is that the photos you get are just as good as those on a regular plan. The exception, though, is that you get only a small portion of the Shutterstock collection (less than 1%).
I did notice that many of the images in this collection are marked with the “Top choice! High demand, loved by users”. While this sounds great and signifies it’s a great image, it also tells you that it’s probably used a lot. So, by subscribing to the Essentials plan, you’re getting access to non-so-unique photos.