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Shutterstock Review 2022

Matic Broz profile picture By Matic Broz Updated August 4, 2022
Shutterstock logo

5.0

Superb

The bottom line

Shutterstock is a good option if you want a source of high-quality stock photos at reasonable prices when bought with subscriptions, but the image packs are quite expensive and very inflexible.

$0.22–$14.50/image
at Shutterstock
Free trial
at Shutterstock

Pros

  • The largest collection of stock images (396 million)
  • 30-day free trial with 10 images worth $29
  • Wide variety of buying options

Cons

  • Content packs need to be bought for each content type separately
  • Editorial images are expensive ($99.50–$199)
  • Enhanced License affordable only when bought in bulk

Shutterstock specs

Websiteshutterstock.com
Images395 million
Pricing$0.22–$14.50/image
Extended license$67.96–$99.50
Free trialYes (10 images)
LicensesRoyalty-free
Founded2003; 19 years ago

If you are tired of not finding the images you need on other stock photo sites and want peace of mind regarding the licensing, Shutterstock could be for you. Despite fierce competition, it remains the most popular stock agency among designers, bloggers, companies, and even individuals. We like it because it has the largest collection of images (400 million), very affordable subscriptions, and various integrations that help with your workflow. Yet, its on-demand options are relatively inflexible. You can also get 10 free images with the free trial.

If you have never used stock photo sites before and are unsure whether it’s a good fit, Shutterstock might be an excellent place to start. People who love Shutterstock love Shutterstock (most of its customers are regulars). In fact, we found that Shutterstock has around 350K subscribers at any given moment, and had almost 2 million customers in 2018 alone.

Shutterstock is still growing and will continue to attract customers (and new photographers, who contribute the images). It’s worth remembering that even if you stop using Shutterstock, you may continue using the images or other stock content you downloaded.

We ranked Shutterstock as the best stock photo site based on the number of images, pricing, licensing, and customer support. We really like Shutterstock’s image subscriptions, which come at affordable prices even for those on a tight budget. However, we’re somewhat opposed to the image and video packs, which severely limit what you can buy, since you need to buy a pack for every type of content instead of having credits that can buy any asset.

Licensing is reasonable, with the Standard License serving a general purpose, such as use on websites, social media, and up to 500,00 prints. But we are quite disappointed that it comes with $10,000 legal coverage only, compared to Adobe Stock which offers unlimited indemnity. The Extended license is also reasonably priced, but can only be bought with packs of at least 2.

The bottom line is that Shutterstock is a good option for royalty-free stock images for most customers, including businesses and individuals. It offers many integrations, affordable subscriptions, broad Extended licenses, and responsive customer support together with high-quality photos.

What is Shutterstock?

Shutterstock interface
Screenshot of Shutterstock’s home page

If you’re reading this review, you probably already know this stock agency by name. For the uninitiated: Shutterstock is the most popular stock photo site with the largest collection of stock images (395 million as of July 10, 2022) and 200,000 added daily. Although it’s not the first microstock agency (that crown belongs to iStock), Shutterstock introduced subscriptions to the stock photography niche. And despite being founded later than some of its competitors, it has outgrown everyone thanks to quality images and affordable pricing.

Who is Shutterstock Best for?

Shutterstock is the best option for users who need a great variety of stock images at affordable prices. Because of the wide array of pricing options, everyone can find the right plan for their needs. Shutterstock is especially good for:

  • Individuals. Shutterstock sells stock images at very reasonable prices so that individuals can buy them too. You can always use a coupon code to lower the costs, or you can even get 10 images for free with the free trial. But if you need over 10 images per month, Depositphotos is the better choice because the subscriptions with 25–75 images per month are much cheaper.
  • Best for medium-to-large businesses: At 350–750 images per month, Shutterstock is priced the same as all its competitors, but because of its enormous image selection, you’ll never run out of fresh content.
  • Best for (several) enhanced licenses: Enhanced (or Extended) licenses are cheap at Shutterstock, starting at $67.96. But Shutterstock’s enhanced licenses are affordable only if you buy in bulk (5 or 25). But if you buy a single enhanced license, it’s more expensive than elsewhere.

Related: Best stock photo sites

Image quality

Images on Shutterstock are available in three sizes-Small, Medium, and Large. All sizes come in 300 DPI (dots per inch). The Large image is always the original size, submitted by the contributor, and is the best quality available.

  • Small (S) has the shortest download time and is suitable for digital use.
  • Medium (M) is suitable for small prints and digital use.
  • Large (L) is the original file provided by the contributor. Suitable for large prints and digital use.

Pricing

Quick summary of Shutterstock prices:

  • Image subscriptions: $0.22–$4.90/image
  • Image packs: $9.16–$14.50/image
  • Extended License: $67.96–$99.50/image
  • Video subscriptions: $8.35–$37.80/video
  • Video packs: $51.96–$119.80/video
  • Music: $16.60/month for unlimited downloads

Shutterstock sells stock photos with subscriptions (cheaper) and on-demand (more flexible). Royalty-free images cost $0.22–$14.50, while the Enhanced License for images costs $67.96–$99.50. If you don’t know if Shutterstock is a good fit, you can use the free trial to get 10 free images in the first 30 days.

You can also buy stock footage with subscriptions or on-demand and stock music with unlimited subscriptions.

By using our coupon code, you can get a 25% discount on every Shutterstock purchase. This means getting stock images for as low as $0.156.

The main difference between subscriptions and on-demand is how you get the stock assets. Subscriptions give you a certain number of downloads every month, whereas, packs give a certain number of downloads that you can use whenever you want.

FeaturesSubscriptionImage/video packs
Standard license
Enhanced license
Coverage for 1 user
Auto-renewal with an easy opt-out
Includes Editor Pro
Free trial
Shutterstock plans comparison

Image subscriptions ($0.22–$4.90/image)

VERDICT: Shutterstock’s subscriptions are one of the best subscriptions among stock photo sites. Although you can find cheaper, those are also lower quality or with worse perks.

Subscriptions are the best option when you need stock images regularly because you get the lowest possible prices. However, if you want the best Shutterstock prices, you need to choose an annual prepaid plan, which binds you to a 12-month contract.

They cost $25–249/month ($0.22–$4.90/image) and come in sizes of 10, 50, 350, and 750 images per month. You can get them for three different durations: monthly, annual, and annual prepaid.

Monthly downloadsMonthlyAnnualAnnual (prepaid)
10 images$49 ($4.90/image)$29 ($2.90/image)$25 ($2.50/image)
50 images$125 ($2.50/image)$99 ($1.98/image)$82 ($1.64/image)
350 images$199 ($0.57/image)$169 ($0.48/image)$137 ($0.39/image)
750 images$249 ($0.33/image)$199 ($0.27/image)$167 ($0.22/image)
Shutterstock’s subscription prices

Teams (up to 10 members) — a subscription plan with 750 monthly downloads for $479/month, including tools for team planning and collaboration.

More info—There’s no limit on image size or daily download limit with all subscriptions, but the unused downloads aren’t carried over to the next month. If you run out of downloads before the end of the month, you can wait until the next month, upgrade your subscription, or purchase on-demand packages.

Summary

Stock image subscriptions are your best option when you need regular image downloads. Pick monthly plans when you need them for fewer than 8 months, annual when you need them for more than 8 months, and annual prepaid when you can afford to pay in advance.

Image packs ($9.16–$14.50/image)

VERDICT: Shutterstock’s image packs are a lot less flexible than iStock’s and Adobe Stock’s credits. At Shutterstock, you need to buy an image pack for each content type, while at iStock and Adobe Stock you can use credits to buy any content.

Image packs are your best choice if you don’t need stock photos regularly, as they don’t tie you to a contract. They come in sizes 2. 5, and 25, costing $29–$229 ($9.16–$14.50/image) for the Standard license and $199–$1,699 ($67.96–$99.50/image) for the Enhanced license.

Pack sizeStandardEnhanced
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)
Shutterstock’s image pack prices

The cheapest image pack costs $29 ($14.50/image) for 2 images, while the most affordable option for the standard license costs $229 ($9.16/image).

Like a subscription, image packs are automatically renewed when you run out of downloads or when they expire. You can cancel this service on the order summary page or your account settings after purchase.

Summary

Image packs are the best option when you need images only now and then. Also, they are the only way to get Enhanced License images, which you need for merchandise or larger (over 500K prints) campaigns.

Editorial image packs

VERDICT: Shutterstock has one of the cheapest buying options for editorial content. Similar you can find at Getty Images, where they cost $50–$499/image.

Editorial image packs give you access to over 50 million sports, news, entertainment, and archival stock photos.

Pack sizePrice
1 image$199 ($199/image)
25 images$2,479 ($99/image)
Shutterstock’s editorial image packs prices

How to get the Editorial image packs is not obvious. You can get them by clicking “Pricing” in the top right corner and choosing “Editorial“.

You can get even more editorial images with the Shutterstock Premiere License, which is available with the Enterprise Platform.

Summary

Editorial images are a special type of stock content that you may not use for commercial purposes. It’s can be used solely for educational purposes, such as news and documentaries.

Video subscriptions ($8.35–$37.80/video)

VERDICT: Shutterstock’s video subscriptions are quite good, but if you need loads of downloads and you’re on a tight budget, unlimited video downloads are far cheaper. For those, we recommend Artgrid or Videvo.

Stock footage subscriptions are the best option if you need stock videos regularly because they come with the lowest prices. But subscriptions bind you to a monthly or an annual contract. If you can afford it, choose the annual prepaid option which is 20% cheaper.

You can get stock video subscriptions for $79–669/month ($8.35–$37.80/video) in sizes of 5, 10, or 20 videos per month. If you need stock footage and images at the same time, pick the FLEX25 plan. It gives you 3 video clips, 25 images, or any combination of both.

ClipsMonthlyAnnualAnnual (prepaid)
5 videos$189 ($37.80/video)$99 ($19.80/video)$79 ($15.80/video)
10 videos$359 ($35.90/video)$159 ($15.90/video)$133 ($13.30/video)
20 videos$669 ($33.45/video)$199 ($9.95/video)$167 ($8.35/video)
FLEX25$69 ($23.00/video)$49 ($16.33/video)$42 ($14.00/video)
Shutterstock’s stock footage subscription prices

More info—There’s no limit on image size or daily download limit with all subscriptions, but the unused downloads aren’t carried over to the next month. If you run out of downloads before the end of the month, you can wait until the next month, upgrade your subscription, or purchase on-demand packages.

The most cost-efficient option is the annual prepaid subscription of 20 clips, costing only $8.35/video.

Video packs ($51.96–$119.80/video)

Video packs are your best choice if you don’t need stock photos regularly, as they don’t tie you to a contract. You can get them in three resolutions (SD, HD, and 4K) and three sizes (5, 10, and 25 videos) costing $51.96–$119.80/video.

The cheapest video pack costs $229 ($51.96/video) for 5 SD videos, while the most cost efficient option is 25 SD videos for $1,299 ($51.96/video).

SDHD4K
5 videos$299 ($59.80/video)$359 ($71.80/video)$599 ($119.80/video)
10 videos$549 ($54.90/video)$669 ($66.90/video)$999 ($99.90/video)
25 videos$1,299 ($51.96/video)$1,579 ($63.16/video)$2,299 ($91.96/video)
Shutterstock’s stock footage packs prices

FLEX subscriptions

FLEX25 Subscription, also called “Mix and Match”, is Shutterstock’s subscription plan that lets you download images, music tracks, and video clips all at the same time. You get 25 credits per month that you may use in any way you want. You can get 25 images, 6 music tracks, 3 video clips, or any combination of those.

PriceMonthlyAnnualAnnual (prepaid)
Price per month$69$49 $42
Price per image$2.76/image$1.96/image$1.68/image
Price per track$11.04/track$7.84/track$6.72/track
Price per clip$22.08/clip$15.68/clip$13.44/clip
Shutterstock’s stock footage subscription prices

Here’s how much credits each content type costs:

  • 1 image = 1 credit
  • 1 video clip = 8 credits
  • 1 music track = 4 credits

On its website, Shutterstock also offers a FLEX Subscription for teams and the Premium version, but they don’t disclose the price. So, we got in touch with customer support, and here’s what we found:

FLEX150

Businesses can get a 6-times larger FLEX subscription, which gives you 150 credits and costs $3,999 when paid upfront. Each Standard license image and music track cost 1 credit, while video clips cost 15 credits. This plan allows up to 10 seats/users.

FLEX Premium

For $5,000 per year, you get 1,000 credits that may be shared among unlimited users and 200 unwatermarked comps. Images, footage, and editorial images cost 5 credits, while music costs 20 credits. Each asset comes with rights similar to the Standard license.

The reason for the price jump is directly related to the licensing aspect of the agreement. It’s the switch from one natural person (sole proprietor, individual contractor) to a business with more than 1 employee.

Music

Music is available in a Flex25 plan (4 credits) or with an Unlimited music plan for $16.60/month. Alternatively, you can buy tracks individually for $49 a piece or $419 for the enhanced license.

How to buy Shutterstock images?

  1. Go to Shutterstock.com.
  2. Click Pricing in the top right corner.
  3. Click on the Buy now or Buy pack button.
  4. Sign in with your Shutterstock account
  5. Fill in your billing address and payment method
  6. Double-check the order summary
  7. Click Complete checkout.

Shutterstock coupons

You can get up to a 25% discount with Shutterstock coupons, thus reducing the price per image to $0.165. Also, Shutterstock offers various discounts around holidays. Both options also grant you access to over 1.7 million new pictures, videos, and music tracks uploaded weekly and licensed, which keeps you legally protected and free from copyright issues.

Free

30-day free trial

Get 10 images free during the first 30 days in the worth of $29.

Shutterstock free trial

Shutterstock offers a 30-day free trial that lets you download 10 stock images. The trial period is non-binding, and you won’t be charged until two days before the trial expires. But if you don’t cancel within the specified period, you’ll be charged a monthly fee.

How to Get the Shutterstock Free Trial?

Step 1: Go to Shutterstock

You can click here for a safe redirect to Shutterstock’s free trial page.

Step 2: Click on Start your free trial.

You can generally find the button at the top of the page above the menu.

Step 3: Create an account

Enter your email address and password. Alternatively, you can sign in with Google or Facebook.

Step 4: Fill out your details.

Now that you’re at the checkout page, you need to enter your payment information before you can activate the free trial. But don’t worry because you won’t be charged until the end of the trial.

Step 5: Click on Complete checkout.

If you didn’t get the free trial, enter code PICK10FREE in the “Modify your coupon code.”

Related: Best stock photo free trials

Licensing

Shutterstock offers four licenses: the Standard, Enhanced, Editorial, and Premier Licenses.

  • The Standard Shutterstock License is a royalty-free license that allows you to use stock images anywhere in the world forever. It limits you to 500K copies or impressions. You get the standard license whenever you download images with a subscription plan or a standard image pack.
  • The Enhanced Shutterstock License is also a type of royalty-free license, similar to the standard license but with unlimited distribution rights. It also comes with higher legal coverage ($250K) than the standard license ($10K). You can get an enhanced license by buying an enhanced license image pack.
  • The Editorial license is not royalty-free because you may only use the license once. If you want to use the same image again, you must buy another license.
  • The Premier Shutterstock License has several benefits that are not available with the Standard and Enhanced Licenses. You get sensitive use rights, unlimited legal coverage, use in merchandise and templates, high-res unwatermarked comps, and third-party right transferability. You can only get the Premier License by contacting Shutterstock’s customer service, which gives you access to Shutterstock’s Enterprise Platform.
Image usageStandardEnhancedEditorialPremier
Price$0.22-14.50/image$67.96-99.50/image$99-$199/imageCustom
You can get it withSubscriptions, standard license image packsEnhanced license image packsEditorial image packsContact Shutterstock customer service
Web distributionUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Print500K copiesUnlimited500K copiesUnlimited
Package500K copiesUnlimitedUnlimited
Out of home advertising500K impressionsUnlimitedUnlimited
Video production$10K budgetUnlimitedUnlimited
DecorationPersonalPersonal, commercialUnlimited
Legal coverage$10K$250K$25KUnlimited
Seats111Unlimited
The comparison of the Standard, Enhanced, Editorial, and Premier Shutterstock Licenses

Related: What does royalty-free mean?

You may not use images for

You may not use Shutterstock licenses for logos, trademarks, sensitive materials, or resell without significant modifications. You must get a custom license by contacting Shutterstock support to do any of those.

How to choose the right license?

The Shutterstock Standard License is sufficient for most of your content needs, as you may use it indefinitely on the web and with up to 500,000 copies for printing and advertising. The enhanced license allows for larger reproductions and reprints, making it a better choice for high-volume customers and organizations. It’s also more suitable when you need higher legal backing, as it comes with $250,000 in legal coverage.

Can I transfer licenses?

The basic standard and enhanced licenses are not transferable between different individuals. If your client needs a new design or a product, they must license the content independently or ask you to do the whole design. A far better option is the Shutterstock Enterprise License, which allows for content transfer. It is also called the Premier License.

Editorial license

Editorial content generally can’t be used for commercial purposes but only for news articles and documentaries. This content usually represents brands, such as logos or slogans. Shutterstock’s collection of editorial content contains over 40 million images.

How much does the enhanced license cost?

Enhanced licenses cost between $67.96 and $99.50 per image. You can only purchase an enhanced license with enhanced image packs, which come in sizes of 2, 5, and 25, and cost between $199 and $1,699. The larger the image pack, the cheaper the enhanced license.

How does Shutterstock work? (Buying guide)

Our readers often ask us how they can use Shutterstock and which purchase option is best for their situation. In this section, we address the most common questions.

➥ Click here to start your 30-day free trial (credit card required).

Question #1: I need photos for my website/blog. What do I choose?

Websites usually need images regularly, so an annual subscription is the best option. Depending on how many images you need, you can choose between 10, 50, 350, and 750 monthly downloads. In our experience, most website owners opt for 50 or 350 monthly downloads. If you need around 100 to 200, choose the larger subscription (350 images/month), as it costs only slightly more than the 50 downloads subscription. In addition, the Shutterstock Standard license you get with subscriptions is enough for your website if you don’t plan to use images for resale.

Question #2: I run a media agency, and we need many images.

The largest pre-made subscription you can get is 750 monthly downloads, which for teams of 10 members costs $479/month. If you’re part of a larger plan, get an enterprise plan by contacting Shutterstock.

Question #3: When do I need an enterprise plan?

An enterprise plan is necessary when you share images with other team members (teams of 10+ members) or when you need a custom solution, such as over 750 monthly downloads, API, VIP customer service, and more.

Question #4: I want to use an image for resale (print T-shirts, mugs, etc.). Which license should I get?

You need an extended license when you use a standalone file for resale, such as printing the image on anything and then selling this item. “Standalone file” means an unchanged file or a file that wasn’t incorporated into a bigger design.

Question #5: Can I upload the downloaded image to another stock photo site?

No, you may not resell the image anywhere or claim its ownership unless you get explicit permission from the author.

Question #6: I’m working on a project for a client.

If you don’t give images directly to the client, you may use the standard license, which is included in subscriptions and image packs. For example, a graphic designer creating graphics for a client may use the images they get from subscriptions or image packs.

What we like about Shutterstock

The number, quality, & variety of images

Shutterstock number of photos
Almost 395 million royalty-free stock photos, vectors, and illustrations are in Shutterstock’s database.

At the same time, Shutterstock has the largest collection of stock images (395 million) while also maintaining superb quality thanks to rigorous checks by the quality-check team. Also, Shutterstock adds approximately 200,000 more stock images to its library daily. This seemingly unending variety and supply of fresh content, ensure you can find any visual you need, regardless of how niche it is. This keeps true even for the largest subscriptions of 750 monthly downloads.

In addition to the massive image library, Shutterstock has a pretty large collection of stock videos (25.2 million) shots in up to 4K resolution and 60 FPS. You can also find 28K music tracks on Shutterstock and an additional 25K on PremiumBeat, which Shutterstock acquired in 2015.

What Shutterstock is far less popular for but still very powerful at are editorial images and videos, costing from $99.50 up to $199 for images and much more for videos (you must get in touch with customer support). Lastly, you can browse sound effects (10.6K), available in stereo, 5.1, and ambisonic, templates, and 3D models, which are available at Turbosquid, another agency Shutterstock acquired.

Great subscriptions

Shutterstock pricing page

Having introduced subscriptions to microstock photography, Shutterstock’s subscriptions remain one of the best in the business because of their great versatility and low prices. To start with, you can choose between four subscription types based on the content you need: images, videos, images + videos, and music. Each subscription comes in three or four sizes, with the “size” meaning the number of monthly downloads. As the number of downloads increases, the price per download decreases, resulting in the large plans being more cost-efficient.

You can subscribe for three different durations: monthly, annual, and annual prepaid. The latter is almost unique to Shutterstock and is the main reason why its subscriptions are one of the cheapest among stock photo sites. It’s worth mentioning that you should pick annual subscriptions even if you don’t need the downloads for 12 months because of price reduction. Therefore, we recommend monthly subscriptions only if you need the images (or videos) for fewer than 8 months.

The recently-introduced FLEX25 subscription plan is ideal for creative designers who don’t need only images but also videos. This plan lets you download either 25 images or 3 videos per month or any combination of both (1 video download is worth 8 image downloads).

Free images

Shutterstock free image collection

In addition to being already quite affordable, Shutterstock gives you three options of downloading images for free and without watermarks.

Free collections: The first and the easiest way is to download images from the free stock image collections. These are the packs of free stock images Shutterstock is giving away for free. They come with the Standard license that gives unlimited digital reproduction rights and up to 500,000 physical reproductions.

Email newsletter: create a free Shutterstock account using only your email address, to which you’ll receive one stock photo and one stock vector weekly. Best of all, they are licensed with a royalty-free license, making them equivalent to images you’d buy with actual money.

Free trial: During the 30-day trial, you can download Shutterstock images of your choice that come with the Standard license. The free trial works on the small image subscriptions (10 downloads per month) only, so it saves you $49 in the first month. You can also cancel it risk-free anytime during the first month and pay nothing.

Good customer support

Along with the guidelines on how we test customer support, we contacted Shutterstock’s support team many times through each available option: live chat, email, and phone call.

We have found that Shutterstock’s customer support is very good, especially the live chat option. You can very easily start a conversation from the help page, from which you choose one of the three options.

The wait time to receive an agent is usually very short, in our experiments, 2-3 minutes on average. The assistants are kind, knowledgable, and very quick to forward your information to other team members if the topic is outside their expertise or jurisdiction. Getting a reply to an email took, on average, 6 to 12 hours for us, but it can take up to 24 hours based on when you submit the ticket.

Shutterstock Editor

Shutterstock Editor using a template

Shutterstock’s Editor is a simplified version of any photo editing software. When you open the editor, it first prompts you to select the design dimensions with several presets for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

You can browse all Shutterstock’s images from the editor, helping you find the right image without downloading it. You can browse many free templates if you don’t want to start from scratch. Finally, you can add text and elements, like shapes, stickers, and symbols.

Shutterstock promotes its Collage Maker as a separate tool, but it’s part of the Editor, where instead of freely choosing the setup, Shutterstock automatically recommends a collage-like template.

Mobile Apps

Shutterstock developed an app for Android and Apple devices, available at Google Play and App Store, respectively. The app allows you to browse, save, share, and download all Shutterstock content. Although most creatives work from PCs, some find inspiration while on the go, and having the apps on their phone allows them to do their work whenever the motivation kicks in.

Integrations

An invaluable feature of stock image sites is integrations. Instead of downloading photos from Shutterstock and then uploading them to their favorite applications, Shutterstock users can use plugins to browse the images. Shutterstock supports WordPress integration, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Creative Cloud applications, Google Slides, Sketch, and Microsoft PowerPoint. Shutterstock’s Chrome extension, called Shutterstock Reveal, helps you find Shutterstock’s images by scanning any online image you want to use.

Image Resizer & File Converter

Shutterstock Image Resizer
Using Shutterstock’s Image Resizer

In addition to every other tool we’ve discussed so far, Shutterstock also offers a set of free tools that anyone can use. While they are not flashy or game-changing, these tools can help with your workflow. They include an image resizer, file converter (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), collage maker, and color schemes generator.

Image searching tools

Shutterstock Editor using a template

Shutterstock’s search tool used to be essential and lacked features before the update. Now, however, it is very sophisticated and intuitive, with several filters to help you find the desired content quickly.

Shutterstock gives you several ways to find the right images. You can search by Keyword, use Filters, Sort by freshness and relevance, and reverse image search. Which you choose is totally up to you, but the easiest way to find the right image is by starting with a Keyword Search and then using FIlter to narrow down the search. Sometimes you find an image on the internet that you like and want to use but don’t know where to find it. Here you can use the image to perform a Reverse Image Search and purchase it.

WordPress plugin

In December of 2020, Shutterstock announced and released a WordPress plugin that you can use to upload images from Shutterstock from within your editor.

Also, this plugin works not only with WordPress but also with WordPress VIP, a platform for giants such as Facebook or Spotify. You need to download the plugin and connect it to your Shutterstock account.

The best feature of this plugin is that you don’t need to purchase the image to see it live. Why not? Because there’s a live preview option that allows you to see what the image will look like on your website. Of course, it will be watermarked until you license it.

Flaws and potential dealbreakers

Unflexible on-demand options

Shutterstock video pricing video packs
Screenshot of Shutterstock’s video pricing showing the abundance of on-demand video packs

Shutterstock offers image and video packs, which are quite affordable, but we don’t like how they work. If you want to use them, you must first buy the right pack, but knowing which one you’ll need isn’t always possible ahead of time. What is more, there are 5 image packs and 18 (!!) video packs.

For example, let’s say you bought a 5 video image pack in HD resolution. If you need one 4K video next, you must buy a whole new image pack. In contrast, some other stock photo sites let you buy credit (with credit packs) that you may use to buy any content on their website.

The same goes for image packs, which are still more flexible than video packs. You can choose between 2 or 3 sizes for the Standard or Enhanced licenses.

Low legal coverage of the Standard license

Legal coverage (or indemnity) is the maximum amount of money a stock photo agency pays for your legal issues that arise from the photo that caused them. In other words, it’s a metric of how much a stock agency believes in the legitimacy of its photos.

The Shutterstock Standard License is the most basic license that comes with subscriptions and standard image packs. To our surprise, it comes with a relatively low legal coverage of $10,000 per license. In comparison, one of Shutterstock’s strongest alternatives, Adobe Stock, offers unlimited legal coverage even with the Standard license.

If you want higher legal coverage from Shutterstock, you need to get the Extended license, which comes with a $250,000 indemnity, which is still far less than Adobe Stock. In terms of the amount of legal coverage, Shutterstock lies somewhere in the middle, with Adobe and Getty Images at the top, and Depositphotos and Envato Elements at the bottom.

Poor customer reviews & no responses

Shutterstock reviews on Trustpilot

Every company gets negative customer reviews–it’s understandable that you can’t make everyone happy. What is more, the larger the business, the higher the chance it will get bad reviews. And sometimes, the reviews are just not the company’s fault and are the consequence of the customers misreading the terms and conditions or not understanding the product.

However, much to our surprise, Shutterstock has surprisingly many bad reviews on sites like Trustpilot and G2. We dug into the almost 3,000 reviews to find why customers don’t like Shutterstock while we love it.

Sidenote: Shutterstock has around 2,500 bad reviews but served around 20 million customers in the 19 years since it was founded. Therefore, the bad reviews represent 0.0125% of customers.

We were the most disappointed that Shutterstock’s PR team doesn’t reply to these reviews because that would help improve their image. But because we’re here to deliver truthful information and reviews, we tackled this issue and addressed the most common complaints with facts.

Best Shutterstock alternatives

Although Shutterstock is one of the best stock photo sites (ranked # 1 on Photutorial’s list), it doesn’t excel in every aspect. Some of the best Shutterstock alternatives include Adobe Stock, iStock, and Depositphotos.

Things to consider

  • Quality & Variety

    How good the images look and how many you can choose from should be your top priority when choosing a stock photo site.

  • Pricing

    Lower pricing can mean lower quality, but there’s no point in overpaying for stock photos. Look for subscriptions.

  • Licensing

    How much legal coverage ($10,000+) and how broad the license is tells you a lot about the stock agency.

  • Additional features

    Having more tools at your hands is always welcome when you try to set up your workflow and create visuals quickly.

Adobe Stock

If you’re not set on Shutterstock, Adobe Stock is another excellent stock photo site. After many tests, we decided that neither is better than the other but that each is better for a certain type of customer. We determined that Adobe Stock is better for graphic designers and other creatives who can benefit from Adobe’s apps. While both Shutterstock and Adobe Stock can be integrated into the Creative Cloud, Adobe Stock is built-in out of the box, while Shutterstock requires you to download a plugin. Not only that, Adobe Stock can be integrated into more Creative Cloud apps than Shutterstock can.

When it comes to the pricing options, Adobe Stock is cheaper and more flexible for on-demand than Shutterstock. The increased flexibility comes from credits, with which you can buy any asset on Adobe Stock. In contrast, Shutterstock requires you to buy packs for each type of content separately, thus drastically limiting your options. Compared to Shutterstock, Adobe Stock also offers a much larger free trial with 10, 25, or 40 images. Finally, Adobe Stock offers a premium image collection with credits, while Shutterstock sells premium images at Offset.

iStock

Also great

iStock

Great for premium subscriptions

One of the best websites for royalty-free photos is iStock, formerly iStockphoto. It offers pricing options for individuals, small and large businesses, and corporations. Standard and premium images are separated so that you can choose between higher image quality and lower prices.

Get iStock Start free trial

iStock is better for subscriptions than Shutterstock. iStock lets you buy premium content (images, videos) with subscriptions, resulting in a much lower price.

iStock is very similar to Shutterstock. The main difference between them is that Shutterstock has double the iStock images. However, iStock sells premium stock images with subscriptions, making them a lot more affordable. In comparison, Shutterstock sells premium images at a different site, Offset, so you need to create a separate account if you need them. Pick iStock instead of Shutterstock if you need premium stock images regularly.


Related: Shutterstock vs. iStock.

Depositphotos

Best for bloggers

Depositphotos

The best stock photo site for bloggers and small businesses

Depositphotos is an RF microstock photo agency based in Florida. Its collection of images contains 224 million files of high-quality photos, vectors, videos, and illustrations. Since it offers incredible e-commerce stock images, it’s the best stock image website for bloggers and small businesses.

Get Depositphotos Start free trial

Depositphotos is better than Shutterstock for fewer downloads. The major advantage of Depositphotos over Shutterstock is the smaller subscriptions. Subscriptions of up to 75 monthly downloads are much cheaper with Depositphotos, making it better for bloggers, small businesses, and even individuals.

Getty Images

Getty Images vs. Shutterstock: Price is essential when choosing a stock photo site, and Getty Images is very expensive. It’s better than Shutterstock for those who need simple licensing or a rights-managed license.
Related: Shutterstock vs. Getty Images.

Summary of Shutterstock alternatives

ShutterstockAdobe StockiStockDepositphotos
Best forBest overallBest for Graphic DesignersBest for SubscriptionsBest for Bloggers
Rating5.0/5.05.0/5.04.8/5.04.8/5.0
Images392 million280 million140 million180 million
Price$0.22–$14.50/image$0.26–$9.99/image$0.22–$9.90/image$0.22–14.00/image
Extended license$67.96–$99.50$79.99$144–$216$63.96–$89.00
Free trialYes (10 images)Yes (10, 25, or 40 images)Yes (10 images)Yes (10 images)
LicensesRoyalty-freeRoyalty-freeRoyalty-freeRoyalty-free
Review(current article)Adobe Stock reviewiStock reviewDepositphotos review
See itSee itSee itSee it

Customer satisfaction

Despite being one of the best and largest stock photo sites, Shutterstock gets many bad reviews. It’s been rated 4.4/5.0 by 492 reviews on G2, 1.2/5.0 by 409 reviews on Sitejabber, and 1.2/5.0 by 1,742 reviews on Trustpilot. We will address the most common Shutterstock customer reviews and present facts:

1. Misleading free trial

Most dissatisfied customers complain about misleading free trial terms, claiming they were charged before the trial ended. This was indeed true; up until 2022, Shutterstock’s free trial policy required you to cancel the free trial four days (96 hours) before it ended, otherwise, you would be charged. According to them, this was due to the processing times (we didn’t buy it).

Sometimes at the beginning of 2022, Shutterstock lowered the deadline for the cancellation to two days. A few months later, Shutterstock removed this deadline altogether, presumably because of the overwhelming amount of complaints. You may now cancel the free trial minutes before it ends. And we support that decision.

2. Poor customer support

We have tested the Shutterstock customer support inside out, but we couldn’t confirm the allegations that it was poor. Customers complain that they had to wait several days to receive an email response and waited on live chat for hours.

We tested both, and Shutterstock responded to our emails very quickly every time (usually within hours, 24 hours at most), which is very reasonable. The live support was superb every time, with the maximum waiting time from 2 to 3 minutes. Naturally, the live chat isn’t available on holidays, so perhaps the dissatisfied customers didn’t account for that.

3. No refunds

Lastly, we’ve seen that many customers complain about not receiving refunds. While every situation is unique and thus cannot be addressed in general, we spotted a trend where customers wanted a refund after using the images. This, of course, is not possible, since those customers have already procured the license, for which Shutterstock had to pay their photographers.

To the best of our knowledge, you’re eligible for a refund if a) Shutterstock made a mistake and charged you for something you didn’t buy, or b) you immediately recognize your mistake, don’t download any images, and ask for the refund explaining the situation.

Sidenote: We do not represent Shutterstock nor are we endorsed by them. These comments are our take based on facts and our experience with Shutterstock

Shutterstock review: The verdict

Shutterstock has a 5.0 rating, indicating it is the best stock photo site and that most customers are satisfied with their purchases. It has the largest stock image database, diverse pricing, a free trial, and excellent image quality and variety. Most consumers complain about poor customer service and free trial terms.

Our experience with Shutterstock is good, and we haven’t had any problems using it. However, we did not like the relatively expensive on-demand pricing and the very inflexible image and video packs. We liked the image quality, the free trial, and subscription prices.

Frequently asked questions

Is Shutterstock legit?

Yes, Shutterstock is a legit and reliable choice for stock images thanks to encrypting all purchases, although it has a bad rating of 1.2 out of 5.0 on Trustpilot, based on 1,742 reviews. Most customers complain about the scammy free trial terms.

Is Shutterstock free to use?

No, Shutterstock is not free. Shutterstock licenses all of its content under royalty-free licenses, often misunderstood as “free.” Instead, it means that you don’t have to pay any additional royalties after you pay the initial fee.
Learn more

Does Shutterstock have a free trial?

Yes, Shutterstock has a 30-day free trial for 10 free images of your choice. You can get the free trial by purchasing a subscription plan with an annual commitment, but if you cancel before the trial ends, you pay nothing and keep all 10 free images.

Is Shutterstock’s free trial really free?

Yes, Shutterstock’s free trial lets you download 10 stock images during 30-days free of charge, without any commitment. If you don’t cancel the free trial before the free trial ends, you’ll be charged.

Why is Shutterstock so expensive?

Shutterstock stock images and videos are expensive because you pay for quality instead of quantity. The Shutterstock review team carefully curates all the content, ensuring every image is valuable.

Can I use Shutterstock images for commercial use?

Yes, you may use Shutterstock images, except for those marked “Editorial Use Only,” in any creative project, such as print websites, ads, books, magazines, commercials, and brochures.

How much does Shutterstock cost?

Shutterstock royalty-free images cost $0.22–$4.90 when bought with a subscription and $9.16–$14.50/image when bought with image packs. Enhanced license images can only be bought with credit packs, costing $67.96–$99.50/image.

What is Shutterstock used for?

Customers use Shutterstock to buy royalty-free stock images, videos, music, templates, and 3D objects. Conversely, photographers and artists use Shutterstock to sell their work to customers by selling licenses and splitting the commission with Shutterstock. Shutterstock images are most commonly used to illustrate websites for graphics, personal projects, and marketing.

How much is a Shutterstock subscription?

Shutterstock subscriptions for images cost $25-$249/month, videos $42-$669/month, and music $16.60/month. Subscriptions come in different sizes and three commitment types, which determine the price of the plan and thus the cost per image.

Why you should trust us

I have thoroughly checked over 30 stock agencies and reviewed over 20 of them. I have also collaborated with other stock photo experts to exchange knowledge and share opinions, while I also consulted a number of stock photo agencies, helping them provide better services to their customers. Having reviewed all major stock photo sites, I know their licensing, pricing system, and hidden tricks inside-out, giving me the power to write an unbiased and useful Shutterstock review.

However, I do not rely only on myself. The review has also been checked by a Shutterstock employee, thus verifying that all information is correct. Importantly, they were not involved in the rating of Shutterstock, so the opinion remains unbiased.

Finally, we know that you can’t rely on the review of one person or team, as they might still be biased. For that reason, we checked over 2,500 Shutterstock reviews (literally!) from customer review sites, including G2, SiteJabber, and Trustpilot.

How we reviewed and rated

Our stock photo reviews are the culmination of hundreds of hours spent testing and reviewing stock photo agencies, so you don’t have to. This involved creating multiple email accounts (so they don’t recognize us and treat us better), contacting customer support to see how well they handle easy but also very difficult questions, and buying stock images to test the service. We then rated each stock photo site on a scale from 1 to 5 based on our findings and the quantitative measures (like the number of images, pricing, etc.). The following is how we evaluated Shutterstock:

  • Image quality & variety: 20% of the score. We browsed each stock photo site for over 50 search terms and analyzed the resulting image quality and variety. Both were scored qualitatively based on our expertise and experience. The quality check comprised technical quality, including exposure, sharpness, grain, saturation, color temperature, and added value. The variety check was primarily focused on checking what percentage of images came from the same photo shoot.
  • Stock photo prices and pricing options: 20% of the score. Price is crucial in choosing stock photos, and having various options helps customers find the best plans. We checked whether the stock photo agency offers subscriptions, on-demand options, and which sizes. In addition, having a free trial is a bonus as it allows customers to get an insight into what they can expect. Finally, we considered the minimum, median, and maximum price per image and the price per extended license image.
  • Licensing terms: 20% of the score. We read and took notes on every stock image license. We compared them based on how many copies, reprints, impressions they allow, and indemnity value.
  • Image number: 15% of the score. The number of images is essential when rating stock photo sites because you can quickly run out of free photos when you need thousands of images. We checked each stock photo site’s database and took notes on the number of images.
  • Additional features: 15% of the score. Additional features are meant to simplify or enhance a customer’s workflow. We reviewed and tested all the additional features where possible. Since some are limited to enterprises, or we couldn’t get in touch with the support team, we searched for customers with access to the additional features and asked for their opinion.
  • Customer support: 10% of the score. Crucially, when testing customer support, we didn’t tell them who we were, so we got treated like every other customer. We took notes of the response times, contact options (live chat, email, and telephone), and the usefulness and kindness of the support teams.

Within each category, we also considered several characteristics, the number of images per most popular searches, technical quality, and added value. We also looked at the variety of pricing plans, minimum, median, and maximum image prices, and free trial terms. Finally, we evaluated Shutterstock’s customer support, licensing, and additional features that would enhance customers’ workflow.

Sources

  1. Shutterstock Pricing, Shutterstock, updated 2022.
  2. About Us – Executive Team, Shutterstock, updated 2022.
  3. Free downloads, Shutterstock Blog, updated July 8, 2022.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, Shutterstock, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. updated June 30, 2022.
  5. Adam Bryant, Jon Oringer of Shutterstock, on the Power of Hackathon, The New York Times, June 20, 2013.
  6. Andrew Thomas, The Secret Ratio That Proves Why Customer Reviews Are So Important, Inc., February 26, 2018.
  7. Jonathan Oringer, Annual Report 2018, Shutterstock, February 26, 2019.

About your guide

Matic Broz profile image
Matic Broz

Matic Broz is a photographer, graphic designer, and stock photographer. For over ten years he's been helping photographers improve their photos and graphic designers find the best images for their designs. His work has been featured by Lifewire, Skylum, and PetaPixel. In his free time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and petting random dogs. Read more

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