Shutterstock review 2023: it’s still the best stock photo site, and it keeps getting better

The best and largest stock photo site you can get
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Is it worth it?

Shutterstock is the best stock photo site and is worth a try if you’re looking for a large collection of stock images, videos, music, and editorial content. Subscriptions are the cheapest way to get royalty-free images, while image packs offer the most flexibility. You can also test it for 30 days using the free trial.

Pros

  • The largest collection of stock images (434 million)
  • 30-day free trial with 10 images worth $49
  • Wide variety of buying options.
  • Big discounts with the annual prepaid plans.

Cons

  • Editorial images are expensive ($99.50–$199)
  • Enhanced License affordable only when bought in bulk
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5.0
Photutorial Score
Photutorial Score = 5.0/5

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Websiteshutterstock.com
Images434 million
Pricing$0.22–$14.50/image
Extended license$67.96–$99.50
Free trialYes (10 images)
LicensesRoyalty-free
Shutterstock is the largest stock image site with 434 million royalty-free images. It’s the top affordable source for visual content, ideal for creatives, marketers, and businesses. Shutterstock offers subscriptions, on-demand packs, team plans, and tools under Creative Flow+, with prices ranging from $0.22 to $199 per image and a free trial. Shutterstock offers one of the most comprehensive royalty-free licenses for images and videos. Use code “PHOTUTORIAL15” to get a 15% discount sitewide. Got a question about Shutterstock? Ask us » Create beautiful graphics with this easy-to-use editor. Free with an active Shutterstock subscription. AI images aren’t that great yet, but you can use them even commercially. You also get indemnity. Shutterstock offers an array of additional features, such as integrations and plugins, so you can access images from anywhere. Use code “PHOTUTORIAL15” to get a 15% discount sitewide. Use code “PHOTUTORIAL15” to get a 15% discount sitewide.

For years, Shutterstock has reigned as the most popular stock photo site, though not without some flaws. However, one by one, I’ve been able to cross out the cons from this Shutterstock review as they’ve addressed the major pain points (it feels like they were reading this review!). As a result, Shutterstock now stands stronger than ever, with stellar images, reasonable prices, and minimal drawbacks.

When considering a new product, I, like many, first look at potential dealbreakers. In the past 2 years, Shutterstock has resolved the three biggest issues: eliminating the 4-day advance notice for canceling free trials (now immediate) and making subscriptions and on-demand options more flexible. Though it makes me sound like a sellout, I really can’t complain about much with Shutterstock anymore. Sure, the basic subscriptions could be cheaper and Creative Flow+ more powerful, but I’m nitpicking. Overall, Shutterstock remains one of the best stock photo websites to purchase from if royalty-free images are what you need, granting it a unique 5-star Photutorial rating.

But who shouldn’t get Shutterstock? If you’re on a budget but you need loads of images, Envato Elements is cheaper, with unlimited downloads. For videos, Pond5 and Artlist are worth checking out, while designers will love Adobe Stock.

How much does Shutterstock cost?

Shutterstock offers images, videos, and music through subscriptions or on-demand credits, but not as individual purchases. Meanwhile, editorial content like images and videos can only be bought as single assets or in packs. Compared to other agencies, Shutterstock pricing falls in the middle – not the cheapest but not exorbitant either. Subscriptions provide the best value, while on-demand packs and one-off purchases offer more flexibility at a higher per-asset cost.

Subscriptions

Diving into Shutterstock’s subscription feels like a necessity for the modern-day content creator. At its core, this system is designed for those looking for reliable and regular access to multimedia content. For YouTubers, Instagram influencers, or anyone in between, the offerings are tempting.

Let’s break it down: Monthly credits span from 10 to 750. Want an image? That’s 1 credit. Videos cost you 10, and audio tracks will set you back by 4 credits. Depending on your needs and budget, you’re looking at spending anywhere from $24.91 to $499 each month.

Credits per monthMonthlyAnnual (billed monthly)Annual (billed upfront)
10$49$29 (+ free trial)$25 ($299/ye)
25$89$59$50 $599/ye)
50$125$99$82 ($989/ye)
150$249$149$125 ($1,499/ye)
350$369$169$137 ($1,649/ye)
750$499$199$167 ($1,999/ye)
Subscription plans pricing (prices are monthly)

There’s more to these subscriptions than just numbers. Opt for an annual plan, and you’re treated to a 20% discount. Feeling more ambitious? Paying the full year upfront rewards you with a 32% discount. Plus, subscribers get exclusive access to Shutterstock’s Creative Flow apps and the AI search feature. The catch? The Enhanced license isn’t part of the package. And if you’re a video enthusiast, the 10-credit cost might sting a bit, especially on the smaller plans.

For those with an ear for music, Shutterstock hasn’t forgotten you. Their unlimited music packages — Essential and Premium — are priced between $16.58–$69 monthly. It’s a decent setup for video editors, especially with the inclusion of PremiumBeat tracks. But a heads up: platforms like Envato Elements or Artlist might have a fuller range.

On-demand packs

While subscriptions allow you to download any type of media assets from Shutterstock, you need to buy packs separately for each. You even have to buy them Standard and Enhanced licenses separately. However, one pricing version (you may not get it) offers both licenses together.

Here’s a ballpark figure (keep in mind that the prices are currently highly fluid, and we’ll keep updating them) of how much you’ll pay for Shutterstock assets with packs:

  • Image (Standard license): $9.16–$14.50
  • Image (Enhanced license): $67.96–$99.50
  • Video (Standard license): $23.00–$46.33
  • Video (Enhanced license): $115–$349
  • Music / Sound Effects (Standard license): $49 / $5
  • Music / Sounds Effects (Enhanced license): $199 / $20

You can also use Editorial packs to buy editorial images and videos. Single downloads cost $199/image and $149/video, while the Image Multi Pack of 25 editorial photos costs $99/image.

Subscriptions vs. on-demand

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 you a certain number of downloads you can use whenever you want (within a year). They also differ in a few other features:

FeaturesSubscriptionsOn-demand
Standard license
Enhanced license
Coverage for 1 user
Auto-renewal (optional)
Creative Flow
Free trial
Best forwhen you need stock images/videos regularly because you get the lowest possible priceswhen you need stock assets occasionally
We likebest prices;
20% discount with yearly;
33% discount with yearly prepaid;
no daily download limits
greatest flexibility
We dislikelower flexibility;
downloads do not roll over
higher prices;
credits are not universal
Shutterstock subscriptions vs. packs

Multiple users

Teams of up to 10 members can get a special subscription plan with 750 monthly downloads for $479/month, including team planning and collaboration tools. However, it includes downloads of images only. You can also get All-in-one subscriptions for teams by contacting Shutterstock customer support.

Editorial image packs

Editorial image packs are the only way to buy editorial images at Shutterstock. They come in sizes of 1 or 25 images and cost $199 and $2,479/pack or ($99 and $199/image). Editorial image packs give you access to over 50 million sports, news, entertainment, and archival stock photos. You can get them by clicking “Pricing” in the top right corner and choosing “Editorial“.

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

Editorial images are a special type of stock content that you may not use for commercial purposes but only for educational purposes, such as news and documentaries. You can get even more editorial images with the Shutterstock Premiere License, which is available with the Enterprise Platform.

Shutterstock has one of the cheapest buying options for editorial content. Similar options are found at Getty Images, where they cost $50–$499/image.

» Dive deep: Shutterstock pricing explained

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Free trial

Shutterstock offers a 30-day free trial that comes with the 10 credits per month annual (billed monthly) FLEX Subscription. This way, you save $29 and can download 10 images, 2 music tracks, or 1 video clip free. The trial period is non-binding, and you won’t be charged until the trial expires.

Follow these 5 steps to get the Shutterstock free trial:

  1. Go to Shutterstock
  2. Click on the “Start a free trial” button.
  3. Create a free account.
  4. Enter your payment info.
  5. Click on the “Complete checkout” button.

If you didn’t get the free trial, enter code TRYFLEX10 in the “Modify your coupon code.”

Want more free trials? Here are all the best stock photo free trials

2-minute Shutterstock review

What is Shutterstock?

Shutterstock stands as the internet’s foremost supplier of stock photography, with an expansive collection topping 434 million royalty-free images. But with its mixed customer reviews, is Shutterstock the right source for your visual content needs?

Offering subscriptions starting at just $29 per month, Shutterstock provides access to a massive library of photos, vectors, and illustrations at budget-friendly rates. The sheer volume makes it an ideal one-stop shop for individuals, businesses, and marketing teams seeking a diverse range of affordable imagery.

So should you subscribe? In this comprehensive review, we analyze the pros, cons, pricing options, and ideal use cases to determine if this stock image leader is the right fit or if you’re better off looking elsewhere.

📢 LIMITED OFFER: Get Shutterstock with a 30-day FREE trial!

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Shutterstock rating breakdown

Shutterstock is the best stock photo site on the market, scoring 5.0 out of 5 in our recent research. Most customers like Shutterstock for its enormous collection of stock images, permissive licensing, and affordable pricing. After years of using and reviewing Shutterstock, we also think it’s worth your money.

But how did we come to this decision? We researched and tested over 30 stock photo sites, including Shutterstock, and focused on the following areas:

  • Quality & number of assets (25%)
  • Pricing (25%)
  • Licensing (25%)
  • Customer support (25%)
  • Bonus points (integrations, tools, AI generators, etc.)

We also consulted with other Shutterstock customers and asked them what they liked and didn’t like about using Shutterstock. We examined why some customers continue paying for Shutterstock while others switched to cheaper alternatives.

Here’s a breakdown of Shutterstock’s performance for each of these core areas:

Research categoryShutterstock’s rating /5Expert insights
Quality & number of assets4.8With over 434 million stock images, 29.2 million videos, and 30,500 music tracks, Shutterstock boasts the largest content library in the industry. The technical and creative quality of their visual and audio assets is superb, though some competitors offer content with slightly higher production values.
Pricing4.5Shutterstock offers surprisingly affordable pricing through subscriptions and on-demand packs. While single purchases may be costly, bulk discounts and yearly prepaid plans bring the price per asset down to just $0.22—one of the lowest rates among competitors. Those interested can also take advantage of their free trial and sample 10 images, 1 video, or 2 music tracks before committing.
Licensing4.7Shutterstock royalty-free licensing is one of the best. The Standard License grants you unlimited impressions, 500K copies/prints, and $10,000 indemnity. The Enhanced license removes copy/print limits and provides indemnity of $250,000.
Customer support4.9Customer support is available through phone calls, live chat, and email. The teams are highly responsive, knowledgeable, and kind through all channels.
Bonus points+10Shutterstock gets bonus points for numerous plugins and integrations (WordPress, Adobe CC), API, image editing tools, and AI image generator.

What’s new with Shutterstock?

In 2022, Shutterstock introduced new unified subscriptions that let you download images, videos, and music at the same time. Previously, you had to get a different subscription for each content type. The new subscriptions are much more flexible for creatives and also make Shutterstock cheaper.

In the 2nd quarter of 2023, Shutterstock significantly almost doubled the prices of larger monthly subscriptions. The 150 monthly credits now cost $249/mo, up from $189/mo. 350 and 750 credits now cost $369 and $499, up from $199 and $249, respectively. Smaller subscription, annual, and annual prepaid plans remain untouched.

Ever since the rise of AI image generators in July of 2022, Shutterstock has been experimenting with DALLE2 integration. You can now license the AI images and use them commercially.

Who should use Shutterstock?

With its combination of massive content selection and affordable licensing, Shutterstock shines for:

  • Bloggers, vloggers, and content creators on a budget
  • Startups and small business seeking lots of visuals
  • Marketing teams that value quantity and flexibility

Shutterstock licensing

At the heart of Shutterstock lies its licensing—four distinct options tailored for a myriad of content needs: Standard, Enhanced, Editorial, and Premier. Simply put, these licenses are your legal tickets to use those crisp photos, compelling videos, and other creative assets without stepping on legal landmines.

While many platforms offer licensing, Shutterstock stands out with arguably the most comprehensive framework. Their Standard License, a favorite for many due to its royalty-free nature, covers a broad spectrum of online uses and packs a decent $10,000 indemnity. However, if merchandise is your game (think T-shirts or mugs), you’ll need to spring for the Enhanced License. It’s pricier but offers perks like unlimited print runs and a boosted $250K legal coverage.

Example of stock photo merchandise use
An image illustrating a stock photo’s merchandise application highlights that the Enhanced License is the way to go here.

Shutterstock’s Editorial License, distinct in its non-royalty-free nature, is a one-time gig. Planning to reuse the image? Another license fee is in order. This license specifically feeds the needs of news articles and documentaries—ideal for portraying brands, logos, and the like. A bragging right for Shutterstock: their massive collection of over 40 million editorial images.

Then there’s the Premier License—the big gun. It boasts features not seen in its counterparts: rights for sensitive use, limitless legal coverage, and third-party rights transferability, to name a few. Interested parties need to ring up Shutterstock’s customer service for this, as it provides access to the premium Enterprise Platform. Generally, it’s the go-to for big corporations, not so much for the solo content creator.

The rundown of all Shutterstock licenses:

LicenseStandardEnhancedEditorialPremier
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
This table contrasts the offerings of the Standard, Enhanced, Editorial, and Premier licenses.

Want more info? Read the complete guide to Shutterstock licensing

How does Shutterstock work?

Want to get started with Shutterstock? You can dive in by either choosing your content first, then settling on a purchase option or vice versa. We recommend the latter – it streamlines your budget and needs.

  1. Choose a buying option: Start on the Shutterstock pricing page, easily accessed from their homepage. (Look for the ‘Pricing’ link at the top right.)
  2. Pick your plan: Whether you’re a novice or a content maven, there’s a plan for you. Still lost? Refer back to our pricing breakdown or drop us a line.
  3. Seal the deal: Chosen your plan? Head to checkout. If you’re a Shutterstock newbie, sign up—it’s free. Pop in your payment details, and you’re off to the races.
  4. Content hunt: Here’s the fun part. Tap into Shutterstock’s intuitive menu or just pop a keyword into their search bar. Refine your results with their AI filters—you can drill down by color, content type, and even creator.
  5. Grab and go: Found that perfect shot or clip? Click, download, and it’s all yours, deducted from your subscription or content pack.

Step 1: Open the Shutterstock pricing page.

To start, go to the Shutterstock pricing page to select a plan for your content needs. You can find it by going to the Shutterstock homepage and then clicking Pricing in the top right corner.

Step 2: Select a buying option

Based on what kind of content you need, select a plan that best fits your needs and costs the least amount of money. If you need help with that, you can refer to the previous chapter about pricing or contact us, and we’ll gladly help you for free.

Step 3: Complete the checkout.

After you select your buying option (you can pick several), go to the checkout (create a free account first if you don’t have one yet), fill in your payment details, and confirm. You’ll receive a payment confirmation to your email address within seconds, and you may start downloading content.

Step 4: Find the content you want.

Use Shutterstock’s menu at the top of the site to quickly navigate to the type of content you need. The faster way to find it is by entering a keyword (i.e., “lake”) in the search bar. Then, you can use several AI filters to narrow down the selection to find what you’re looking for. You can filter by color, orientation, whether or not there are people in the photo/video, and even search by the creator.

Step 5: Download.

When you find the asset you want, click on it and press download. This will consume one download from your subscription or image/video pack.

Estimated Cost: 25 USD

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.

Buying guide: Your questions answered

You asked, we’re answering. Here’s the rundown on making the most out of Shutterstock for your needs.

➥ Ready to dive in? Kickstart with a 30-day free trial. Heads up: you’ll need a credit card.

1. What’s my best bet for photos on my site or blog? Need a constant stream of pics for your site? Look into an annual subscription. Plans vary, with some allowing 50 or even 350 downloads per month. Quick math: if you’re in the ballpark of 100-200 images a month, the 350-image plan is bang for your buck. Planning to resell those images? You’ll need more than the standard license that comes with the subscription.

2. I run a media agency. What’s the move? Big needs? Shutterstock’s got a plan for 750 downloads/month at $167-$249 for solo users, or $479/month for a team of up to 10. Got a bigger squad? Time to ring Shutterstock about their enterprise deals.

3. Why go enterprise with Shutterstock? Enterprise isn’t just a Star Trek series. It’s also for you if your team exceeds 10 members or if you want the VIP treatment: over 750 monthly downloads, API access, premium support, and more.

4. I want to slap images on merch for resale. What license? Selling stuff with images plastered on them (T-shirts, mugs, the works)? You’re looking at an extended license.

5. Can I peddle the downloaded image on another stock site? Hard no. You can’t resell or claim ownership anywhere, unless the original creator gives you the green light.

6. Working on a client gig? Which license should I snag? If you’re crafting graphics for a client but not handing over the raw images, a standard license (which you get with subscriptions and image packs) should do the trick.

7. Subscription plan? Which one’s for me?Consistent image needs? Subscriptions are your jam. Monthly plans for short-term projects, annual ones if you’re in for the long haul (over 8 months), and if you can drop some cash upfront, go annual prepaid.

Creative Flow

Shutterstock recently launched Creative Flow, an end-to-end creative platform aimed at helping businesses market themselves more effectively. Pricing starts at €11.99 per month for access to the full suite of apps and features. Or you can get Creative Flow included by upgrading to one of Shutterstock’s monthly paid plans.

At the core of Creative Flow is the Create app, which gives you access to stunning templates created by professional artists. You can customize these templates by adding your own text, images, and brand assets. The app includes powerful editing tools like a one-click background remover and effects to level up your designs. An AI-powered image resizer lets you instantly adapt creations for different platforms and sizes.

Creative Flow interface
Creative Flow interface

One of the standout features is AI-driven creative insights and recommendations. These data-backed suggestions help you quickly find the best visuals to use. For example, the predictive features show which images most likely resonate with your target audience. Creative Flow also includes tools to organize and plan your content calendar. You can schedule social media posts and campaigns in advance to keep your workflow running smoothly.

If you want to use images, you need to buy them through one of the options we discussed earlier. This makes Creative Flow more expensive than its competitor Adobe Express, which comes with 160 million Adobe Stock images included for the same monthly fee. You can also use AI to generate images, though whether these are worth it yet, is up for discussion.

Offset collection: High-quality images

Until 2022, Offset used to be its own website owned by Shutterstock. Now, Shutterstock’s Offset collection is part of the main website and stands out as a premier destination for premium stock images and illustrations. This premium collection contains 1.3 million stock images available with a royalty-free license.

Offset images are available as a single purchase only and cost $249 (249€; £219) for the Standard License and $349 (349€; £309) for the Enhanced License. Currently, there’s no way of getting any discount on Offset images either through bulk purchases or subscriptions.

Shutterstock Offset images
Shutterstock Offset images (Credit: Shutterstock)

A closer examination of Offset reveals a rigorous curation process that maintains exceptional standards of quality. Only the most talented image creators earn a spot in this exclusive assembly. The collection provides a refined selection of photographs capturing striking landscapes, alluring lifestyles, and more with utmost authenticity. The illustrations exhibit imaginative designs and skillful composition.

Unlike Shutterstock’s main library, the works in Offset undergo review by discerning experts. This ensures every image aligns with a cultivated aesthetic vision. Offset exclusively showcases artists acclaimed for their technical excellence and keen creative perspectives. Their unique sensibilities shape the collection’s high-end style and imagery.

For those seeking to elevate their visual content, Offset provides a trustworthy resource. Licensing terms are streamlined for flexible global use, removing complicated barriers to premium art. Brands, businesses, and creators in need of next-level imagery will find Offset’s polished stock fulfills their needs. A closer examination verifies Offset as the pinnacle destination for hand-picked, visually impactful stock.

AI Image Generator

Shutterstock AI Image Generator allows anyone to create unique AI art with just a few words. It’s based on Open AI’s DALL-E model, which is not the best available. To get started, just type a text prompt describing what you want to generate. The AI will instantly produce several AI-generated images based on your description. The more details you provide, the better the results.

One of the best features is the ability to apply different visual styles like oil painting, neon, cartoon, and more. This opens up endless possibilities to customize the aesthetic of your AI art. If you don’t love the initial results, simply adjust the text prompt or cycle through the styles until you find the perfect image.

Example of Shutterstock AI images
Example of Shutterstock AI images (Credit: Shutterstock)

The images created by the AI Image Generator are not free, though. Whether you create an image by yourself or browse the library of AI images, they are treated the same as all other photographs. This means you get the Standard or Enhanced License, you may use them commercially, and you pay for them the same as for standard images.

Based on its current performance, photos created by Shutterstock AI Image Generator are not worth paying for. Unless you really need an AI licensed image, you should use DALL-E2 instead, which is free for the first 100 generations.

Other features

Shutterstock isn’t just about affordable stock images and great licensing; you also get an array of additional features that make using their media assets easier.

1. Free images

Shutterstock free image collection

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

Free collections: The first and 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 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.

2. Good customer support

We have thoroughly tested Shutterstock’s customer support and found it very good. We contacted them through live chat, email, and phone calls and received prompt and helpful responses each time. The wait time to receive an agent via live chat was typically 2-3 minutes on average, and we got replies to emails within 6-12 hours.

The assistants were friendly, knowledgeable, and quick to forward our inquiries to other team members if the issue was outside of their expertise. We were impressed with the quality of customer support at Shutterstock.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Image searching tools

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.

7. WordPress plugin

In December 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.

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.

Shutterstock reviews on Trustpilot

First of all, every company gets negative customer reviews—it’s understandable that you can’t make everyone happy. Moreover, 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 out why customers don’t like Shutterstock while we love it.

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

We were the most disappointed that Shutterstock’s PR team didn’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.

1. Misleading free trial

The majority of 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. They said 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. Shutterstock removed this deadline a few months later, presumably because of the overwhelming number 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 is impossible 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 a 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.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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.
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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.

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.

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.