Shutterstock Review – Is it right for you?

Written by Matic Broz Updated on October 29, 2021

Shutterstock Review – Is it right for you?

With the largest collection of excellent stock images, Shutterstock is the overall best stock photo site. Its cost-efficient small subscription plans are ideal for individuals and small business owners. Large businesses or creatives with substantial image needs will enjoy large subscription plans that cost only $0.22/image. But there are cheaper options than Shutterstock.

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Shutterstock

The best stock photo site for commercial use.

Despite the poor reviews on Trustpilot, Shutterstock is trustworthy and an excellent stock photo agency for individuals, small businesses, and corporations.

Overall, Shutterstock deserves its reputation. The image quality is high enough for almost every website, project, or ad campaign. However, for premium images, you should look at Getty Images or iStock Premium, where you can expect to pay handsomely. For me, the key selling point of Shutterstock is the free trial of 10 images. Even if you’re unsure about their service, you should take it for a spin. Worst case scenario: you end up with 10 great images you get to keep. Finally, Shutterstock is not the cheapest nor has the best photos, but the ratio between those is the best among stock photo agencies.

With that being said, let’s get into my full Shutterstock review.

Shutterstock works by accepting contributors’ content via its so-called “Shutterstock Contributor program” and then offering it to customers that pay for the licenses. Shutterstock and the contributors then split the earnings.

Shutterstock Images

Images on Shutterstock are available in three different sizes – Small, Medium, and Large. All sizes come in 300 DPI (dost per inch).

Shutterstock Image Size
Available image sizes at Shutterstock

Additionally, you can customize every stock image in Shutterstock Editor, which works similarly to Adobe Photoshop. The Large image is always the original size, as 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 as well as digital use.

To save money, remember that you don’t always need the largest image. You should go with the one that’s large enough for your project.

What about vectors? Shutterstock offers over 70 million vector files, including backgrounds, clip art, icons, and illustrations in a scalable EPS format. Additionally, vectors are included in the 10 free downloads trial.

Shutterstock’s pricing scheme includes plans for individuals and multiple users.

I’ll start with plans for individuals (single user).

First of all, you can choose between subscriptions and on-demand packs.

Subscriptions give you a fixed amount of downloads each month for which you are charged a fixed amount of money each month. In contrast, you only need to purchase on-demand packs once with no recurring payment, but they are more expensive.

Each payment option has its own advantages and disadvantages:

FeaturesSubscriptionOn-demand packs
Standard license
Enhanced license
Coverage for 1 user
Autorenewal with an easy opt-out
Includes Editor Pro
Free trial?
Features: Subscription plans vs on-demand packs

Both options also grant you access to over 1.7 million new images, videos, and music tracks that are uploaded every week, as well as licensing, which keeps you legally protected and free from copyright issues.

Subscription plans

Subscriptions are the most cost-efficient option, but they require you to commit for at least one month and up to a year. They come in sizes of 10, 50, 350, and 750 images per month, that cost between $25 for 10 images and $167 for 750 images.

Shutterstock Subscription plans
Annual subscription pricing comparison

You can purchase four differently sized plans for 3 different durations:

  • Monthly (the most expensive)
  • Annual
  • Annual prepaid (the cheapest)

You can cancel monthly plans at any time. Annual plans can also be cancelled during the year, but the price compensation will apply. Finally, annual prepaid plans are the cheapest (20% cheaper than annual), but they cannot be cancelled during the duration of the plan – you will need to wait one year.

But which Shutterstock plan should you choose? Here are my recommendations:

  • Monthly: When you know that you’re only going to need images for a couple of months
  • Annual: If you’re somewhat unsure if you’re going to need images for a full year OR you cannot afford a one-time payment for a full year.
  • Annual prepaid: If you know that you’re going to need images for at least one year

Now let’s look at the prices of each subscription plan.

Monthly downloadsMonthlyAnnualAnnual (prepaid)
10 images$49$29$25
50 images$125$99$82
350 images$199$169$137
750 images$249$199$167
Subscription plans pricing (prices are monthly)

All subscription plans come with no restrictions on image size or daily download limits. Unfortunately, unused downloads are not transferred into the following month.

In case you run out of downloads before the end of the month, you can either wait until the next month, upgrade your plan, or purchase on-demand packs.

You can start and stop your subscription at any time by turning the renewal feature on or off.

On-demand packs

The way on-demand packs work is really simple. They are a one-time purchase for which you get a fixed amount of images.

On-demand packs are the best choice for you if you don’t need stock photos regularly, because you don’t pay a subscription each month. Therefore, you can purchase a pack and use the downloads whenever you want, within one year from the purchase.

You can choose between packs of 2, 5 or 25 images – starting at $29 and $9.16/image. However, if you need an Enhanced license the prices get a lot higher.

Shutterstock On-demand packs
On-demand packs pricing comparison

On-demand packs allow you to purchase the Standard License images and the Enhanced License. I will compare the two in a moment.

The Standard license images are a lot cheaper, starting at $9.16/image with the largest pack of 25 images.

Pack sizeStandard licenseEnhanced License
2 images$29$199
5 images$49$449
25 images$229$1699
On-demand packs sizes and prices for Standard vs Enhanced license

Like subscriptions, image packs will also be auto-renewed when you run out of downloads or when they expire. Of course, you can deselect this service on the order summary page or in your account settings after the purchase.

Multi-user Plans

Shutterstock offers Multi-user (Team) Plans, which can be purchased annually or on a month-to-month basis.

Multi-user plans include 750 monthly downloads but vary in team size:

  • 2 users – $379.00/month
  • 3-10 users – $479.00/month
  • 11+ users – if you have a larger team, you should get in touch with Shutterstock
Shutterstock Multi user pricing
Shutterstock offers special plans for teams

It allows personal and commercial use, with a reproduction limit of 500,000, and is designed to be enough for the majority of your creative and commercial needs.

Once you pay a one-time fee, you can use these photos for as long as you want and as many times as you want. You can use them for your social media, website, personal needs, and even for ads, as long as they are a part of a bigger design.

Be careful, though, some content is marked “Editorial Use Only”, meaning that you may not use it commercially. Such stock content may only be used in news, magazines, and other non-profitable publications. (Read more about it)

Standard vs Enhanced license

In short. standard license permits up to 500,000 copies, unlimited web distribution, and provides legal indemnification up to $10,000. The Enhanced license allows unlimited copies and web distribution, merchandising and provides legal indemnification up to $250,000.

Image usageStandardExtended
Web distributionUnlimitedUnlimited
Print500,000 copiesUnlimited
Package500,000 copiesUnlimited
Out of home advertising500,000 impressionsUnlimited
Video production$10,000 budgetUnlimited
DecorationPersonalPersonal, commercial
Legal indemnification$10,000$250,000
Shutterstock review: Standard license vs Enhanced license

Read more on the Shutterstock license.

Shutterstock Enhanced License offers unlimited usage rights and reprints, allowing you to use images in merchandise, web templates, print templates, and commercial spaces. Moreover, the Enhanced license provides higher indemnification (up to $250,000) than the Standard license.

How do I choose the right license?

For most of your uses, the Standard License is enough. The content you download with subscriptions, Standard License on-demand packs, and Team subscriptions is licensed under the Standard license.

The Enhanced license offers large volumes of reproduction and reprints, thus being a better option for high volume customers and organizations. You may only buy an Enhanced license with images packs.

If you aren’t sure which Shutterstock license to buy, you should reach out directly to Shutterstock customer service. Besides, I’d be happy to help you too.

Can I transfer licenses?

The basic Standard and Enhanced licenses are NOT transferable between different parties. If your client needs a new design or a product, they must license the content on their own or ask you to do the whole design.

A far better option is the Shutterstock Enterprise License that allows the transfer of content. It is also called the Premier License.

Shutterstock Free Trial

Shutterstock offers a 30-day free trial during which you can download 10 free stock images.

The trial comes with zero commitment, and you won’t be charged up until 4 days before the trial expiration. But be careful. If you don’t cancel in time, you will be charged a monthly fee. To avoid being charged at all, you should cancel the trial early.

  1. Go to Shutterstock.com
  2. Click on Start your free trial
  3. Create an account
  4. Shutterstock will redirect you to the checkout page
  5. Fill out your details
  6. Click on Complete checkout

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

Make sure to use the opportunity to get 10 free high-quality images. It’s completely free, and it will take you no longer than 2 minutes.

How to purchase Shutterstock images?

There are two ways to get Shutterstock images: for free and by paying for them.

If you want free Shutterstock images you should sign up for Shutterstock free trial, which gives you 10 royalty-free images. You can follow the steps I listed above.

However, to purchase images, you first need to choose the plan. Whether you choose subscriptions or on-demand packs is up to you to decide based on your needs.

To purchase Shutterstock images follow these easy steps:

  1. Go to Shutterstock.com
  2. Click Pricing in the top right corner
  3. Click on the Buy now or Buy pack button to purchase a subscription plan or on-demand pack, consecutively
  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.

Does Shutterstock deserve bad reviews?

Before writing this Shutterstock review, I read most Shutterstock reviews by customers.

But before I start, let me say one thing: There’s no way Shutterstock would b the largest stock photo agency if they kept scamming people. In the majority of cases, customers misread or didn’t read the terms at all.

Although I do not speak in the name of Shutterstock, these are my answers to the questions.

Shutterstock review #1

Shutterstock review 1 - Trustpilot
Customer Shutterstock review Example #1 (Credit: Trustpilot)

The first sentence is false. Shutterstock explicitly states that all subscription plans are set to auto-renew.

I quote the How does auto-renewal work page, “All Shutterstock subscription plans are set to auto renew to ensure uninterrupted service.

Clearly, user D S did not read the terms and conditions before purchasing a Shutterstock subscription.

In regards to the partial payment returned, I quote Shutterstock cancellation fees page, “Customers needing to cancel an annual commitment plan early may be charged a plan price adjustment for the total amount of savings received so far at the discounted price.

In all fairness, 60% payment for your own mistake is huge.

Shutterstock review #2

Shutterstock review 2 - Trustpilot
Customer Shutterstock review Example #2 (Credit: Trustpilot)

Clearly, the customer “thought” that they cancelled, but they did not. However, Shutterstock still agreed to cancel the plan.

Shutterstock review #3

Shutterstock review 3 - Trustpilot
Customer Shutterstock review Example #3 (Credit: Trustpilot)

I agree Shutterstock customer service is not the best. However, who would believe a story that a toddler (1-3 years old child) would sign-up for a free trial, where you need to input your personal data, including email, address, and credit card information?

Clearly, this is just a made-up story to cover up the mistake.

Shutterstock review #4

Shutterstock review 4 - Trustpilot
Customer Shutterstock review Example #4 (Credit: Trustpilot)

Shutterstock for sure did not change it back because it would be a major violation. Most probably, the customer forgot to click the “Save settings” button.

Shutterstock review #5

Shutterstock review 5 - Trustpilot
Customer Shutterstock review Example #5 (Credit: Trustpilot)

Shutterstock has systems in place that recognize free trial exploitation. Everyone may use a free trial only once. If you create a second account and input the same credit card information, you will be banned.

Shutterstock reviews about free trial scam

The majority of Trustpilot’s Shutterstock reviews attack the subscription system and the auto-renewal setting.

Although I understand how this feature could annoy some forgetful or careless customers, it doesn’t take more than 10 seconds to scroll down to FAQ and read, “A new month of service is charged around four days in advance to ensure uninterrupted access to our library.

Another common complaint I noticed was regarding Shutterstock’s Free 1-month trial, cancel anytime within which you can get 10 free images. If you forget to cancel the plan, it is automatically renewed 4 days before your trial period expires.

I do think that this is a bit of a grey area; however, Shutterstock mentions it on the front page of the deal, “To ensure seamless service, the charge will happen 4 days before your free trial period ends.

Here’s the proof:

shutterstock review 1 month free trial
A part of Shutterstock’s free trials details

Even though there are a lot of bad Shutterstock reviews on websites such as Trustpilot, I still think it is one of the best stock photo sites. Not only do the sheer numbers alone (300 million+ images) tell a story, Shutterstock is the stock photo site that I or anyone I know had the least (or zero) troubles with, and I, as a contributor, the most success.

Image Searching tools

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

Shutterstock filters
Shutterstock filters

Shutterstock gives you several ways to find the right images. You can search by Keyword, use Filters, Sort by freshness and relevance, and also 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 you also want to use, but don’t know where to find it. In this case, you can use the image to perform Reverse Image Search and purchase it.

While there’s no one stopping you from using the found image without purchasing it, you may run into legal troubles if you use it publicly.

Frequently Asked Questions

I tried to answer as many questions as possible. Feel free to post additional questions in the comments below or just open a discussion.

Is Shutterstock legit?

Shutterstock is a large and reputable company that has served millions of customers over the years. Years of experience make Shutterstock safe and legit.

Is Shutterstock free to use?

When you create a Shutterstock account, you get 10 free images + 1 each week. After these run out, you have to pay for them.

Does Shutterstock have a free trial?

Yes, the new Shutterstock Free Trial lets you download up to 10 stock images and/or vector images in one month, totally free of charge.

How much does an image on Shutterstock cost?

Image prices on Shutterstock vary based on the purchased plan and license. The prices start at $0.22/image ($0.165 with coupon codes) and get up to $99/image for Enhanced licenses.

What is a Standard license on Shutterstock?

Shutterstock’s standard license is the most basic stock photo license. It allows the use of the licensed content up to 500,000 copies for almost everything but resale.

Why is Shutterstock so expensive?

Shutterstock stock images and videos are expensive because you pay for quality instead of quantity. All the content is carefully curated by Shutterstock review team that makes sure every image is valuable.

Shutterstock 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.

What is more, this plugin doesn’t only work with WordPress, but also WordPress VIP, a platform for giants such as Facebook or Spotify.

All you need to do is 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 your license it.

Related reading: Shutterstock releases WordPress plugin

Conclusion | Shutterstock review

In this Shutterstock review, I covered everything you need to know to make an educated decision about whether it’s the right stock photo agency for you or not.

I recommend
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$0 $0.22/image
10 Free Shutterstock Images
$0.198 $0.22/image
Coupon code for 15% discount
I select and review products independently. If you buy through affiliate links, I may earn commissions, which help support my testing.

Let’s summarize …

Here are my recommendations:

  • I recommend Shutterstock to virtually everyone. If you want to download a lot of high-quality photos for a reasonable price, Shutterstock is the right choice for you. Subscriptions plans cost $0.22/photo, whereas on-demand packs cost $9.16/photo. Extended license photos are available for $67.96.
  • I don’t recommend Shutterstock if you’re (a) an artist that uses Adobe apps – in this case, I highly recommend Adobe Stock. or (b) if you want the cheapest possible stock photos – in this case, I recommend Dreamstime (from $0.159/photo).

Shutterstock is a reputable stock photo agency that sells images with subscription plans and on-demand, under Standard or Enhanced licenses. Pricing starts at $0.22 per image with its most cost-efficient and the largest subscription plan. Therefore, Shutterstock is good for both individuals and large companies.

However, it’s only one of the many great stock photo websites.

2 thoughts on “Shutterstock Review – Is it right for you?”

  1. That is because people who post reviews online are usually the dissatisfied customers. I made sure to address as many problems as I could find on these sites, and to be fair, I don’t think that Shutterstock and other giants are doing anything wrong – beside maybe having a slow support team.
    They wouldn’t get to be the synonym for stock photography, if they were scamming people.

  2. I hope you are right about shutterstock because I like their images. I have read your conclusion but still….1,3 on one site and 1,7 out of 5? I mean it is simply selling photos online. Do they live on another planet and dont they see they need to change some things? Internet requires trust.

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