Shutterstock and Adobe Stock are both top stock agencies for photos, vectors, and illustrations. They have the largest collections of stock images and a good number of high-quality videos.
The Bottom Line
The main difference between Shutterstock and Adobe Stock is that Shutterstock offers more affordable subscription plans, while Adobe Stock is better for purchasing images on demand. Because of its lower prices, Shutterstock is better for commercial use, while Adobe Stock is better for graphic designers, thanks to its integration with Creative Cloud. Adobe Stock offers higher indemnity, premium downloads, and a longer free trial.
|Best for||Individuals, bloggers, commercial purposes, enterprises||Graphic designers, students, marketers|
|Number of images||409 million||283 million|
|Extended license (images)||$67.96–$99.50/image||$79.99/image|
|Free trial||Yes (10 free images, 30 days)||Yes (10, 25, or 40 free images, 30 days)|
|Number of videos||25.3 million||25.5 million|
|Extended license (videos)||$67.96–$193.80/video||Not necessary|
|Available licenses||Royalty-free (Standard, “Enhanced”)||Royalty-free (Standard, Enhanced, Extended)|
|Customer support||Very good over email and live chat||Often unknowledgeable|
|Features||Shutterstock Editor, mobile app, many integrations, image resizer, file converter||Creative Cloud integration, Premium photos|
Why is Shutterstock better
Subscriptions are cheaper. Shutterstock subscriptions are cheaper compared to Adobe Stock, thanks to the annual prepaid plan, which brings an additional 20% discount. If you compare annual to annual and monthly to monthly subscriptions, they are similarly priced. It’s also worth noting that Adobe Stock subscriptions are much more expensive for the monthly smallest plan, where you get 3 downloads for $29, whereas Shutterstock gives you 10 downloads for the same price.
More images. Shutterstock boasts the largest collection of stock images, currently containing 396 million images. More images mean a bigger selection and a smaller chance of running out of fresh content, especially considering that Shutterstock adds over 700,000 assets weekly. Besides that, Shutterstock also has a considerable collection of editorial images (50 million), videos (25 million), and music (28,000).
Excellent customer support. Whether you’re having payment issues, can’t download images, or want a refund, fast and helpful customer support is a huge advantage. Shutterstock and Adobe Stock offer customer support from the same channels (live chat, phone, email), but Shutterstock is a lot kinder and quicker to respond.
Coupons and promo codes. Shutterstock always offers promo codes for at least a 10% discount on all purchases (except the Enhanced License). These codes can reduce the already low price of $0.22/image to $0.198/image. On the other hand, Adobe Stock never offers coupons or promo codes, but you can get seasonal discounts or a discount for students.
WordPress integration. Many Shutterstock customers are website owners using WordPress. Since images are now more important than ever, having a quick and handy way of importing photos into a webpage is a distinct advantage. Shutterstock developed a plugin for WordPress that allows you to browse all images directly in the posts and pages. Moreover, the images are saved into your WordPress image directory and remain there even if you cancel Shutterstock plans or remove the plugin.
Unlimited music downloads. Shutterstock recently introduced an unlimited subscription for music downloads, costing $16.58–$69 per month. If you download a lot of soundtracks, this subscription is much cheaper than buying each individual for $49 at Shutterstock or with subscriptions at Adobe Stock.
Why is Adobe Stock better
Creative Cloud integration. For those unfamiliar with Adobe, Creative Cloud is Adobe’s suite of apps that you can use with subscriptions (you cannot buy it). You can subscribe to all apps at once or just to a single app. Adobe Stock is part of Creative Cloud, enabling you to browse all assets (images, videos, music, 3D, templates, etc.) from most apps, including Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere. This saves money and time because you don’t have to browse Adobe Stock in your browser and then import downloads. Instead, you open a window in one of your apps and access Adobe Stock from there.
Unlimited legal coverage. How much a stock agency trusts the legitimacy of its own photos is reflected in the amount of legal coverage (or indemnity) they offer with each license. Adobe Stock is one of the two stock agencies (Getty Images is the other one) offering unlimited indemnity with all their licenses. Besides being beneficial to you because you don’t have to worry about legal issues, it shows whether or not you can even trust the image you use and download. In comparison, Shutterstock’s Standard License comes with a $10,000 indemnity and the Enhanced License with $250,000.
Premium images. Sometimes generic stock photos are not good enough, especially when quality and added value are required. For this purpose, Adobe Stock offers a collection of premium images that come with an Enhanced License and cost up to $120. You can get them with credit, while at Shutterstock, you cannot get premium images. To buy them, you need to browse Shutterstock’s other stock photo site, Offset, which sells premium photos only. This is very impractical compared to Adobe Stock, where you can use credits to download any asset under any license.
More versatile subscriptions. While Shutterstock has separate subscriptions for each type of content (new FLEX25 lets you download images, videos, and music), Adobe Stock lets you download all standard assets, including standard photos, vectors, illustrations, templates, 3D, and music tracks. This alone increases flexibility since you don’t have to buy several different subscriptions like at Shutterstock but only one.
Better free trial. Adobe Stock has the most generous free trial period of any stock agency—during the 30 days, you can get 10, 25, or even 40 royalty-free standard assets (Standard License). Furthermore, even if you cancel the trial, you get to keep the assets. On the other hand, other stock agencies allow you to download 10 stock images within a 7 to 30-day period.
More flexible on-demand. One of Adobe Stock’s primary advantages over Shutterstock is its more flexible on-demand purchasing options. Whereas with Shutterstock, you’ve to buy a separate package for each type of content (there are 18 video packages, for example), with Adobe Stock, you can buy each asset with credits. You have to buy credits beforehand by purchasing Credit Packs, on which you get an additional 20% discount if you buy them in bulk.
The main difference between Shutterstock and Adobe Stock pricing is that Shutterstock has cheaper subscriptions and an overall simpler pricing model. At the same time, Adobe Stock offers premium images and is more flexible with on-demand downloads. With a subscription to Adobe Stock, you can download music tracks, templates, and 3D models in addition to high-resolution images.
Subscriptions are the most popular way to get stock photos because they cost the least. They are simple: you pay a monthly fee, and in return, you get a certain number of image downloads per month.
- Shutterstock – cheaper with the yearly prepaid option for an extra 20% discount. You can use the subscriptions for images only.
- Adobe Stock – more expensive, but you can download music tracks, templates, 3D, and even videos.
|Monthly downloads||10, 50, 350, 750||3, 25, 40, 750|
|Price per image||$0.33–$4.90||$0.33–$9.99|
|Yearly plans (billed monthly)|
|Monthly downloads||10, 50, 350, 750||10, 25, 40, 750|
|Price per image||$0.27–$2.90||$0.27–$2.99|
|Yearly plans (paid upfront)|
|Monthly downloads||10, 50, 350, 750||✗|
|Price (one payment upfront)||$299–$1,999||✗|
|Price per image||$0.22–$2.49||✗|
The main difference between Shutterstock and Adobe Stock subscriptions is that Shutterstock subscriptions are cheaper when purchased on an annual prepayment plan. Unfortunately, Adobe Stock doesn’t have this option.
Yet, Adobe Stock subscriptions are more flexible because you can download images, videos, music, templates, and 3D elements. In contrast, with Shutterstock, you’ve to buy each subscription separately.
There are subscriptions for images, subscriptions for videos, and subscriptions for music. Shutterstock recently introduced a new subscription, FLEX, that fixes this problem. Adobe Stock, on the other hand, is even more customizable.
WINNER: Cheaper: Shutterstock, More flexible: Adobe Stock
Shutterstock’s subscriptions are cheaper, but Adobe Stock’s are more flexible. Shutterstock offers a yearly prepaid option with a 20% discount.
On-demand means you can download stock images whenever you want to. In contrast to subscriptions, you don’t get a certain number of downloads each month. Instead, you buy downloads and can use them whenever you like within a year.
- Shutterstock – you can buy packs only for specific content types, such as Standard License images or Enhanced License images or videos. For example, if you have an image pack but need videos, you must buy a video pack.
- Adobe Stock – you buy credit credits that you can use to buy any content on Adobe Stock, making them a very flexible option.
|How it works||Buy image packs to get downloads||Buy credits that you can use to buy any content|
|Pack sizes||2, 5, 25||5, 16, 40, 80, 150 (credits)|
|Price per image||$9.16–$14.50||$8.00–$9.99|
|Pack valid for||1 year||1 year|
The main difference between Shutterstock’s and Adobe Stock’s on-demand options is that at Shutterstock, you need to buy a pack for each type of content. Conversely, Adobe Stock sells credit packs that give you credits, which you can use to buy assets (images, videos, music, extended licenses, etc.).
WINNER: Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock’s on-demand downloads are more flexible than Shutterstock’s, making them easier to use and more cost-efficient. In addition, Adobe Stock’s credits are cheaper for single image purchases, costing from $8.00 to $9.99, compared to Shutterstock’s $9.16 to $14.50.
A stock photo trial is a period during which you may download a certain number of images or other assets at zero cost. The standard format is 30 days free, during which you get 10 royalty-free downloads.
- Shutterstock – you can get 10 free images during the 30-day free trial. The free trial is available only with an annual subscription of 10 monthly downloads. Learn more
- Adobe Stock – you can get 10, 25, or 40 free images, templates, 3D, and music tracks. The free trial is available with annual subscriptions of 10, 25, and 40 monthly downloads. Learn more
|Number of free images||10||10, 25, or 40|
|Image licensing||Royalty-free (Shutterstock Standard License)||Royalty-free (Adobe Stock Standard License)|
|Duration||30 days||30 days|
|If you cancel||You keep the images||You keep the images|
|Requirements||Annual subscription of 10 downloads;|
Credit card information;
Cancel 2 days in advance
|Annual subscriptions of 10, 25, or 40 downloads;|
Credit card information
The main difference between Shutterstock’s and Adobe Stock’s free trials is the number of downloads and the type of content you get. Shutterstock lets you download 10 images (photos, vectors, illustrations), while Adobe Stock offers up to 40 images, music tracks, 3D, or templates.
Another key difference is that Shutterstock’s free trial has a hidden trick. You need to cancel it 2 days before it ends (reduced from 4 days). Otherwise, you get charged for the next month’s subscriptions.
On the contrary, Adobe Stock has no hidden fees or tricks. As long as you cancel 30 days before it ends, you are safe.
WINNER: Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock’s free trial lets you get up to 40 free downloads, while Shutterstock gives you only 10. In addition, Shutterstock’s free trial has a trick where you must cancel 2 days in advance to not get charged for the next month.
You need stock photo licenses to use the content (images, videos, etc.) of which you’re not the rightful owner. A license allows you to use the content under specific usage terms, so it’s crucial that you know which license to get.
A royalty-free (RF) license is the most common license and is sufficient for most uses. It’s a perpetual license, meaning you may use it forever after paying the purchase fee.
- Shutterstock – you can get a royalty-free license, called the Standard License, with all subscriptions ($0.22–$4.90) and image packs for the Standard license ($9.16–$14.50).
- Adobe Stock – you can get a royalty-free license, called the Standard License, with all subscriptions ($0.26–$9.99) or credits ($8.00–$9.99). Adobe Stock’s RF license is far safer to use regarding legal coverage, which shows that Adobe Stock is confident in the content they offer.
|Get it with||Subscriptions, image packs||Subscriptions, credit packs|
|Price per license||$0.22–$14.50||$0.26–$9.99|
|Print copies/digital reproductions||500,000||500,000|
|Broadcasting/streaming||$10,000 budget||500,000 viewers|
Usually, stock photo agencies cover up to $10k, but as Adobe states: “Provided that the Works are used in accordance with the Terms /…/ We will pay you the damages, los[s]es, costs, expenses, or liabilities“. Adapted from Adobe Stock Additional Terms (updated August 16, 2019).
WINNER: Adobe Stock
Shutterstock and Adobe Stock offer similar Standard licenses, but Adobe has a slight edge because of unlimited legal coverage compared to only $10,000 for Shutterstock. This shows 100% trust in Adobe Stock in the images they license.
An Extended License (called “Enhanced” at Shutterstock) is a form of RF license with an unlimited reproduction limit. It’s best suited for merchandise and large-scale campaigns.
|Get it with||Image packs||Credits|
|Buy at once||2, 5, 25||1|
Shutterstock’s Enhanced and Adobe Stock’s Extended licenses are very similar because they serve a similar purpose. The difference is that you may buy Shutterstock’s only in bulk, with 2 at least, while Adobe lets you buy each Extended license separately.
What stands out the most, is that Adobe’s Extended license comes with unlimited indemnity (= legal coverage), while Shutterstock’s has only $250,000.
WINNER: Adobe Stock
Extended licenses are fairly similar regarding usage terms, but Adobe Stock comes with unlimited indemnity. This shows Adobe’s confidence in the legitimacy of its stock images.
Photos, Vectors, Illustrations, & Videos
Shutterstock and Adobe Stock are the two stock photo agencies with the largest databases of stock content. While the number of assets helps with diversity, we must also consider the quality.
In terms of quality, Shutterstock and Adobe Stock offer superb stock images, with Adobe having a slight edge. In addition, Adobe lets you download premium images with credits, while Shutterstock has a separate website, Offset, for premium content.
The following table represents the exact numbers of images and videos that you can find in the table above:
|Photos||258 million||191 million|
|Vectors||86 million||65 million|
|Illustrations||135 million||23 million|
|Videos||25 million||25 million|
|3D models||1.3 million||17,000|
WINNER: Number: Shutterstock, Quality: Adobe Stock
Shutterstock has more content overall than Adobe Stock. For most, the most important are stock photos (258M vs. 191M) and videos (25M vs. 25M). However, Adobe Stock’s content is of higher quality, and they offer fonts and premium images, which Shutterstock does not.
Tools & Features
Working with the content you download is easier and faster with tools and features. In other words, they’re meant to simplify your workflow.
Creative Cloud integration
Adobe Creative Cloud is a collection of apps and services from Adobe Inc. that give subscribers access to a range of graphic design, video editing, web development, and photography software, as well as several mobile apps and some optional cloud services.
The image below showcases what the integration looks like in Photoshop.
Most people don’t know that both Shutterstock and Adobe Stock can be integrated with the Creative Cloud. However, the key difference is that Adobe Stock is integrated into Creative Cloud natively, meaning that it works as soon as you install apps. Conversely, you first need to download and install a plugin to integrate Shutterstock.
|Supported apps||Shutterstock||Adobe Stock|
WINNER: Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock integration into Creative Cloud doesn’t require any extra work, while Shutterstock requires an additional plugin. Also, Adobe Stock supports five apps that Shutterstock doesn’t, including Premiere Rush, After Effects, XD, Adobe Spark, and Dimension.
Shutterstock Only Tools
Shutterstock has developed a few of its own tools that are part of the website. For example, you can use the Shutterstock editor, image resizer, file converter, collage maker, and color scheme generator.
Although these tools are simple to use and free, they lack the option for advanced editing. Therefore, for creating graphics, we prefer Canva.
Adobe Stock Only Tools
Adobe Stock is based on Creative Cloud, so there are not all that many additional features. But there are a few unique resources that can help you get more out of it.
First, with any active Creative Cloud subscription, you get access to over 20,000 fonts that you may use in any project, including on your website. The downside, though, is that you may not host them locally but they need to be loaded through Adobe’s CDN.
Also, Adobe recently released an online version of Photoshop that anyone can use by creating a free Adobe account. Although it’s not as advanced as the desktop version, online Photoshop is a good starting point for beginners. Besides, it complements the 7-day free trial of desktop Photoshop.
Frequently asked questions
What is better than Shutterstock?
Adobe Stock is one of the best Shutterstock alternatives when it comes to image quality, variety, pricing options, and even features. Other excellent alternatives include iStock, Depositphotos, and Unsplash for free stock photos.
Is Shutterstock better than Adobe Stock?
Shutterstock is better than Adobe Stock for most customers, especially those who need stock photos with subscriptions. Unlike Adobe Stock, Shutterstock offers annual prepaid subscriptions for an extra 20% discount. Shutterstock is also better than Adobe Stock for editorial photos.
Is Adobe Stock better than Shutterstock?
Adobe Stock is better than Shutterstock for graphic designers, particularly those using Adobe’s apps. Adobe Stock is natively integrated into Creative Cloud, including popular apps like Photoshop, Premiere, and Illustrator. This allows creatives to access all assets quickly and cheap.
Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock: The Verdict
The main difference between Shutterstock and Adobe Stock is that Shutterstock is better for users who only need stock images, while Adobe Stock is better for graphic designers. Still, they are the two best stock photo sites and you can not go wrong with either if you are looking for high-quality and affordable stock photos.
In short, Shutterstock is more suitable for most users, especially those who need stock images with subscriptions. On the other hand, Adobe Stock is better for graphic designers and those who need on-demand downloads.
About your guide
Matic Broz is a multifaceted creative professional, with experience as a photographer, graphic designer, and business owner. He has a decade of experience in helping other creatives improve their craft and start their own businesses. His writing and research have been featured in notable publications such as The Guardian, PetaPixel, and USA Today. Additionally, his scientific research has been recognized with a cover feature in the prestigious MDPI-owned journal. In his leisure time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with dogs. Read more
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