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Shutterstock vs. iStock 2022

Which Stock Photo Sites Is Best?

Matic BrozUpdated May 17, 2022

If you’re looking to buy stock images, Shutterstock and iStock are the two obvious choices. But they are both so similar that it’s hard to know which one to choose. We’ll help you make the decision in this comparison of Shutterstock and iStock.

Shutterstock vs. iStock Comparison

The main difference between Shutterstock and iStock is that Shutterstock has a larger library of stock images, but iStock offers better image quality. Shutterstock is better for stock photos and extended licenses, while iStock is better for premium images.

Image qualityVery goodExcellent
Best forStandard stock images and Extended licenses (for 500K+ copies)Premium images and on-demand purchases with credits
Number of images388 million140 million
Number of videos24.6 million~10.3 million*
Free trial10 imagesNo
Additional featuresShutterstock Editor, mobile apps, plugins, image resizer, file converter, collage maker, color schemesVideo editor,
integrations (Creative Cloud, DropBox, Sketch)
ReviewShutterstock reviewiStock review
* This is Photutorial’s estimate since iStock doesn’t share its number of videos.


The main difference in the pricing is that iStock is cheaper for on-demand plans and small subscriptions. In contrast, Shutterstock is cheaper for Extended licenses and better for many music downloads.

Subscription pricing$0.22-$4.90/image$0.22–$4.00/image
On-demand pricing$9.16-$14.50/image$8.00-$12.00/image
Extended license pricing$67.96-$99.50/image$144–$216/image
Footage pricing$8.35-$37.80/clip$5.30–$14.90/clip
Music pricing$16.60/month for unlimited downloads$0.44–$9.90/track
Coupon code25% (Learn more)30% (Learn more)

Both Shutterstock and iStock sell stock images with subscriptions and on-demand. Shutterstock sells subscription plans in sizes of 10, 50, 350, and 750 monthly downloads with three payment options (monthly, annual, and annual prepaid). On the other hand, iStock divides its subscriptions into Basic and Premium, both in sizes of 10, 25, 50, and 750 monthly downloads. The former gives you more generic images, and the latter provides premium and high-quality photos. Overall, iStock’s subscriptions are slightly cheaper than Shutterstock’s, especially for the smaller plans (10, 25, 50 downloads), but the premium collection will cost you significantly more than Shutterstock’s.

On-demand packs are patently different; Shutterstock lets you buy image packs separately for the Standard and Extended licenses. Therefore, you may use the downloads only for that. In comparison, iStock sells credit packs, which you can use to buy anything on iStock, including images (generic and premium), footage, audio files, and Extended licenses. As a result, iStock’s on-demand option gives you more freedom. What is more, iStock is marginally cheaper than Shutterstock regarding on-demand pricing.

Promo Code

Both Shutterstock and iStock support discounts through coupons and promo codes. The highest discount at Shutterstock gets you a 25% price reduction on all purchases for all customers. iStock has a 30% discount for new customers and a maximum discount of 20% for existing customers.

Related: Shutterstock coupons, iStock coupons

Free Trial

You can get up to 10 high-quality stock images with Shutterstock’s trial at zero cost. You can sign up for it risk-free and download pictures that you may use even if you cancel the trial. To avoid paying a subscription fee, you must cancel the free trial at least 2 days before it expires.

iStock ran a promotional free trial from January to April 2022, but it is no longer available. Like Shutterstock’s trial, it allowed you to get 10 free images.

Related: Best stock photo free trials


The main difference in licensing between Shutterstock and iStock is the price of the Extended License, which costs $67.96-$99.50 at Shutterstock and $144-$216 at iStock. Otherwise, the terms of use for the Standard and Extended licenses are mainly similar for both.

Customer Support

Both stock photo agencies have quite unresponsive support teams. It usually takes a couple of days to get a response, although some customers report never getting a response.

Additional Features

Both stock photo sites offer a number of useful features, including image and video editors, image scalers, plugins, and apps. Above all, we commend iStock’s integration into Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is an extremely useful feature for all types of creatives, especially graphic designers. Using this feature, you can open iStock’s library of files in Adobe’s apps, such as Photoshop, and import images directly into the project, thus omitting the need to download the images first. What’s more, you don’t need to purchase the image to test it in your project. Only after you’re 100% done with the project, do you purchase the used content.

Shutterstock also offers a couple of useful features, most notably its image editor, which resembles Canva, so we recommend using it for creating simple graphics. There’s also Shutterstock’s WordPress plugin, which lets you browse images within the WordPress text editor.

The Verdict

Shutterstock ranks first with a rating of 5.0 out of 5.0, while iStock ranks third with 4.8 out of 5.0 on Photutorial. Shutterstock is praised for its more extensive stock image library, affordable subscription plans, reasonably priced Extended licenses, and versatile plans that allow you to download images and videos simultaneously. Compared to Shutterstock, iStock lost points due to the smaller database of pictures and the lack of a free trial. Still, it’s better thanks to the versatile on-demand options, premium collection, and valuable integrations into Creative Cloud and Dropbox.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Shutterstock own iStock?

No, iStock is owned by GettyImages, which bought it in 2006. On the other hand, Shutterstock owns Offset, Bigstock, and several other websites related to visual content.

Is Shutterstock better than iStock?

Shutterstock is better than iStock regarding the number of images, Extended license buying options, and audio pricing. Unlike Shutterstock, iStock sells premium prints and all content with credits, making its on-demand pricing option a lot more flexible.


Photutorial compared Shutterstock and iStock based on 14 data points in the categories of image quality and variety, pricing, licensing, image number, customer support, and additional features. Photutorial rated Shutterstock and iStock based on the weighting assigned to each category.

  • Image quality & variety: 20%
  • Pricing: 20%
  • Licensing: 20%
  • Image number: 15%
  • Additional features: 15%
  • Customer support: 10%

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 and iStock customer support, licensing, and additional features that would enhance customers’ workflow.

Information provided on Photutorial is for educational purposes only. Your situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, nor do we recommend or advise individuals to buy or sell particular stocks or services. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Photutorial adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved, or otherwise endorsed by our partners.

About the author

Matic Broz profile image

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 and PetaPixel. In his free time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and petting random dogs. Read more

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