Shutterstock Review

by Matic Broz

In this Shutterstock review, I will go over image quality, purchase options, compares prices to other stock photo sites, and explain its contributor program.

Shutterstock is a reputable stock photo agency with the most extensive library of stock images and footage. It sells stock content with subscription plans that are amongst the most inexpensive in the industry, and with on-demand packs that are more expensive, but a lot more flexible.

Not only it is trusted by Google, National Geographic, Microsoft, Marvel and several other large companies. Therefore, there’s no reason for you not to trust it!

Pros

  • 350+ million images
  • Great prices
  • Trusted by large companies
  • Wide variety of purchase options
  • Exceptional image quality
  • 1-month free trial

Cons

  • High prices for smaller subscriptions/packs
  • Free trial terms confuse some users

Shutterstock deals

Use code SPS15 for 15% discount.
Shutterstock Review 1

$0.187/image

$0.22/image

Shutterstock Review 1

FREE/10 images

$0.22/image

This table is updated daily and guarantees the lowest prices.

What is Shutterstock?

Shutterstock was founded in 2003, by photographer and programmer Jon Oringer, current CEO of the company.

Soon, Jon started by offering 100,000 of his royalty-free photos. His website was different in its model from other stock photo sites; instead of selling stock photos at low prices, he introduced monthly subscriptions, which gave customers a preset number of images each month.

This new concept slingshotted Shutterstock to the top of the royalty-free stock photo market and has helped it hold its title ever since. But, Shutterstock’s innovation didn’t go unnoticed. Soon, every relevant image library adopted the same concept.

Not long after, Shutterstock started accepting work from photographers and creatives from all over the world. This augmented site’s success even further, which brings us to today when Shutterstock’s library houses more than 350 million photos, illustrations, vectors, and videos.

Shutterstock interface
Shutterstock Interface

This stock photo agency has accumulated a large collection of royalty-free images, over 317.580.436 in total with 1.584.270 new stock images added weekly.

Shutterstock Images

Images on Shutterstock are available in three different preset sizes – Small, Medium, and Large that come in 300 DPI (dost per inch). You can also Customize every stock photo in Shutterstock’s 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. Therefore, I recommend you always download the Large size photo and then scale it to your needs. You can come back at any time and re-download the image, as long as you have an active plan.

Image Sizing Guide:

  • 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.
Free photo example
An example of free Shutterstock image

What about vectors? Shutterstock also offers vector (EPS files) illustrations, which can be scaled to any size without loss of resolution.

Free vector example
An example of free Shutterstock vector

Shutterstock Pricing

Shutterstock sells images with subscription plans (from $25/mo to $249/mo) and on-demand packs (from $29 to $229). Standard license images cost between $0.22 and $14.90. Enhanced license images cost between $68 and $99.5, based on pack size.

Pricing is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re choosing a new stock photo site.

To accommodate all your needs, Shutterstock has one of the most diverse and customizable purchase plans in the stock photo market, that include several subscriptions and on-demand plans that guarantee near-lowest prices.

You can choose between Subscription or On-demand packs, between Single or Multiple users, between Standard or Enhanced license, and how many images do you want your subscription plan or pack to contain.

Shutterstock pricing

Subscriptions and on-demand packs have their own respective advantages and disadvantages, meaning that some features can only be found with the Standard license but not with on-demand packs, and vice-versa.

The table below represents differences between the both options.

FeaturesSubscriptionOn-demand packs
Standard license
Enhanced license
Coverage for 1 user
Autorenewal with an easy opt-out
Includes Editor Pro
Shutterstock review: 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 being uploaded every week, as well as licensing that keeps you legally protected and free from copyright issues.

Subscription plans

Subscriptions come in sizes of 10, 50, 350, and 750 images per month with prices ranging from $49 for 10 images to $167 for 750 images, and are the most cost-efficient option, but they require you to commit for several months

Subscription plans summary:

  • Starting at $0.22/image
  • Plans of 10, 50, 350, or 750 images per month
  • Monthly (the most expensive), annual, or annual prepaid (the cheapest) contract options
  • Standard (royalty-free) license only
  • No rollovers
  • Free trial of 10 images

You can choose between more costly but flexible month-to-month subscriptions and cheaper annual subscriptions, both of which grant a single user access to the Standard license. Moreover, if you pay ahead for the annual plan, you get a 20% discount.

While monthly plans offer the greatest level of flexibility, they are the most expensive. The price for monthly plans starts at $49/month or $0.33/image.

Shutterstock annual plans are the best option for you when you know that you’ll need stock photos regularly. Not only are they cheaper than monthly plans, but you can also save additional 20% by paying upfront. With annual plans, you can get 10 images for as low as $25 or $0.22/image for the top plan.

Plan sizeMonthlyAnnualAnnual (prepaid)
10 images$49$29$25
50 images$125$99$82
350 images$199$169$137
750 images$249$199$167
Shutterstock review: Subscription plans pricing

All subscription plans come with no restrictions on image size or daily download limits.

Unfortunately, unused downloads are not transferred into the following month. However, if you run out of downloads before the end of the month, you can wait until the next month, upgrade your plan, or purchase on-demand packs.

You can start and stop your subscription at any time by simply turning the renewal feature on or off. Importantly, if you decide to end your commitment early, a plan price adjustment will apply.

On-demand packs

On-demand packs are the best choice for you if you don’t need stock photo regularly as they come with no commitment. Therefore, you can purchase a pack and use the downloads whenever you want, within one year since the purchase.

You can choose among 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.

The table below compares pricing various packs that differ in size and license.

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

Even though the price per image is higher than with subscription-based plans, these plans offer smaller download quantities and do not bind you to any contract.

Not unlike subscriptions, image packs will also be auto-renewed when you run out of downloads or when they expire. Of course, you can simply deselect this service on the order summary page or in your account settings.

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

Standard license vs Enhanced license

Standard license permits up to 500,000 copies, unlimited web distribution, and provides legal indemnification up to $10,000. Enhanced license grants unlimited copies and web distribution, allows merchandising, and provides legal indemnification up to $250,000.

Shutterstock’s Standard license is a form of a royalty-free license, which 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)

The Enhanced License offers more usage rights, allowing you to use images in merchandise, web templates, print templates, and commercial spaces.

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

How to Claim Shutterstock Free Trial?

  1. Go to Shutterstock

    Click on the button at the top of this page or click HERE navigate to Shutterstock.How to Claim Trial Step 1

  2. Click on “Start your free trial”

  3. Create an account

    Enter your email and password.

  4. Shutterstock will redirect you to the checkout page

  5. Fill out your details

    How to Claim Trial Step 2

  6. Complete checkout

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

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

Shutterstocks 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.

Here’s what it looks like (Credit: Shutterstock)

Alt text

Related reading: Shutterstock releases WordPress plugin

Does Shutterstock deserve bad reviews?

Before writing this Shutterstock review, I read most of the reviews written by Shutterstock’s customers to better answer any questions a potential customer could have.

Most of the bad reviews are aimed at Shutterstock’s subscription system and auto-renewal it comes with. 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 is automatically renewed 4 days before your trial period expires.

I did criticize this “hidden” feature in my review of the Best Stock Photo Sites, however, it is mentioned on the front page of the deal, “To ensure seamless service, the charge will happen 4 days before your free trial period ends.

shutterstock review 1 month free trial
A part of Shutterstock’s free trials details (Source: Screenshot of Shutterstock.com/free trial for Shutterstock review)

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 shear 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.

Shutterstock Contributor

Shutterstock Contributor program is the leading platform on which photographers and illustrators can sell their content and earn anywhere between a couple of bucks and up to several thousand dollars each month.

If you’re a photographer, you’ve heard of Shutterstock and you must have heard success stories from other contributors that have earnt a small fortune with this company.

That’s not surprising. Over the years Shutterstock has paid more than 1 billion to its contributors. And now you must ask yourself, “If everyone else can do it, why couldn’t I?”.

With Shutterstock, you won’t only earn money, but you’ll also grow as a photographer, when you join their international community.

How much can you make on Shutterstock?

As a part of Shutterstock contributor program, you earn between 15% and 40%. Your earnings percentage gets higher as you sell more content. However, all progress resets each calendar year.

As of June 1st, 2020, Shutterstock has introduced a new earnings structure for Contributors, that pays higher royalties if you sell more.

Image levelsImage licensesYou earn
Level 1Up to 10015%
Level 2101-25020%
Level 3251-50025%
Level 4501-2,50030%
Level 52,500-25,00035%
Level 625,000+40%
“Image levels” are Shutterstock’s rankings, which depend on “Image licenses” sold. The more “Image licenses” you sell, the more you “earn”.

The update shrunk some contributors’ earnings from 70% to 30% or less. Additionally, Enhances license payouts changed from a fixed $28 per sale to a percentage of the license cost – 20%, 25%, 28%, and 30%.

To conclude, as a Contributor, your earnings range from 15% to 40% and you get paid at the end of every month if you’ve reached the minimum payout amount of $35.

Image Requirements

To maintain the exceptional quality of the content, Shutterstock established strict terms:

  • Image formats: JPEG and TIFF, accepted are also EPS files if they’re compatible with Adobe Illustrator 8 or 10,
  • Color profile: sRGB,
  • Resolution: at least 4 MP (megapixels),
  • File size: max 50 MB for photos, 100 MB for EPS.

Suggested keywords

Keywords are key (pun alert) to a successful stock contribution career; however, most of the contributors have no idea how to properly use them.

Keywords are how potential customers find you, so there’s no point in misleading them by using popular yet unrelated keywords.

To help you with the process and also speed up your workflow, Shutterstock helps you with keywords selection. What is more, it will also fill in the keywords for you based on content recognition.

Make sure to double-check the keywords because even though the tool is useful it’s not perfect.

Shutterstock keywords emphasize
Shutterstock Contributor keyword suggestion (Screenshot for Shutterstock review)

Multi-Select tool

As your Shutterstock Contributor profile grows, you’ll have to manage more and more images.

To help you manage an overwhelming amount of content Shutterstock Contributor introduced the Multi-Select tool, which enables you to add information to multiple items at once.

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 image search
Shutterstock’s image search interface (Source: screenshot for Shutterstock review)

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

Is Shutterstock legit?

Yes, Shutterstock is a very big and reputable company. It is 100% legit and safe to use.

Can you make money on Shutterstock?

Shutterstock is for a lot of contributors the most profitable stock photo agency, with the earnings exceeding 40% of their total revenue.

How much do you earn on Shutterstock?

Once you’ve crossed the $500, $3,000, and $10,000 earnings threshold, your royalty rate will increase. For example, new Shutterstock contributors earn $1.88 for every On-Demand Image download, but once they make $500, that rate goes up to $2.48.

What types of photos sell best on Shutterstock?

Generally, images that include people, popular sites, business offices, and abstract patterns brings the most sales.

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.


Conclusion | Shutterstock review

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.

Shutterstock is a renowned stock photo agency with a consumer rating of 4.5 stars from 422 reviews on g2, 1.1 stars from 1,160 reviews on Trustpilot, and 1.24 stars from 289 review on Sitejabber. Consumers most often complain about customer service, auto-renewal, and payment problems.

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and are based on my experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. This post may contain affiliate links.

2 thoughts on “Shutterstock Review”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply

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