Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock

by Matic Broz

Data evidence and customer reviews indicate that Adobe Stock is quickly becoming Shutterstock’s most fierce competition.

Now the question is, “can Adobe Stock beat Shutterstock?”

In this data-rich Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock post, I’ll compare the prices of both stock photo agencies, their subscription and on-demand plans, image quality and quantity, and explore the trends of both companies – I prepared a few graphs.

Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock: Summary

Both Shutterstock and Adobe Stock are royalty-free stock photo agencies that sell photos, illustrations, videos, and audio files with subscription plans and on-demand with credits.

In short, Adobe Stock is better for Creative Cloud users because it provides a smoother workflow thanks to its easy integration into Creative Cloud apps. However, Shutterstock is overall less expensive and has larger collection of stock images, so it’s better for those who need only stock images.

Shutterstock and Adobe Stock deals

Use code SPS15 for 15% discount on Shutterstock.
Adobe Stock currently does NOT offer promo codes.
Shutterstock small logo

FREE/10 images

$0.22/image

Adobe Stock small logo

FREE/10 images

$0.26/image

Shutterstock small logo

$0.187/image

$0.22/image

Adobe Stock small logo

$0.26/image

This table is updated daily and guarantees the lowest prices.

Both stock photo agencies have also made my list of the best stock photo sites and the cheapest stock photo sites.

Is Adobe Stock better than Shutterstock?

Adobe Stock is a royalty-free stock photo agency owned by a well-known software giant Adobe, the developer of Photoshop, Lightroom, Adobe Illustrator, and others.

Adobe is also the owner of Creative Cloud platform, which includes app such as Lightroom, Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Effects, and more. While it might not seem as much at first, this is crucial for every designer using Adobe’s apps.

Adobe Stock is the best suitable for anyone using Adobe apps because it offers invaluable integration of stock image library into those.

When you’re working on a design, you can import a stock image into the app without purchasing it, and only when you’re satisfied with the result, you pay for the images you used.

Why would anyone want this? Using this feature of Adobe Stock, you have the room for trial and error without losing money. With other stock photo sites, you need to purchase the image first, and if it doesn’t fit your design, you cannot refund it. You need to get a new one, but not with Adobe Stock!

Is Shutterstock better than Adobe Stock?

Just like Adobe Stock, Shutterstock is a royalty-free stock photo agency that sells stock images, videos, and music. Having more than two decades of success, Shutterstock is a reputable company that has partnered with several other high-profile corporations over the years.

Shutterstock beats Adobe Stock in sheer numbers – it’s library houses a selection of over 350+ million stock media items, which are available at a lower price than Adobe Stock.

However, there’s a downside of Shutterstock. On review websites, such as Trustpilot, Shutterstock has a lot of poor reviews, mostly about its subscription plan payments. I looked at the issue dissatisfied customers mentioned, but I concluded that it was indeed their fault and not Shutterstock’s. Shutterstock clearly states in the terms of use of the free trial, that the payment of the subscription plan occurs 4 days in advance – which caught several people off-guard.

Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock pricing

Shutterstock and Adobe Stock both sell stock images with subscription plans (cheaper) and on-demand (more flexible).

In short, Shutterstock prices are lower than Adobe Stock prices. The prices of the royalty-free license start at $0.22 at Shutterstock and $0.26 at Adobe Stock. Although Shutterstock is more affordable, the difference isn’t that significant.

Shutterstock offer subscription plans of 10, 50, 350, or 750 monthly images that you can buy for each month separately (Monthly plan), or you can purchase an Annual plan, where you have to commit for an entire year, but it’s less expensive. Additionally, Shutterstock also gives you an option to prepay for a whole; thus, giving you an additional discount.

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

Uncoincidentally, Adobe Stock offers subscription plans of similar size and price. You can choose between monthly plans of 3, 40, 350, or 750 assets (downloads) per month, or annual plans of 10, 40, 350, or 750 assets per month.

Month-to-month subscription plans (Adobe Stock):

  • 3 assets a month – $29.99/mo or $9.99/asset
  • 40 assets a month – $99.99/mo or $2.49/asset
  • 350 assets a month – $199.99/mo or $0.57/asset
  • 750 assets a month – $249.99/mo or $0.33/asset

Annual commitment subscription plans (Adobe Stock):

  • 10 assets a month – $29.99/mo or $2.99/asset + 30-day Free trial
  • 40 assets a month – $79.99/mo or $1.99/asset + 30-day Free trial
  • 350 assets a month – $169.99/mo or $0.48/asset
  • 750 assets a month – $199.99/mo or $0.26/asset

Alternatively, you can purchase photos on-demand at Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. In general, this option is a lot more expensive than subscription plans, but it offers more flexibility and requires no commitment. Moreover, Enhanced or Extended licenses can only be bought on-demand, with cash or credits, that is.

Shutterstock offers 3 on-demand packs of 2, 5, or 25 images that are prices according to the license. For a Standard license (Royalty-free) the on-demand packs cost $29, $49, and $229, while for an Enhanced license (Extended royalty-free) they cost $199, $499, and $1,999, consecutively.

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 at Shutterstock

On the other hand, with Adobe Stock when you purchase an on-demand pack, you gain credits that can be then used to buy stock photos, videos, templates, and premium 3D items.

Credit packs pricing:

  • 5 credits – $49.95 or $9.99/credit
  • 16 credits – $149.99 or $9.37/credit (you save $10)
  • 40 credits – $359.99 or $8.99/credit (you save $40)
  • 80 credits – $669.99 or $8.37/credit (you save $129)
  • 150 credits – $1,200,00 or $8.00/credit (you save $299)

To sum up the pricing, there’s not a huge difference between the pricing of Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. You should decide based on which pricing model suits your needs better.

Contributor program comparison

Shutterstock and Adobe Stock both run profitable contributor programs, with completely different payout systems.

Shutterstock pays based on how many images you have sold over the time, maxing out at 25,000+ downloads that yield 40% earnings.

Start Shutterstock contributor program.

Image levelsImage licensesYou earn
Level 1< 10015%
Level 2101-25020%
Level 3251-50025%
Level 4501-2,50030%
Level 52,500-25,00035%
Level 625,000+40%
Shutterstock contributor program earnings

In contrast, Adobe Stock pays based on what kind of a plan a customer was using when they purchased a license.

In short, you get 33% royalties for images, and 35% royalties for videos. However, the minimum payouts improve with the number of downloads, maxing out at 10,000+ downloads and $0.38 commission.

Adobe Stock review - Image royalties
Adobe Stock contributor program earnings

Additionally, Adobe Stock runs Bonus program. If you’re an active and successful contributor, you can get free access to Adobe Creative Cloud assets.

  • 150-4,999 downloads: You can choose a one-year plan of either Creative Cloud Photography (20GB), Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro, or After Effects.
  • 5,000+ downloads: one-year access to Creative Cloud All Apps

Start Adobe Stock contributor program.

To summarize, you can make good money with both if you’re a regular contributor. With there being no significant upside to exclusive contributing, there’s no reason for you not to upload to both and maximize your earnings.

If you’re seriously into earning money with stock photography, read my review on Dreamstime contributor program, with arguably the highest commissions. LINK

Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock Trends (Data analysis)

I pulled data from Google Trends and analysed in Excel for this comparison of trends.

The graph below represents fluctuations in popularity of Shutterstock and Adobe Stock on Google over the last 5 years. Considering that Adobe Stock was founded in 2015, it doesn’t make sense to pull data any older than this.

Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock popularity trend graph (dark)
Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock Popularity on Google [Worldwide] (data source: Google Trends)

From the graph “Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock Popularity”, a clear and steady increase of Adobe Stock popularity can be observed, while popularity of Shutterstock has been slowly declining over the past 3 years, since the middle of 2017. Every year around December, a sudden dip in popularity can be observed, which is due to holiday season. Over the 2020 both stock agencies have seen a large decrease in popularity, which can be linked with the Coronavirus global epidemic that caused cut-backs of business expenditures, and consequently lower demand of stock photos.

I used linear regression to extrapolate the date of when Adobe Stock will reach Shutterstock in popularity. If the trends continued in the same manner, Adobe Stock will become as popular as Shutterstock during the first half of 2026.

What is more, when I limited the search to the United States only, Adobe Stock has already passed Shutterstock, for the first time in the March of 2020. Refer to the graph below.

Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock popularity trend graph (dark) United States
Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock Popularity on Google [United States] (data source: Google Trends)

What does this mean for Shutterstock and Adobe Stock? Adobe Stock has been gaining in popularity due to its innovation in the stock photo world, such as integrating its stock library into Creative Cloud, an attractive feature for all designers. On the other hand, Shutterstock has been slowly drowning in poor reviews while sitting on the long-lost throne.

This is my take on the data provided. Now, I’d love to hear from you what’s your opinion. Let me know in the comments below.

Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock | Conclusion

Shutterstock is a giant in stock photography that has been slowly losing in popularity, while Adobe Stock caught up to it in just 5 years. While both stock photo agencies offer images for just a few cents, Adobe Stock has been innovating and it’s paying off! I recommend Adobe Stock.

For more information, I recommend reading my reviews:

If I managed to convince you for either one, you can head over to Shutterstock or Adobe Stock using my links:

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.

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