[2024] Shutterstock Review - Pros, Cons & Pricing

Find Out Why Shutterstock stands out as a top choice for stock photography: Boasting a vast library of over 734 million high-resolution images, flexible subscription options, and user-friendly features, it's the go-to source for creative professionals and businesses alike, offering quality and variety that's hard to beat.

December 30, 2023
[2024] Shutterstock Review - Pros, Cons & Pricing
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What Is ShutterStock?

Shutterstock logo

Founded in 2003 by entrepreneur Jon Oringer, Shutterstock has emerged as a global powerhouse in the world of stock photography and media. Headquartered in New York City, it has become synonymous with high-quality, royalty-free images, making it a leading resource for creatives and businesses worldwide.

Shutterstock's expansive library is its crown jewel, boasting over 734 million images, videos, music tracks, and more. This incredible variety ensures that whether you're a marketer, graphic designer, or content creator, you'll find the perfect asset for your project. The platform is continually updated, with over 200,000 new images added daily, keeping the content fresh and relevant.

The company's offerings extend beyond just images. They include:

  • Shutterstock Images: A vast collection of high-resolution photos across various categories.
  • Shutterstock Video: An extensive range of quality stock footage, catering to diverse video production needs.
  • Shutterstock Music: A curated selection of royalty-free music tracks perfect for various multimedia projects.
  • Shutterstock Editorial: A specialized service providing high-quality editorial images from the world of news, sports, and entertainment.

Shutterstock is not just about content; it's also about convenience. With a state-of-the-art search engine featuring AI image recognition and reverse image search, finding the perfect asset is more intuitive and efficient than ever. Additionally, the platform offers various subscription plans and on-demand options, making it accessible and budget-friendly for different user needs.

Moreover, Shutterstock isn't just a marketplace; it's a community. It empowers over 1.5 million contributors worldwide, providing a platform for photographers, videographers, and artists to share their work and earn from their creativity.

Pros

  • Extensive Image Library: Shutterstock boasts a massive collection of over 734 million high-resolution images, ensuring a wide range of choices for different needs​​.
  • High-Quality Images: The platform is known for providing extremely high-resolution images, suitable for professional use​​.
  • Diverse Media Types: Besides images, Shutterstock offers videos, music, illustrations, and vector images, catering to a broad range of creative needs​​.
  • Flexible Subscription Plans: Multiple subscription options are available, accommodating both small and large image requirements and various budget levels​​​​.
  • User-Friendly Interface: The website is easy to navigate, making it convenient for users to find and download the needed assets​​​​.
  • Free Trial and Risk-Free Options: Offers a risk-free trial with 10 free images, allowing users to evaluate the service before committing​​.
  • Regular Content Updates: Over 200,000 new images are added daily, keeping the content fresh and up-to-date​​.
  • Strong International Presence: The service is available in multiple languages, making it accessible to a global audience​​.

Cons

  • Pricing Concerns: Some users find Shutterstock's fees higher compared to other similar stock photo services​​.
  • Customer Service Issues: There have been complaints about poor customer service and difficulties in resolving issues​​.
  • No Single Image Purchase Option: Shutterstock does not offer the option to purchase single images; users have to opt for packs or subscription plans​​.
  • Auto-Renewal Policy: Some customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the auto-renewal policy for subscriptions, leading to unexpected charges​​.
  • Homogeneous Library: The library is seen as lacking in artsy or premium photos, with a more commercial-ready style that might not suit all creative needs​​.
  • No Exclusive Content: Shutterstock does not offer exclusive content, which means the same images might be available on other platforms​​.

Is ShutterStock Worth It?

Well, the answer to that question might vary from person to person. But what I can tell you is my take on the platform from my perspective as a professional video editor. I've been using Shutterstock for a good part of two years now, primarily for sourcing high-quality stock footage for various projects.

With their library boasting over 734 million images and a substantial collection of videos, I rarely find myself short of options. This is crucial for me because the demands of my projects can be quite diverse. Just last month, I was working on an ad campaign that required very specific aerial shots and lifestyle images. I found exactly what I needed on Shutterstock, and the quality was top-notch.

The user interface is another plus. I don't have time to fiddle around, and their platform is straightforward, with an intuitive search function. This efficiency saves me a significant amount of time, which in my line of work is as good as saving money.

Now, let's talk cost. The only thing I don't like is the fact that there's no option for single image or video purchase. As someone who doesn't always need a large number of assets, this can be a bit frustrating. I remember an instance where I needed just one specific clip for a project, and I had to purchase a pack. While the per-image cost in a subscription or pack can be reasonable (sometimes as low as $0.22 per photo), it's not always cost-effective for smaller needs.

Speaking of subscriptions, their auto-renewal policy is something to watch out for. It's convenient but can lead to unexpected charges if you're not careful. I learned this the hard way when I forgot to cancel after a project wrapped up and was billed for another month.

In terms of performance, I’d rate Shutterstock highly for the quality of their content and the range of options available. However, the pricing model and lack of single purchase options are downsides that might affect its overall value, depending on your specific needs.

So, is Shutterstock worth it? For me, with high-demand projects and a need for variety and quality, it's a yes — but with the caveat that you need to be mindful of their subscription model and plan your usage accordingly. For those who need assets less frequently or in smaller quantities, it might be less of a clear-cut decision.

Who is ShutterStock Good For?

Well, from my experience, I can tell you it's like a goldmine for certain types of users. Let me break it down for you.

Graphic Designers and Creative Professionals

Graphic designers and creative professionals are arguably the primary users of Shutterstock. They constantly need a diverse range of high-quality images and videos to bring their designs to life. With Shutterstock's vast library, they find an almost endless stream of visual options to choose from, making it an indispensable tool in their creative arsenal.

Marketing and Advertising Agencies

Marketing and advertising agencies are another major demographic for Shutterstock. These agencies produce a high volume of content and campaigns, requiring a steady supply of fresh and relevant visuals. Shutterstock's extensive range of stock images and videos provides them with the necessary resources to create compelling and eye-catching campaigns.

Freelancers

Freelancers, including video editors, digital marketers, and content creators, also stand to benefit significantly from Shutterstock. The platform offers them access to professional-grade assets that can elevate their projects. However, individual freelancers need to be mindful of the subscription costs, which might be a bit steep depending on their budget and the scale of their operations.

Small to Medium-Sized Businesses

Small to medium-sized businesses often find Shutterstock to be a valuable resource. Whether for website imagery, social media content, or other promotional materials, they can access a wide range of visuals without the need for custom photoshoots or graphic design work. This makes Shutterstock a cost-effective solution for their diverse visual needs.

Educators and Academic Professionals

Educators and academic professionals frequently utilize stock images for presentations, online courses, and educational materials. Shutterstock’s extensive and varied collection provides them with the visuals they need to enhance the learning experience and convey complex ideas in an accessible manner.

Bloggers and Social Media Influencers

Finally, bloggers and social media influencers are increasingly turning to stock photo libraries like Shutterstock. The platform's trendy and high-quality images help them maintain a visually appealing and engaging online presence, which is crucial in the highly competitive world of digital content creation.

Ease Of Use

User interface of Shutterstock

Shutterstock's ease of use is a key factor that shapes its appeal, especially for professionals like myself in the creative industry. Let me break down my experience and research into the platform's usability:

Website and Mobile App Experience

The Shutterstock website stands out as user-friendly and intuitive, which is a big deal for someone like me who needs quick and efficient access to resources. The site's design might not be the most visually appealing compared to modern design standards, but its functionality is solid​​. The mobile app is a valuable addition, offering convenience and accessibility for content creators on the go. This is particularly handy when I'm away from my desk but need to browse or download assets quickly​​​​.

Editor Features

Shutterstock includes a built-in image editor, which is a boon for quick edits. It allows for easy addition of text, background figures, and color adjustments. The editor's ease of use is evident in its drag-and-drop functionality and template options for social media posts and printables like flyers or banners. However, a drawback is its reliance on Shutterstock images for editing; you can't import external images, which can be limiting if you're working with a mix of sources​​​​.

Subscription and A-La-Carte Models

Shutterstock offers both subscription plans and a-la-carte options. The subscription model provides a set number of credits each month for downloading files, but credits don't carry over to the next month. The a-la-carte option is more suitable if you're looking for just a few media pieces. For my needs, I found the subscription model more economical, but it's important to consider how frequently you'll need new assets​​.

Licensing and Flexibility

Shutterstock offers Standard and Enhanced Licenses, catering to different needs. The Standard License covers most general uses, while the Enhanced License is ideal for larger scale or commercial use, such as merchandising or high-budget video production. This flexibility allows me to align my projects with the appropriate level of licensing​​.

Library

Shutterstock's library is a vast and comprehensive collection of digital assets, well-suited for a wide range of creative and commercial projects. Here's a detailed look at the types of assets available and their quality:

Images

Shutterstock boasts an enormous selection of over 390 million high-quality images, making it one of the world's largest stock image collections​​. These images cover virtually every imaginable category, from lifestyle and business to abstract art and nature. For example, if you're working on a travel brochure, you can find stunning landscapes or cityscapes. Similarly, for a corporate presentation, there are ample professional and business-related images.

Videos

The platform also includes around 23 million footage clips, catering to the needs of filmmakers, video editors, and content creators​​. This extensive footage library spans various genres and styles, including slow-motion, time-lapse, and aerial shots, which are ideal for creating engaging video content.

Music Tracks

With around 13,000 music tracks, Shutterstock provides a diverse range of audio options for projects requiring background music or sound effects​​. These tracks vary in genre, mood, and tempo, suitable for everything from corporate videos to social media content.

Templates and 3D Models

Additionally, the library includes a variety of templates and 3D models, which are helpful for graphic designers and digital artists. For instance, if you need a brochure template or a 3D model for a product visualization, Shutterstock likely has options to suit your requirements​​​​.

Quality and Style

The assets in Shutterstock's library are known for their high technical quality and commercial style. They are typically ready to use right out of the catalog, requiring minimal editing. This is especially beneficial for marketing and advertising projects, where high-quality visuals are essential​​.

Editorial Content

Shutterstock also offers a range of editorial images, including news, sports, entertainment, and archival photos. This is particularly useful for journalists and media professionals who require up-to-date and historically relevant imagery​​.

Shutterstock Prices

shutterstock pricing

Shutterstock offers a range of pricing plans tailored to various user needs, from individual creators to large businesses. Here's a breakdown of each plan, along with examples of who they're best for and the benefits and features they offer:

Image Subscription Plans (Single User):

  • 10 Images/Month: Priced at $29/month, this plan is ideal for individual bloggers or small business owners who need a limited number of high-quality images monthly. It’s cost-effective for regular but not heavy users.
  • 50 Images/Month: At $99/month, this plan suits freelance designers or medium-sized businesses needing a larger pool of images for diverse projects like marketing materials and websites.
  • 350 Images/Month: Priced at $169/month, it’s designed for larger marketing agencies or graphic design firms that require a significant number of images regularly.
  • 750 Images/Month: At $199/month, this plan is best for high-volume users like large advertising agencies or publishing houses that need an extensive range of images​​.

Subscription Plans Pricing (Multiple Users):

  • 750 Images/Month/2 Users: For $379/month, this plan is perfect for small teams or departments within larger organizations that need to share a pool of images.
  • 750 Images/Month/3-10 Users: Priced at $479/month, it’s ideal for medium-sized businesses or collaborative projects requiring access for multiple team members.
  • 750 Images/Month/11+ Users: This plan requires contacting Shutterstock for pricing and is tailored for large enterprises with significant and varied image requirements across multiple departments​​.

On-demand Image Pack Pricing (Single User):

  • 2 images: At $29, this option is great for individuals who need just a couple of high-quality images for a one-time project.
  • 5 Images: Priced at $49, suitable for occasional users who need a few images for specific projects.
  • 25 Images: For $229, it’s a good choice for users with sporadic but bulk image needs, such as event planners or seasonal marketing campaigns​​.

Shutterstock Footage Subscription:

  • 5 Clips/Month: At $99/month, this plan is suitable for small video production companies or YouTubers needing quality footage.
  • 10 Clips/Month: Priced at $159/month, ideal for larger video projects or marketing campaigns that require diverse video content.
  • 20 Clips/Month: For $199/month, best for heavy users like film production companies or digital marketing agencies requiring a significant amount of video content​​.

Shutterstock Music Subscription:

  • Unlimited Music Plan: Priced at $16/month, this plan offers unlimited access to music tracks, perfect for podcasters, YouTubers, or small video production studios needing diverse background scores or sound effects​​.

Shutterstock Flex Subscription:

  • Up to 10 Team Members: This flexible plan, priced at $69/month (monthly) or $49/month (annually), provides 25 credits to use across images, videos, and music tracks. It’s a versatile choice for creative teams needing a mix of media types​​.

Shutterstock Free Trial

Shutterstock's Free Trial is a standout feature that offers new users a fantastic opportunity to explore the platform's vast library without any upfront cost. This trial, which typically lasts for 30 days, allows users to download a specific number of images, usually up to 10, completely free of charge​​. It's an excellent way for potential customers to test the waters, assessing the quality and variety of Shutterstock's assets in real-world applications before committing to a subscription.

The trial is particularly beneficial for individuals or businesses uncertain about which subscription plan aligns best with their needs. For example, a freelance graphic designer can use this period to gauge how often they might need stock images, while a small business owner could explore how these images integrate into their marketing materials.

However, it’s crucial to be mindful of Shutterstock's subscription policies during the free trial. The trial typically enrolls users into a yearly subscription, which starts automatically after the trial period ends. Users need to actively cancel the subscription before the trial expires to avoid any charges. This aspect is essential to remember, as overlooking it can lead to unexpected expenses.