Shutterstock Review – Best Subscription based Stock Agency
Shutterstock is one of the most popular stock photo agencies in the market. With well over a decade in business, they're the pioneers of the stock photo subscription, and the owners of what is arguably the largest royalty free photos collection on the web, with over 220 million files and counting. In Shutterstock, variety isn't a problem!
This is also a very affordable agency. Their image packs give you high quality stock photos for $9,16 and $9,80 each. And their star subscription plans let you get these professional stock images for as little as $0.27 to $4,90 per unit. If you want quality, reliability, variety and good prices, Shutterstock is worth exploring.
And you can do it just now: use Shutterstock's search bar here to find any image you can think of!
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Shutterstock is one of the most popular stock photo agencies on the internet today –also one of the main agencies listed in our Best Stock Photo Sites Guide— and refers to themselves as simple, elegant and user-friendly. With a long history of stock image selling and buying, which placed them amongst the “Big 6” companies in this industry since their early days, Shutterstock always catered more to designers and corporate accounts that require large inventories of stock photos. For this reason, they developed a buying model that allows getting lots of Royalty-Free images constantly at cut prices: the stock photo subscription, a system that is now replicated at most major agencies. At first, this was their only offer, but in later years they expanded their client base to include users with smaller needs and added an on-demand package option that does not require a large investment or a high amount of downloads for the photos to be inexpensive.
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The business model, which is unique in the stock photo industry, favours new photos, customers who need many downloads per month, and has a one size image policy. Read more if you want to know what is Shutterstock?
Shutterstock has been an innovator since it started and they got a lot of press complimenting their crowdsourcing ability in the early days of internet startups. To expand its reach in the microstock agency world, Shutterstock acquired Bigstock (previously known as Bigstockphoto) to increase its market share and customer options without changing the Shutterstock model.
Shutterstock is international, innovative and big. They are the leading agency in microstock photo options and continue to add new updates to their stock photo agency.
- Shutterstock now has over 220 million images in their collection (probably the world's largest royalty-free collection in the world), with over 1 million fresh images added daily
- 11 million+ video clips (HD videos and 4K)
- Shutterstock has images (photos, vectors, illustrations, icons), video, and music as well
- Innovative search tools like Shutterstock Showcase help you find what you need, fast
- The company has been online since 2003 and was started by a photographer
- Shutterstock accepts almost all payment types like Visa, American Express, MasterCard, Discover, and JCB
- Enhanced licenses available with a limited selection of editorial licensed images
- Shutterstock is the first stock photo agency which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange
- The Shutterstock standard license has many advantages over other stock agencies
- Shutterstock photos are high-quality
- Searchable by: keywords, categories, colour, reverse image search, licenses and buying options with more detailed categories. Good searchability and easy to use.
- Languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese
- Their FAQ is extensive for buyers. The FAQ section is designed to find answers and is easy to navigate
- Shutterstock has its corporate headquarters in New York, USA and supports international buyers with languages and contact options
Subscription Options and Licensing Terms
Shutterstock is a subscription only stock photo agency. They offer a standard license or on-demand subscriptions and have an enhanced subscription for alternate licensing options. Subscription buying options are transparent and clearly defined.
- Subscriptions vary in criteria so check the parameters carefully
- Shutterstock now has plans with monthly download limits that are more flexible
- Shutterstock also introduced monthly billing so if you buy an annual subscription, you can pay by the month, not all upfront (plus you save 20% with an annual). You can visit this Shutterstock pricing page for more information.
- New improved licensing terms
On-demand subscription buying option:
- Two options available that are determined by the number of downloads
- The minimum investment to buy images is $49.00 USD for 5 images
- Inexpensive investment
- Great for the small buyer
- Package options for multiple user types
- Subscription valid for one year
- Larger investment than other stock photo agencies starting at $49.00 USD
- Per image, the price is a little higher than other stock photo agencies with the average small image starting at $9,16 USD
Shutterstock Subscription Services
Shutterstock started with this subscription plan that offers the largest size of photos, illustrations, and vectors for one price. It makes the downloading process easy and less sizing decisions need to be made. This subscription is standard for Shutterstock buyers and makes image prices competitive with other stock photo agencies. Plans come in one and twelve-month options and start at $49 for 10 images a month ($29 with annual plan) making the price per image $4.90 (or $2.90). There are plans with 50, 350 and 750 downloads monthly, the latter being their all-time star product that –priced at $249 month-to-month and $199 per month with annual commitment– takes the per-image price down to just $0.33/$0.22.
- Alternative licensing options require the purchase of enhanced licensing packs
- A larger investment is required for subscriptions with the best per-image rates
Image Searching Tools
Shutterstock has a good search engine for its image database. Their categories are extensive, they have included keyword prompting, the search tool is conveniently located and they have included a colour option that is easy to use and specific to designers' color requirements.
Some things to keep in mind:
- The search option is basic but successfully brings up good image matches
- Editorial searches can be conducted separately.
Shutterstock has standard and enhanced licenses with limited editorial licensed images available. They clearly state that images can not be used for templates for sale but they do have a merchandising option. Study their licensing terms and conditions so that you do not use images incorrectly and know when to buy the enhanced license.
Add-ons and Special Features
Blog –Shutterstock has increased their blog posts and almost post daily with useful information, designer tips, software tutorials, and new image additions
Graphic Design Tips and Tricks – Tips & Tricks is a helpful resource full of articles written by Shutterstock submitters covering a variety of topics to enhance your graphic design knowledge. The information is sporadic but is useful for designers who need or could benefit from some extra information.
Shutterstock Review Summary
Shutterstock is a subscription plan only stock agency with their on-demand subscription being an inexpensive intro to their photo buying service. They are one of the ‘Big 6' stock photo agencies and their image library proves it with over 15 million images to choose from. The addition of their footage website makes Shutterstock a media marketplace not just a stock photo agency but keep in mind that these websites are separate and subscriptions can not be used for both sites. If you are looking for something a bit different in your buying options, check their sister website Bigstock, as this portion of their business offers credit purchases and requires a smaller investment for services.
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