Shutterstock Review 2023 – Pricing Details, Pros, Cons & More

Shutterstock is a leading stock photo agency that stands out for having one of the largest royalty-free photo collections on the web, plus offering: 

And much more!  In our opinion, Shutterstock is one of the top stock photo sites for good reason, and the best stock photo agency if you are looking for a stock photo subscription. Explore Shutterstock’s image collection right now, using the search bar right below!


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New Shutterstock Coupon Code for 2023 (EXCLUSIVE) and Free Trial

Update - 2020.01.02New Shutterstock Free Trial added below!
Try Shutterstock for 1 Month and get 10 Images for Free! Cancel anytime!
You will get 15% OFF from any stock photo subscription and any prepaid credit package (and any video and music purchases!) at Shutterstock for new customers. Save on your stock images using the Shutterstock Coupon Code at check out.

Plus, you can check here how to get Shutterstock Creative Flow for free! It's Shutterstock's own creative platform.

Shutterstock Pro (formerly Shutterstock regular subscriptions) Coupon Code

This coupon will save you 15% on any image subscription and any credit pack! wwww.shutterstock.com pricing New! Shutterstock Flex subscription with multimedia downloads… at an 15% off!

Get a 15% off on Shutterstock's mixed-asset subscriptions to download stock images, stock videos, and stock music at once!

Shutterstock Footage Coupon Code

Get a 15% discount on your choice of Shutterstock Video Subscriptions, which start at $159 a month for 10 video downloads. Subscriptions let you get ...
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This coupon gives you 15% off in your stock footage purchase! wwww.shutterstock.com footage
Exclusive 15% discount on your choice of Shutterstock Video Subscriptions, Clips, Video Packs, and Flex Packages.    
Get a 15% discount on your choice of Shutterstock Video Subscriptions, which start at $159 a month for 10 video downloads. Subscriptions let you get ...
Save an additional 15% off on annual image subscriptions at Shutterstock.com
Save an additional 15% off on annual image subscriptions at Shutterstock.com.
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.

Save now up to 15% with our exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code

Shutterstock.com sells royalty-free images, videos, and music tracks that you can easily buy online, download, and use in your projects. It is consistently one of the top-rated stock photo agencies as many designers and creative teams prefer their subscription plans for their low prices and workflow convenience.  This agency actually disrupted the scene with the stock photo subscription model back in the early 2000s and has since become one of the most robust and well-rounded stock media services on the web, integrating libraries for stock footage and audio content, an editorial selection –including editorial subscriptions!–, an advanced search engine, a native image editor, and more.  Having worked closely with the agency for over a decade, we think Shutterstock is the best subscription-based stock photo site, and ideal for those looking for commercially-appealing content. While they might not be the best suited for those who want to buy on-demand, or for those looking for unique, artistic imagery, they are a very reliable company with top-level service for those looking for commercial-ready imagery. Read on for our full Shutterstock review, where we address all your questions on the quality of service, pricing points, site functionality, company trustworthiness, and more.  www.shutterstock.com pricing

Shutterstock Pros and Cons for Buyers

  • Multiple subscription options for small and large image needs
  • Risk-free trial (10 free images)
  • Insanely large library (734+ million images)
  • Commercial-ready style

  • No single image purchase 
  • Homogeneous library (no artsy nor premium photos) 
  • No exclusive content

That’s our evaluation of Shutterstock’s best and worst features, but our review goes much more in-depth than that, so read ahead!  

Shutterstock Basic Facts (TL, DR for Quick Readers)

For those with no time to read the whole review, here is what you need to know about Shutterstock: 

  • It’s the inventor of the stock photo subscription.
  • Subscription prices start at $29/mo for 10 images.
  • The cheapest subscription price is $0.22 per photo.
  • One of the largest stock image catalogs, with 734+ Million high-resolution images
  • Very big stock footage library (50M+ videos) and audio catalog
  • Sells royalty-free licenses for commercial use. Extended licenses are available, as well as Editorial licenses. 
  • On-demand credit packs are also available; prices start at 2 credits (2 images) for $29 ($14.50 per download)
  • Shutterstock Free Trial with 10 free image downloads.
  • Accept most credit cards worldwide, and also PayPal in the US and Canada only
  • State-of-the-art search engine with AI image recognition and reverse image search
  • Bonus free features such as the Shutterstock Creative Flow design platform

As you see from these bullet points, Shutterstock is a great company with a complete offer for creatives looking for affordable and high-quality stock photos.  Read ahead to get the complete picture of what is Shutterstock and how it works! And here, you can check all the most relevant Shutterstock statistics.

Interested in becoming a contributor selling your work on the agency? Then, read the full Shutterstock Contributor review.

Exclusive: Shutterstock Free Trial – Risk-Free Trial for 30 Days (Cancel within First Month for Free)

Shutterstock sells stock images, but there are ways to get free stock photos from this site, too. They’ve offered free files (photos, vector illustrations, templates, etc.) in their weekly newsletter for many years.  wwww.shutterstock.com pricing But more recently, they introduced this incredible Shutterstock Free Trial where you sign up for a yearly subscription of 10 downloads a month and get the first month free. During the initial 30-day trial period, you can download any 10 images of your choice from their catalog completely free of charge! These images are royalty-free and, thus, a lot safer to use than those from free photo sites.  Once the trial period is up, you can opt to stay subscribed and pay the monthly fee for the remaining 11 months of your plan. It or cancel it before the trial expires; you won’t be charged any cancellation fees. Also, in all Shutterstock plans, the auto-renew feature is on by default, so if you do not wish to stay subscribed past the first year of the contract, you must unselect and save the changes in your account before your first contract is up.  Keep in mind, to be safe, you should cancel your account no later than four days before the end of your initial month. Otherwise, you might be charged a cancellation fee. 

Note: You might find some reviews/opinions online calling the Shutterstock Free Trial a scam, but when you dig deeper into the reasons for it, you will notice the user failed to read, understand and/or follow the terms of the trial: they forgot to cancel within the first month when they didn’t want to pay for the subscription, they complained about recurrent monthly payments when the terms specifically say it’s a one-year contract, or they failed to unselect auto-renew and later claimed the agency was charging them after one year passed when it’s also expressly said that auto-renew is on by default, among the most common mistakes. But as stock photo experts we attest the Shutterstock Free Trial is not a scam and works exactly as it says it does. As long as you follow the terms, you will not be charged for any extra months. 
Important: The Shutterstock Free Trial, plus freebies you can find on their site (more on this below), is the only legal and verified way to get Shutterstock photos free. Any other source that isn’t Shutterstock themselves or a trusted affiliate that promises you free Shutterstock images is a scam. 

Shutterstock Images – High Quality and Commercial-Ready

Shutterstock’s offer in stock photography is based on three pillars: quality, quantity, and variety. With over 380 million images and counting, it’s safe to say quantity is covered, and variety is too: you can find millions of pictures for every theme and style imaginable.  Plus, Shutterstock images are distinctive for their top technical quality and solid commercial appeal: they’re pictures pretty much ready to jump from their catalog onto your design without further ado. The agency has a rigorous and methodical review process to ensure this is the case.  Their library is the perfect match for businesses and creatives looking for images for marketing and advertising.  However, they do not offer exclusive nor premium images of any kind (so it’s possible to find these pictures in other agencies). And it’s important to note that while they excel in commercial-ready images, they don’t have much to offer in terms of more artistic, out-of-the-box styled imagery.  Have a look at Shutterstock images using this search tool right here: 

An important thing to know is that all Shutterstock images are copyrighted, by the artist that created them (and not by Shutterstock). You do not buy the ownership of these images, what they sell you is a license, a right to use them. Copyright remains with the artist. 

Shutterstock Image Sizes

Shutterstock images come in three different sizes that you can select previously to download.

  • Small (S) – Approx. 500 x 300 px, has the shortest download time and is suitable for digital use.
  • Medium (M) – Approx. 1000 x 600 px is suitable for small prints and digital use.
  • Large (L) – Approx. 5000 x 3000 px (or higher) is the original file provided by the contributor. Suitable for large prints as well as digital use.
  • Custom: If you need a specific size, you can use Shutterstock Editor to alter the dimensions of any image and JPEG versions of vector files.
A fundamental note here: Shutterstock does not price their images based on size for neither download packs nor subscriptions. In this system, a Small photo costs you the same as a Large one.  For this reason, every time your storage capacity allows it, it’s wisest to download the largest size available, as it gives you more design flexibility and doesn’t cost you any extra. 

Image Formats

In Shutterstock, you can find three types of images: photos, vectors, and illustrations.  Photos and illustrations come in JPEG file format. Vector files are EPS.  But you may also use the Shutterstock Editor to get additional formats, such as: 

  • PNG – a lossless compression format ideal for digital use and storing simple graphics at a small size.
  • PDF – the best format for files that cannot be modified but can still be easily shared and printed.
  • TIFF – a lossless compression format best suited to maintain image integrity for photographs. 
  • Vector PDF – can be scaled up or down without making images blurry or losing clarity. 

Shutterstock Pricing – Multiple Buying Options and Price Points

In this agency, you can buy images either via a subscription or an image pack. Both options are affordable, but subscriptions offer the lowest prices per image and are the flagship offer that made them famous, to begin with. As a general rule, the more pictures you buy, the less each costs you. And the longer you commit in advance, the better price you get: annual subscriptions have the lowest prices of all.    wwww.shutterstock.com licensing If you use our exclusive Shutterstock coupon, you will pay even less!

Buy any image product (image packs or subscription) and get a 15% discount on Shutterstock with our Coupon Code.

Subscription prices

Shutterstock Subscription Pricing
Monthly Subscriptions
Monthly Download Limit (N° of Images)Subscription Price ($ USD)Price per Image ($ USD)
Annual Subscriptions (Billed Monthly)
Monthly Download Limit (N° of Images)Subscription Price ($ USD)Price per Image ($ USD)
Annual Subscriptions (Billed Upfront)
Monthly Download Limit (N° of Images)Subscription Price ($ USD)Price per Image ($ USD)
More recently, Shutterstock has introduced the Flex 25 plan, a multimedia subscription that lets you download stock images, stock videos, and stock music, all with the same plan! This is a great resource if you need different media types for your projects. And the best, you can get it at 15% off with our special Shutterstock Coupon Code!
Get a 15% off on Shutterstock's mixed-asset subscriptions to download stock images, stock videos, and stock music at once!
Shutterstock Flex Subscription Pricing
Monthly Download Limit Month-to-Month Price (USD)Annual Billed Monthly Price (USD)Annual Billed Upfront Price (USD)
25 Credits (Up to 25 images, 6 music tracks or 3 video clips)6949499
  • Lower per-image rates 
  • Constant availability of downloads
  • Automated process 
  • Cancel anytime
  • Multimedia downloads (with Flex subscription only)

  • Periodic fees
  • Auto-renewal is on by default 
  • Cancellation fees may apply depending on when you cancel 

As you can see, Shutterstock has not only four different volume plans ranging from small to a very large number of downloads but also three different time extensions for each. This allows unlocking the lowest prices when you are willing to invest more in advance and to control exactly how much to spend and when. The newly added Shutterstock Flex subscription also means you can access images, videos, and music tracks all with the same plan, a huge plus for creatives working with multiple media types. For these reasons, we believe Shutterstock’s subscription plans are unbeatable. 

Image pack prices: 

UPCOMING: Shutterstock shifts to credit packs - 2023Shutterstock will modify its on-demand purchase system in 2023 to go from image packs to credit packs. We'll give you all the details on the new pricing structure very soon. Stay tuned!

Shutterstock On Demand Pricing
Image PackPack Price ($ USD)Price per Image ($ USD)
  • One-time pay
  • One year to use your downloads 
  • Easy to manage 
  • No long-term commitment

  • Higher per-image rates
  • Small volume of downloads 
  • Download only images (video packs and audio tracks on demand are sold separately)

When it comes to paying as you go, Shutterstock’s options are reasonably priced but very limited. For one, there is no way to buy just one image, the minimum is 5. And then, when you look into the pricing chart it’s easy to see it makes more sense to get a 10 image download plan for one month than buying a 5 image pack (as they both cost the same). While there are cases where image packs can come in handy, we feel there are better options out there for buying stock photos on demand. 
A note here: these prices are for Shutterstock’s Standard license, which is set by default. They also have an Enhanced license available, which includes considerable bonus rights to use the photos and thus come at a higher price point. Enhanced licenses are available on-demand only: 
Shutterstock Enhanced License Pricing
Image PackPack Price ($ USD)Price per Image ($ USD)
For more information, check our complete breakdown of Shutterstock pricing.

Shutterstock Payment Methods

If you think, ¨how do I buy images from Shutterstock?¨ The answer is straightforward. Shutterstock operates entirely online on the www.shutterstock.com website, so they accept online payment via all major credit cards (Visa, American Express, MasterCard, etc.). More recently, they introduced payments via PayPal, but only for the U.S. and Canada. It’s expected that they will expand PayPal's reach to other regions in the near future.

Shutterstock Licensing – Flexible Terms for Commercial Use

Shutterstock sells Royalty Free licenses only (they do not offer Rights Managed nor any other type of license). Royalty-Free means you pay for the license once and never have to pay another dime. It also means, however, that other customers can license and use the same image, at the same time –they're not exclusive to you.

wwww.shutterstock.com licensing

The Standard license, included by default with every file, grants you the right to use the image in any number of personal and commercial-oriented projects, anywhere in the world, in virtually all digital and print mediums, for as long as you want.  Shutterstock photos are good for websites, social media, digital platforms, applications, billboards, banners, adverts, templates, and so much more.

It does come with some restrictions, regarding the number of copies or the total budget of the project, that can be overcome with an Enhanced license, which includes all the rights from the Standard but removes those specific limitations plus allows you to use the image in products you can resell and earn money. 

www.shutterstock.com licensingShutterstock images come with other restrictions that cannot be removed, though they are very easy to comply with. The main one is that you cannot resell Shutterstock images as they are (you can use them in client work, though, and in products for resale with an Enhanced license). The sensitive use clause says you cannot use images in a way that depicts the models, the artist, or the agency in a negative way.  For more details, read our expert guide to Shutterstock licenses.

One thing to keep in mind is that they have no exclusive use licenses. All images you download and use from Shutterstock can be downloaded and used by other customers at any time.  Shutterstock also offers footage with its own licensing terms. The Shutterstock Video Licenses include standard and enhanced options now, so whatever it is you need, it's almost certainly covered.

Important: Shutterstock images are only authorized to use if you have a valid license issued in your name. To acquire a valid license, you must download the image file from their website using the download button. This is the only legal method to download a Shutterstock file. Any other way you obtain a photo from Shutterstock is illegal and, thus, invalid. Using Shutterstock photos without a license is a copyright infringement and can get you in a world of trouble, so we strongly advice against it!

Shutterstock Contributor Review – Earn Money from your Photos

The agency’s massive image collection results from endless and constant submissions from photographers and visual artists from all over the world that send their images to be sold on Shutterstock. They are called Shutterstock contributors, and they earn a percentage from every time you buy their pictures on this platform.  If you’re interested in selling your images on Shutterstock, you may have questions such as: is it worth it selling photos on Shutterstock? How much money can you make from them? Is Shutterstock a good company?  In our review of the contributor side of the agency, we conclude that yes, Shutterstock is a good and reliable company to work with to sell your images, and it’s worth it because they have so many buyers that you have good chances of selling your content here. As for how much money you can earn, that depends on many factors, from the style and quality of your work, to how well you keyword them and what’s the competition like in your niche.  For more info, do check our guide to sell photos online, there you’ll find details on Shutterstock’s submission guidelines, royalty rates, payouts, what kind of content Shutterstock is looking for, and more relevant stuff for contributors. 

Shutterstock Perks and Bonuses – Tech Features, Freebies & More

We’ve covered the main service on Shutterstock’s website. But what makes this agency so popular is everything else they bring onto the table for busy creatives. This is a very tech-oriented company that is constantly updating its offer with the latest available technologies. Have a look: 

Shutterstock Editor

The site includes its own image editor, which is free for all users and very user-friendly. The Shutterstock Editor is now improved with AI technology and helps you perform simple but effective image editing tasks to create beautiful visuals easily. See the latest upgrades to Shutterstock Editor here.


One of their latest developments, Shutterstock.AI, is an AI-based platform that hosts multiple features to help creatives find the right content faster and easier. It also aims at managing their projects effectively. For example, it consists of things like intelligent image recognition to match stock images to concepts and purposes.  While Shutterstock is not mainly a tech company, they’re strongly tech-driven and are always pushing their limits further in terms of functionality and innovation. Read all details on Shutterstock.AI here.

Shutterstock App

You can find a Shutterstock App on both iOS and Android platforms, which lets you discover, search, share, and download images on mobile. 

Shutterstock Search Engine

The website’s search engine is very advanced. It includes reverse image search, very intuitive keyword searching, filters to narrow the results to just what you are looking for, and the latest computer vision tech to help you find similar images within their vast collections. Experience it for yourself: search anything you want on Shutterstock, right here below: 

Shutterstock Premier

Shutterstock Premier is an exclusive, premium service for enterprise and business clients, with tailored solutions for their marketing needs. Learn all about what Shutterstock Premier offers right here.

Shutterstock Editorial

There is a whole selection of Editorial-Only use content, branded Shutterstock Editorial, which includes images, video, and even music, that are newsworthy or of public interest. Editorial media is under the Editorial license and can only be used for illustrative/editorial purposes (not for commercial use). They are sold separately, on-demand only, and with the newly added Editorial Subscription Plans. Here you have more info about their editorial offer!

Shutterstock Freebies

The Shutterstock Free Trial is by far the best way to obtain free images from Shutterstock because you get to pick them from their massive library at your discretion, and you get 10 of them. But there are two additional ways to get free files from Shutterstock.  One is through the weekly free files on their homepage. There you can find one photo, one illustration, one video clip, and one music track for free download every week.  The other is by subscribing to Shutterstock’s newsletter, which you can do for free and very quickly on their site. Among different promotional content, the agency sends a weekly newsletter that includes, you guessed, one free image. Occasionally, they send out content bundles with multiple files –photos, illustrations, templates, etc.– around a specific theme.  All these free files are under Royalty Free license and unwatermarked, perfectly suitable for professional use in marketing and related projects. Very cool.  Here you can see more methods to get Shutterstock images without watermark (and legally!).

Shutterstock FAQ – All Questions Answered

Is Shutterstock legit? Yes, it is. Shutterstock is a very trustworthy, serious company. As stock photo industry experts, we find them to be perfectly legit.  Is Shutterstock free to use? No. You can use Shutterstock for free to some degree: you may browse the website (and content collections) freely, sign up for an account for free, and even use the Shutterstock Editor without paying, but using Shutterstock’s content isn’t free. All Shutterstock images (and videos, and music tracks) are Royalty-Free and paid. To use Shutterstock photos in your commercial work, you need to pay.  The only way to get them for free, legally, is through the Shutterstock Free Trial (images only) or the weekly freebies we told you about above.  Does Shutterstock have a free trial? Yes. Fortunately, the Shutterstock free trial lets you test the service with 10 free images of your choice, for one month. See above for details if you missed them! How much does an image on Shutterstock cost? The cost of one image at Shutterstock depends on the method you use to buy it. With a subscription, prices range from $0.22 to $4.90 per picture. With an image pack, they cost $9.16 to $9.80 each. Can I buy just one image on Shutterstock? No, you cannot. Shutterstock does not offer any way to buy images by the unit, the minimum purchase is 5 images.  Why is Shutterstock so expensive? Shutterstock’s prices reflect on the value of their service: all their images are checked for technical quality and commercial value, their platform uses state-of-the-art technology, and their licenses ensure legal coverage to use the images safely. All that has a cost.  While Shutterstock’s on-demand prices are kind of expensive, their subscription rates are very affordable.  Can I use Shutterstock images for commercial use? Yes, absolutely. That is pretty much the core goal in Shutterstock’s content. All their media is royalty-free and cleared for commercial use (except for their Editorial collection, which is labeled as such and separated from main).  What is a Standard license on Shutterstock? A Standard license is the license agreement attached by default to all Shutterstock images. It grants you worldwide, perpetual use of the picture you download, with very few restrictions. See all info on licensing above!

Shutterstock History Recap – Two Decades in Business

This agency started in business 19 years ago and has remained consistently at the top of the market since. Here is a quick overview:  Shutterstock was founded and launched in 2003, in New York City (where it’s still headquartered today) by photographer and programmer Jon Oringer. It was an innovative business model that offered monthly subscriptions, with a flat fee, to access several downloads for royalty-free images.  At the time, it was a modest collection of Oringer’s photos, and later it expanded to include submissions from contributors. To date, Shutterstock has over 380 million images and around 1 million contributors around the globe.  The novel stock photo subscription was so widely successful that many other similar companies soon adopted it, and it’s a standard offer across the industry today. Initially, Shutterstock did not have an on-demand buying method, but it later introduced image packs (prepaid download packs), which are still available today. Right now, the agency has around 2 million active customers worldwide, and subscriptions are still their star product.  In the years since the company expanded to include stock footage and stock music offers. Each has its section on the site, with dedicated subscriptions and on-demand purchases available. In the same fashion, there is also a selection of editorial content under the Editorial license. Until recently, this segment was locked behind a premium threshold (Shutterstock Premier), but it’s now available to all customers worldwide.  Shutterstock has been a very tech-driven company from the start. Their site stays at the top of the latest tech functionality, and they are constantly enhancing the service with tech solutions for creatives. Their search engine is powered by AI image recognition; they have the Shutterstock Image Editor to design on the fly, multiple plugins and integrations to ease your creative workflow, and now they even bought design platform PicMonkey to widen up their offer of innovative tools for customers.  This stock photo site is used by a lot of very high-profile brands and businesses. We are talking about companies of the caliber of Google, Marvel, BuzzFeed, and AMC, to name a few.  Among the many impressive milestones in its history, in 2012, Shutterstock became the first stock photo site to go public in the New York Stock Exchange. 

Shutterstock Review Summary: The Best Subscription-Based Stock Agency

After this in-depth review, it’s easy to see why we consider Shutterstock the best option when looking for a stock photo subscription.  The agency has millions upon millions of files to choose from, plans with a monthly and annual commitment, incredibly affordable prices, a one-month free trial to test the waters before paying for a subscription, super flexible licensing terms, and multiple bonus features and services for graphic design and creative work.  Considering how much you get from Shutterstock for a relatively affordable price, it’s a well-rounded deal for those needing high-res stock images constantly. 

Save 15% with our exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code

Unlock a cool exclusive 25% discount on credit packs for 30 credits on Shutterstock! Get up to 30 Images, 1 Standard Video, and 7 Music Tracks.
Try Shutterstock for 1 Month and get 10 Images for Free! Cancel anytime!
Save an additional 15% off on annual image subscriptions at Shutterstock.com.
Exclusive 15% discount on your choice of Shutterstock Video Subscriptions, Clips, Video Packs, and Flex Packages.    
Buy any image product (image packs or subscription) and get a 15% discount on Shutterstock with our Coupon Code.

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