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Shutterstock Review – Best Subscription based Stock Agency


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Shutterstock Review

Shutterstock is one of the ‘Big 6’stock photo agencies on the internet today –also one of the main agencies listed in our Best Stock Photo Sites Guide— and refer to themselves as simple, elegant and user friendly. With a long history of stock image selling and buying, Shutterstock caters to designers and corporate accounts that require large inventories of stock photos. For this reason their buying model is subscription only. In recent years they have expanded their client base to include users with smaller needs and added an on-demand subscription 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, favors new photos, customers who need many downloads per month, and has a one size image policy for monthly subscription holders and image options in their on-demand subscription. Read more if you want to know what is Shutterstock?

Shutterstock LogoShutterstock has been an innovator since it started and recent press is complimenting Shutterstock for their crowdsourcing ability in the early days of internet startups. To expand their reach in the microstock agency world, Shutterstock acquired Bigstock (previously known as Bigstockphoto) to increase their 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 Basics

  • Shutterstock now has over 80 million images in our collection (the largest royalty-free collection in the world), with 50,000+ fresh images added daily
  • 3 million+ video clips (over 2.5 million HD videos)
  • Shutterstock has images (photos, vectors, illustrations, icons), video, and music as well
  • Innovative search tools like Shutterstock Labs 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

Shutterstock Particulars

  • Searchable by: keywords, categories, licenses and buying options with more detailed categories.  Good search ability and easy to use.
  • Free weekly images to registered users
  • 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 their corporate headquarters in New York, USA and support international buyers with languages and contact options

Subscription Options and Licensing Terms

Shutterstock is a subscription only stock photo agency. They offer 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 got rid of the 25-a-day product and replaced it with more flexible options — no more daily download limits
  • Shutterstock also introduced monthly billing so if you buy an annual subscription, you can pay by month, not all up front (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:

  • Four options available that are determined by image size and number of downloads
  • Minimum investment to buy images is $49.00 USD for 12 images and 60 images for $249.00 USD with limited sizing. Unlimited sizing and image type starts at $49.00 USD for 5 images

On-demand Pros

  • Inexpensive investment
  • Great for the small buyer
  • Package options for multiple user types
  • Subscription valid for one year

On-demand Cons

  • Larger investment than other stock photo agencies starting at $49.00 USD
  • Per image price is a little higher than other stock photo agencies with the average small image starting at $4.00 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, three, six and twelve month options and start at $249 USD for 750 images making the price per image .33¢

Subscription Cons

  • Alternative licensing options require the purchase of another enhanced licensing subscription
  • A larger investment is required for subscriptions

Image Searching Tools

Shutterstock has a good search engine for their 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.

Licensing Options

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

Free ImagesShutterstock releases 2 free images weekly, one stock photo and one vector image for their registered members.  This is a nice bonus.

BlogShutterstock 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 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 servies.  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.

If you want to benefit from their free photos, check out the our free image gallery or sign up for Shutterstock today to benefit from this free offer.

Save 15% with our exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code

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About the author

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus in providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography, like the PixelRockstar WordPress Plugin. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.



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