These stock photo sites are at the top of the game, and while they have different strengths, it can be hard to decide which one to go for.
Today, we put our extensive knowledge and expertise in the stock photo industry to answer these questions that constantly concern stock photo buyers, and tell you all the relevant points in the Shutterstock vs Adobe Stock debate.
Curious about which one comes out on top? Then dive right in! Don’t have a lot of time? No worries, we start with a TL;DR summary:
Shutterstock is a stock photo company that sells Royalty Free images online. Adobe Stock is Adobe’s dedicated stock photography service and provides high-quality images both as stand-alone and integrated into Adobe Creative Cloud. Both companies offer access to thousands of curated photos that are ready for use. However, Adobe Stock does not offer access to the same selection of images that Shutterstock does at a cheaper cost. Both offer the images in a royalty-free license.
In our opinion, Shutterstock is ideal for businesses of all sizes, marketers, and advertisers looking for great photos for commercial use. Adobe Stock, on the other hand, is a great match for graphic designers, artists, and creatives of all avenues that use Adobe applications to design trendy visuals.
Both agencies are great places to sell photos online if you are into taking photos and making some extra cash! Here you can also learn more about the contributor's program from Shutterstock and how to be a good Shutterstock contributor and the one from Adobe Stock where you can learn to be an Adobe Stock contributor. More insights about how to sell images you can find here.
If you want to learn more about the why’s of our recommendation, read ahead! And if you want to test even more stock agencies with no risk, see about all the other stock photo-free trials we can recommend to you.
What is Shutterstock?
Shutterstock is a stock agency that sells Royalty Free images aka stock images online. They’ve been around since 2003 and are at the top of the industry pretty much since. See our Shutterstock review!
What is Adobe Stock?
Adobe Stock is Adobe’s dedicated stock photography service, which operates as a stand-alone as well as integrated into Adobe Creative Cloud apps like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. It was launched in 2015 and has been hugely popular and a strong competitor to Shutterstock in the space since then. Read our Adobe Stock review!
|Shutterstock Free Trial||Adobe Stock Free Trial|
|Number of downloads||10 images||10, 25, or 40 images|
|Trial period duration||30 days||30 days|
|Regular price||$29/mo||$29.99/mo, $49.99 or $79.99/mo|
|Cancelation window||First 25 days||First 30 days|
|Commitment (if you don't cancel)||1 year (11 months after free trial)||1 year (11 months after free trial)|
SHUTTERSTOCK FREE TRIAL
ADOBE STOCK FREE TRIAL
Shutterstock has more recently introduced a free trial for their 10 downloads and a subscription for a one-year plan. With this offer, you sign up for an annual subscription (regularly priced at $29/mo) and you get the first month completely free, including 10 stock image downloads of your choice. If you cancel within the first 25 days, you are not charged a dime. More info is in our guide for Shutterstock Free Trial.
And here you can find all the ways to download Shutterstock images without watermark, including this method.
The Adobe Stock Free Trial has been around for a while (hint: since before Shutterstock’s) and works pretty much identically: it’s a first month free for an annual plan with 10 downloads per month (which goes for $29.99/mo), and you can cancel free of charge within the first 30 days.
More recently, the mechanism was added to their next two plans. So now it’s possible to get 25 and even 40 downloads for free, for 30 days. In all cases, after the initial month, you get charged the regular price per month, for 11 months, unless you cancel.
This is one of the methods to download Adobe Stock pictures without watermarks, by the way.
Is Adobe Stock Free with Creative Cloud? — Yes, you can use your Adobe Stock free trial integrated with Creative Cloud apps, like Adobe Creative Cloud Express, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Lightroom, and more.
Adobe stock vs Shutterstock Free Trials Contrast Conclusion
Both Adobe Stock and Shutterstock offer high-res royalty-free stock photos for free, and the system is almost identical. However, this is what you need to know:
Promo Codes for Shutterstock and Adobe Stock
Our collaboration with Shutterstock brings you an exclusive Shutterstock Coupon Code with 15% off that applies to almost everything on their site: images and videos, both on-demand and subscriptions, even the new Flex subscription. And from time to time, we have flash offers with even better discounts!
While we work closely with Adobe Stock to bring you all the latest news and the best service, at this time we do not have an Adobe Stock promo code available.
Shutterstock and Adobe Stock have stock photo subscriptions and on-demand buying options available. Subscriptions are ideal for those needing images constantly, and on-demand makes more sense for occasional use instead of subscription plans.
|Monthly Plans||Shutterstock||Adobe Stock|
|Number of monthly downloads||10, 50, 350, 750||3, 25, 40, 750|
|Monthly price||$49 to $249||$29.99 to $249.99|
|Price per image||$4.90 to $0.33||$9.99 to $0.33|
|Annual Plans – billed monthly –|
|Number of downloads||10, 50, 350, 750||10, 25, 40, 750|
|Monthly price||$29 to $199||$29.99 to $199.99|
|Price per image||$2.90 to $0.26||$2.99 to $0.26|
|Annual Paid – paid upfront –|
|Number of downloads||10, 50, 350, 750||❌|
|Price (one payment upfront)||$299 to $1,999||❌|
|Price per image||$2.49 to $0.22||❌|
Both stock agencies have very similar plans, with relatively the same prices and identical smaller and biggest plans (fun fact: Shutterstock invented the stock photo subscription!).
The main difference is that Adobe Stock monthly subscription plans let you roll over unused downloads from one month to the next, as long as your plan is active. Comparing Shutterstock, which does not have this feature. However, what Shutterstock does have is a mid-high volume plan of 350 downloads per month, whereas Adobe Stock has two low-volume options for 25 or 40 images. Another key difference, Shutterstock has a yearly prepaid option that offers the lowest per-image rates of all. Adobe Stock does not include any such offer. Therefore Shutterstock is slightly cheaper.
Combined Subscriptions (Multiple Media Downloads)
|Plan||Shutterstock (Flex)*||Adobe Stock|
|Number of downloads per asset||25 images/3 videos/6 audio files||25 images/audio files – 3 HD videos
40 images/audio files – 6 HD videos
750 images/audio files – 25 HD videos
|Price per month||$69||$69.99 to $249.99|
|Price per month with annual plan||$49||$49.99 to $199.99|
|Price per year paid upfront||$499||❌|
One hot topic in pricing right now is that of hybrid subscription plans, that let you download multiple stock content types indistinctly.
Shutterstock recently introduced the FLEX subscription, which lets you download images, video clips, and music tracks with one single plan, which comes at $49/mo for 25 credits (how many of each media type you can download varies).
Compare Adobe Stock, which seems to be testing something similar, as they have turned their mid-to-high volume plans into “mix&match” subscriptions that enable images, audio, and HD video downloads. For example, the 25 images a month plan is also good for up to 3 HD clips and 10 audio files (for the same price). Plus, these plans add a 20% discount for the purchase of 4K videos, premium content, and extended licenses. And don't forget that unused downloads can be piled onto the next month.
Subscription Plans Conclusion
If you only need images, either agency will meet your needs just fine, but Shutterstock has slightly cheaper prices, while Adobe Stock has more options for small budgets, and rollover of downloads.
Now, if you also need videos and music tracks, it gets trickier. Shutterstock’s Flex plan includes access to 4K stock footage and music and is reasonably priced. Adobe Stock’s mix&match plans have more options in terms of volume of downloads and are affordable, but they don’t include 4K videos, only a discount. What suits you best is tied to what exactly you are looking for.
|On-Demand Pack||Shutterstock||Adobe Stock|
|Pack size||2, 5, 25 (images)||5, 16, 40, 80, 150 (credits)|
|Pack price||$29 to $229||$49.95 to $1,200|
|Price per image||$14.50 to $9.16||$9.99 to $8|
|Pack valid for||One year||One year|
When it comes to buying images by paying as you go, these agencies have different buying systems: Shutterstock has image-on-demand packs, and Adobe Stock sells credit packs.
With Shutterstock on demand packs, you pay for image downloads upfront and then have a whole year –from the purchase date– to use them. You can only download images (photos, illustrations, vector graphics) with a Standard license for commercial use. Though they have Enhanced licenses packs too as well as video packs, plus music tracks and Editorial licenses that sell by the unit, separately.
Adobe Stock credit packs are bundles of a fictional currency (the credits) that you pay upfront, and then you can use those credits to download media; credit packs are good for one year from the day you buy them. All media is priced in credits starting at 1 credit per Standard license image, and the added bonus in this system is you can download images, 3D assets, videos, Premium images, Extended licenses, and Editorial content, all with the same credit pack.
On-Demand Pricing Conclusion
If you work mainly with images and only need a handful here and there, Shutterstock's system is very simple, and their prices are alright.
If you need different media formats, however, Adobe Stock’s buying method is slightly more complex but much more flexible for your needs.
Extended Licenses (Enhanced Licenses)
|Extended Licenses||Shutterstock||Adobe Stock|
|Number of downloads||2, 5, 25||1|
|Price||$199 to $1,699||$79.99|
|Price per image||$99.50 to $67.96||$79.99 (or less, when using credits)|
Last but not least, both stock photo agencies have Extended license images available, on-demand and at a higher price point than Standard images.
In Shutterstock, you buy them in packs, in Adobe Stock you can buy them by the unit, or with credits.
Extended License Price Conclusion
In Shutterstock, the buying process and licensing terms are much simpler, but in Adobe Stock the price for an Extended license is cheaper. So the clear winner here is Adobe Stock.
Shutterstock and Adobe Stock both work with Royalty Free licenses only. This license type gives you a battery of usage rights for a one-time fee. Basically, pay once and use the image forever. Here are some differences and similarities between the two contracts.
|Standard License||Shutterstock||Adobe Stock|
|Price per license||$0.22 to $14.50||$0.26 to $9.99|
|Commercial use (marketing, advertising)||✅||✅|
|Print copies/digital reproductions||500,000||500,000|
|Broadcast/theatrical/streaming||Projects with up to a $10,000 budget||Limited to 500,000 viewers|
Shutterstock and Adobe Stock Licenses: Common Traits
Both agencies give you the right to use images for commercial purposes such as marketing and advertising, without restrictions regarding geographic location, medium, or time.
In both cases, you may use the images in print or digital designs, up to 500,000 copies/reproductions.
You may also use the content on social media, without limitations on audience numbers.
You can edit these images in many ways: cropping, flipping, color correcting, overlaying text, adding custom elements or filters, etc. The only thing you cannot do is edit them or use them in a way that puts the content, the models, the photographer, and/or the agency in a bad light (this is known as Sensitive Use).
And you can use them in client work – as in, designing a visual for your client.
Key Differences Between Shutterstock and Adobe Stock Licensing
Shutterstock allows using the images in videos for YouTube or film/TV broadcasts, provided the project’s budget doesn’t exceed $10,000. This is unique to the agency, pretty much no other site has this restriction.
Adobe Stock, on the other hand, enables broadcast-oriented use, as long as the estimated audience doesn’t surpass 500,000 viewers.
Plus, Adobe Stock has a special license for video, templates, 3D assets, and Premium and Editorial images. It’s called Enhanced license, and it includes all rights from Standard plus unlimited reproductions/viewers.
This is where it gets tricky, as Shutterstock also has an Enhanced license, but it expands Standard rights to include unlimited reproductions/project budgets, and the use of the images in products for resale –think of mass reproduction or any item where the image is the core value, like t-shirts or posters–. And it’s available for all their content.
Even more complicated, all the aforementioned rights can be found in Adobe Stock too… under the name of an Extended license. This contract enables unlimited print copies and unrestricted number of viewers for broadcast projects, plus products for resale.
Finally, both agencies offer a legal warranty, indemnification in the case someone wrongly accuses you of copyright infringement or other legal violations related to your use of the photos. But whereas Shutterstock offers $10,000 for a Standard license and $250,000 for Extended license images, Adobe Stock provides full, unlimited legal coverage in all their licenses.
Licensing Comparative Conclusion
Shutterstock has very simple terms and covers most intended uses, but the budget limit restriction is unusual, it can be difficult to abide by due to having to calculate the total project budget. Plus, the legal warranty is limited. If you are a blogger or business owner who only needs images for marketing, this might be more than enough.
Adobe Stock complicates things with having mid-tier licenses for some assets, but their terms are much easier to comply with and have unlimited coverage. Creatives and users from all trades that value a good pricing deal and full legal backup might be more comfortable with Adobe Stock’s licensing.
We’ve talked about how much images cost and what you can do with them. Let’s talk about exactly what kind of images, how good is the image quality and how many you can find on these stock photo websites and how good is their royalty free content.
|Content Library||Shutterstock||Adobe Stock|
|Still images (photos, vectors, templates, graphics)||400+ million||250+ million|
|Stock footage||24+ million||24 million|
|Music/Audio?||Tens of thousands||Tens of thousands|
Shutterstock has one of the largest stock imagery catalogs on the web – it’s massive! For any given keyword or theme, you find days’ worth of results. It’s also an uber-commercial library, the images are ready to go from their site onto your ad. Thoroughly checked for technical quality and commercial value, each one of Shutterstock’s photos is suitable for professional use and comes in high-resolution at very large sizes.
Adobe Stock has nothing to envy in terms of library size, their collection is a huge –fun fact: their catalog was built on the base of the former Fotolia agency, which had tens of millions of images–. But since Adobe is strongly creative-oriented, the pictures in their stock library have a clear trendy feel, and they select them for their artistic potential as much as their commercial value. They’re all HD and large-sized, suitable for large format printing and all kinds of digital work. This catalog includes a Premium segment, as well as 3D content.
Library Analysis Conclusion
Shutterstock is the best choice for those who want images that sell –an idea, a concept, a product, etc.– and don’t need a lot of touch-ups. Businesses of all sizes, marketers, bloggers, solopreneurs, would find the best value for their cash here.
Adobe Stock is your go-to if you are an Adobe fan –working with Photoshop, Illustrator, Creative Cloud Express, etc.–, but most of all if you’re a visual artist or graphic designer. Even if your creations are bound for commercial use, every time you want the images to have relevance in the design, Adobe Stock content serves you best.
A big reason for both these agencies to be fan favorites is that they offer a lot more than just stock photos. Next, we are going to see what each of them includes in their services and how those bonuses can impact your decision for one or the other.
Additional Media (Footage, Music, Vectors & More)
While these are primarily stock photo sites, both companies include a huge selection of vector illustrations and graphics in their catalogs and have expanded to include dedicated video and audio collections years ago. Let's look at their video quality compared to each agency.
Shutterstock Video has 24+ million clips and growing, all content being HD and 4K or even higher resolution. You can buy these clips on-demand with a video pack, with a video subscription, or as part of the mix-and-match Flex subscription. They also have Shutterstock Music, a collection with tens of thousands of tracks which are also available on demand by the unit, or with a subscription –there is even an unlimited music plan–, including Shutterstock Flex.
Adobe Stock has a video collection with around 24 million files as well, HD and 4K quality guaranteed, plus tens of thousands of tracks in their audio library. You can buy stock videos and music tracks on-demand paying as you go, but now with the mix&match option in their mid-tier image subscriptions, you can access video downloads within your plan… and get between 3 and 6 HD videos and from 10 music tracks for free with the Adobe Stock Free Trial! A big plus is an integration into the Adobe Premiere software.
Last but not least, Adobe Stock has dedicated 3D assets collections, which are absent at Shutterstock.
Shutterstock rolled out their own Shutterstock Editor some years ago. This is a user-friendly, web-based image editor that performs simple but effective edits very easily. It’s also completely free for all. Very useful.
Adobe Stock is fully integrated into Adobe Creative Cloud. You can access the entire library from any of the Adobe tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, etc.), without leaving your designing board. Adobe apps are rather complex. But if you want a user-friendly option, there is Creative Cloud Express (formerly Adobe Spark) which is simple to use and has a free version you can access.
Both sites have extensive coverage of frequently asked questions for users, neatly organized.
Shutterstock has a dedicated help center where you can search for your question or keywords related to it, or simply surf through categories like billing and payment or technical help. You have the option to start a live chat, set up a call, or send an email with your question/problem. Mind you, the live chat support is not that great.
Adobe Stock provides a “learn and support” section that is packed with basic information and answers to common questions, as well step-by-step guides and even tutorials. There is also a search bar to find the info you need, plus a community forum where you can interact with both Adobe representatives and other users, which can be helpful.
Shutterstock thrives on giving buyers solutions to work faster and easier. Adobe Stock’s perks are more about inspiring and empowering creatives. None is better than the other, they’re convenient depending on your profile and needs.
Just like we summarized earlier, our conclusion to this comparison is that each agency serves best different types of buyers.
Everything in Shutterstock caters heavily to business-minded folk. Their ideal customer is someone who wants photos that can sell an idea visually, that is affordable, easy to get, and can be turned into marketing designs quickly. If this is what you look for, Shutterstock is for you.
Adobe Stock is oriented to the creative community. This includes marketers and designers working commercially, but with their core in beautiful, groundbreaking visuals. Their entire service aims at making the design workflow more efficient and providing state-of-the-art content. If this sounds appealing, go for Adobe Stock.
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