Stocksy compared to Shutterstock – two different stock agencies

With so many stock photo agencies online, how does a stock photo buyer pick a stock photo agency for their photo research or stock photo buying. Well, a buyer does not have to pick one agency, nor does a stock photo buyer need to decide up front which stock photo agency to use. Like any retailer each stock photo agency has their benefits, their uniqueness and their highlights.

Stocksy and Shutterstock are two popular stock photo agencies that show the difference between stock photo agencies. Their differences are extreme, but their uses are clearly understood. The difference is as evident as shopping for jeans at a large box retailer verses a boutique jean store. It is the difference between shopping on 5th Ave in New York verses shopping in SOHO. There is a time and a place to choose a big retailer over a smaller retailer. Your project will dictate where to buy and what you are buying.

Stocksy – the boutique stock photo agency

Stocksy Logo

Stocksy was created by the original owner of iStock, Bruce Livingstone. He vision was to place the earnings and ownership of the digital stock photo store back in the hands of artists. As a cooperative, artists are in control of the product, payouts and functions while Stocksy staff assist in the marketing, online function and management of this boutique stock photo agency.

The business model for Stocksy embraces these ideas:

  • Smaller photographer portfolios with high quality images
  • All photos are exclusive to Stocksy
  • Artists run the cooperative and invests in photographers/contributors talent
  • Support to creatives is prominent ensuring that power is in the hands of photographers, not the online company

This stock photo agency model effects inventory, pricing and availability. Prices are higher per photo but quality is significantly better than larger stock agencies. Selection is less, but images can communicate an idea or concept better than regular stock photos. The exclusivity of the photos that all have royalty free licenses, with additional licensing options if you project warrants it, means there is less of a chance your image is used by others. The photo inventory reflects current trends, current subject matter and photographer portfolios making Stocksy a personal experience.

Photos rights are purchased per photo with no credit packages or subscriptions to deal with. Prices start at 10 USD per photo and enhanced license prices (5 different licenses offered in total) start at $100 USD.

What type of projects benefit from Stocksy photos?

Unique projects that are looking to feature creative photos that reflect current image trends. This could be an ad campaign, free digital ebooks for customer acquisition

Demo Content Stocksy: Celebration

Stocksy Screenshot Celebration
Screenshot of Stocksy

Shutterstock – the big box retailer in the stock photo world


Shutterstock has set itself apart from other stock photo agencies in two ways; extraordinary large inventory with subscription buying options. In the advertising and creative world, Shutterstock has been a popular and well-known choice for finding a variety of stock photo options at reasonable prices. Shutterstock is not the cheapest when it comes to photo prices but their inventory is extremely diverse, both in pricing and in images. This diversity is what made them popular and in the top six!

Like any large retailer, Shutterstock's business model is about brand awareness and selling large amounts of inventory. To sell a lot, the inventory has to be huge. With over 30 million images, photos, vectors, illustrations and videos to choose from, Shutterstock is a leader in the inventory department.

The business model for Shutterstock is based on these concepts:

  • Company brand and well known entity that is corporate run
  • Warehouse of images with a well defined search tool
  • Control over the amount of images uploaded not quality
  • Microstock website looking to sell millions of downloads
  • Images and image buying processes are based on market acceptable pricing

Photo rights are purchased through subscription prices with a recent addition of image packages for buyers who cannot take advantage of the subscription rates. Subscriptions start at $199 USD per months and Image packs start at $29 USD.

Psssst, we do have a Shutterstock coupon code to save you 15%!

What type of projects benefit from Shutterstock photos?

Projects that require large amounts of photos, companies that require a steady stream of images, generic images or bloggers who need cheap images in bulk. Shutterstock does have a boutique spin-off as an alternative to its corporate warehouse model. Offset is in its infancy and offers a similar corporate model to that of Stocksy.

UPDATE 2023: Offset, which at this point is a full-blown premium stock photo service, is now integrated into Shutterstock's main platform, and its entire collection with 1.2M+ premium images is available directly on the Shutterstock website, starting at $249 per image. Discover the Offset collection right here!

Demo Content Shutterstock: Celebration

Shutterstock Celebration
Screenshot of Shutterstock

Stocksy and Shutterstock both play a significant role in stock photography


These two agencies and the models they have adopted are very different. Neither is better than the other, they just play a different role in the expanding and competitive market of stock photography.

If you were to analyze which stock agency is best for your next project keep these ideas in mind:

  • Does the project require a vast quantity of photos or need a distinct quality of images?
  • Is selection the best objective for your program or does your program have a very specific image need?
  • Could generic photos match your market or are you seeking a specific subject matter in your images?

Your project will determine which stock agency to use. Image quality and pricing will lead you to the agency that makes it all possible. Check our review of Stocksy or Shutterstock and analyze your needs based on this information. Don't miss our Shutterstock coupon code and save 10% on a yearly subscription.

Main image: – Screenshots search results and

Amos Struck
Amos Struck

Amos Struck, a renowned expert with over two decades in the stock photography industry, is known for his profound expertise in both stock imagery and artificial intelligence (AI). He is the founder of and a driving force behind the innovative AI-driven platform, His pioneering work in visual AI is marked by co-founding Ximilar AI. Amos also established the Microstock Expo Conference, a key event in the stock photography sector. As a regular speaker at major industry conferences like DMLA and a prominent member of CEPIC, he consistently contributes to the industry's growth and evolution through a blend of technological innovation and market insight.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Stocksy の狙う市場 | monzenmachi photography November 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    […] ストックフォトの批評家、A.Struck氏は、Stocksy とShutterstockとの違いを「ニューヨークの5番街で買い物をするのと、ソーホー地区で買い物をすることの違い」と述べていますが(参照)、どちらのストックフォト会社が良い悪いかという問題ではなく、そもそも購買層や購入目的が異なっているため、比較をすることは適切ではありません。 […]

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