It's impossible to search for stock photography online without coming across at least once (if not many times) the mention of Shutterstock, especially if what you're after is cheap stock photos. But, what is Shutterstock? How do their licenses work and what about their pricing?
In short: the leading stock photo agency in the industry, excelling in the microstock model: they offer Royalty Free images –a collection of 95 million of them!– at very low prices.
Shutterstock pricing plans and licenses, a huge library, and great quality and variety in the content are responsible for their popularity and the reason why you can't search for stock photos without bumping into them.
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Long story short, here's what you must know about Shutterstock:
- It's a company founded by programmer and photographer Jon Oringer, based in New York City
- It's a pioneer agency, creator of the stock photo subscription
- They have over 95 Million images in their library
- They sell Royalty-Free (very flexible) licenses
- Additionally, they have an editorial website with editorial-only use images, including editorial subscription plans
- They have great subscription plans that make images cost less than a dollar each
- They've grown to include stock footage, music and audio, and editorial content*
- They have great technology tools and a very user-friendly website
But if you want to truly discover the value in this agency, you must go into deep. Let's start with their history:
In 2003, programmer and photographer Jon Oringer founded Shutterstock, a new stock photography business based on licensing images under Royalty Free license at very low prices, with a minimum payment requirement — what we call “microstock”–. Initially, it offered 100,000 of Oringer's photos, but shortly after it opened up for contributor images.
At the time there was already another company, iStock, exploring this model. But Shutterstock was a pioneer itself with innovation in the selling method: stock photo subscription. They offered a determined number of downloads per day, for a fixed monthly fee. It was a huge success, to the point that iStock and all the other agencies in the industry adopted the method.
Given the founder's origins and expertise, the company's core has always been on providing the greatest content variety and the best technology functionality.
Shutterstock built one of the largest stock imagery libraries within Microstock, with over 95 million images, and adding an average of 800,000 new files every week. Checking submissions for technical standards, they are able to offer a wide variety of content and high-quality images to use in various projects, granted by the Royalty-Free license.
Pushing tech development constantly, Shutterstock has one of the most user-friendly websites. Some of their latest additions include mobile platforms and apps, free online media editors, and a very advanced reverse image search and content suggestion tool, based on computer vision technology.
In late years, they've focused more on growing business, aiming to become a one-stop shop for all visual creatives. Through acquisitions, partnerships, and expansions, they've included stock footage and audio, a first-class editorial imagery service for celebrity and newsworthy content, and great content integrations.
With 13 years in business, Shutterstock has steadily held its position at the top of the industry. They are popular for one very good reason: theirs is a great deal for most buyers.
For more details about this agency, read our full Shutterstock review.
How much does Shutterstock cost? Well, that depends on which buying method you choose, but, to put it simply: very little.
If you buy images on demand, you have to do it with credit packs: you buy a pack for a certain number of credits, and then use those credits to get the images you want. Images are one credit each, but you can also download video clips and music tracks, as well as Enhanced licenses, using credits.
Packs start at 2 credits for $29 — $14.50 per image — and you can go down to just $2.30 per image with the largest, 250 credit pack. Super cheap!
Don't forget that we now have an exclusive Shutterstock discount of 25% for the 30-credit pack! Pay $104.25 instead of $139, and download high-res images for only $3.50 each!
But the best stock photo prices you'll ever get for images here are with subscriptions. Shutterstock plans now come with monthly download limits (no more daily restrictions). They give you hundreds of downloads per month –you can choose between two volume tiers– and they have discounts for annual plans. Shutterstock subscriptions give you images for as little as $0.26 each!
Learn all you need to know about Shutterstock pricing here.
Please note that Shutterstock licenses are issued when you download an image from their website using the download button. This is the only legitimate way to acquire a Shutterstock license and is the only way to use their photos safely. If you use any other (illegal) method to download Shutterstock photos, they will NOT be covered by a license, and they constitute copyright infringement, which can cause you a world of trouble if you're found out, not to mention it affects the livelihood of the artists that created those images and profit from selling licenses through the agency.
The company sells Royalty-Free (RF) licenses. RF images are known for being very flexible in usage, and very affordable.
Royalty-Free means you don't have to pay any further royalties for the use of the image once you've paid for the license. If your wonder is Shutterstock copyright free, the answer is no: the images are not free to use, you must pay for them, but only once. After you pay the licensing fee, you're allowed to use the image forever, in multiple accepted uses.
Shutterstock Standard License gives you the right to use the images for various commercial, promotional, and personal purposes, such as marketing and advertising, graphic design, personal decoration or artwork, etc.
Using Shutterstock for commercial content is a smart choice because they check all the images for model and property releases. If they list them as commercial, you know they've been revised and are safe to use. This is a lot better than using free images from the web, for example, where you are never sure if they're actually legal and safe to use.
There are some restrictions on Standard License, though. Some are irrevocable: you cannot use the image in any defamatory way, you cannot use photos with models in a way that suggests they are endorsing a product or service, you cannot use the images in a defamatory way or connected with morally questionable concepts, and you cannot resell, distribute nor gift the image to anyone.
Some other restrictions are that they limit the print run and digital reproductions of the image to 500,000 copies., and they forbid the use of the image in products you intend to resell. But these limitations are removable: with an Extended license, you can get the rights to unlimited print and reproduction copies, and use in items for resale. For a higher price, of course.
The above reasons explain why so many buyers choose Shutterstock: it's a great deal for almost everyone.
If you only need a few images, or if you want to test the waters before committing to periodic fees, they have cheap on-demand images with image packs. If you need lots of images, you can get them for as cheap as $0.26 each with a stock photo subscription! And don't forget you can also buy stock videos, stock music & sounds, and editorial photos.
With over 95 million images, you're granted to find a lot of content in every topic or theme you can think of. Moreover, finding the images you want and discovering the best content for your vision is much easier with the image recognition intelligent search.
And Royalty Free license, in Standard and Extended versions, assures you will get great value for your money, being able to use the photos forever, as many times as you want, and in as many projects as you wish.
So that's what Shutterstock is: one, if not the most, popular stock photo agency, known for its super cheap prices, flexible licensing, huge library, and high-quality service (Here you can even find Shutterstock images free).