You read everywhere (here too) that Shutterstock is one of the best stock photo agencies around, with great photos that cost very little money. But when you go there with the intention of buying only a few images, paying as you go, the numbers don't match this description. Here's where you wonder: why is Shutterstock so expensive?
Well, the truth is, that Shutterstock has very competitive price points, even for single-image purchases. But as this is not the key to their business model, it's only logical for these not to be their most convenient prices.
Ready to learn more about Shutterstock pricing and maximize your dollars when buying from them? Keep reading!
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One thing you need to know about Shutterstock to understand their pricing is that their business model is based on volume sales. What they aim is for customers to get lots of images constantly, at a very low price per unit, making up for the price with the number of sales.
This has been their goal from the start, as they are the company that pioneered in 2003 with stock photo subscriptions that work perfectly for that model: they give you lots of image downloads per month, for a very low flat monthly fee. This is still Shutterstock's star product and the one they enforce and marketize the most, and logically the one offering the lowers per-image rates.
Shutterstock Subscriptions: The Lowest-Price Deal
Shutterstock's star product was always the high volume subscription: 750 downloads per month at $249 per month, or $199 monthly with an annual plan. This works out at just $0.26/$0.33 per image. Insanely low!
Of course, this deal only serves those who actually need hundreds of photos all the time. They'd spend a lot more buying in traditional stock photo agencies, or even buying on-demand in online image banks.
However, in our current days, Shutterstock has broadened up its offer to include lower volume deals that still work with very low per-image prices:
- 10 images a month for $49 / or $29 with an annual plan
- 50 images a month for $125 / or $99 with an annual plan
- 350 images a month for $199 / or $169 with an annual plan
- Plus the well-known: 750 images a month for $249 / or $199 with an annual plan
So if you need only a few images, but need them constantly, one of the newer, smaller plans can be a good fit for you, and much less expensive.
Subscriptions might be their battle horse, but Shutterstock does not neglect its offer for those buyers looking to get images on demand, paying as they go. For them, they have their image packs.
Image packs are prepaid image downloads that you can buy and use whenever you want for one year after the purchase date. No periodic fees, and no extra charges. Pay now, use whenever (up to one year). There are two sizes of packs: 5 images for $49 (cost per image is $9.80), or 25 images for $229 (cost per image is $9.16).
Here too they apply their volume deal, and the more images you buy, the less each of them costs. However, it's obvious the rate is much higher than that of subscriptions and the discount over quantity is much less pronounced.
What you need to keep in mind is you're paying for a number of benefits besides the quality of the photo and the flexibility of the license. With on-demand image packs, you can:
- Control exactly how and when to spend money
- Avoid long-term payment commitments
- Decide when to use your downloads – very useful if you're not sure when you'll need images
Another point to highlight is these prices are still incredibly cheap compared to those of traditional stock photography agencies, Rights Managed licensed photos, and custom photo shoots.
Another important point is that all these images come with a Standard license from Shutterstock, which is Royalty-Free, so you only pay once and get to use the image forever, including in commercial projects, with very few restrictions. This makes Shutterstock images a lot safer legally for marketing and advertising than many other options. Remember that using images without a valid license is copyright infringement and can cause you lots of problems, legal and financial.
Bonus: Shutterstock image packs and subscriptions now include access to download AI-generated images that you can create yourself with Shutterstock Generate, their own AI image generator. These AI images are a lot safer than those made with other tools, because this app is trained solely with authorized Shutterstock content.
If you're looking to buy images by the unit or have more options for on-demand buying, you can check these great alternatives to Shutterstock, or simply read our list of agencies to buy photos on demand!
But if what you really want is Shutterstock photos, read ahead, we have a little tip for you!
Expert Hack to Buy Few Images on Shutterstock
As we said before, Shutterstock has subscription plans that you can hire both months to months, or annually. And you can cancel them anytime you want.
For a while, they include low-volume plans for 10 or 50 images per month, at only $49 and $125 monthly, respectively.
The hack is kind of evident: if you want to buy just a few photos but don't want to pay them on-demand rates, you can simply hire a low-volume subscription for one month, and cancel it whenever you want. This will let you get more images at a much lower price.
Of course, you need to remember these downloads have an expiration date at the end of the current month of your plan, so you must use them all up before then. If you don't really know if you'll use your photos before the end of the month, this little trick may not be so useful to you.
Now you have a better grasp of how Shutterstock prices work, and especially when you compare their prices to those of their competitors and other alternatives in the market, you can easily see Shutterstock is not as expensive as you might have thought from seeing their image pack prices.
It is in fact one of the best offers in the stock photo market, and one of the main reasons for their success and popularity. If you add that they have over 100 million images to choose from, it only gets better.
Sign up for free at Shutterstock to start downloading great stock photos cheaply. And if you really want to maximize your budget, don't forget to redeem our Shutterstock Coupon Code with up to 15% off on your purchase!