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Shutterstock vs. iPhoto

A stock photo site is a website that sells images, videos, music, etc. that users can download through these sites. Using licensed images on a personal or business website is important, so stock photos are becoming more and more important.

The relationship between photographer, consumer, and stock photography company:

Most stock photos are royalty-free for commercial use, but each company’s copyright management method is different, so you need to confirm the usage rules before using them.

Key Points for Choosing a Stock Photos Website

Pricing plan
There is usually a limited budget that can be spent on paid photos and videos, so the cost performance ratio is very important. Generally speaking, most stock photos sites offer a subscription plan with a contract of 1 year or 1 month, which are much cheaper than purchasing a single product. When selecting stock photos, you need to confirm whether there is a subscription plan that suits your usage habits.
Quality of stock photos
The quality of images, illustrations, videos, and other resources is very important. When subscribing to a stock photos site, pay attention to whether there is a strict review system for stock photos, and only sell high-quality stocks. Some stock photos sites allow people to download random low-quality images, such as blurred focus, misaligned horizons, or dull colors.
Quantity of stock photos
The number of resources provided by the stock photos website affects the scope of our stock selection. The more resources they provide, the higher the probability that consumers will find a suitable image, and they are less likely to reuse the same image with others. It can be embarrassing for peer websites to accidentally use the same image, so the number of stock photos provided is also an important consideration.
Ease of use
It will be difficult to quickly find the image you really want from the massive resources, so the search and filter functions have a great impact on whether it is easy to use.
The Comparison
The following introduction is based on the evaluation and ranking of two selected stock photo companies, Shutterstock and iStock, in terms of price, quality, quantity, and ease of use.

Features of Shutterstock

As a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the biggest feature of Shutterstock is its large number of resources. Shutterstock offers a high-quality collection of royalty-free images, photos, vector graphics, illustrations, videos, and music for a variety of purposes, while also being very beginner-friendly. This website has many peripheral functions. For example, the conversion of image extensions (.jpg, .png, .tiff, etc.), cutting images/putting text on images, assistance in designing templates, color matching inspiration tools (to find suitable images with color matching), etc.

Pricing plan – 4 stars

Shutterstock’s pricing plans are divided into All-in-one Subscription and Multiple-Users. The payment method of All-in-one Subscription is divided into three types, Monthly (no contract), Annual (billed monthly), Annual (billed upfront). Among them, the annual plan with billed upfront is of course the cheapest, because it is equivalent to paying for a year in advance.

Downloads per month Annual (billed upfront) Annual (billed monthly)
10 $25/month ($2.50/image) $29/month ($2.90/image)
25 $50/month ($2.00/image) $59/month ($2.36/image)
50 $83/month ($1.65/image) $99/month ($1.98/image)
750 $166/month ($0.22/image) $199/month ($0.27/image)

It should be noted that there is a small disadvantage of Shutterstock’s pricing plan, that is, the number of downloads cannot be deferred, and the number of downloads that are not used up in the current month will be wasted. This affects the cost performance ratio of Shutterstock, as few people download the same amount each month. The Multiple-Users plan means you can split the cost with other users, but if you compare it with 750 pictures/month, the All-in-one Subscription is $199 a month, while the Multiple-Users is $479 a month. Downloads need to be shared, but the price is not much cheaper, so it is more cost-effective to consider All-in-one Subscription. In addition, if it is a relatively large-scale enterprise, you can leave a message to inquire about the customized enterprise plan.

Quality of stock photos – 5 stars

Basically, Shutterstock’s images are of high quality, but occasionally there are images with relatively low quality.

Quantity of stock photos – 5 stars

Shutterstock currently hosts over 400 million images and taps over 70 million royalty-free vector images for vector backgrounds, art clips, diagrams, and illustrations in expanded EPS format.

Ease of use – 5 stars

Shutterstock does a good job in the filtering function of the search, which can be further filtered by color, whether with people, age, gender, and number of people. In addition, Shutterstock provides a multilingual interface and search function. Because when some traditional industries search for stock photos, it is troublesome to only use English, but Shutterstock does not need to worry about this problem.


Features of iStock

iStock is a stock photos website belonging to the news photos company Getty Images. The biggest feature of iStock is professional-quality resources and exclusive visual content. iStock provides designers with various peripheral functions. For example, connect with Adobe Creative Cloud (access photos in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign), cooperate with InVision Craft Stock (directly access photos on InVison), iStock + Dropbox (directly synchronize iStock library photos into Dropbox), etc.

Pricing plan – 5 stars

iStock’s pricing is a bit complicated and might put off new buyers. The main pricing plans of iStock are divided into Basic (for Essential images), Premium (for Essential & Signature images), Premium + Movies (for all images, videos, and music). It should be noted that Signature photos are higher quality than Essentials photos. If you are not pursuing higher quality, the basic plan is enough, because the photos and vector images of the basic plan are already very good.

The table below compares the difference between the monthly fee and the annual fee for the basic plan.

Downloads per month Annual Monthly
10 $29/month ($2.90/image) $29/month ($2.90/image)
25 $49/month ($1.96/image) $65/month ($2.60/image)
50 $90/month ($1.80/image) $99/month ($1.98/image)
750 $166/month ($0.22/image) $199/month ($0.27/image)

Credits are the best option when you don’t need regular downloads, which you can use any time after purchase, while subscriptions expire on a monthly basis. Usually, it costs 1 credit (about $8) for an Essentials photo and 3 credits (about $24) for a Signature photo.

Price in credits Price for credits
Essential images 1 credit $8–$12
Signature images 3 credits $24–$36

In addition, if you need a customized enterprise solution, you can contact the official inquiry.

Quality of stock photos – 5 stars

There is absolutely no problem with the quality of the iStock library that many designers love to use.

Quantity of stock photos – 5 stars

iStock is a massive archive of over 350 million images.

Ease of use – 4 stars

iStock’s keyword search accuracy is good. However, when searching in other languages, the results sometimes do not match when compared to English. Its advanced image search is the same as Shutterstock, with detailed categories such as photo size, color, etc.

Final Words

If you value the quality of images, iStock is recommended, and if you value the quantity of images, Shutterstock is recommended. In addition, if you value cost performance ratio, Shutterstock is recommended, but iStock’s credits system is more user-friendly.

Shutterstock or iStock both have different features and it’s hard to say which is the best. If you choose according to your own needs, you will definitely not go wrong.