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Best Stock Photos: iStock vs Shutterstock

Best Stock Photos: iStock vs Shutterstock

When it comes to stock photographs, you might be comparing iStock vs Shutterstock. They both are getting very famous day by day. Every digital agency now a day is almost turning towards these platforms. They offer a wide variety of images to all the high-quality users, along with creativity and live artists.  

Both of the platforms have a large fan base. When it comes to choosing a better platform for yourself, there are different things to consider. 

istock vs shutterstock

iStock vs Shutterstock, which platform is better to sell images?

If you want to sell photographs, the better option is Shutterstock. As it has a better dashboard to overlook every activity, you also get paid more from the beginning as compared to iStock. 

Your only options of earning more with iStock are if you make the images exclusive for that platform, and it restricts your earnings again as you can only earn from the same platform.  

The best way to earn would be putting up images on both platforms with a non-exclusive license making it available to everyone.


If you are a buyer, multiple things might confuse you on these platforms. You can be running a general blog and want some pictures for that or a high-end magazine that needs to be enhanced with high-quality images.

iStock and Shutterstock are very similar in many aspects when it comes to buying from the platforms. Both of the platforms have huge libraries for images and offer free subscriptions to everyone. They also release free images on their platforms every day for their members, which they can download and use.


When you are looking for a website, a product, or a service, one of the things that you pay the most attention to is the price of it. No one likes paying a lot of money for no reason to the platforms. 

One of the easiest ways to compare the prices of the products on the website is by comparing the price of a single image and by comparing the prices of the yearly subscriptions on both websites.


Shutterstock can cost you about $29 per 2 images. That is the minimum amount of images that you can buy at their platform, and you cannot go any lower than that.  

You can get access to all the images on the platform with a subscription of $199. You can download roughly about 750 images per month and 350 images for $169.

2 images $29
350 images per month $169
750 images per month $199


On the other hand, iStock works in a completely different manner. Instead of using the dollars, they work on credits. One of their credits costs about $13; the images can cost from about 1 to 28 credits depending on their quality and value. The exclusive images tend to cost more than the regular standard images.

The iStock images are more usable for people who want images for their websites and high-quality blogs and articles as they have more exclusive images, which you will rarely find anywhere. As mentioned above, the exclusive images are only available on their website, and the photographers directly submit them and are not allowed to use them anywhere else.  

The subscriptions available yearly work, in the same way, the exclusive subscriptions and the standard subscriptions. You can access all of their images, including the exclusive ones, for $199 per month for 50 downloads per month.  

If you need more images, you can get a subscription for 100 images per month for $259, and 750 downloads can be bought for just $333. Many people tend to buy the 750 images subscription as they are more valuable, and even if they don’t use them all, they still offer great value.

iStock Basic Plan

A basic plan does not include the exclusive images; you can buy the 50 images for about $59 and 100 images for just $129. For 750 images, you just have to pay 166 dollars per month.

One of the best things about using the iStock platform is roll over to the next month. You can keep rolling them over the next few months. For example, if you have taken the subscription for 750 downloads per month and you only use 500, the remaining 250 will be transferred to the next month, and you will be able to download a total of 1000 images from their platform for that month.

1 image 1 credit ($13)
50 images per month (exclusive images included) $199
100 images per month (exclusive images included) $259
750 images per month (exclusive images included) $333
50 images per month (non-exclusive images included) $89
100 images per month (non-exclusive images included) $129
750 images per month (non-exclusive images included) $166


One of the main things that you are looking for is a big library. The library will consist of all the content you want, and both of the platforms have huge libraries with millions of images in them.

You can search from an image of a clock tower to the swordfish diving into the sea. Almost every picture kind of picture can be found on these platforms collectively.

istock vs shutterstock - shutterstock image library stats

Shutterstock has a huge library, bigger than any other platform, with millions of images available. Once you buy a subscription to the platform, you can download any image from there that you want and without any extra charges.  

istock vs shutterstock - istock image library

iStock library is huge as well, but they have a separate section for exclusive images. These images are only available on their website and cannot be found anywhere else.  

Any such section is not available on Shutterstock, and all the images on the platform can be found on other websites as well to buy from. It makes their library unique and more enticing to the buyers. 

Access to those pictures will cost you more money, but if you are looking to add more charm to your content or website, it is a price worth paying.

Color search

Colors searches are very famous now everywhere. Exactly how Google allows you to search for images using a specific color, this feature is available in iStock and Shutterstock.

While both platforms allow you to search for images using the colors, the algorithms on both platforms are different, giving you different kinds of images.

istock vs shutterstock - shutterstock color search

Shutterstock allows you to choose a category and pick out the color you want the results in. If you are looking for an office or a building, you just have to type the keywords. You need to choose the color you are looking for, and the results will be shown.  

Shutterstock does not just focus on one color, but it also notices the colors related to it. For example, if you are looking for something in the blue scheme, you will get results of the images in different shades of blue and not just the exact shade of blue you were looking for. 

The colors might be a mix, and as soon as they are done with the images with the same color that you have picked, you will start seeing images with similar colors.

istock vs shutterstock - color search

iStock works in the same way as well, but their search results are different than Shutterstock. You have to type the keyword in and define the color you are looking for results in. 

The results will be very different when compared to Shutterstock results. While Shutterstock focuses on different colors related to the main color, this platform will look for the specific color you have searched for. 

They will try to match out the color, and even if some pixels have that color in the image, that image will be shown on the top. If you were looking for images of the office, you could see a random image of office paper clips where one paper clip has a slight shade of the color you were looking for.

Instead of looking for blue images, it will just look for the same color pixel you were looking for. 

Model search

The model search is a big feature when it comes to images. Many people don’t just want a single image for a blog or an article, but they are looking to tell a story. For example, if you are writing a food blog and search for chowmein preparation, you will start seeing the images related to it. 

There are multiple pictures uploaded by different kinds of photographers in series. They can be in a hospital with the same model that arrived sick, got treatment, and got discharged from the hospital soon.

These searches allow you to complete a story, and instead of using different pictures or models or themes for them, you can use the same models or the theme.

This feature has been enabled in both of the platforms, but it works differently.

istock vs shutterstock - istock same series search

When you look for the same model on iStock, you won’t exactly find the same model, but you will find the series. This series will only include the person with the same face instead of searching for the whole story.

It will match the faces, and you will be able to see the same background and the same face. Even if the artist or some other artist had uploaded some follow up pictures on the same story, they wouldn’t be visible until you are not looking for the exact model specifically.

istock vs shutterstock - shutterstock model search

Shutterstock works in a completely different manner when it comes to doing a model search. As soon as you click a picture with a person in it, you will find an option on the bottom with the “same model” title. When you click on it, you will find the whole follow up story on it. 

Instead of just looking for one person, their algorithm looks for the whole story. For example, if there are 2 people in the first picture, the same model feature will show you pictures based on the pictures of both models. It will start searching for one model; if there is some other model in the image, then the search will be based on them.

Until all the people in the images are not covered, their search is not completed. This is why Shutterstock has the upper hand when you are looking to tell stories through images. 

iStock vs Shutterstock, which has better features?

Both of the platforms have their pros and cons. While some of the features in iStock are perfect for the people who want to just use the images once in a while, Shutterstock, on the other hand, provides a better rate and value for people who want to keep consistently buying.

Before you can choose a platform for yourself, there are multiple things that you need to consider. You need to figure out your own needs and find a solution for them instead of just looking for anything blankly. 

Some of the questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a platform include: 

How many images do you require?

We have already discussed above that the quantity of the images you want can help you decide which platform to choose. If you need just 2 to 3 images every month, there is certainly no need to look at the monthly or yearly subscriptions.

You can decide your platform based on the lowest prices for a single image. In this category, iStock can help you more than Shutterstock. iStock has a more exclusive library as well, which might attract you more.  

You can find high-quality images for as low as 1 credit and use it. Shutterstock requires you to purchase a bundle of 3 to 5 images minimum and does not go any less than that. 

On the other hand, there are amazing deals from Shutterstock on the bundles, which you can avail of and use throughout the month or years. They are easy to avail of and cost you less than the iStock images. 

What quality of images do you require?

The quality of the images can depend upon their function. If you are using the images for your simple blog posts, then a high-quality image is not required. But if you are going to publish your article in a high-end magazine, you will certainly require something of high quality.

iStock charges you more for the images which are of higher quality and low for the low-quality images. On the other hand, Shutterstock charges you the same rate for any kind of images you require for your website or any other purpose.  

It is preferred to go with Shutterstock as you will have the high and low-quality images at your hand instead of having to stick with the low quality due to low finances on the article.  

If you are certain you will not require any high-quality images or you think you can pay for the exclusive high-quality images, then you can go for iStock as well. 

Do you need a yearly subscription? 

If you are just starting your blog or picked up a part-time job as a content writer and are not sure if you are ready for a commitment of a whole year, then Shutterstock is the place for you. 

Instead of paying a lot of money for every single image, you can buy a subscription for months with low costs compared to the iStock. You can find multiple monthly plans and don’t have to bound yourself in a yearlong commitment anymore. 

Can you use all downloads in a month?

Multiple organizations working often end up using only a few downloads. Instead of completing the limit that was allowed to them, they might use fewer downloads in a month and might require a lot more than that. 

With iStock, you can roll up the remaining downloads at the end of the month to the new month. It is an easy process and helps you with your needs at the time being. 

You don’t have to rush and download the wrong images in a month and end up regretting the last. Instead, you can take your time, and even if you don’t use any of your image downloads in the first month, you can roll it up to the next month and use it then.

Shutterstock does not offer any such option, and you have to use the image downloads in the same month. Once the month is over, you will be given the allowance of the month, and the unused downloads from the last month will be discarded.  

Does your team need access to images?

If you are working in a team where you are responsible for writing content while someone else has to upload the images on the WordPress website or if there are multiple writers who need access to the images, then iStock images are a cheaper option for you.

Both platforms charge you 300 dollars for 2 users, but if you need more than 3 users using the account every month, you can rely on iStock. 

Shutterstock Pros and Cons

Pros: Cons: 
  1. Better deal packages on a bundle of images
No exclusive images included
  1. All kinds of images included in the same bundle
Expensive team subscriptions
  1. Free images included
  1. Multiple language support

iStock Pros and Cons

Pros:  Cons: 
  1. Exclusive images
Expensive bundles
  1. Low priced images 
High-quality images cost more.
  1. Better team subscription
  1. Great search tool

Shutterstock Pricing

10 Images US$ 49/month – US$4.90/image — Cancel anytime Monthly, no contract — US$49/monthAnnual billed monthly — US$29/month


Annual billed upfront — US$299/year

50 Images  US$ 979/year – US$1.63/image — Requires annual commitment Monthly, no contract — US$125/monthAnnual billed monthly — US$99/month


Annual billed upfront — US$979/year

350 Images  US$ 1,649/year – US$0.39/image — Requires annual commitment Monthly, no contract — US$199/monthAnnual billed monthly — US$169/month


Annual billed upfront — US$1,649/year

750 Images  US$ 1,999/year – US$0.22/image — Requires annual commitment Monthly, no contract — US$249/monthAnnual billed monthly — US$199/month


Annual billed upfront — US$1,999/year

*Prices shown in US Dollars. Taxes may apply.

iStock Pricing 

10 images Access all images for 1 year in $70/monthAccess all images for 1 month in $100 Essential images only for 1 year in $29/monthEssential images only for 1 month in $40
25 images  Access all images for 1 year in $120/monthAccess all images for 1 month in $149 Essential images only for 1 year in $49/monthEssential images only for 1 month in $65
50 images  Access all images for 1 year in $189/monthAccess all images for 1 month in $230 Essential images only for 1 year in $89/monthEssential images only for 1 month in $100
750 images  Access all images for 1 year in $319/monthAccess all images for 1 month in $399 Essential images only for 1 year in $159/monthEssential images only for 1 month in $199

*You can even get a customized pricing plan for your team or business. 


Both the iStock and Shutterstock are excellent choices, but you will need to define your need better to identify the best platform for you.  

If you are a photographer who needs to sell the images online, the better option is Shutterstock, as you can earn more with the non-exclusive images. On the other hand, if you are certain that you can sell your exclusive images, then iStock is a better option for you as it offers a higher rate. 

Every buyer needs to define their need first before they can move onto buying anything. The different kinds of business and works will define what they want and what they can afford.

Go through the plans on both the platforms before you pick one for you. 

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