Shutterstock Enterprise

Posted on 7/3/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

One of the big questions about Enterprise sales at Shutterstock is “Why do big customers want an Enterprise deal?” On average Enterprise customers are paying more per quarter than E-commerce customers. What additional services do they get? In 2018 Enterprise customers generated about 40.9% of Shutterstock’s total revenue, or about $254.8 million.

We believe Shutterstock has about 40,000 Enterprise customers, although they stopped reporting the exact number several quarters ago. It was recently reported by an investment analyst that growth in the Enterprise business has declined significantly in the past year. Now Enterprise is growing at a slower rate than E-commerce sales. The average Enterprise customer pays Shutterstock $6,370 per year, but they could be getting 750 images per month for $2,388 a year. Maybe they are using a lot of video at $63.16 per clip, but there must be other benefits justifying the paying of the much higher fees.

Recently, we got some insights into some of the benefits Advertising Agencies, in at least some countries, are receiving in their Enterprise deals. The agency is told that it can download all the high resolution images it wants for Sketches, Internal Presentations and Pitches at no cost. Absolutely FREE. The customer only pays for the photos that end up actually being used in a finished product that is delivered to one of the agency’s customers.

A separate fee is negotiated for these “actual uses,” presumably based on the number of uses-per-month that Shutterstock estimates the customer will make. We know of per-image-used prices that range from $200 to $450 each. There may be some deals for lower prices.

There is no minimum monthly guarantee so the agency might download hundreds of photos, use none of them in a produce , and pay nothing.

Such deals appeal to Advertising Agencies because they want to pass along the price (with a markup) that they actually pay for the photos used to develop the projects they deliver to their customers. For the agency it is very difficult to track all the photos used in presentations before their client finally settles on the finished product that will be shown to the public.

Pandora’s Box

Shutterstock can track which photos are downloaded and given away for free. But they must rely on their customer to tell them which photos were actually used and when payment will eventually be made.

It is unclear how much each contributor is paid when their photo is downloaded for free. Presumably they are paid between $0.25 and $0.38 per download. When a photo is actually used, and $200 is paid, it is unclear what, if any, extra the photographer receives in a royalty. We suspect nothing extra. Overall, the average royalty paid to contributors for all 2018 downloads, including footage, was $0.92.

Some of the Advertising Agencies complain that they keep getting almost daily emails and calls from Shutterstock asking why they are downloading such a large number of high res image and report few, if any, are used in a finished project. Of course, the agency answers that all the images were used for Internal Presentations or Sketches. Shutterstock has no way of determining if that is fact.

It is also possible that the agency might have found the image that was right for their project on Getty Images or iStock. That turned out to be the image that was used.

At least one agency reports that their client rebelled when the agency tried to pass on the $200 fee for the image that was actually used in the finished project. The customer said they could go to Shutterstock and purchase a 2 image credit pack and only pay $14.50 for the image. Why should they pay more?

At some point, even paying out only $0.25 per download, it will be possible for Shutterstock to pay out more in contributor royalties than they are taking in from the Advertising Agency. Presumably, at that point Shutterstock would stop offering the particular customer the “Enterprise Deal.” This may explain why Shutterstock’s growth in Enterprise sales is steadily declining. They may have run out of potential customers who can make enough sales at $200 per image to justify giving the customer all the $0.25 images they want for FREE.

Who Will Follow Suit?

One of the big questions is will Getty, iStock and AdobeStock adopt this same strategy in order to compete.

When we look at Getty’s low priced Premium Access sales it is easy to conclude that they might be offering unlimited free downloads to certain customers and then dividing a royalty percentage of the small fee collected for images actually used commercially among all the creators whose images were downloaded by the customer.

Agencies have never shared details of the special arrangement they have with certain favored customers. However, given what now seems possible it may be time for creators to demand more information about the terms of special pricing strategies used by the agency that represents their work. A board of reviewers elected by creators, could be authorized to examine the terms of private deals to determine if the interests of all image creators are properly considered. Members of such review committees would need to be different for each agency and agree to keep each agency’s strategies confidential unless the agency refused to consider the review committee’s recommendations and it became necessary to outline the agency’s policies to all of its creators.

Copyright © 2019 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Ellen Boughn Posted Jul 6, 2019
    The enterprise license allows a parent company or headquarters to give access to employees and vendors across diverse offices in many geographic locations. The Shutterstock "team" license restricts users to one physical location. The fees generally limit the number of photos that can be accessed in a specific time period. What you have described is not what my recent research has shown to be the practice for enterprise licenses.

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