Vector Illustrations or Photos

Posted on 1/10/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Recently Shutterstock published a Trend Report that showed the 12 most popular images downloaded by creatives in the last week. There images numbers were:
    160247141 - Photo
    145160614 - Photo
    119807125 - Photo
    140867215 - Photo


    (To see the images go to Shutterstock and search for the image numbers.)
While this is a very small sample it may provide useful insights for photographers to consider. Only 4 of the 12 images in greatest demand were photos and two of the 4 were backgrounds. The other 8 images were Vector illustrations.

There are indications that the demand for Vector illustrations is growing and is much higher than the demand for photos. In my research on iStock, where I can determine how many downloads individuals have, the illustrators with lots of downloads seem to do it with many fewer images on the site than photographers with a similar number of downloads. (See the list here and look for illustrators on the list.)

This may be because illustrators produce one perfect version of their illustration and don’t need to offer a lot of variations. It also may mean that the illustrations have a single focused concept, rather than being an image that could potentially fit many concepts. The illustrator must also come up with a concept before creating an illustration. Photographers often shoot what they think are interesting pictures without giving a lot of thought to the concepts they may illustrate.?

Getting back to Shutterstock, they have reported that in 2005 vector graphics that allow designers to scale and recolor the image as needed only represented 5% of the company’s total downloads. In 2011 Shutterstock had 16 million vector downloads representing 32% of total downloads.

If that percentage stayed the same, and I suspect it may have increased, then 32 million of their 100 million downloads in 2013 may have been vector images.

Currently Shutterstock has over 32 million images on the site. If you search for “vectors” you get 4,054,076 returns, or 12% of all the images on the site.

I also searched iStock for its vectors and found 950,424 with 273,583 of them from exclusive contributors. It is unclear how many total images iStock has on its site, but I believe it is in the range of 17 million which would mean that vector illustrations represent only about 6% of all the images on iStock.

Copyright © 2014 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:  


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