Shutterstock Download Trends

Posted on 8/24/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

A multi-year review of Shutterstock download trends going back to Q3 2010 provides some interesting insights into how adding more images to the collection relates to sales growth. (See chart)

Back in 2010 Shutterstock had 12.3 million images in its collection and 11.1 total downloads for that quarter. In theory the more choice you offer your customers the more sales you are likely to make. That pretty much held true through 2012 as Shutterstock almost doubled the size of its collection.

Starting in 2013 the percentage of downloads relative to the number of images in the collection started to decline slowly. At the end of 2014 they had 3.8 times the number of images as in Q3 2010 and 3 times the number of downloads.

  Downloads Images in Percent Images
Collection Downloads Above DL
(Millions)   (Millions)
Q3 2010 11.1 12.3 90.24% 1.2
Q4 2010 12.5 13.3 93.98% 0.8
Q1 2011 13.3 14.4 92.36% 1.1
Q2 2011 14.4 15.3 94.12% 0.9
Q3 2011 14.8 16.2 91.36% 1.4
Q4 2011 16.2 17.4 93.1% 1.2
Q1 2012 17.6 18.8 93.62% 1.2
Q2 2012 18.3 20.2 90.59% 1.9
Q3 2012 18.7 21.7 86.18% 3
Q4 2012 21.4 23.3 91.85% 1.9
Q1 2013 22.3 25 89.2% 2.7
Q2 2013 24.3 28 86.79% 3.7
Q3 2013 25.4 31.3 81.15% 5.9
Q4 2013 28 32.2 86.96% 4.2
Q1 2014 29.7 35.4 83.9% 5.7
Q2 2014 31.5 38.8 81.19% 7.3
Q3 2014 31.2 42.7 73.07% 11.5
Q4 2014 33.5 46.8 71.58% 13.3
Q1 2015 33.4 51.6 64.73% 18.2
Q2 2015 35.9 57.2 62.76% 21.3
Q3 2015 38.1 63.7 59.81% 25.6
Q4 2015 39.8 71.4 55.74% 31.6
Q1 2016 41.2 81 50.86% 39.8
Q2 2016 43.4 92.1 47.12% 48.7
Q3 2016 41.2 102.7 40.12% 61.5
Q4 2016 41.1 116.2 35.37% 75.1
Q1 2017 43.5 132 32.95% 88.5
Q2 2017 42.7 144.7 29.51% 102
Q3 2017 41.9 155.8 26.89% 113.9
Q4 2017 43.9 170.1 25.81% 126.2
Q1 2018 43.7 196.8 22.21% 153.1
Q2 2018 45.2 215.1 21.01% 169.9

In 2015 Shutterstock decided that if they could dramatically increase the number of images in their collection that would also dramatically grow sales. As a result, they began to loosen their criteria for accepting images. Previously new contributors were required to submit 10 images for review. At least 7 of them needed to be approved before the contributor was allowed to submit more images. At the end of 2015 new contributors only had to have 1 image accepted before they were allowed to submit unlimited more with no restrictions.

Standards for approval were also reduced. Image inspectors could only reject images on quality standards, not subject matter. Inspectors were not allowed to reject similars. More and more contributors began submitting multiple variations of each situation they photographed. At the end of 2015 Shutterstock had around 100,000 contributors. At the end or 2017 the number was 300,000 and in August 2018 they said they had 450,000 contributors. (This number may be contributors from the company founding, not current “active” contributors.)

The collection started to grow dramatically in size, but downloads have grown much more slowly. Since the end of 2014 downloads per quarter have grown 34% while the number of images in the collection has grown 359%.

Also note that there has been very little growth in downloads since the beginning of 2017 while the number of images in the collection has increased by 62%.

In the last quarter there were 4 times the number of downloads as there were in Q3 2010. But, there were 17.5 times the number images to choose from. Thus, the odds of any image being licensed are more than 4 times less than they were in 2010. Just adding more images doesn’t result in more sales.

Copyright © 2018 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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