Shutterstock Offers Lower Subscription Options

Posted on 2/3/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Shutterstock says they are “testing” new subscription options that allow customers to download either 10 or 50 images per month. The prices for these packages are $29 and $99 respectively on an annual purchase plan. This seems to be a reaction to the iStock and Adobestock subscription offerings (see chart below) that have been in place for some time.

Annual Plan            
Per Month iStock iStock        
  Essentials Signature Shutterstock Adobe Stock Thinkstock  
10 images     $29 $29.99    
25 images            
40 images       $79.99    
50 images $90 $199 $99   $139  
100 images $129 $259        
250 images            
350 images     $169 $169.99    
750 images $166.58 $333.25 $199 $199.99 $208 25 per day
Monthly iStock iStock        
  Essentials Signature Shutterstock Adobe Stock Thinkstock  
10 images $40 $99 $49      
25 images $65 $149        
40 images            
50 images $99 $229 $129      
100 images $149 $299        
250 images $199 $399        
350 images     $199      
750 images     $249   $299 25 pre day
2 images     $29      
5 images     $49   $49  
25 images     $229   $229  
100 images         $799  
250 images         $1,499  
    * Thinkstock 750 images prices allow 25 download per day.

It seems clear that some customers are saying to Shutterstock, “We don’t need anywhere near the number of images we are allowed to download in the larger subscription offerings. Can’t you give us subscriptions for fewer images at lower prices?”

It is unclear how many subscription downloads Shutterstock had in 2016, but based on 2015 estimates Shutterstock customers downloaded less than 25% of the images they were allowed. If you’re only going to use 50 images or less a month why pay for the right to download 350? That could save customers who have been paying $2,028 for an annual subscription $840 a year.

One suspects that after controlling the low priced market for many years Shutterstock is starting to see some push back from their faithful customers who are finding the iStock and Adobestock offerings more attractive.

Royaltes for the 10 and 50 image subscriptions will be determined by per-image price of each subscription and the individual’s earning tier (See chart.)

Subscription Pay Annually      
Earning Tier Per Month Price 1 Item Royalty
30% 10 images $29 $2.90 $0.87
30% 50 images $99 $1.98 $0.59
28% 10 images $29 $2.90 $0.81
28% 50 images $99 $1.98 $0.55
25% 10 images $29 $2.90 $0.73
25% 50 images $99 $1.98 $0.50
20% 10 images $29 $2.90 $0.58
20% 50 images $99 $1.98 $0.40
Subscription Monthly      
Earning Tier Images Price 1 Item Royalty
30% 10 images $49 $4.90 $1.47
30% 50 images $129 $2.58 $0.77
28% 10 images $49 $4.90 $1.37
28% 50 images $129 $2.58 $0.72
25% 10 images $49 $4.90 $1.23
25% 50 images $129 $2.58 $0.65
20% 10 images $49 $4.90 $0.98
20% 50 images $129 $2.58 $0.52

The assumption is that customers will actually download all the images allowed. In many cases customers will actually download less and Shutterstock will reap that extra benefit. In effect, in most cases, contributors will be receiving a lesser percentage of total revenue collected than their earnings tier specifies.

Contributors will continue to receive the same royalties as they have in the past for downloads from the 350 or 750 image subscriptions.

Single Image Revenue

It seems likely that single image revenue will decline as a result of these new subscription offerings. In the past we have estimated that 25% of Shutterstock’s revenue comes from single image downloads. Based on 2016 revenue that would be about $125 million.

One has to wonder why a customer would pay $49 for a 5 image pack when they could get a 10 image subscription for one month for $49. They could also get 10 images a month for $29 but they would have to make a 12 month commitment for a total of $348. However, that would give them the right to download 120 images over the year. That number of images may satisfy the needs of many single image users. Certainly, it would seem that the number of people who purchase 25 image packs for $229 will decline.

Shutterstock may grow their subscription revenue, but at what expense to single image downloads?

iStock Subscription Royalties

Getty’s approach to restructuring iStock subscription royalties as part of its “Unification” process is also worth considering. Getty is switching from paying a fixed price for each iStock subscription download to valuing each download based on what the customer actually uses. They divide the number of actual uses in a month into the total the customer paid for the subscription. This could result in higher royalties to contributors when customers don’t use all the images they are allowed. However, it also makes it impossible to determine the value of each image until each subscription month expires.

Copyright © 2017 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff