Designers and marketers often need stock photos or graphics for their projects. Shutterstock, one of the industry’s leaders, is a go-to source for millions of users, but it’s far from the only option.
The article discusses the best Shutterstock alternatives that may become a valuable addition to your toolbox. Some of these Shutterstock competitors offer advantages like cheaper prices or unlimited downloads, so be sure to read on and learn all the important details.
Why Consider Alternatives to Shutterstock?
Shutterstock, founded in 2003, has become one of the world’s top content marketplaces. You can find millions of stock photos, vectors, illustrations, videos, music, and more. In fact, the selection offered by Shutterstock is arguably the best you’ll find anywhere. There’s no denying that Shutterstock is an excellent source of creative assets.
The downside to Shutterstock is that it can be more expensive than some competitors. Another potential issue is that the licensing is a bit more complicated than what you’ll find from some other marketplaces.
Shutterstock offers several pricing options, with variations for images, videos, and music. You can buy “packs,” which are basically credits that you can use to download the files you need. However, packs are separated by content type (you can’t use image credits to download videos, etc.). They also offer monthly subscriptions that allow you to download all content types, but the licensing for these downloads differs from what you get when you download the same file using credits from a pack.
The end result is that some users find Shutterstock to be confusing and expensive compared to alternatives. For example, subscription prices start at $29 per month. This plan gives you 10 downloads each month. However, some competitors offer unlimited downloads for a significantly lower price. All of the details are covered below.
The Best Shutterstock Alternatives
Below, you’ll find details of the best sites like Shutterstock, but if you’re in a hurry, here are our recommendations:
- Best Overall: Envato Elements
- Best Value: Envato Elements
- Lowest Price: Vecteezy
- Most Comparable to Shutterstock: Adobe Stock
- Best for Video: Pond5
- Best Design Tools: Canva
Envato Elements is a subscription-based platform that offers incredible value for designers, marketers, freelancers, and businesses that need stock images and other creative assets. They offer millions of stock photos, stock videos, video templates, royalty-free music, sound effects, fonts, templates, WordPress themes, graphic templates, illustrations, and more. And best of all, Envato Elements offers unlimited downloads.
Unlike Shutterstock and some other competitors, Envato Elements offers very straightforward pricing. To access the resources, you must have an active subscription. There are two options. You can pay monthly ($39 per month) or yearly ($16.50 per month).
Both options offer excellent value for unlimited downloads, but the yearly plan is simply unbeatable, assuming you download at least a few assets each month. For comparison, Shutterstock’s $29 per month plan gives you only 10 downloads per month, which is not enough for most creative professionals. With the yearly plan, you can download hundreds of files at Envato Elements for just $16.50 per month.
Envato Elements is the best alternative to Shutterstock and is our go-to resource for creative assets at Vandelay Design. We use it for stock photos, illustrations for blog posts, and fonts that we use daily.
One of the benefits of a subscription to Envato Elements is simple commercial licensing. You can use the resources for your own projects and properties, and you can also use them for client work. When you download a resource, you’ll select the project you want to use it for (you can create as many projects as you want). You can see your download history in the dashboard and download the license for your records.
Many of the resources available at Envato Elements would be quite pricey if you were to purchase them individually. For example, professional font families can easily cost more than $100. Likewise, website templates and WordPress themes usually run between $50 and $100 each. As you can see, Envato Elements quickly pays for itself, depending on your needs.
The only downside of Envato Elements is that the selection isn’t as large as what you’ll find on Shutterstock. Envato Elements offers millions of resources, including more than 8 million royalty-free images. The selection is generally excellent and will meet most of your needs. But if you need a very unusual or specific photo, there’s a better chance you’d find it at Shutterstock.
Vecteezy is a comprehensive digital asset library catering to web and graphic designers, marketers, animators, video editors, and other creatives. It provides millions of royalty-free optimized images in various design formats – including EPS vectors, Ai illustrations, and they’ve recently added templates.
You may associate Vecteezy with vectors, and that’s understandable because of their name. Although the site offered only vectors for several years, they’ve added a lot to their collection. With the addition of photos, videos, PNGs, templates, and bundles, it’s clear that Vecteezy is much more than just a vector marketplace today.
Vecteezy offers both free and premium resources. The free license requires attribution, which can be a major drawback, especially for commercial projects. However, having a subscription eliminates the need for attribution, plus you’ll get access to far more resources.
The Vecteezy subscription plans offer unlimited downloads of high-resolution stock photos, videos, vectors, and templates. The selection and variety isn’t nearly as broad as what you’ll find at Envato Elements. For example, Vecteezy currently doesn’t offer fonts, audio files, WordPress themes, and many other types of assets. However, as far as images and videos are concerned, Vecteezy is an excellent source.
You’ll also appreciate Vecteezy’s intuitive user interface and powerful search capabilities. (Don’t worry, the ads aren’t shown if you’re logged in and have an active subscription.) Thanks to the helpful search filters, you can quickly and easily find what you need without sifting through hundreds of irrelevant results.
Subscriptions are priced at $14 per month if billed monthly or $9 per month if billed annually. They also offer a free trial so you can test it out with no commitment.
3. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock is probably the competitor that’s most similar to Shutterstock. It provides an incredible collection of resources, making it a great choice for creative professionals. You’ll find stock photos, video footage, audio clips, vectors, illustrations, and templates. Overall, the selection and quality are pretty comparable to what you’d find at Shutterstock.
Like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock offers subscriptions starting at $29 per month. The $29 plan, if paid monthly, allows only three downloads per month. If paid yearly, it allows for ten downloads per month. As you can see, this will be far more expensive than Envato Elements or Vecteezy, regardless of whether you download 1 or 100 files.
Despite the pricing, Adobe Stock is an excellent resource because of its outstanding selection and quality. It’s on par with Shutterstock at the top of the stock photography industry.
If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you can easily access Adobe Stock resources directly in apps like Photoshop and Illustrator.
Pond5 is an excellent alternative to Shutterstock, especially if you’re looking for stock video footage. It’s a popular choice for filmmakers due to its expansive library of high-quality royalty-free content. In fact, Pond5 is arguably the top source of quality video footage. With more than 35 million videos in their collection, they have almost anything you could need.
In addition to stock footage, Pond5 also offers royalty-free music, sound effects, photos, templates, and more. The selection of music and sound effects is pretty good. However, the quality and selection of photos is not as good as what you’ll find from the industry’s leaders.
Pond5 offers subscription plans, or you can purchase resources individually. The individual prices vary, but the subscriptions offer a better value for designers and videographers who need a lot of content.
Subscriptions are separated based on content type. Music subscriptions start at $12.50 per month if paid yearly, which allows you to download ten items per month. The Footage Plus plan, which allows you to download any content type, costs about $83 per month if paid yearly, but you only get ten downloads each month.
While the selection and quality of Pond5’s video library are excellent, the prices are on the higher end. Envato Elements offers unlimited downloads for a much lower price, although the selection of videos is not quite as good.
Overall, Pond5 is an excellent resource for filmmakers and videographers who need the best resources available and have the budget to afford them.
5. Canva Pro
You probably know Canva because of its popular online design software. However, they also offer an excellent selection of stock resources through a Canva Pro subscription. A Pro subscription opens up several features, but for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on access to stock resources.
If you’re already a Canva user, a Pro subscription is a logical choice because photos, videos, and audio are conveniently available directly in Canva. They offer over 75 million images and resources, giving you access to a vast collection.
The pricing is extremely affordable at just $12.99 per month if paid monthly or $10 per month if paid annually. You’ll get unlimited access to their entire stock library for that price.
The downside of Canva is that the licensing details are a bit murky. As long as you use the stock assets for designs you create in Canva, there are very few restrictions. However, there are restrictions on how and when you can use the resources, for example, on websites. You can learn more about Canva’s license details here.
Overall, a Canva Pro subscription offers excellent value if you plan to use Canva’s design software. However, if you want to use stock photos and other assets in designs created in other programs, Canva Pro is not your best option.
Depositphotos is one of the top alternatives to Shutterstock, offering high-quality images, videos, music, and illustrations. With millions of stock photos professionally shot by talent worldwide, it’s easy to find media assets for any creative project.
It offers a wide range of resource types with flexible payment plans that support budget needs – making it an attractive solution for designers and marketers who need stock photos without breaking the bank.
You can purchase on-demand credits to download resources from Depositphotos, or you can purchase a subscription. Subscription prices start at $36 per month if billed monthly (25 images per month) or $25 per month if billed yearly (30 images per month).
In general, the prices at Depositphotos are lower than what you’ll find at Shutterstock or Adobe Stock. However, the value isn’t quite as good as what you’ll get with unlimited downloads from Envato Elements or Vecteezy.
Depositphotos operates somewhat in the middle ground between Shutterstock and the lower-priced competitors that offer cheap stock photos and unlimited downloads. The quality and selection are good, and prices are reasonable.
iStock is one of the most recognizable Shutterstock alternatives, having been acquired by Getty Images in 2006. It offers comprehensive stock media, including royalty-free photos, video clips, and illustrations.
These are available both individually (via credits) and subscriptions. The subscription prices start at $40 per month if paid monthly, or $29 per month if paid yearly. This plan provides you with ten downloads per month.
iStock is comparable to Shutterstock in terms of pricing, selection, and quality.
123RF is an online royalty-free stock photo agency and image-licensing platform. Although it’s not as well known in the US as some of the others on this list, 123RF offers a wide selection of royalty-free images for various creative projects.
With over 200 million high-quality photos, illustrations, vector graphics, and audio files from professional content creators, you can easily find what you’re looking for here.
The selection and quality at 123RF aren’t quite as good as what you’ll find at Shutterstock, but it’s easily good enough to meet most of your needs.
You can choose from credit packs or subscription plans. Of course, subscriptions offer the best value. 123RF offers a Plus plan and a Premium plan. The Plus plan is $15 per month if paid monthly or $10 per month if paid yearly. While this is a tremendous value, it only provides access to about half of the resources in their collection. However, you can download an unlimited number of the available assets.
You’ll need a Premium subscription to access everything in their collection, but prices vary by the number of downloads per month, and there’s no option for unlimited downloads.
Overall, 123RF offers good value, but the separation between Plus and Premium content is a bit confusing. It isn’t easy to know which plan is best for you until you’re actually searching for the specific resources that you need.
Photocase takes a different approach than most stock marketplaces. They specialize in unique photos that don’t have the stereotypical stock photo look. This is ideal if you want authentic photos that feel custom.
You won’t find hundreds of millions of photos at Photocase, but that’s by design. Their emphasis on unique and original photos is refreshing, and it’s an excellent option if that’s what you’re looking for.
Unfortunately, the prices at Photocase are higher than what you’ll pay at most competitors. Depending on the size image you need, you’ll need 5, 10, or 15 credits per download. That equates to $15-$45 per photo if bought individually. You can also buy credit bundles with discounts starting at 20%, but the prices are still significant.
With its emphasis on originality, Photocase doesn’t compete based on the number of images in its library or by having the lowest price. But it’s an excellent option when you need an interesting, original photo.
The Best Free Shutterstock Alternatives
Creatives now have access to various free stock images that can be used on personal and commercial projects. Depending on your needs, these resources may be a suitable alternative to Shutterstock and other marketplaces.
It’s important to note that using free photos comes with a few caveats. While the photographers have chosen to allow their photos to be used for free, the free photo sites do not collect signed model releases like Shutterstock and its competitors. Additionally, you’ll find photos at the free sites that include brand logos or other trademarked material. Use these photos cautiously, as you don’t have the same protections you get when you pay for a stock photo license.
Unsplash is the go-to choice for many designers to find high-quality stock photos without paying licensing fees.
The site offers content that’s completely free to download and use in personal or commercial projects, such as website designs, blog posts, and printed promotional material.
Unsplash boasts a seemingly endless variety of amazing images ranging from aerial shots and landscapes to portrait photos.
In addition to the free content, Unsplash also offers Unsplash+ for $7 per month. A subscription provides access to members-only content with unlimited downloads.
The quality and selection at Unsplash are very good for a free site. However, it doesn’t compare to Shutterstock or the other premium marketplaces covered above.
Pexels is another popular Shutterstock alternative for free photos and videos. Unlike Unsplash, Pexels currently offers no premium content, so everything on the site is free.
The variety of free images is endless, covering virtually every topic imaginable, from creative outdoor images to beautiful portraits and lifestyle imagery. They have an extensive library, and images are released under the Pexels license, which allows for commercial use.
Pixaby is an online library offering free stock photographs, vector images, illustrations, videos, music, and more. It’s a great alternative to Shutterstock if you’re working with a limited budget or no budget at all.
Pixabay boasts a massive collection of images. However, the quality is hit or miss. Pixabay offers some excellent resources, but you may need to wade through many lower-quality photos and resources to find them. Unsplash and Pexels offer better quality than Pixabay.
Burst is a collection of photos curated by Shopify, and they’re free to use. They created the platform to help Shopify users find quality images that can be used on their sites, but you don’t have to be a Shopify user to take advantage of Burst.
The quality and selection are quite good, even if it’s not quite what you’ll get from Unsplash or Pexels. But with Burst, you get access to curated collections across categories like business, lifestyle, travel, and nature, making it easy to find the perfect image with just a few clicks.
Shutterstock has earned its reputation as a leading stock photo site by offering an incredible selection of high-quality images. Over the years, they’ve added new asset types like video and sound effects. But while Shutterstock is an excellent resource, the prices can be too high for some designers, creatives, and small businesses.
Thankfully, there are some excellent Shutterstock alternatives available. Envato Elements is our top recommendation because of its outstanding selection, low prices, and unlimited downloads. But if you want to keep costs to an absolute minimum, Vecteezy is also an excellent choice. Regardless of which marketplace you use, plenty of high-quality creative assets are available.