Sites Like Shutterstock: 7 Alternatives to Get Quality Images and Other Media

Updated: Apr 21, 2021 / Article by: Timothy Shim

If you’ve ever tried to source stock images to use in some project like a website or poster, you are likely to have come across Shutterstock. It offers a fantastic range of all kinds of multimedia – photos, vectors, B-roll, music, and more. The problem is, Shutterstock media costs a bomb, which is where alternative sites start coming to mind.

In the past, sourcing generic images or other media content may have been a challenge. Yet Shutterstock demonstrated how successful the endeavor could be, and others have quickly caught on. Today we’re going to explore seven of the best Shutterstock alternatives around.

Best Shutterstock Alternatives

There are several great Shutterstock alternatives where you can get quality images and other media online. Some even allow you to download and use them for free. However, for the discerning, price isn’t everything. If you can’t find what you need on Shutterstock, you may have better luck elsewhere.

Here are seven fantastic Shutterstock alternatives:

1. iStock

iStock was previously known as iStockphoto and is part of Getty Images. Founded in 1995, they are one of the oldest and most renowned visual content sources, known for having a highly curated library.

Why iStock a Better Alternative to Shutterstock?

It hosts over 400 million elements from more than 330,000 of the world’s best content creators. iStock primarily serves creative, business, and media customers. In addition to images, iStock also offers stock videos and audio libraries.

They're famous for having an extensive catalog that includes a massive collection of images. This collection comes in two main categories:

  • Essentials – low-cost images which are non-exclusive
  • Signature – the more expensive and exclusive images. 

Photos are available in high resolutions, with vector graphics also available in both categories.

Are iStock Images Free?

Every week, an image is selected from the exclusive Signature collection to be made free to download, with free illustrations and video clips available monthly. The choices available are simply stunning, and iStock is undoubtedly worth considering.

However, although they give that freebie mentioned earlier, this site isn’t a cheap option.

There are a few ways you can get media on iStock – By paying for individual images, buying credits, or through a subscription model. Paying for individual mages will cost the most, while price-per-image drops steeply with subscription packages.

A single image can cost between $12 to $33 and more. Image credits start at $33 for three credits, but you can buy these in bulk. The more you buy, the lower the price. Subscription prices vary as well, depending on the number of images you want each month.


2. Pixabay

Founded in 2010, Pixabay houses over 2.2 million high-quality stock images, videos, and music shared by a selected community. It is a wholesome and reliable repository of creatives, sharing copyright-free photos and videos. 

Why Pixabay Over Shutterstock?

Photos come under the Creative Commons Zero license (CC0), which means that you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the pictures for commercial purposes without asking for permission and giving any credit to the artist.

There are also sponsored images from iStock on this site. These are to help finance Pixabay and provide a broader range of professional photos from which to choose. These images are marked ‘iStock’ so you can tell the difference.

Is Pixabay Really Free?

Aside from images, you can also find royalty-free vector graphics, illustrations, and videos here too. The images can be downloaded in various resolutions depending on your needs. The collection is relatively rich and, best of all, really free! You don’t even need to sign up for an account. 

All you need to do is choose the picture you want, select the resolution you need, enter a captcha, and you’re good to go. Of course, you are welcome to donate to the artist should you wish to.


3. Pexels

Pexels was founded in 2014 and is a free high-resolution photo marketplace and video library housing more than a million royalty-free images. Like Pixabay, all these images come under CC0 licensing. 

What Makes Pexels Ticks?

Interestingly, Pexels focuses more on outdoor images that include landscapes, buildings, beaches, and other similar settings. Additionally, there’s a relatively large number of people-centric photos available here.

Since they are under the CC0 license, you can use most of the images for personal and commercial purposes without permission or attribution. 

Is Pexels Free to Use?

To download an image from Pexels, just choose the picture you want and select the resolution needed from the dropdown menu at the ‘Free Download’ button. Contributing artists to Pexels will appreciate donations even if the images are free.

Each month at least 1,500 new photos are added. They are either hand-picked from the content uploaded by users or sourced from other websites. The content library is actively growing. Pexels is indeed an excellent alternative to Shutterstock that you may want to try.


4. Adobe Stock

Founded in 1982, Adobe Stock is a stock photo service run by, well, Adobe. If you often use Adobe products like Photoshop and Illustrator, using the Adobe Stock service could be the perfect alternative to Shutterstock for you.

Why Adobe Stock?

You have a choice among over 60 million royalty-free photos and vector illustrations. Their high-quality assets include images, graphics, videos, templates, and 3D assets. New content gets added daily. 

Adobe Stock’s most notable feature is that it comes fully integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud platform. This integration gives direct access to a fantastic resource pool from directly within your Adobe product. 

You can use the watermarked images to see how things look, and once you license them, high-resolution versions will automatically replace those. This feature helps streamline workflow for budding designers. 

What is Adobe Stock Plan?

They have several subscription plans from which to choose. These are available based on monthly or yearly commitment models. Of course, the annual commitment will be cheaper. Adobe Stock is a serious contender to Shutterstock, especially if you work with Creative Cloud tools in your design process. 


5. Unsplash

Unsplash has been providing “Photos for Everyone” since its founding in 2013. The site houses more than 200,000 high-quality photos. Although this figure may seem minute compared to that of Shutterstock, many of them are free.

Why Unsplash as Alternative to Shutterstock?

Each day, more photos get added since Unsplash has over 41,000 contributing members. All these images come under the CC0 license as well – so more freebies for us. 

Photos are organized in categories at the top, allowing you to find images easily. You’ll find the search bar at the top very helpful too, and that pairs well with a straightforward download process. Just select the photo you want and click ‘Free Download.’

You can help the artists by giving them credit or promoting their work via social media. However, this isn’t mandatory. Like Pexels, Unsplash is a good resource for those needing the occasional freebie.


6. Burst

Anyone who’s into e-commerce would have heard of Shopify. After all, it is one of the most popular website development tools that allows you to create and launch e-commerce websites quickly. 

Why Burst?

Shopify introduced Burst in 2006 to help its customers source stock images for the websites they build using its platform. The great news is that Shopify did not keep Burst locked for its users alone. Instead, Burst is available for all who want to use it. 

Even though there are only around 1,000 images available, bear in mind that while many other websites host photos submitted by their community, the images on Burst come from paid professional photographers. 

Do note, though, that the images here are more business-oriented. The orientation is reasonable if you consider Shopify customer needs – but that does limit its utility somewhat. 


7. PhotoDune

Since 2011, PhotoDune has been part of the Envato Market, a company headquartered in Australia. At PhotoDune, Envato offers a collection of around ten million high-quality stock photos and stock videos. Additionally, they have themes, vectors, and audio files. 

Why PhotoDune?

You’ll find tons of unique material that you do not usually find in other larger stock sites. Unlike most others, PhotoDune offers a straightforward and clear payment model. Each photo has a fixed price, starting from as low as $2. However, most images come in at the $5 mark – or more. 

Don’t despair, though, if you need some freebies. Every month, Photodune puts up several free images on their site, but you’ll need to create an account to access them. These freebies are available only till the end of each month. 

While prices on PhotoDune may seem relatively high, the quality of photos here is simply beyond expectation. Where quality is concerned, Photodune certainly gives Shutterstock a run for the money.


What Exactly is Shutterstock?

Shutterstock has long held the mantle as a one-stop-shop for stock photos and video. Yet the bulk of content aside, the brand is also synonymous with excellent quality. The site follows a microstock model whereby individual content creators provide photos or videos. Content creators then get a share of the proceeds each time their content sells.

Founded in 2003, Shutterstock was a pioneer of the stock photo subscription model where customers could get a fixed number of photos based on a monthly fee. Essentially, Shutterstock brings content creators and users together.

Why Consider a Shutterstock Alternative?

Technology has been developing quickly. Where visual content creation was once the exclusive domain of professionals, many more people need them today. From personal website owners to school teachers building slides – visual content helps people at many levels.

For a large segment of these users, Shutterstock is a resource that’s priced way beyond their logical means. Thankfully, there are now literally dozens of sites that offer the same or similar services. 

Even if some sites are priced at similar levels to Shutterstock, having more options to choose from is never a bad thing. Some sites like Pexels focus on specific niche areas, for example.

Conclusion

My first encounter with Shutterstock was back in the day when I worked for a print publication. It was essential to have a good resource for high-quality images that had no issues with commercial licensing. 

Yet today, as an independent content creator, I face many of the same needs – with a much smaller budget. Thankfully, many Shutterstock alternatives have popped up, and I have made full use of them at one time or another.

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About Timothy Shim

Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.