iStock vs Shutterstock Comparison

Microstock photography is a growing part of the stock photography industry that has exploded in popularity over the last ten years. Microstock companies almost entirely rely on the internet for their images, and they accept submissions from a wide range of photographers. Two companies that have come to dominate the industry are iStock by Getty Images and Shutterstock. As a buyer, deciding which of these two agencies will best meet your needs can be difficult. Make your choice easier with this detailed comparison of iStock vs Shutterstock based on sizing, libraries, and price point.

iStock vs Shutterstock: Similarities

Free membership – Both agencies have free sign-up to access their service and explore their offers.
Free weekly photos – Both agencies offer weekly free stock photos that are released regularly to their members on the website. None of them has free photo galleries. Find the iStockphoto free photos here and the Shutterstock free photos here.
Large image libraries – Both agencies have large image libraries and add new content regularly. They’re a popular choice amongst photographer contributors, which helps in the constant feeding of new images.

iStock vs Shutterstock: Differences

Image Sizing

When it comes to the sizing of images, Shutterstock offers four different sizes (S-XL) in a standard 300 dpi. With iStock you get more varied content with up to six different size options (XS-XXL). However, the dpi for the image sizes vary slightly with XS and S sizes having a 72 dpi.


When it comes to Shutterstock vs iStock image libraries it is a matter of quantity vs quality. In terms of size, Shutterstock has the largest image library. It offers 90 million stock items with new images added every week. iStock’s image library is divided into two categories. The essentials collection gives you the everyday content you need while the Signature collection features millions of premium handpicked stock files exclusive to iStock. This exclusive content from their Signature collection fulfills a niche that Shutterstock does not have. Shutterstock’s images can be found and purchased on multiple microstock sites. So if you are looking for unique, one-of-a-kind high-quality images, iStock is the best choice


If you need to buy stock photos on a regular basis, a stock photo subscription is the best option. An annual plan (with monthly download limits) is less expensive than a month-to-month renewable subscription at both agencies.

If you will need lots of stock photos every day, you should think about larger volume subscriptions. With Shutterstock for $199 (or $169 if you hire annually), you get 350 images per month, and for $249 (or $199 if you hire annually), you get 750 images per month. With just a one-month commitment, you can get 750 photos for $0.33 per image, and with an annual subscription, you can get them for even less.

iStock has you covered for both a few images per month or a large volume subscription. They offer monthly plans for 10, 25, and 50 photos for $40, $65, and $100, respectively (Essential images only). They also offer subscriptions that give you access to both Essential daily images and Signature high-resolution, exclusive images. Signature subscriptions are more expensive, but they’re still very reasonable for the quality of images you get. For large volume subscriptions, they have the cheapest large volume stock photo subscription with Essentials if you are willing to commit for a year: For $159 per month, you get 750 images at a cost of $0.21 per image.

Final Verdict

So which site fits your needs best?

Shutterstock has standard photos sizing capabilities, a large image library, and larger volume subscription options. However, if you’re looking for either a few photos a month or the best deal on large volume annual subscriptions, exclusive image content, and a lot of variability in size then iStock by Getty Images is the better choice. And as an added bonus, you can get 10% cash back for iStock by Getty Images on all plans forever if you subscribe now through