PowerPresentations - Presentation Tips & Secrets

Shutterstock vs. iStock for Presentation Photos

Written by Vincent Thompson.

Several presentation designers have started to think that Shutterstock may have overtaken iStock as the commercial stock-photo site of choice for finding photos for presentation design. Discover three reasons here.


We just signed up for our first Shutterstock subscription. Previously, we’ve pretty much exclusively been using iStockphoto for our commercial-use presentation photos.

iStock has been the ‘default’ commercial site for presentation photos for a few years, perhaps since the publication of Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen. iStock seemed to get a real boost with the exposure they got from that book, and cemented their position as the site-of-choice among presentation designers. In each of Presentation Zen, Presentation Zen Design, and The Naked Presenter, there’s an advertisement for iStock, and a sign-up code for free credits.

But, over the years, the prices have gone up (or the value of credits has gone down, which is the same thing), and competitors such as Shutterstock seem to have been catching up.

At BrightCarbon we’ve started to think that Shutterstock may have overtaken iStock as the commercial stock-photo site of choice for finding photos for presentation design, for three reasons:


Shutterstock offers a 25-a-day subscription for three months at a cost of £419. That’s 25 images a day at any size.

iStock offers 35 credits per day for three months at a price of £775. Thats’ 80% more than Shutterstock. How much is 35 credits worth? No, not 35 photos of any size. A typical medium sized photo for use in a presentation uses 12 credits. So, Shutterstock gives us 25 images of any size each day for 55% of the cost of (less than) 3 photos each day on iStock.

The difference in price between Shutterstock and iStock is incredible. Not everyone will need 25 images per day – but just use a few photos for your presentations and Shutterstock comes out cheaper than iStock.

Same Model

Often in a presentation, when trying to tell a visual story with lots of relevant images, our designers want photos that work well as a sequence. A doctor with a patient, then the same patient in bed, then the patient now back at home with family. A business woman in a meeting, then in a car, then in a restaurant with friends. Finding the right images for that sort of sequence is really hard with iStock, but easy with Shutterstock’s ‘Same Model’ feature. The story doesn’t work in the same way if each photo is of a different doctor, or a different business woman.

same model


So, here on a search for ‘Businesswoman using technology’ we get the same ‘woman’ in different poses using mobile, iPad and other devices. If we want, we can even show the woman in a casual environment using the different technologies, and in all sorts of other settings. What does this mean? That we can easily use Shutterstock photos in presentations to tell stories. This is absolutely huge for presentation design.

Shutterstock Labs Spectrum

Shutterstock Labs’ Spectrum feature is a really clever way of helping presentation designers to find images that fit into a presentation’s design scheme. On both iStock and Shutterstock it’s easy to search for anything, let’s say a meeting room. But what if you want a certain colour to dominate the image?

On iStock you can filter by color, but in a sense the filter is too precise – it feels like a game of Battleships… You select 6eb342, hit apply, and find that nothing turns up.

Shutterstock’s Spectrum search is a brilliant way of finding images. Type in a search term, slide the colour slider, and see what you can find. Want to show a blue meeting room? No problem. Green business man? They’ve got you covered (no, not an alien).

meeting room

green businessman

Spectrum is a great way of finding appropriate images, and also of uncovering shots that you might not otherwise have found with a standard image search. We’re all bored of the images that come top of searches on iStock by now, right?

Next Steps

So, three strong reasons why we’re going to try sourcing presentation photos from Shutterstock now. Are we missing something? Any other presentation designers made the same leap?

We’ll let you know how we get on.


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