New Photoshop Plugin Lets You Browse Shutterstock's Enormous Stock Image Collection

Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Adobe introduced Adobe Stock last year, the big selling point was its seamless integration with the company's desktop apps. Now Shutterstock, one of the biggest players in the stock content market, has responded with a Photoshop plugin that provides access to its library of about 100 million images. I've been testing a beta version of the plugin, and though it has a few rough spots, it should be a boon for any Shutterstock customer who uses Photoshop.

Shutterstock Plugin

The plug-in adds an extension panel through which you can search for, download and license Shutterstock images. As with Adobe Stock, you can download watermarked images and preview them in Photoshop documents. Once you've found an image you like, you can purchase a license to remove the watermark. The plug-in also provides access to images that you've licensed through the Shutterstock website.

One of Shutterstock's most useful features is the ability to place images into lightboxes. For example, if you're working on a steampunk design project, you can add images to a "Steampunk" lightbox, and later choose which ones you want to license. Any lightboxes you've set up on the website automatically appear in the extension.

A couple caveats: At present, the plugin works only with Photoshop, not other Adobe apps. And it cannot download vector graphics, even into Photoshop (though you can download JPEG versions of the graphics). A Shutterstock PR rep told me that the company will gauge customer reaction to the Photoshop plugin, "and then we will consider supporting other content formats and plugin options."

Some other rough spots: The plugin doesn't warn you if you accidentally download an image you've already licensed. I'm told that the developers plan to add a tool-tip that will provide a warning. And each time you launch the extension, you have to re-enter your Shutterstock username and password. Again, I'm told that Shutterstock is working to resolve the issue.

Even with the new plugin, Adobe Stock provides better integration with Creative Cloud apps, but Shutterstock has a much larger selection: About 100 million images and 5 million video clips versus about 55 million total assets for Adobe. As with Adobe, Shutterstock offers a variety of pricing plans, but nothing comparable to Adobe's 10-images-per-month plan, which costs $29.99 per month if you commit to a full year. Adobe also lets you purchase individual images for $9.99 each; Shutterstock customers can purchase two images for $29 or five for $49. These prices are for standard licenses, which should cover most design projects. In certain situations — broadcast, film, online video, merchandise for sale, or print runs of 500,000 or more — you'll need a costlier enhanced license.