Shutterstock is Paying ‘AI Photographers’ to Promote its Image Generator

Shutterstock AI photographer
An image created by “AI photographer” Tim Tadder with Shuttertock’s generative AI tool.

Shutterstock is paying online influencers and photographers who generate images with artificial intelligence (AI) to promote its image generator.

The photo stock library launched its AI image generator using DALL-E’s technology at the beginning of this year and it appears the company is attempting to attract customers by paying people with large Instagram followers to advertise the AI image generator.

They include commercial photographer Tim Tadder who has enthusiastically embraced AI and recently made a post promoting Shutterstock’s image generation tool. The post is marked with “Paid partnership.”

“As AI increasingly permeates the workflow of every creative soul, I eagerly await the outcome, ever enthralled by the possibilities it unveils,” Tadder writes to his 132,000 followers on Instagram.

Tadder isn’t the only person promoting Shutterstock’s new tool, an AI generative artist named Grace also posted a video where they laud the technology that can “create an image in the style of a photo.” A digital AI fashion page called Fashion Coupids also made a post on Instagram.

Not Everyone is Happy

Shutterstock, which has been a stalwart of the photo industry for a number of years, is seemingly doing what other photo giants such as Adobe are doing and that’s shifting their attention toward AI imagery.

Photographer Jordan Butters left an irate comment beneath Tadder’s promotional post for Shutterstock taking aim at the stock library and the AI industry as a whole.

“So, tired of ripping photographers off with measly royalty rates for stock images, they’ve decided to do away with them completely and let the end user create images that are, essentially, harvested from the bones of everything everyone has uploaded over time. Nice.”

Butters is highlighting the fact that AI image generators rely upon millions of photos taken by real photographers which have been used to build generative AI tools without the photographers ever being asked — or paid.

What is Shutterstock’s AI Image Generator?

The image generator is part of Shutterstock’s Creative Flow suite allowing users to create an image that can be downloaded for a fee.

A single download costs $19, however discounts are added if the user is purchasing multiple images — five images cost $49 for example. There is also a subscription model, for $29 per month the user gets 10 credits ranging up to 350 credits for $169 per month.

Update 7/7: After publication, Shutterstock stressed that its Contributor Fund has “compensated hundreds of thousands of artists for the role thier content IP has played in training Shutterstock’s generative technology.”

Shutterstock also adds that it “allows opt outs” and anticipates future payments to artists.