After inking its OpenAI deal, Shutterstock rolls out a generative AI toolkit to create images based on text prompts


When Shutterstock and OpenAI announced a partnership to help develop OpenAI’s Dall-E 2 artificial intelligence image-generating platform using Shutterstock libraries to train and feed the algorithm, stock photo and media giant also hinted that it would soon bring its own generative AI tools to users. Today, the company has taken the packaging off of that product. Customers of Shutterstock’s Creative Flow online design platform can now create images from text prompts, powered by OpenAI and Dall-E 2.

The key to the feature – which appears to be unbranded as such – is that Shutterstock says the images are “licensing ready” right after they’re taken.

This is important given that one of Shutterstock’s major competitors, Getty Images, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Stability AI – creator of another generative AI service called Stable Diffusion – over the use of its images to enhance its AI. training without permission from Getty or rights holders.

In other words, Shutterstock’s service not only embraces the ability to use AI, rather than the skills of a human photographer, to build the image you want to discover, but it also pits the company against Getty in terms of how it is embracing the brave new world of artificial intelligence.

Stability AI is backed with significant funding, but as of yesterday not as much as OpenAI, which closed a massive $10 billion round and extensive partnership with Microsoft.

In addition to Shutterstock’s work with OpenAI, the company also announced an extensive deal earlier this month with Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp parent Meta, which (similar to OpenAI) will use Shutterstock’s photo and other media libraries (it also has video and music) to build its AI datasets and train its algorithms. You can expect to see more generative AI tools rolled out as a result.

What’s interesting is that while we don’t know the financial terms of those deals with OpenAI, Meta, or another partner, LG, there is a clear commercial endpoint with these services. Shutterstock’s gamble seems to be that it’s worth jumping in and getting involved with these new technologies, and trying to build a business around them, rather than standing by and being cannibalized by those tools .

The big question will be whether what Shutterstock offers will have a clear enough distinction and unique selling point over others offering generative AI tools for image creation. Yes, the licensing is currently an aspect that will be attractive, but in the longer term, if they are all built on the same platform, what will differentiate one from the other? In image libraries, the idea is that one could simply have better selection, better pricing, better discovery, and overall better experience for the paying customer (and for the photographer uploading images). Will those parameters stay the same in the AI ​​world or be wiped out?

To be fair, Shutterstock presents itself as an “ethical” partner here, with promises to pay out to artists whose images have been used to fuel these new services. But again, the question will be whether these payouts come close to what artists and photographers would have received for supplying the images themselves.

“Shutterstock has developed strategic partnerships with key industry players such as OpenAI, Meta and LG AI Research over the past two years to advance their generative AI research efforts, and we are now able to bring uniquely crafted generative AI capabilities to to bring our own customers.” Paul Hennessy, Chief Executive Officer at Shutterstock, said in a statement today. “Our easy-to-use generative platform will change the way people tell their stories – you no longer need to be a design expert or have access to a creative team to create exceptional work. Our tools are built on an ethical approach and a library of assets that represent the diverse world we live in, and we ensure that the artists whose work has contributed to the development of these models are recognized and rewarded.”

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