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Best Stock Photo Sites Review: Getty vs. iStock vs. Shutterstock vs. Fotolia vs…

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Are you looking for a photo to make your brochure or website homepage stand out from your competitors? If so, you will find that looking for royalty-free media on the net brings up an overwhelming number of services to choose from. Depending upon the media you are looking to serve (photos, illustrations, vector art, audio, video) and the usage license you require, the sheer number of stock image companies can be daunting. Let’s face it, all this marketing lingo can also be intimidating. So let’s break it down and help you find the best stock photo provider for your needs.

What are the Best Stock Photo Sites?

We have composed a stock photography company comparison table that highlights the products and services offered by each company and the pros and cons of each. Referencing this table alongside our reviews below will help you to determine which stock photo company best meets your needs. If at any point you get confused by the lingo used in this article, please take a look at the terminology section on the comparison table page.

What is Digital Media?

Digital media is any type of media that is used on computers. The images you see on websites are considered digital media as well as the audio or video tracks.

BigStock Review

#1BigStock logo

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BigStock is an affordable stock image service that specializes in images and illustrations. Their straightforward, inexpensive pricing model paired with a wide range of images to meet most digital marketing needs makes it our pick for the best stock photo site for online use. This is the company we use for our website’s photos most often. Our experience with their customer service department has been top-notch. However, if you are looking for vector images, you will definitely pay more here so you may want to look to another company.

Pros

Cons

  • Pricing is affordable and easy to understand.
  • Images, vector images and illustrations are offered.
  • Live chat help is available.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • No audio or video files available.
  • Vector images can be pricey.

Coupon Code

Ongoing: our readers have access to 5 free credits with promo code SPC6 (if that doesn't work, try DIGIX210). Seasonal: Bigstock is offering 15% off your first month for any subscription. Click here take advantage of these offers!

Read our Full Review of BigStock

Depositphotos Review

#2Depositphotos logo

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Depositphotos is a relatively new company with an affordable pricing structure. Their excellent selection of media is available for one of the lowest per image costs around. That being said, we do not find their current library robust or easily searched, so it may be difficult to find what you are looking for. But, if you can find the right image for you, the price will be good and they have a nice user feedback option so that you can learn more about others’ experiences with a particular artist/photographer before buying or to further guide your image search. They offer images and video, but no audio. They have a good selection at one of the lowest per image costs around, with low resolution photos starting at around $1.

Pros

Cons

  • Images, illustrations, videos and vector images are offered.
  • Images are particularly affordable in comparison to many of the other providers.
  • Regular deals and coupons on specified image sets.
  • The Deposit Photos website is easy to navigate.
  • Users leave feedback on image providers to give a better idea of quality.
  • Multiple languages supported.
  • Audio files are not offered.
  • Advanced search options for images are limited.

Coupon Code

At this time we are unaware of any DepositPhotos coupon codes.

iStock Review

#3Depositphotos logo

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iStock is run by the highly reputable Getty Images. Graphic designers and small advertising agencies find iStock to be a great resource due to their low prices, affordable subscription plan, image variety and versatility.

With millions of pieces for sale, iStock is one of the better choices for those in need of lots of online, royalty-free, low resolution images for websites or e-newsletters. The iStock website can be a bit challenging to users who prefer to browse without a keyword in mind, as it is difficult to just browse without first typing in a keyword. Overall the search function via keywords is easy and intuitive for the reader. This is a good service that offers great images at a good price.

iStock is one of the most commonly utilized online stock image companies these days for graphic designers and small advertising agencies due to their low prices, affordable subscription plan and versatility. With millions of pieces for sale, iStock is one of the better choices for large quantities of online royalty free content, especially if low-resolution is acceptable.

Pros

Cons

  • You can pay-as-you-go versus committing to a bunch of credits.
  • Affordable subscription and credit system.
  • Millions of images on offer.
  • Images, video, audio, illustration and vector files.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • Other stock image services have a better selection for high quality print media.
  • Their website can be buggy and difficult to use at times.

Coupon Code

LIMITED: Until June 30th, 2015: New customers save 15% off an annual or monthly subscription with coupon code BXGPC46N, Save 15% off of 6 or more credits with code 6ISTOCK15 . New customers get 15% off any credit pack with code ISTOCKNEW . Click here take advantage of these offers!

Read our Full Review of iStock

What is the Best stock photo site for Traditional Media?

Traditional media is what you typically think of for media. This is media that is printed in publications, used outdoors or on television.

Getty Images Review

#1Getty Images logo

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Getty Images offers one of the biggest databases of stock media, especially for premium, conceptual, high-resolution images. If you are working in traditional media such as print, TV, billboard or radio, high-resolution creative will be mandatory in designing high impact campaigns and no one offers more exclusively licensed, high-res art than Getty. Getty offers a wide array of royalty free media with over eighty million different high-design, conceptual pieces for sale. It is also a good option for multinational companies and global advertising campaigns as they have websites in many different languages that will help you navigate usage laws across country borders. The website is easy to search and navigate for high-concept imagery, videography and sound.

Pros

Cons

  • The largest library by far and the premium library for finding high-resolution, highly conceptual, artistic print media images.
  • Exclusive image purchase is available if you need a visual that no one else will be able to use. This is important for more traditional media for large companies and brand, especially for print, television and radio advertising.
  • Images, videos, audio and illustrations are on offer.
  • Easy to navigate website.
  • Websites for a number of different countries.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • Offers 35 million pictures for free to use.
  • Media can be expensive. Probably cost prohibitive for digital use unless require exclusive imagery.
  • Pricing varies per photo and not shown unless you sign in and create an account.

Coupon Code

At this time we are unaware of any Getty Images coupon codes.

Corbis Images Review

#2Corbis Images logo

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Corbis is a widely known and well-respected stock image provider the largest database of images available (more than 100 corporate image partners and 30,000 photographers). They came in second place for large format use because they do not offer audio files which makes this site unusable if you need this type of media. But, on the plus side, Corbis has long been a trusted resource for large brands and ad agencies seeking exclusive (offer creative and editorial licenses) and high design images for print and other traditional media such as magazines, billboards, and television commercials. Due to the highly conceptual nature of their selection, they can be quite expensive. However, this company is a good option for those with exclusive image needs. They can work with you to customize a plan specific to your needs.

Pros

Cons

  • A reputable company with a solid history.
  • The largest library with more than 100 corporate partners and 30,000 photographers
  • Images, videos and illustrations.
  • Creative and editorial licenses are available.
  • User submissions are accepted once admitted as a contributor.
  • Can order images on CD.
  • Audio files are not offered.
  • Can be much more expensive than other stock image providers.
  • Website is dark and a bit difficult to navigate.

Coupon Code

At this time we are unaware of any Corbis coupon codes.

ShutterStock Review

#3ShutterStock logo

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Shutterstock is a good resource for high-resolution images, especially for large-format designs (billboards and other print media). They offer a variety of subscription plans to meet various user needs, making its pricing model more flexible than some other high-res photo options. With Shutterstock’s huge library of 28 million images and files, you won’t be disappointed in the selection. While they do offer stock photos, videos, illustrations and vector, they do not have audio files in their database, making this another impediment from a top ranking relative to Getty Images, which has all forms of media in their library.

Pros

Cons

  • Extremely high-resolution images.
  • A variety of subscription plans are available for users.
  • Images, videos, illustrations and vector images are on offer.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • Compared to other similar stock photo services, their fees are particularly high.

Coupon Code

At this time we are unaware of any ShutterStock coupon codes.

Stock Photography Comparison Table

Stock Photography Comparison TableDue to the considerable size of our stock photography service comparison table, we are putting it on another page so that it can be more easily referenced. Please visit our stock photography service comparison table (or click on the image on the left) to view the feature details of each stock photography company that we review in this article. We will do our best to continue to add to this table as we find more stock photo companies, and update the current companies listed as they add new features.

Other Stock Photography Reviews

The other stock photography services we reviewed are listed below. Learn more about what each of these services offer as well as pros and cons.

123RF | Adobe StockAlamy | Can Stock Photo | Dreamstime | Foap | Fotolia | FotoSearch | Photospin | ThinkStock | YAY Images

We have a listing of terminologies that will help you understand some of the technical jargon. It’s located below the comparison table as well as at the bottom of this page.

123RF Review

123RF logoVisit Website

123RF offers one of the most affordable subscription programs, with low resolution photos starting at $1, a great alternative to many of the big stock photo services. They have over thirty-seven million images to offer. They have recently expanded to include video and audio, making 123RF an even better value.

Pros

Cons

  • One of the lowest priced subscription programs.
  • Images, illustrations and vector images are offered.
  • 100% money back guarantee.
  • Easy to navigate website.
  • User submissions accepted.
  • Free images.
  • Less images on offer in their photo gallery than a number of other stock photo services.

Adobe Stock Review

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Adobe Stock recently released their stock photography site with more than 40 million photos, illustrations and vector images available. You can also submit your own images to sell. They do not offer video or audio files so if you’re a multimedia user you’ll have to look elsewhere. Adobe Stock is still in the early stages so we will have to give them more time to see where they fit in our rankings.

Pros

Cons

  • 40 million royalty-free, high-quality photos, illustrations and graphics.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • Able to purchase individual images.
  • No video or audio files.

Alamy Review

Visit WebsiteAlamy logo

Alamy is a stock image provider online specializing in photography, images, video and vector images. Alamy has one of the largest selection of images and, with over 50 million images, they are a good choice for those looking for constantly updated, fresh media. Alamy only sells per image – no subscription plan is available.

Pros

Cons

  • Illustrations, photography, vector images and video are offered.
  • Option to buy individual images.
  • Claims to offer constantly refreshed images.
  • A variety of search methods are provided for searching through stock media.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • Subscription services are not offered.
  • Images can be particularly expensive even when small or low resolution.
  • Audio files are not offered.
  • Not the easiest website to navigate.

Coupon Code

Use code IMAGES20 to receive 20% off all Royalty Free Imagery. Click here take advantage of this offer!

Can Stock Photo Review

Visit WebsiteCan Stock Photo logo

Can Stock Photo adds 25,000 pieces of stock media to their site every day and offers a good value, with low resolution photos starting at $2 and $5 for higher resolution. They do not have audio files and their library is much smaller than many of their competitors but if you can find what you are looking for, this could be a great option. And they have one-click downloading and you can checkout without creating an account for quick and easy purchases.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable pricing for small JPEG images.
  • Easy to download quickly without creating an account.
  • A wide range of international websites are available.
  • Subscription services and individual image purchase offered.
  • Images, videos, illustrations and vector images are all available.
  • Audio files are not available.
  • Far fewer images available in comparison to other stock image services.
  • High definition video footage can be expensive.
  • Support information relies upon a support ticket system making troubleshooting more complicated than competitors.

Dreamstime Review

Dreamstime ReviewVisit Website

Since 2000, Dreamstime has been providing a huge selection of high quality digital images at affordable prices with a goal to connect image takers with buyers. Their community-based site gives more than 6,000,000 registered members access to photos submitted from 157,000+ photographers from around the world. All images are reviewed and approved by experienced editors to ensure the quality control. In addition to photos they have a library of free images, clipart and vectors and have a number of incentives for photographers and users alike. They also offer monthly plans (starting at $39 a month for 5 images) or pay per photo credit packages (starting at $14.99 for 11 credits).

Pros

Cons

  • A member of a number of photo and trade organizations.
  • Referral program for users & incentives for photographers.
  • Large collection of free photos.
  • Resources including customer service phone support.
  • App for contributing photos on the go.
  • Advanced search capabilities.
  • No stock audio.
  • Site is overwhelming to navigate compared to other stock photo sites.
  • Photo costs on the higher end.

Foap Review

Visit WebsiteFoap logo

Foap is a new service that allows anyone the ability to sell photos. This is a photo only site, no vector, no audio, and no video. Users can download the app, take a photo, upload the photo to the Foap market and list it for sale. Before your photo is listed in the marketplace, it must receive an average rating of 2.6 or higher from 5 other users. Photographers earn $5 per sold photo. For users looking to purchase photos, they start at $10 per photo.

Pros

Cons

  • Your purchase benefits creative photographers.
  • Very unique and creative photos.
  • Once you purchase the image, you have complete creative control over the use and editing of the image.
  • Simple, easy and clean website and app for quick search and download.
  • Images only; no video or audio files available.
  • Pricing is on the high-end, given the quality.
  • Limited total number of photos when compared to other sites.

Foap has a unique model in that they are bridging the gap between all the user-generated content that is being produced by people on their smart phones and providing them to others to use for their marketing purposes. It’s a win-win business model and we applaud them for being innovative! Learn more about their business and mission in the video below:

Fotolia Review

Visit WebsiteFotolia logo

Fotolia offers over twenty-three million pieces of media and allows users the option of purchasing through a subscription or credit based system. They are a moderately priced stock image company and also offer purchase options for less frequent users.

Pros

Cons

  • 23 million+ pieces of media is one of the largest libraries among the standard providers.
  • A variety of subscription and credit purchase options.
  • Image, video, illustration and vector images.
  • Easy to navigate website.
  • User submissions are accepted.
  • Dollar Photo Club offering 25 million royalty free images. You can download any high res image and any vector for $1 and downloads never expire.
  • Integrates with Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • A minimum of five credits must be purchased at one time which can be limiting if you do not use stock images a great deal.
  • Audio files are not offered.

Fotosearch Review

Visit WebsiteFotosearch logo

Compared to other services, Fotosearch has a relatively small database of photos with over sixteen million images, videos and audio available. Foto search offers a money back guarantee and have recently made individual images available for purchase. However, pricing for these images is very high, so you may want to look elsewhere.

Pros

Cons

  • Images, videos, illustrations and audio are available.
  • The offer an easy money back guarantee.
  • Immediate customer service is available.
  • 17 years of business.
  • Expensive pricing for individual images.
  • Subscriptions can be particularly expensive in comparison to competing companies.

Photospin Review

Photospin ReviewVisit Website

Since 1996 Photospin has believed that all creatives should have quick access to good content at an affordable price. PhotoSpin’s pricing is based on a subscription model. You pay once for access and then are able to download anywhere from 500-1000 images per month, for a year. Claiming to be the first photo subscription service, Photo Spin has 2 subscription options: Plus starts at $429 a year for up to 500 3600px images and SuperPlus which starts at $649 per month for 500 images at 5100px. The only difference in plans is the quality/size of the photos but each gives you the same access to photos and similar increments of plans (500, 750 or 1000 photos per month) for a yearly subscription.

Pros

Cons

  • Subscription model makes for easy downloading without credits or pay per photo.
  • Low per photo cost (as low as .06 per image).
  • Basic, easy to navigate, clutter free site.
  • Purchase individual photos, illustrations, vectors and fonts
  • High up front cost (versus paying per photo).
  • Requires annual subscription.
  • No audio or video files.
  • Limited search options and resources.

Coupon Code

We Rock Your Web readers can get 10% off PhotoSpin’s annual subscription with the promo code WeRock10.

Thinkstock Review

Visit WebsiteThinkstock logo

Thinkstock (by Getty Images) is a good choice for those looking for photography, vector and illustration (video and audio are not available). This stock photography provider is one of the most expensive services and only offers subscription plans (no single image purchase available).

Pros

Cons

  • Large subscription packages are available.
  • Subscription billing/payment can be made over four or twelve month periods.
  • Images, illustrations and vector images are all offered.
  • Live chat customer help service.
  • Video and audio files are not offered.
  • No individual image purchase is available.
  • Subscription plan only and it is relatively expensive.
  • Users cannot submit their own images.

Yay Images Review

Visit WebsiteYAY Images logo

“Created for and by online people” Yay Images provides unlimited online images for $9.90/month. With more than 5 million images to offer, you can “stream” your image and edit it right in the photo editor. This stock photography site only offers subscriptions; no single image purchases are available. There is no downloading or uploading for YAY Images. (Yay!) Instead, you receive a link that you put wherever you want the image to appear.

Pros

Cons

  • Four different subscription plans based on what your profession is (blogger, marketers etc).
  • Customer support via email and phone.
  • Small, medium, and large size photos.
  • Free Trial available.
  • No video or audio files.
  • Must purchase a subscription plan.
  • More expensive.

Which Stock Photo Company is Right for You?

Finding a stock photography company to suit your needs can be difficult depending upon what you intend to utilize your downloaded media for. Aside from ensuring that you find a company that will fit within your budget, it is also important to find a legitimate company that details licensing requirements for each image or piece of media they provide.

Understand Stock Photography Use Laws

It is important to understand each type of license offered for image or other media use in order to avoid the potential of a legal case being brought against you or your business. Most large stock photography companies have detailed information available on their websites. If a company does not offer this information, it is always prudent to contact them directly to find out about usage regulation. We also recommend familiarizing yourself with the stock photo usage types so you know the difference between royalty-free and rights managed.

Who is your favorite stock photo provider and why?

Our site's mission is to help consumers make more informed purchase decisions. This post contains affiliate links (marked with 'Affiliate' when you hover over them) and we will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through these links. Our website accepts financial compensation to allow us to provide this free service to you, our reader, while eliminating the need to clutter pages with advertisements. Compensation does not influence the rankings of products. More info on our disclosure page.

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About Sadie Cornelius
Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.
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  • Kate Mail

    I learned something today. I would like to share a tool with which one can send large quantities of photos. It is called Binfer. This is also a great photo sharing tool.

  • Paul Harrer

    ImgBundle is also worth mentioning. They sell royalty free stock images with extended license in big, cheap bundles (for only $ 9 per bundle).

    • http://www.asecurelife.com/ Kimberly Kurimski

      Looks like ImgBundle is still fairly new since they only have one bundle available. We will consider adding them once they have more bundles. Thank you for mentioning them to us.

  • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Sadie Cornelius

    That’s a valid question and if you are not seeing anything in the fine print about doing this then I don’t see why not. As long as you can get a refund for the annual subscription pro-rated for what you do not use. I think they probably assume that most people will use the subscription on an ongoing basis and not need to download more than 250 photos per month. Hope that helps and let us know if you have any other questions!

    • relkeel

      Thanks Sadie. I wouldn’t even need to apply for a pro-rated refund as I can pay monthly over twelve months (12 x £99.92). I could just stop the payment going out of my bank account after a few months. iStockPhoto support have told me that once I’ve started the annual contract I can’t pull out of it, but whether they’d actually chase me for breaking the contract if I stopped paying, I don’t know. As I said, can’t see anything about that in the small print but will take another look before making the decision.

  • Jennifer

    What about Newscom? Any tips for them?

    • http://www.asecurelife.com/ Kimberly Kurimski

      Hi Jennifer, we haven’t done any research on Newscom. Perhaps we can consider adding them in our next audit.

  • Michelle

    Save 25% on video footage on Shutterstock when you purchase3/11/13-4/1/13 here and use this coupon code at checkout: VIDEOAFFMAR25

  • We Rock Your Web

    Shop Thinkstock between now and January 31, 2013, and save 30% off all subscriptions or image packs when you enter the coupon code: WCPPC46N

  • We Rock Your Web

    Save 30% on credit packs bought on iStockphoto when you use the coupon code: JANRUSH30 between now and 1/31/13.

  • Guest

    As someone who owns several blogs, and is an aspiring author, stock photography is extremely important to me. Not only that, but good quality photos are also necessary. When I design book covers, I need photos that will catch the eye of readers and look as professional as possible. While there are a number of websites that offer free photos, they aren’t always the best photos.

    I like the idea of companies that allow you to buy what you need rather than signing up for a package in which you might have to purchase several credits. For a lot of people, you might need a photo here and there, but not need a large batch all at once. That’s why I find it extremely important to seek out companies that offer photos ala cart rather than being stuck with credits I may never use.

    Something I noticed while searching this resource was that some companies limit use of the photos to online. While that will meet most of my needs, should a book become available in paperback, that could mean having to create a new book cover. I will certainly be paying closer attention to the details when searching for photos.

  • Guest

    Stock photos are a great way to not only drive traffic to your site, but keep it there as well. If you are really organized, you can even pick photos that will keep traffic on your site just based on their colors. But you really do have to be careful. You don’t want to use images that are just out there and allow you to copy and paste or save them. That is a great way to pave the path to the courthouse. Do you really want to get sued just because you put an image on your site? I know I do not want to. I would rather just get it from a stock image site and use their guidelines. That way I know I don’t have anything to worry about as far a using images in the wrong way or something.

    I did not know so many stock image sites existed I have been using iStock for a while now, but was wanting to check into some other stock image sites. But it’s hard to look when you don’t know their names. This article is going to help me out a great deal. It has all of the information I need to I can increase my list of options for great photos for my site. Thanks for taking the time to put this information together!

  • Guest

    These are some great resources for stock images. I think more people should look into these sites. For some reason, people on the Internet do not take privacy and copyright laws as seriously as they should. I know that some bloggers and such just use whatever images they can find and post them on their blog. They do not realize how much this could cost them if they get caught. It can be quite expensive. In fact, a friend of mine just got sued over it. She used an image and did not attribute it properly.

    One thing I like about these sites is that they give you clear direction on how you can use the image, but they also give you clear directions on how to do the attribution. Personally, even if I do not have to, I always link to the source on my own blog. I think that you should get credit for what you do, especially on the Internet where you get more exposure than you do just about anywhere else. At any rate thanks for another great list of resources.

  • guest

    When I first started working online, I got a crash course in the fact that in some ways, people never really do grow up. Remember as a kid how you always wanted to read the book with the pictures in it? I don’t know about you, but I still like pictures with my reading. I mean, I’ve gone beyond Dr. Seuss and all, but I frequently look at the book cover I am reading or if I am reading to one of my kids I enjoy looking at the pictures with them. And when it comes to the Internet, I do find articles more appealing if they have great pictures. More importantly, so does the rest of the world.

    For a while, I used my own images to go with my work. I used pictures of my family and my home, but not anything revealing enough to compromise my privacy or the privacy of my family. Then I got a stalker and everything I had on the Internet freaked me out. That’s when I decided to go with stock photos. I still do not think I put anything out there that was not safe to put out there but it hit me that I might on accident. No thanks, I’ll just use one of these stock photos companies here from now on.

  • Guest

    Getty Images is the stock photo site I have heard the most about. I know that quite a few websites have used Getty Images to compliment their text, but I myself have never used them. I somehow got aimed in the direction of iStock and Big Stock. Each of these sites have their own good qualities and each have ones that people are not so happy about. For me, it is pretty simple because I never pay for anything based only on where it came from. I don’t shop at any stores based just on the name of the store and I don’t treat the Internet any different than that. If I can find what I need when I need it and I know that people have had good experiences dealing with them, I am happy to give a new site a chance.

    That is one reason that I like articles like these. It is easy to get stuck in a rut and go to the same sites just out of habit. I like hearing about new sites that are developing so I can give them a chance. I am a small business owner, so I know what it is like to need just a minute to get on solid ground. Now I am going to go check out some of the newer sites listed here.

  • guest

    As an indie author, I design my own book covers, which requires stock photography that can be purchased for such purposes. For my first book cover design, I actually used a photo from stock.xchng and loved the results. However, the company doesn’t offer enough images that fit my genre of writing. This means I have considered using other companies and iStock was my first pick.

    After reading your article, I see that there are many more options to choose from. Some companies I had never heard of, but I was glad that they had so much to offer. The world of independent publishing is growing and you can already find some authors using the same images to create their book covers, which makes it hard to stand out. I think having several companies to choose from is key so that I can create a cover that not only fits my genre, but allows me to be unique as well.

    I will definitely be looking into these companies as I begin work on future book covers. While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, many people do, and in the world of independent publishing, you have to do what you can to catch the reader’s eye.

  • guest

    This was a very interesting article. I am looking to branch out and need more places as resources for my photos. istock has some great photos, but they are a bit more expensive than I am looking for to start with. I like the idea of Deposit Photos because they only have photos on there. I don’t use anything else, so for me, a company that places focus only on photos might just be the best thing, at least until I branch out again and start using audio and video files along with the photos. Of course, the free trial on Deposit Photos does not exactly have me running away either.

    Sites like these are the ones that can make or break these companies. You can learn about the good and the bad or at least compare companies when you do not know which one you should go with. For me at least, this is a real time saver. I like the fact that you present the facts, but you also add your own commentary so that people can learn from your experience. Now, I have to go check and see if Deposit Photos is too hard to search.

  • guest

    When I scrolled this article I was a little disheartened. I am trying to find a source for my photo needs, but I had no idea there were so many to choose from. I really did breathe a sigh of relief when I saw the table that compares them all. Things like that make my decisions so much easier to make!

    I recently started building websites for a friend of mine. When I do my own sites, i use my own images. But since he is in a completely different business from me, I did not have any images that would work on his site. I know this is not the last time I will need something like this since my business is growing, so I wanted to make sure I found a site worth using. If it was just me, I would only use photos. But he wants vector images and another potential client has started talking about using audio files on his site. So for me, this was a great resource since these are not areas I usually work with.

    I haven’t made a choice yet, but I wanted to say thanks for putting this together. At least now I have something to go off of.

  • Guest

    When I am looking for a particular service, I try to make sure I go to a place that specializes in the service I am looking for. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you don’t shop for seafood at a steakhouse because they don’t specialize in seafood. They specialize in steak. I think the same method applies when it comes to things like stock photos because you generally only buy photos if you are using them to promote some business that you have. If this wasn’t the case, you probably wouldn’t be shopping for photos at all.

    With that being said, I know I don’t want to buy photos from a place that offers videos, audio files and so forth. I think if a company offers all of that, then they aren’t taking the time to focus on on quality service. What tends to happen with companies that try to offer so much is that they start focusing on the number of people they can serve rather than the quality of service they can offer. As for me, I think I will probably stick with companies that focus on offering images at an affordable price. I don’t need anything else, so why pay for it?

  • Guest

    All I need from companies like these is plain old photos. I don’t do anything with videos or audio files. I don’t even want vector images. I just need some decent photos for some of the projects I work with.

    Sometimes I think that some of these companies just get greedy and start putting everything on their sites. Instead of concentrating on creating the best image site on the Internet, they want to be the mediocre file sharing site or something. That’s when the quality of the site starts to decline and the price for using the material on the site starts to go up.

    Personally, I prefer to use my own photos when I can, but sometimes this just isn’t possible. And to be fair, I’m not as skilled in photography as I would like to be and I don’t want to use poor photos on my projects because a bad photo can reflect on the project as a whole. I prefer to keep a good name in my business and stick with professional images as needed.

    I’ve never heard of some of these sites, but now I am kind of anxious to try them. I like the way you listed them and included customer service as part of the qualifying data. I don’t know what’s going on with the world today, but customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Remember back in the day when people actually tried to be good at their jobs and treated the customer like they meant something? I’m glad to know that there are at least one or two companies who still believe that!

  • guest

    I prefer to use my own images as much as I can. It’s not that I take great photos or anything. I simply hate the idea of spending money to use someone else’s photos. Although, since the Internet is so photo driven, it’s often worth it to go the extra mile and just pay for a decent image.

    I’ve used Getty images before and iStock, but never any of the others. iStock is probably my favorite and not just because they have great images. They make the search very easy. I can usually find what I’m looking for right off the bat. If I can’t find it, it’s usually because I need to adjust my search term and not because of anything iStock did.

    I’d like to take one photography class and get to know more about taking specific pics. For instance, I can’t take pics on white and them come out looking like professional photos, nor can I take some of the great photos they have with the sun in them. I’d be interested in doing things like that and learning how to make money from the image websites like this.

  • Guest

    I have limited experience to speak through, but so far I’ve found iStock to have the best quality photos. I love how easy it is to search for and find the photos I need. I haven’t tried many of the others though. As far as sites that offer more than photos, I have no opinion. I don’t use videos or audio files, so those don’t matter much to me. I do use a lot of photos though.

    I hate spending money, so I prefer to use the creative commons section of Flickr if I can. If I have to pay for photos, I like going to iStock because of the ease of use. If I’m going to be using my photos as part of my job, I don’t want to spend all day looking for what I need. I want to get what I need and get on with my day. iStock makes it relatively easy to do that.

    I do love the comparison model here though. I’ll be saving this for a resource later on when I need to search for photos. Maybe I’ll find one as good as iStock.

  • Stephen

    That’s a really good list! I’m also searching for a stock photo agency to provide me with high-quality images at convenient price for my blog without any copyright issue. I also found YAYimages.com with an interesting streaming tool that’s like Spotify for images. Did anyone use it?

    • Kimberly

      Thanks Stephen! We’ve reviewed YAY images here and hopefully one of our readers can comment and let you know a little more about YAY and the features they have. If you have any specific questions about them please let me know!

      -Kimberly

  • jenie

    Thanks for sharing really I like it.

    • Kimberly

      Hey Jenie! Glad you enjoyed the article so much! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      -Kimberly

  • Max

    This is a good list for someone who’s searching for a stock photo agency but it would be great if you can add more alternatives. Yayimages.com for example has a photo streaming feature which I think it’s unique in this field. Also it’s a good place to search for images suited for blogs.

    • Kimberly

      Hi Max, thanks for reading and commenting. We compiled this list of stock photography sites because they are some of the most popular so I wouldn’t say it’s outdated because we are continuously updating it. People are constantly searching for reviews on these companies and each person is looking for something different when they are searching for a stock photography site so we made this large comparison article to help our readers out. We can definitely add Yayimages.com to our next addition to this article. If there are any other sites you’d like to see added please let us know. We always listen to our readers and do our best to provide them with the information they are seeking. And thank you for suggesting Yayimages.com to us.

      -Kimberly

  • Michelle

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  • Illiad

    Having tried the 3 of them (istock = getty), I can tell you that by far the best one is Fotolia. I don’t do microstock anymore because it’s a swindle for photographers.

    The good: Fotolia: consideration for contributors, good customer service, fair selection, respect of privacy policy and they sold my pictures regularly.

    The leader: i-stock/getty: super famous, super arrogant, no respect for users, you are just another number. They have a captive audience with flickr. It’s the Walmart of stock. If you have right-managed pictures on Getty not sold after one year, they automatically transform it in royalty free cheap pictures + Getty wants exclusivity. No info about privacy policy.

    The bad and ugly: shutterstock: Total violation of privacy policy (in complete contradiction with their own policy). They really scorn your individual rights. Complete arrogance from the top (jon oringer) to the bottom, awful customer service, shameful reviewing practices and they will sell nothing for you or at such a low price, you’d better quit. That is if you can since they trick you with the data you submit to them. To avoid at all cost. You are a pigeon for them to be plucked.

  • Disappointed

    Depositphotos no longer offers a trial program. It would be nice if all the reviews praising the company for it were updated to remove the canceled positives.

    • Michelle

      Hello and thank you so much for this important info. We have updated the article to reflect this change and are currently working on an update for the article in general for 2013 which we hope to have released in the coming month so stay tuned. Thanks again for your support and feedback – it helps us stay up-to-date on what is going on in the constantly evolving world of tech!

  • Anonymous Author

    One thing that many overlook in their assessment! 123RF is mentioned in your article as one of the cheapest sites. Have you read the Terms and Conditions?? They do NOT allow for standard license images to be used for ebook covers! You need an electronic extended license for that – costing around $50, and making it one of THE most expensive stock sites for authors to use. Check on this please.

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  • eigentor

    iStockphotos prices have gotten totally out of hand. At my last visit I did not manage to find an image cheaper than 6.25 Euros for the smallest resolution. That is around a 300% raise in one year.

    Images that are a bit special (or are believed to be) start at 70 Euros. I am getting the feeling Getty is trying to either kill that site off and drive everybody to Gettys own site.

    This is ridiculous.

  • bigstock fan

    I’ve got to put my vote in the Bigstockphoto basket. I used to love iStockphoto the best, but they’re pricing has grown to be not only outrageous, but very confusing. There are so many different price levels for images that the least expensive rate they advertise is almost impossible to get anymore. False advertising in my book. Whereas on Bigstock you an actually get the lowest price for just about any photo.

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  • Annette Gisby

    Different sites seem to have different terms and conditions, so it can be a bit confusing what you can use the covers for.

    I’d like each site to have somewhere that yes you can use their images for book covers (including erotica and romance for example) or no you can’t. Some allow book covers, but not for erotica – even though the picture might have been a scantily clad woman or man 😉

    But erotic books do have covers, so they must get the photos from somewhere :)

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  • a web rocker

    I just had the most asinine experience with Big Stock photo. They say that you don’t have to re-purchase an image, you can simply re-download it. That’s true, but only if you visit the Downloaded Images section in your profile. If you simply add the same image to your shopping cart and download it, they will charge you twice. It doesn’t even matter how much time has elapsed in between purchases, I accidentally bought the same picture twice within about 15 min of each other.

    Is this a criterion that you could add to your comparison table?

    • We Rock Your Web

      We went ahead and got in touch with a support rep a Bigstock. He said that the only way to re-download an image is via your downloaded images page. He did say that if you point out a duplicate purchase on that page, they could issue a one-time refund. You might want to try that.

  • Anonymous

    Pretty much everyone uses stock photography these days, but it is super important that you use it with the correct permissions and publication rights. I cannot even begin to tell you what a hassle it would be if you did not do that, but it happened to someone I work with who used photos without proper rights and permissions and the whole affair ended with fines and a legal mess, to say the least. Considering that, stock photography is also a good deal because legally purchasing and using good-quality photos is actually not that expensive and you know you are paying the hard-working photographer who brought you the shot in the first place. I have used many of the stock photo sites for digital media that are listed here, and I still like ShutterStock and iStockPhoto despite what are listed as the cons in this article. I have overall found very many high-quality photos from those sites and used them in all kinds of promotions. They are pretty good at explaining exactly what the terms of use are for each photo, as well. After reading this, I will start looking at BigStock more too, though.

  • Nancy

    Hi, Thanks for the article. When you update your chart, please list which services offer Creative Common licenses. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    I have to be honest, when I first got into stock photos, I was only interested in the free stuff. I’m a cheapo. what can I say? However, as time went on, I eventually started to realize, when you pay just a little bit more money, you’ll find that the photos you can have access to are much better for your needs. The free sites do have great photos, but many times, you can have issues finding just the right photo to make your point.

    Like one of the sites I go on that’s free is owned by one of the paid sites, and when you do a search for an image, of course they show paid versions of what you’re looking for. And at first, I really resented this and was annoyed by it, but over time, I came to realize how much better the paid pictures were, and that they really weren’t that unaffordable. Right now I use a combination of free and paid options. I also came to realize that an artist earns money from his or her craft when I pay, so that makes me feel better too.

  • Anonymous

    Reading the part about how Bigstock is not a good source for vector photography due to the pricing being a bit higher than other sources made me realize that you must generally use several different resources if you aim to maximize your dollar when it comes to purchasing stock imagery. Different uses require different strengths from each source. Some can do it all and have all the imagery you may need, but you may have to pay extra for the convenience of using one site only.

    As with anything it is best to use several of the sources and learn what is the best combination for you. Different projects will require different strengths and all the while you want to make sure that you are getting the best customer service experience that you possibly can for your money.

    I appreciate this article and how it breaks down the strengths and weaknesses of each site. I look forward to using this knowledge to build upon my own. At the very least, I know that I can save some time using trial and error.

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  • Anonymous

    I have worked in a few positions where I have needed different stock photos for a various amount of reasons. Most of all, I have needed imagery to fit with some kind of marketing campaign that my company has embarked on and we are looking for certain things that fit with the message we want to send. This can be more of an art form than a science as I have an image in my mind that I want to find but I do not always know exactly what that is until I see it.

    From my experience with stock photo websites, it is best to sample several of them at once to see which produce the best results. Eventually you will whittle the list down to a few websites that you can go to find what you are looking for. You will also identify which of them are best for what specific kinds of images you are looking for.

    The point is, do not limit yourself to one or even two of the stock photo websites on a regular basis. Try them all! Stock Photo Websites Work Best Together

  • Anonymous

    I can only imagine how hard it was compile this article. I can’t imagine comparing all of the stock photography sites to determine which one was the best and why.

    Just the sites alone are so overwhelming, with so many images to take in and so many categories. You can easily spend several hours choosing images for your needs or even just trying to figure out how the site works if you’re new to it.

    I think that happened for me several times, since I chose to use several different stock photography sites. I also like that you covered some sites in this article that I had never heard of. It gives me options for when I can’t find the right image for my needs. This does happen sometimes, I have to admit, this is why I use multiple sites because sometimes you just can’t find the right fit and I really hate paying for something that just doesn’t feel like the right fit. I appreciate that you wrote this article with the professional in mind letting us know which sites were good for digital media and which sites were good for print.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great synopsis of the strengths and weaknesses of the different stock photo websites out on the internet these days. I have been responsible for putting together marketing materials in the past for my company and I like to use a vast array of different stock photography that ensures people are not seeing the same photos again and again, even if I want the images to depict the same message or feeling.

    I of course have my go-to sites that I tend to find a better selection that fits my style and usage needs, but it is also always good to branch out and use others that could potentially offer some variety in their offering. Eventually, you will find a good rotation of three to five sites that you go back to again and agai to find what you need.

    This list is a great starter for anybody who is looking for good, reputable stock photography sites, but you really should go out and look for yourself also. Everybody has different needs when it comes to this stuff and a good mix takes time.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for comparing these sites. I’m surprised that BigStock took the prize, not because I have heard they are a bad company or anything, I just never used them before. Like I’ve looked into Getty and used iStock from time to time, but always thought of BigStock as just a copy of the bigger sites, so I’ve never actually visited them before.

    I really like how you always give an impartial evaluation and let us know right out that vector images are pricier here, despite their first place prize. This is invaluable information to me and keeps me from wasting time that I need to use for working.

    As a web designer, these reviews always save me a lot of time. Finding stock photos for my design projects is time consuming enough, to have to visit site after site to compare pricing and catalog offerings is so frustrating, and you probably still won’t make the best choice.

    I was also surprised to know that DepositPhotos took 2nd place. I haven’t even heard of that company until now. Since they are new, this is probably why. That free trial is worth looking into though. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Maybe you have already heard a little about some of the more popular stock photography sites online? These are places like Getty Images, iStock, ShutterStock and Fotolia, among many, many others. These are sites which will basically sell you all kinds of photos, images, art and even audio and video clips, which can then be used on a royalty free basis.

    These are great places for all types of design professionals who are building web sites, designing graphics, writing books and even just average folks who are interested in finding some nice photos, graphics and images. Of course, each site will specify their exact terms and conditions and license requirements. However, the main benefit is that you can be sure to be legally protected.

    Many people in the past have simply gone to a search engine, found some photos they liked and grabbed them. This is not only not cool, it is also illegal. And when the rights owner finds out about it, they could present you with a bill…or take you to court.

    This article has tons of helpful reviews about the best stock photo sites.

  • Anonymous

    One of the most interesting trends online in the recent past is the rise of stock photo sites. These are places where anyone can go and search for almost any type of photo or image. In many cases these sites even have line drawings and (on occasion) vector art. Whatever you are looking for, it can be found at one of these places.

    IStock photo is just such a site. In fact, it is one of the best in the field. Run by Getty images, the selection is incredible. You will find thousands of different images available here. According to the author (and I think the contention is correct), what really separates iStock photos from the competition is their high quality. I guess this should really come as no surprise once you realize that the site is run by Getty images, one of the premier photo conglomerates in the world. You will be able to buy high quality stock photography in a variety of resolutions and image formats at very reasonable prices. There are terms and conditions, but anyone can find the images they are looking for here.

  • Anonymous

    One of the most common questions that people have about using a site like iStock photo is why. This is a legitimate question, considering how many people just search on Google images and rip off whatever they feel like. The problem is that taking random images off the net can land you in a lot of hot water. This is even truer if you intend to use the photos for commercial purposes (such as adding them to an ebook or a website). Sooner or later, you will be caught.

    On the other hand, using iStock photo means that you are doing things properly. You can buy the photos according to the rules and regulations. This will enable you to potentially use these photos in any way you wish (once again, make sure that you follow the licensing rules of the site).

    As the author correctly points out, there are a number of additional benefits to signing up with iStock photo. For one thing, you can get up to 20 free photos or images. Also, many times you can find a coupon or promotional code to give extra discounts or free items.

  • Anonymous

    Many people do a lot of their work online today. This is especially true for those in the design and writing professions. Whether you are working on building a website for yourself, a new client or even just interested in learning more, having the proper images and photos are essential. The same thing is true for writers. Even the average web user seems to have a fascination with finding the right images and photos.

    The problem is that it is not OK to just take an image from a website. These are usually copyrighted and doing so can land you in a lot of trouble. This is where online stock photo sites come in. These services have millions of images for sale at affordable prices. The best part is that by using their services, you are also actually purchasing the rights, so you avoid any legal trouble.

    This article provides an excellent overview of some of the top online stock sites. They have grouped them into categories, such as best site for digital media (websites) and best sites for print media images. They even include individual reviews and promo codes.

  • Anonymous

    The best thing about this article from my perspective was that there were so many different categories. I loved being able to see such a top 3 list for print media stock photos and images. That was probably my personal favorite, since it seems many sites have seriously neglected this category. I also felt like their ratings in this particular category were right on the money. After all, who could argue with giving the top rating to Getty Images, a world renowned company in their own right?

    There are also names on this list which you do not see much written about. A good example of this is the second place finisher, Corbis. Many of us in the print media sphere are WELL aware of Corbis, since they are also a leader in large format images with something like 10 million different pieces of art available.

    Another great section of this article was the snapshots of each site or company. All of this data, taken together can certainly help someone really find exactly the best stock photo site for them. Take a quick look at some of the lists and categories. Then, maybe examine one or two of the company snapshots.

  • Anonymous

    This is an excellent and unbiased article which evaluates internet sites that provide royalty free media such as stock photography, illustrations, vector art and more. These sites actually allow you to purchase rights to use these items in a certain fashion. Of course, the prices and limits on use will vary according to the site and the purpose you intend for their use. To be honest, the best site will really depend on a number of factors, the first of which is you and your specific needs.

    The basic question becomes what types of images or media are you looking for. According to the article, if you want some nice high quality stock photography, then you may require a different site than someone who is looking only for vector artwork. Additionally, this should all be balanced with the ultimate purpose of the images you want. If you intend to simply use them as posts on your blog that is one thing. However, if you want to make them into a cover for your new book (which will be sold), then you may need a different site which will allow a commercial use license.

  • Anonymous

    If you have recently done a search online looking for the best stock photography site, then you definitely know that there are many different places and sites to choose from. They have a great many features, services and generally offer pretty good selection of images and artwork. All of this begs the question as to which one is the best. This article seeks to provide clarity to this question.

    I really enjoyed the fact that the author came across as unbiased and actually seemed to have solid understanding of the subject. Too many of these articles or reviews are really just thinly disguised promotional pieces for the companies involved. This one actually provided some excellent information. Anyone who is looking to pick a stock photo site would do well to read this article and look at the profiles of the various companies described.

    The reference table is a great way to examine the various pros and cons of each stock photography site. Additionally, using the table in combination with the reviews really shows you where each site or company is strong and where they may need some improvement. It is a great reference to help make an informed decision.

  • Anonymous

    This article gives a very detailed overview of exactly which digital media and image sites are the best of the best. Not only that, but the author also breaks all of this down for you so that it is easy to see which ones will fill your specific needs. As an example of this, the first category list is the best stock photo sites for digital media (websites).

    This is probably the most popular category, so I think it is nice that this was listed first. Personally, whenever I have been interested in purchasing images for one of my sites, I went to one of the top three. What these sites all seem to have in common is either a huge selection of images or an excellent pricing structure. The list also makes it clear that in many cases getting exactly what you want is a bit of a balancing act. You may be able to find a site with a huge number of images to choose from. However, they may not have the best pricing structure out there. Then again, finding a site with cheap prices is possible, but they may not have the selection you are looking for.

  • Anonymous

    Possibly you found this article because you are searching for some photos? This is an industry full of possibilities. However, as the article correctly points out, in many cases it can be difficult and confusing to pick the right place for your needs. After all, each site offers photos and even a variety of images, but they also all have different prices and pricing structures, some have vector art and some have large images suitable for magazine or other advertising. Also, in many cases the types of uses and license or rights offered differ from site to site. All of this can lead to a lot of confusion and uncertainty when deciding on the right site for you.

    This article is quite helpful. There are various categories listed with ratings. This way if you are only interested in finding a site for vector art, you can simply glance at these ratings. Actually, these category ratings are very cool. Another great feature is the glossary. This can help to get you up to speed with the various terms and types of jargon used in this industry, and really start learning how things work.

  • Anonymous

    While I am not a professional photographer, it is a hobby of mine. During the time that I have been reading, studying and actually taking pictures, I have learned a few tricks of the trade. Keeping the following tips in mind will certainly help you to take better and higher quality photographs to resell and make some extra cash with stock photo companies like iStock and BigStock!

    Portraits

    When working with a portrait, do not be afraid to approach your subject as close as you can. Distant figures work poorly in digital photos. If you have an aperture priority mode on your camera, you can make the portrait even more ideal by taking a minute to switch to a large f/stop: this is a throwback to film cameras, but it is essentially the same as zooming your camera in, so zoom to take a shortcut. Use optical zoom only, not digital zoom. If the computer unit in your camera has to zoom for you, it will create a low-quality image. The lens itself can zoom accurately.

    Landscapes

    When taking a landscape photo, pull back on any zoom functions as much as you can. Use as a high-megapixel camera if you can, and do not be afraid to switch to a panoramic mode, especially when combined with white balance control. For more normal shots of scenes, figures, and streets, experiment with several different angles before you finally snap the photo. This will encourage you to see the picture different ways and find the most effective way of displaying your target.

    ISO

    ISO is a basic measurement allowing you to change how sensitive the image sensor is to light. This is another approximation to the traditional ISO setting found on film cameras, but it can still help you plan shots well. If you are in a low-light setting (but do not want to use the flash) then you can turn up the ISO for a better image. If you are at a sporting event and want to avoid recording only blurs, then you can turn up the ISO into order to shorten the amount of time the camera captures data and keep the image fresh.

    Pick a Good Camera

    All the skills in the world will not help you if you have a poor-quality camera. Choose a DSLR camera with a choice of lenses whenever possible. The Canon EOS Rebel T3i is an ideal example, but will hardly fit inside your pocket. The Canon Powershot S95 is a more travel-friendly option. However, do a little research on your own and find how which cameras professional photographers (or at least those on a budget) are leaning toward.

    The above tips and information really only begins to scratch the surface of this topic. Learning how to take great pictures is a lifelong journey. This is full of fun and excitement. This is also a hobby that can lead to a number of other opportunities. I have even gotten gigs which allowed me to take free vacations and engage in a number of other interests.

  • not rockin

    What getty images? jesus $300 for an image of honey that I can use for up to a year? What are you talking about man, you are so high! Holy christ!

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  • a web rocker

    Are there any image download sites that have free photos? I have been looking but am so scared of all the regulations and don’t want to get sued or spend very much money.

    • Michelle

      Stock.XCHNG is a site where all images are offered 100% free but they have restricted rights licenses so read the fine print very carefully to make sure these free images are actually free photos for the way you wish to use them (especially since you are worried about being sued – read closely). It’s a great stock image website option if it works for your needs.

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  • Paul Friar

    Dreamstime is also a very good website worth mentioning to your visitors. This is a site where you can earn a commission for referring others as well. Perhaps you might consider adding it to your list? I do use it whenever I need graphics for my projects. Although I would have to acknowledge that Getty is the most respected name of all.

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  • a web rocker

    Getty has the most beautiful images but they are pretty expensive. Nice to see so many other options. I also have used Jupiter… are they still around? Would love to see them added into the mix as well. In the meantime, I am going to go check out iStock, thanks for the coupon code. Great!

    • Anonymous

      This is great but if you cannot find the best image for your project, the price does not matter. So, I always start with iStock to find unique, high-quality images and then look elsewhere if I cannot find what I need.

    • Anonymous

      Sometimes it is just as important or more important to look at quality vs. price to find the best image to be used for your project, particularly within the design community. AS a graphic designer at a big ad agency, I find Getty or iStock to be the best for me and my clients.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the advise. I have had a lot of luck on Big Stock Photo as well when looking for images for my lamp store’s email newsletter. Great variety and a really wonderful price. They just cannot be beat for my needs.