Best Stock Photo Sites: Getty vs. iStock vs. Shutterstock vs. Bigstock vs Adobe Stock & More

To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.

Traditional Media
BigStock logo
Depositphotos logo
123RF logo
iStock logo
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Royalty-free (or stock-free) media is an affordable way to get high-quality, professional photos or videos without a big budget for a shoot. Compelling images make your marketing and business stand out from your competitors.

There are dozens of stock photo sites to choose from, but all have slightly different pricing and features. The best stock media website for you depends upon the type of media you are seeking (photos, illustrations, vector art, audio or video) and the type of license you require (where you plan to use it: print, digital, commercial, etc.).

Article Overview

Everything You Need To Know About Stock Photos

Before getting started, you’ll want to know the basics of stock photography, so you’re purchasing the right type of media and licensing for your project. We’ll also cover the two options you have when downloading media.

Types Of Media

Stock sites offer several types of media, depending on what you need.

  • Photos: Companies that offer photography for use on websites, print or other purposes. These include photos that are taken by others for resale or reuse by others.
  • Illustrations (or Vector Images): Illustrations are images that are computer generated or artist-drawn rather than photographed. Illustrations can cost more than regular photographs due to the amount of work that goes into creating them. Vector images are generally utilized for printed projects because you can resize them without distortion. These images are costly to use but often the best choice for printed media or promotional use.
  • Video: Not all stock photography companies offer video clips as part of their services. However, the idea is becoming increasingly popular. Video clips can vary in size and quality and generally cost the most of all media forms available on stock photo websites.
  • Audio: As with video clips, audio clips are not available on all stock photo websites. Unlike video clips, audio needs are often particular to the intended use, which is why some of the stock photo providers are not pursuing it.

Types Of Usage

It’s critical to understand the license type offered for each media to avoid the potential of a legal case 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 recommend you familiarize yourself with the most common stock photo usage types:

  • Public Domain: Free to use without a license for commercial or personal use
  • Royalty-Free: A copyright license to use a photo or illustration without restrictions after paying a one-time fee (in some cases, royalty-free photos can be free).
  • Rights-Managed: A copyright license to purchase a photo for a specific, one-time use. You will need to but additional licenses if you intend to use it for multiple applications (can be exclusive, meaning no one else can use the photo).
  • Creative License: Photos that will be used for selling things. Usually, these photos are staged by a photographer, art director and often time involve people or talent.
  • Editorial License: A photo that may be used for anything non-commercial like a blog post or presentation.
  • Media Usage Licenses: What a particular photo may or may not be used for (see creative licenses or editorial licenses).

Credits vs. Subscription Plan

Most companies allow two different ways to pay for your media.

Subscription Services allow users to pay a set fee per month or year to receive a designated number of credits, daily downloads or a total number of downloads. Subscription services are generally the best route to go for big companies, advertising agencies, designers or other individuals looking to download large amounts of content.

Note that different companies offer different download options (# of images per week, month, etc.), which you should consider along with the needs of the purchaser.

Many stock photo sites also give you the option to buy credits to purchase a set number of images instead. Depending on the type of photo and license, it will vary. The price per image usually goes down the more credits you get. Also, note the expiration date when you purchase the credits to ensure you will be using the credits in time.

Best Stock Photography Sites For Digital Media

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

Digital media files do not need to be as high-resolution since they will be optimized for the web. You might find yourself needing a lot more digital media files to use throughout your site. In this case, a subscription plan might be best.

Here are our top picks for the best digital media sites. We based our rankings on the following:

  • Price and value
  • Size of inventory
  • Customer service and reputation
  • Searchability

Bigstock Review


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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 the go-to location for the best stock photos for online use.

Our experience with their customer service department has been top-notch. However, if you are looking for vector images, you will likely pay more here.



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


  • Image credits start at $35 for 10 images (up to $495 for 500 images).
  • Subscriptions start at $79 per month for 5 images per day and go up depending on the number of photos and how frequently you download.

Coupon Code

Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from BigStock.

Read Our Full Review of Bigstock

Depositphotos Review


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Depositphotos has an affordable pricing structure. Their excellent selection of media is available for one of the lowest per-image costs around.

However, we don’t find their current library robust or easy to search, so it may be challenging to find what you’re seeking. But, if you can find the ideal image, the price will be lower than most other sites. They also have a helpful user-feedback option that allows you to learn more about others’ experiences with a particular artist/photographer before buying. This feature can also guide your image search further.

They offer images and video but no audio. They have a good selection at very competitive prices.



  • Images, illustrations, videos and vector images
  • Images are affordable compared to many 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 you a better idea of the quality
  • Multiple languages supported
  • Phone and live chat support
  • Unused downloads transfer to the next month
  • No audio files 
  • Limited advanced search options for images


  • Subscriptions start at $29/month for 30 photos ($0.96 per image) or $299/year (30 photos a month)
  • On-demand images start at $4.90 per image (10 images for $49)

Coupon Code

Get 10% off Depositphotos subscriptions with coupon code OS0290048 via our link.

Read Our Full Review of Depositphotos

iStock Review


Visit Website

iStock is run by the highly reputable Getty Images (our #1 pick for traditional stock photography, see below). Graphic designers and small advertising agencies find iStock to be a great resource due to their fair prices for the quality, affordable subscription plan, image variety and versatility.

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 for users who prefer to browse without a keyword in mind.

Overall the search function via keywords is easy and intuitive for the reader. This is a good service that offers great images at a reasonable 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 ideal for those who need large quantities of online royalty-free content, especially if low-resolution is acceptable.



  • You can pay-as-you-go or duration (images per month)
  • Affordable subscription and credit system
  • Millions of images
  • Images, vector images, videos and illustrations
  • User submissions are accepted
  • Rollover unused credits
  • Broad 4K offering at competitive prices
  • Other stock image services have a better selection for high-quality print media
  • Their website can be buggy and difficult to use at times
  • No audio files


  • Starts at $12 for 1 image/credit
  • Subscriptions start at $40/month for 10 “Essentials” (low cost) images

Coupon Code

Until December 31, 2019: Save 15% on ANY new subscription with coupon code ANNUAL15 Click here to take advantage of this offer!

Read Our Full Review of iStock

Best Stock Photography Sites For Traditional Media

Traditional media is media that is printed in publications, used outdoors or on television. You see them every day, from magazine ads to TV commercials.

You must purchase or have the rights to anything that uses visuals or audio in a commercial form. Often, depending on if people or places are involved, there might be a time limit or renewal fees, so the models, artists and creators can continue to get fairly compensated.

You might require higher resolution photos for traditional media, which is why they might cost you more, but the quality is much better.

Here are our top picks for the best traditional media sites. Much like the digital image services, we based our rankings on the following:

  • Price and value
  • Size of inventory
  • Customer service and reputation
  • Searchability

Getty Images Review

#1Getty Images logo

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From historical photos to celebrity photobombs. Getty Images offers one of the biggest databases of stock media, especially for premium, conceptual, high-resolution and editorial images.

If you are working in traditional media such as print, TV, billboard or radio, high-resolution creatives 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 millions different high-design, conceptual pieces for sale.

It is also a nice 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 site is easy to search and browse for high-concept imagery, videography and sound.



  • The largest library of 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 brands, especially for print, television and radio advertising
  • Images, videos, audio and illustrations
  • Easy to navigate website
  • Websites for many different countries
  • User submissions are accepted
  • Offers millions of pictures for free use
  • Media can be expensive — probably cost-prohibitive for digital use unless you require exclusive imagery


Royalty-Free Licenses

Getty Images offers several pre-paid package options. Packs include any combination of royalty-free photos, videos, illustrations, vectors and most editorial images, but exclude all rights-managed images. Packs don’t expire as long as you sign in at least once a year.

 Small Images
Web videos
Medium Images
SD Videos
Large Images
4K & HD Videos
5 Pack$800
($160 each)
($325 each)
($450 each)
10 Pack$1,500
($150 each)
($300 each)
($425 each)

Rights-Managed & Rights-Ready Licenses

Price is based on how you intend to use it (factors include media, size, duration, placement, geographic distribution and exclusivity) and can be calculated on the file’s detailed information page or from the cart.

Enterprise Options

Getty Images offers flexible pricing for agencies and several subscription options for teams. Subscriptions include no daily or monthly download limits, no seat licenses required, custom content and special commissions.

They also offer Premium Access agreements that are annual, capped download agreements that let entire teams download files, with no daily or monthly download limits. Check out this video to learn more about Premium Access.

Coupon Code

Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from Getty Images.

Read Our Full Review Of Getty Images

123RF Review

#2123RF logo

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123RF offers one of the most affordable subscription programs, with low-resolution photos starting as low as $1 per photo.

It’s a great alternative to many of the big stock photo services, and they have a wide selection of millions of images video, audio and vector files. You can expect high-quality photos for the price too. 123RF has beautiful lifestyle, editorial and non-cheesy photos, making them an even better value. They have live chat and phone support should you need it and an easy-to-use checkout process.

The one downside we found with 123RF is that the search results didn’t have many filtering options, which isn’t ideal if you have something specific in mind, but their photos are all so great you might not need them.



  • One of the lowest-priced subscription programs
  • Images, illustrations and vector images available
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • Easy to navigate website
  • User submissions accepted
  • Live chat and phone support
  • Limited filters for photo search results


  • Per-credit pricing ranges from $0.83 to $1.30, depending on the number of credits you purchase at one time
  • Subscriptions start at $29/month for 10 images per month. You can save 31% if you pay annually.


Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from 123RF.

Read Our Full Review of 123RF

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 their pricing model more flexible than some other high-res photo options. With Shutterstock’s huge library images and files, you won’t be disappointed in the selection.

They carry stock photos, videos, illustrations, vector and audio files. Shutterstock is a great choice for agencies, publications and companies with the frequent need to use high-quality photos and illustrations.



  • Extremely high-resolution images
  • One of the leading stock photo companies with editorial, celebrity photos and more
  • A variety of subscription plans are available for users
  • Images, videos, illustrations, vector images, video and music
  • Accepts user submissions
  • iPhone, iPad and Android app to search and download on-the-go
  • Phone and email support
  • Compared to many other similar stock photo services, their fees are unusually high
  • Many customer complaints about poor customer service
  • Doesn’t send auto-renewal notices for subscriptions


Prepaid Image Packs

  • $29 for 2 images
  • $49 for 5 images
  • $229 for 25 images

Subscription Plans For Individuals

All subscription plans start at $29/month for 10 images and include Shutterstock Editor Pro. Save up to 40% with an annual plan that bills monthly — but you’ll incur a cancellation fee if you cancel before the year is up.

Number Of Images Per MonthPrice Per MonthAnnual Price


Must contact Shutterstock for pricing.

Coupon Code

Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from Shutterstock.

Read Our Full Review of Shutterstock

Comparison Table

This table is a resource that compares the most popular stock photo websites. Use it to help you make an informed decision when deciding on a stock photography resource.

NameWinner Digital Media: Bigstock2nd Place Digital Media: Depositphotos3rd Place Digital Media: iStockWinner Traditional Media: Getty Images2nd Place Traditional Media: 123RF3rd Place Traditional Media: ShutterstockAdobe StockAlamyCan Stock PhotoDreamsTimeFoapPhotoSpinYay Images
NameWinner Digital Media: Bigstock2nd Place Digital Media: Depositphotos3rd Place Digital Media: iStockWinner Traditional Media: Getty Images2nd Place Traditional Media: 123RF3rd Place Traditional Media: ShutterstockAdobe StockAlamyCan Stock PhotoDreamsTimeFoapPhotoSpinYay Images
Vector ImagesCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Royalty Free ImagesCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Lowest Price Per Single Image$3.50$4.90$12$175$8.00 (for 2)$29 for 2$49.95 (for 5 images)$19.99$9 (for 12 credits)$14.99 for 11 credits$10$2-30N/A
Subscription Plan Starting Price$79/month (for 5 images per day)$29/month (for 30 photos per month)$40/month (for 10 essential images per month)Must contact$29 (10 images per month)$49 (10 images per month)$29.99 (for 10 images per month)N/A (Individual Image Only)$39.00 (for 10 images per day)$39.00 (for 10 images per day)None$429 (500/Month)N/A
Subscription ServiceCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
User Submissions AcceptedCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Total Number of Stock Items88 Million+130 Million+88 Million+80 Million+110 Million+302 Million+50+ million180 Million+20 Million+42 Million+MillionsMillions11 Million+

Other Stock Photography Sites

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

Adobe Stock | Alamy | Can Stock Photo | Corbis | Dreamstime | Foap | PhotoSpin | Yay Images

Adobe Stock Review

Adobe Stock logo

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Adobe Stock was previously known as Fotolia by Adobe. In 2015 Adobe, the popular graphic design software company, released its own version of a stock photography library with millions of photos, illustrations and vector images available.

You can also submit your images to sell, which makes sense and is convenient since they cater to the creative community and have a built-in network of graphic design and photographer customers already.

They recently added video files to their library but still don’t offer audio files. 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.



  • Royalty-free, high-quality photos, illustrations and graphics
  • User submissions are accepted
  • Able to purchase individual images
  • Can cancel risk-free in the first month
  • No audio files


  • Credit packs start at $49.95 for 5 credits (good for 1 image)
  • Subscriptions start at $29 for 10 assets a month (and first month free with annual plan)

Alamy Review

Visit WebsiteAlamy logo

Alamy has one of the largest selection of images, with more than 80,000 new stock images added daily and sourced from around the world from 173 countries.

The result is a wide range of culturally diverse photos from all geographic landscapes and areas, giving you millions of high-quality images from which to choose.

Alamy only sells per image, so no subscription plans are available, and the price varies depending on the size and the rights of the photo. You can choose to have it licensed, which can get expensive depending on what you are using it for. Or, you can select the rights-managed option, which allows for limited-use and limited-time for a photo.

Much like other online shopping sites, it’s easy to check out without an account, but the number of options can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to stock photography.



  • Illustrations, photography, vector images and video
  • Option to buy individual images
  • Claims to offer frequently refreshed images
  • A variety of search methods available for finding stock media
  • User submissions are accepted
  • Phone and chat support
  • No subscription services
  • Images can be particularly expensive even when small or low-resolution
  • Audio files are not available
  • Not the most straightforward website to navigate and pricing is not shared upfront


  • $19.99 per image (for personal use). No subscriptions offered.

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 for low-resolution photos. They also have videos.

However, they do not have audio files, and their library is much smaller than many of their competitors. But if you can find what you’re looking for, this could be a great option.

With one-click downloading and easy checkout without creating an account, it’s a great choice for quick and easy purchases.



  • Affordable pricing for small JPEG images
  • Easy to download one photo at a time quickly without creating an account
  • A wide range of international websites are available
  • Subscription services and individual image purchase options
  • 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


  • Photo credits start at $9 for 12 credits
  • Subscriptions start at $39/week for 10 images per day

Corbis Review

Corbis Images logo

Corbis is no longer operating under its brand name. Acquired by Visual China Group (VCG), all content was migrated to Getty Images in May 2016. This is good news for you since Getty is our #1 pick.

Dreamstime Review

Dreamstime ReviewVisit Website

Since 2000, Dreamstime has been providing a vast selection of high-quality digital images at affordable prices to connect image sellers with buyers.

Their community-based site gives more than 13,000,000+ registered members access to photos submitted from 200,000+ photographers from around the world. All images are reviewed and approved by experienced editors to ensure quality control.

In addition to photos, they have a library of free images, clip art and vectors and have multiple incentives for photographers and users alike. They also offer monthly plans or pay-per-photo credit packages.



  • A member of some photo and trade organizations
  • Referral program for users & incentives for photographers
  • A 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


  • Photo credit packages start at $14.99 for 11 credits
  • Subscriptions start at $39 a month for 10 images

Foap Review

Visit WebsiteFoap logo

Foap is a relatively new service (and concept) that allows anyone the ability to sell photos taken from their iPhone. Users can download the app, take a picture, upload it to the Foap market and list it for sale.

New to Foap is a Brand Brief which allows marketers to submit their needs for lifestyle and product photos, then task the Foap community to create content for them based on the guidelines. Then you get to pick your favorites and use them for your business.

Before listing your photo 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.

This is a photo-only site with no vector, audio or video. The company’s pricing is very straightforward: $10 per image (or down to $7.50 each if you buy in bulk).



  • 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
  • Always new content being added that is vetted by users
  • 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


  • $10 per photo
  • Credit packages start at $180 for 20 photos up to $750 for 100 photos
  • Pricing varies for custom services for briefs and photo or video missions

PhotoSpin Review

Photospin Review

PhotoSpin started in 1996 and believed that all creatives should have quick access to good content at an affordable price. This company went out of business due to financial issues in August 2018. 

Yay Images Review

Visit WebsiteYAY Images logo

“Created for and by online people,” Yay Images is a relatively newer company and provides unlimited streaming of online images. Streaming, meaning you can use them on your site, but you can’t download them to save for offline use (or to make modifications to).

There is no downloading or uploading for Yay Images. Instead, you receive a link that you put wherever you want the image to appear. They do, however, allow you to make simple edits to photos within their site and will even host them for you forever (even if you cancel).

Their visual search allows you to drag and drop a photo you are looking for, and it will search for something similar (like Google image search). We tested it but did not find it all that accurate.

One of the other downsides to Yay is that they only offer subscriptions (no single image purchases are available, unfortunately). Yay Images was acquired by Doublesix LLC in February 2019, so we will see how that affects customers.



  • Four different subscription plans based on what your profession is (blogger, marketers, etc.)
  • All plans come with unlimited streaming and include hosting
  • Customer support via email and phone
  • Small, medium, and large size photos
  • Free trial available
  • No video or audio files
  • Streaming photos limited to 700 pixels wide and can only be used online
  • Must purchase a subscription plan
  • More expensive for single downloads


  • Mini: $19/month for 20 images/month
  • More: $29/month for 35 images/month
  • Mighty: $49/month for 70 images/month


As you are shopping around, you might come across some new jargon. Here are some basic definitions to help you gain a better understanding of this world.

  • Pixel: A unit of measurement that is commonly used in digital photos.
  • DPI (Dots Per Inch): The number of pixels per square inch for a file or graphic. It helps determine the resolution.
  • Resolution: How many DPI a photo has. (Usually, 72dpi for Web and 300dpi for print is standard).

Video: Stock Photo Clichés

From time to time, you might stumble upon the silly stock photo that makes you laugh (at least we do). Here’s a compilation of some stock photo clichés along with a song (almost as cheesy as the photos).

Which Stock Photo Company Is Right For You?

Finding a stock photography company to suit your needs can be difficult, depending on what use you have in mind for your downloaded media. Aside from ensuring that you find a company that will fit within your budget, it is also essential to find a legitimate company that detailed licensing requirements for each image or piece of media they provide.

Learn more about stock photos in our royalty-free images article. And if you need help editing your photos, check out our photo editing software review.

What is your favorite stock media provider and why?

About The Author:

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.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted
Deep Desert Photo
I would be very skeptical of Yay Images as far as becoming a contributor.
I can see that they are now under new ownership but back when I was a contributor they had non-existent contributor support and never responded to emails.
I spent 6 months trying to get them to take down my images and close my account. It was only when I threatened to file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the company hosting Yay’s website that action was finally taken and my images removed.
I do not know how they are at this moment in time, but I would advise any artists thinking of becoming a Yay contributor to be very cautious.
I have had good results with ShutterStock, BigStock, EyeEm, Adobe Stock, and RooM.
Dmitry Shkipin
FeaturePics is also one of the original micro-stock photo banks, online since 2007.
Sandi Parker
You need to put in your “cons” section for Shutterstock….that they have a sleazy and unethical “auto-renewal” feature that no one ever notices when they sign up…the onus is on the customer to find this little button and turn it off. The minute you download the last of the images you paid for in your plan, they automatically bill you for an additional plan. And many online customer reviews state that even when they DID notice the button and turn it off…they were still billed.
Peter Korner
Have been using adobe stock, depositphotos, istock….and many others. The worst one is adobe stock. The search engine…user friendliness, bugs, speed…customer service are terrible. I find it weird as they have actually bought fotolia and Dollar Stock Photos which were great. The biggest issue is the never helpful Adobe customer service (robots from India).

The best I think would be shutterstock and Istock. I always find what I am looking for using their search engine. Problem is they are quite expensive.

Depositphotos will be a big player sooner or later. At the moment they have got great pricing and usually the same photos as Adobe Stock.

Great post, some of the stocks are way too expensive. Theses firms should have bit normal fees with single domain use, so small business can avail stock images services.

Great post! Have you checked out Raw Pixel yet? We are one of the leading stock photography contributors, and now we’re giving away lots of images for free. It would be amazing if you could add us to your list. 🙂

Thank you,


Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Jen, we will add Raw Pixel to our list of companies for potential addition in our next audit. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing about your company! I’ll be using your site for work 🙂
John Allen
I have been posting photos with Dreamstime for about four years and have 1338 images on file. For some reason, car photos seem to sell better than others. I attend several regional car shows each year so obtaining pictures is no problem. I take my time and carefully edit each photo using Adobe Photoshop elements 14. Their web site has improved substantially and I believe it is easy to navigate. Uploading is a snap. They are easy to start with because they have no test unlike some others. All they insist on is acceptable images. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to start in stock photography.
Robbed Again
Shutterstock are thieves – I signed up and upon billing removed their auto-renewal feature – they turned it back on and drilled my account for as much cash as they could get.
f*** shutterstock biggest ripoff ever
My best images find their buyers at dreamstime and istockphoto. Shutterstock in particular seems to be very incompetent or random on approving photographer’s images for sale. Sometimes they would approve my most residue garbage microstock and reject best-sellers, while at times they would get it right. I don’t know. I stopped offering my production on shutterstock and generally enjoy selling with istock and dreamstime.
Gencho Petkov
istock and own satellites (subscription type) is in the process of lowering (visibly after 2014) and will soon become a world unknown, shifted from stocksy, dreamstime, depositphotos, pixta! and other lowcost microstock banks.
Gencho Petkov
Currently ranking is following a number of number of the sales (downloads) and profitability for photographers:



Gencho Petkov
I’m profiling in this business since 2002 and the top ranking is not correct.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Our top ranking is correct in our eyes. We reviewed the companies and we chosen who we think is the best. It’s ok if you disagree and we respect that. We believe these are the best and we stand by our rankings. Thank you for your understanding.
Gencho Petkov
Incorrect/Wrong information! Only in Shutterstock are 75 million and not 28 million/15.Dec.2015
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
My apologies for our numbers being off for Shutterstock. I have updated accordingly. On their website it says over 70 million, not 75 million. So I have put that in the table and article.
Gencho Petkov
I think that these 2500% is a huge mistake to be true and other statistics
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure I understand what you are saying.
Watch out! While ShutterStock offers good deals sometimes, their website is super slow and full with “errors”. Which means, you won’t be able to download the amount of images you were hoping for (unless you have nothing else to do, and can spend most of your time just searching and downloading very slowly.) Most of the “error” messages are beautifully predesigned screens (which means they are well aware of them). I actually think these “errors” are part of their business strategy to make more profit, yet it is very unfair for both the photographers and image buyers. When you evaluate a deal, just calculate it with about 100-150 images, instead of the 750 is in the offer. The most common errors you will experience: you won’t be able to save an image in your lightbox on the thumbnail page, or on the image page, only at the preview page. This way you waste a lot of time (instead of being productive.) The other “error” you will see all the time when it says “Your image should begin downloading immediately”, but the little circle icon will just spinning and spinning “forever”. Also very common is the “Sorry, something went wrong” screen. All of these will drastically slow you down. The result is less images for you, more profit for ShutterStock. The customer service will promise you they call you back, but they never will. As for the image quality, my evaluation is 90% weak, 9% OK, 0.99% good, 0.01% agency (or designer) quality.
Hi Sadie and Kimberly,
Thanks for comparisons, very comprehensive. Have you tried GraphicStock? Any tips for it?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
We have not tried GraphicStock, sorry. Let us know if you try it and how you like/dislike it!
Adrian Alexandru
Hey Sadie and Kimberly,

Thanks for the post! It’s one of the most comprehensive reviews of stock photo websites I have seen.

A few months ago we started Dashmote to try and fix the problem of always choosing between different stock image providers, by aggregating multiple providers in one search. We currently have on our platform content from Depositphoto, IngImage, YAY and Panther Media.

Instead of using a subscription model, we tried to make purchasing as transparent as possible and negotiated with each of the providers so that you are able to buy images on-demand with no subscription or credits system.

Try us out.

Ps: Be gentle we are still in beta 🙂

Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Thanks for mentioning your site to us. We’ll consider adding Dashmote in our next audit for this article!
Have you ever reviewed stockafe?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
No we have not. Have you used it before? What did you like/dislike?
Stockafe is a newer stock agency (November 2014). I’m a contributor who eventually joined the Stockafe team (full disclosure). I signed up originally in large part because of their goal of trying to change the “race to the bottom” philosophy that has taken over the industry, with an emphasis on treating both buyers and artists better. The site manager puts a lot of emphasis on keeping things as easy as possible for buyers. One thing that’s different than many sites is that when buyers purchase prepaid bulk discount packages, if the full balance isn’t spent within the discount period, the discount pricing expires but the balance never does, and can be used for individual purchases or rolled over to a new bulk discount purchase even after expiration. Some of the artists also participate in an opt-in “pay what you want” pricing option on exclusive content. Pre-isolated images with transparent backgrounds (PNG) are available, and video content will be coming soon, as well.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Thank you for your honesty. Perhaps we can look into Stockafe in our next audit for this article! 🙂
Sam Lampard
I have 600+ downloads left on my subscription. Is it of use to anybody? I can share the details for $40.
Say more 🙂
This table seems to be an older version. The columns referenced are not visible.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
For the table you must scroll to the right for the columns to appear. The table was so large that we had to put it this way on the page. Sorry for the confusion. Let me know if you need any further help!
Don’t come near Deposit Photos!

I had very bad experience with them as to automatic subscription renewal. They scam their customers where they don’t tell you in your order confirmation and in the process of paying that they’ll charge you again automatically the following month. Then, when you find out about that they’re saying that there’s no way they can cancel this charge and refer you to the website to remove the automatic charge for the following month. There’s no place where you can cancel it but only when asking support to do this.

Just think about all the money they’re doing for this scam where they’re getting thousands of new customers money every month automatically renewing their subscription without knowing about this.

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).
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
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.
What about the number of audience/viewers allowed? What about geographical limitations? There are many hidden clauses that you don’t address. What about sharing the stock within the various media departments of a corporate?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Those are all very good suggestions. It’s difficult to cover every single aspect of stock photography companies and what they offer. This article gives our readers a starting point on where to look since what is included in this article are some of the main features and key points for the companies.
Thanks for comparisons – very helpful 🙂
I am thinking of subscribing to iStockphoto Essentials, as their annual sub giving 750 pics a month suits my needs. To spread the cost, I was looking to do the pay monthly option – £99 or so. What’s to stop me from subscribing to the annual scheme, pay for a few months until I’ve got all the pics I need and then canceling the monthly payment? Am I tied into the 12 months once I start it? I couldn’t find anything in the small print saying it would be against any rules and they’d come after me! If I were to subscribe just on a month by month basis, I only get 250 pics a month and it’s about 30% more expensive. Any thoughts or advice?
What about Newscom? Any tips for them?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi Jennifer, we haven’t done any research on Newscom. Perhaps we can consider adding them in our next audit.
Which of the sites pays the highest royalties to contributors?
very outdated information
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Hi sooshi! Do you have any specific information that you found to be inaccurate? We strive to keep our information as up to date as possible and rely a lot on our readers feedback.
Click here to save 15% off all image packs when the promo code CHDPC46N is entered during checkout. Expires June 30, 2013.

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

Nicole Cyrus
Stock photos are now widely used for a variety of functions like web designing, blogs or wall prints. There is vast source of these photos available in internet but choosing the quality photos can benefit you in real terms. This article provides a nice comparison among the top sites that provide stock images. People who are confused and are unable to decide the proper source can refer to this comparison table and get their doubts cleared.

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

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

Please take a close look at the section for how many downloads you get per day with subscriptions. For instance, Shutterstock allows 25 downloads per day – so a full 25 photos or files and iStock allows 20 credits per day, which might only equal 2 photos/files downloads per day. On the surface, iStock might seem like a better deal for an annual subscription, but when you dig deeper into what the ###/day numbers mean, it’s tough to do a side-by-side comparison. Shutterstock and iStock are just two that I am familiar with – I haven’t done any further research into the other services to find out what the download rates really mean.

Nikole Wood
Maybe you could include Dreamstime in this comparison… I love them…

+1 although “love” might be too strong a term

triz mueni
If they put food on your table, you would too.
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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wow!! So much to think about in stock photo buying but your comparison table helped very much. So many details to consider… I think I will go with Big Stock – they seem like the best price for sure!

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.

Alex Schenker
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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?

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!

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.

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.

a web rocker
Guys, great table, but how about giving us some pricing? The only three things I’m really interested in are size and quality of image collection, lowest price per image, and least expensive subscription (where you pay monthly and get a certain number of photo download credits per day) option. I would love to see these pricing options added to this table!

Alex Schenker
Great request – in fact, we just added pricing to the table this week! So, based on your needs outlined above, this table should be very useful to you now as it contains all of the information you requested above. Thanks!

Alex Schenker Promo Code – Click here for 10% off all image packs when you enter the coupon code [***] is entered during checkout. This deal expires on 5/31/12.

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a web rocker
Great stock photography comparison table, but the last couple columns don’t appear to fit in the layout. Any chance you guys will fix this, maybe by creating two tables?

Alex Schenker
Yes, we actually are in process of updating the table to two tables that stack on top of one another. Thanks for the recommendation and look out for the more user-friendly table later today. Thanks!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Alex Schenker
Here’s yet another chance to win an iPad, but this time – the brand spankin’ new iPad 3. Download any image from BigStockPhoto (or mail in a postcard) for a chance to win a 34GB iPad 3. Every image you download (or postcard you mail in) counts as an entry. Submit all your entries by 5/1/12 for more chances to win!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Alex Schenker
For a limited time, click here and use promo code CFDPC46N to save 15% off royalty-free still images at Getty Images. This offer expires November 25, 2012.

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.

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!


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.


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 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.

Alex Schenker
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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.

Alex Schenker
Big Stock Photo is having a massive discount sale the weekend of April 1st. Get 40% off your image purchase by purchasing 25 credits and getting 10 free. Click here to claim your credits now.

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.

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.

Alex Schenker
Deposit Photos is having an Easter Special where you can get 20% off any of the photos in their Easter Lightbox Collection. Click here to check out the selection!

Alex Schenker
New discount codes were just released today for some great stock image and footage sites. Use them today.

Getty Images Promo Codes

All existing Getty customers – click here and save 8% customers when you use coupon code [***]. Applies to all media types (images, video, etc.). Expires 6/30/12.
New Getty customers, click here and get 12% off when use discount code [***]. Discount applies to all images and footage. Deal expires 6/30/12.

Thinkstock Promo Code

All customers (new and existing), click here for 10% off all image packs when promo code [***]is entered during checkout before it expires on 5/31/12.

Alex Schenker
Get 20% off Mother’s Day images at Depositphotos by clicking here and selecting an image from their Mother’s Day selection.

Alex Schenker
For a limited time (until 5/22/12), you can get 6 free BigStockPhoto credits if you buy 6. Click here to take advantage of this offer while it lasts.

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!

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!

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.

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.

Alex Schenker
Get an 8% discount on iStock credit packs when you shop using this link and the coupon code 8ISTOCKPHOTO. Expires March 31, 2013.

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

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.

Alex Schenker
Visit iStock’s website and type in CHARITY20 while checking out to receive 20% discount on a credit pack. Expires 12/31/2012.

Alex Schenker
Get 12% savings when you buy any image pack online from Thinkstock, Use coupon code W78PC46N at checkout. Deal expires 3/31/12.

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.

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?

Alex Schenker
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.

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.

Alex Schenker
Save 10% on your next purchase (new or existing customers) of a credit pack from iStock, November 19-December 13, 2012. Shop iStockphoto and enter the promo code GIVE50 during checkout to receive 10%. This deal cannot be used in conjunction with other discounts.

Alex Schenker
ONE DAY SALE: February 12, 2013 only. Enter 24HRPERK at iStockphoto to get 15% off credit packs purchase on this day only.

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.

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.

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

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 with an interesting streaming tool that’s like Spotify for images. Did anyone use it?

Kimberly Alt
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!


Thanks for sharing really I like it.

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


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. 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 Alt
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 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 to us.


Click here on September 18, 2013 only: Save 15% on any iStock credit pack you buy when you use the promo code SEPTSAVE15 during checkout.

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.

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.

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.

Alex Schenker
Visit Getty Images and get 20% off all Editorial and Creative video footage when you enter coupon code MKJPC46N during checkout. This Getty discount offer expires September 30, 2012.

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 🙂