Which Stock Photo Site is the Best for You?

July 10

13 min. to read

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When it comes to stock photos, many people frown upon their authenticity.

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When it comes to stock photos, many people frown upon their lack of authenticity. However, if you’ve ever needed an image “yesterday,” you’re probably already well aware of their usefulness. Not everyone has the time or wherewithal to take their own photos or to hire a professional photographer. And in these days of social media, even the smallest business can find themselves in frequent need of professional-looking photos. If this is you (and you haven’t yet taken the time to find your favorite stock photo site), then you’re probably wondering which one to choose. Here are a few of our favorites.

Paid Stock Sites

Images on paid sites generally are there because they deserve it. The searching and organization of these sites are excellent and the images are of the highest quality.

1. 500px

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For original, high quality images, 500px is our top choice. Just about every serious photographer in the industry has some kind of presence on 500px, and many participate in their marketplace. They have a number of high-end curated collections, and you can see how well each photo does in a large, long-standing community of photographer and buyers alike. Prices vary by size and collection. 

Prices at time of writing: Their Core Collection ranges from $34 for a medium-sized photo to $149 for an extra-large. Their Prime Collection ranges from $49 to $249 respectively. They also offer a number of add-ons to enhance your license.

2. Alamy

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If you’re looking for a culturally diverse selection of photos, Alamy can’t be beaten. Every day they add more than 80,000 new stock images from photographers based in 173 different countries. Navigating through their site is easy for both the buyer and the photographer, and they offer both phone and chat support.  They only sell per image, however, so no subscription plans are available. Their prices can be a bit steep, so if you need a high volume, they probably won’t be your first choice. Still, for international and culturally diverse images, Alamy really is the best option. 

Prices at time of writing: $19.99 per image (for personal use). No subscriptions offered.

3. Shutterstock

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Prices at time of writing: Shutterstock has three main options: On Demand, Individual Subscriptions, and Team Subscriptions. If you’re only looking for one or two images, the on-demand option will be the cheapest at $29 for two photos. If you need images regularly, then a monthly subscription is your best bet with prices starting at $29/month for ten images per month. Like 500px, Shutterstock also offers enhanced licenses, which basically just give you more legal protection and more overall usage of the images you purchase.

4. iStock 

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If you’re looking for a high volume of royalty-free, low-resolution images for websites or e-newsletters, iStock is a great choice. While its parent company, Getty Images, specializes in high-res photos for traditional media, iStock tends towards the low-res end of things. If that works for you, their low prices, image variety, and versatility might get you hooked.

Free stock sites

Free sites are great for quickly grabbing images to mock up web pages, storyboard ideas, user manuals, brochures and similar projects. When downloading images from free sites, pay attention to the image usage rights. For example, some sites require attribution, some images may be for personal use (but not commercial), etc. You can find more information on stock photography at Stockphotosecrets.com - a real treasure chest for anyone related to photography craft.

5. Unsplash

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Though Unsplash is fairly new, it’s now one of our favorite free stock sites. Their images are all high resolution, and many of them are truly quite beautiful. All photos are released for free under the Unsplash license.

6. Burst

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Burst was created by Shopify as a free resource for entrepreneurs. Most of their photos were taken in-house and are based around business themes. And, as all of their photos are licensed under Creative Commons CC0, you can use them for personal and commercial use with no attribution required!

7. Pexels 

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This site features curated high-quality photos without a lot of junk. Sometimes free sites are loaded with images that will likely never be used; this is not the case with Pexels. The site is loaded with top quality images that represent a variety of settings and people. Like Burst, the usage rights are also Creative Commons CC0. 

8. Negative Space

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Negative Space is fairly new on the scene, so is still building their collection. That being said, they do add new photos every week, all without copyright restrictions. Their navigation is nicely done, with photos sortable by category, color, and copy space position.

9. Freerange Stock

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Freerange Stock is a different sort of free stock site. Its photographers “get paid when users click on the ads that appear next to their submissions.” Images are shot both by Freerange Stock as well as by a large community of photographers. While their photos are of good quality, their illustrations can be particularly delightful and unique.

10. Magdeleine

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Magdeleine is made up of crowd-sourced photos, uploaded every day. The awesome thing about this site is that they bring you new featured photos every day, so you can use it to find new photos, as well as meet new artists. There are good search capabilities and filtering to find the right images quickly. But, just as with other free stock photo sites, the selection is limited. Usage rights vary by image.

11. Stocksnap 

Which Stock Photo Site is the Best for You? Image11There is a high volume of images added every week with Stocksnap. The usage licensing rights are standard throughout the entire site—Creative Commons Zero—and their search function works particularly well. They also track the views and downloads so you can see the popularity of each photo.

Prices at time of writing: Istock subscriptions start at $40/month for ten images and go up from there. You can also buy individual photos using “credits.” The more credits you buy at once the more money you save. 

12. Adobe Stock (now including Fotolia)

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Adobe Stock is new to the scene, having been launched in 2015, but they hit the ground running. They’ve since acquired Fotolia and now boast over 40 million royalty-free photos to choose from. What’s more, if you design using the Abode Creative Cloud apps, Adobe Stock is fully integrated. You can preview the images first in any CC program and then license, access and manage them directly through the CC app you’re using. A big plus if you do your design through Adobe products (and let’s face it, many of us do). 

Prices at time of writing: Starts at $29.99/month for 3 assets. If you go for the annual plan, you get a month free and still pay $29.99/month, except this time you get 10 assets. Videos are from $79.99/month.

13. Bigstock

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If you regularly need a high volume of photos, Bigstock is one of the best options out there. Their subscriptions are somewhat more expensive, but they offer many more photos per month. And while their images aren’t 500px-stunning, they’re more than adequate for the majority of online use. Another plus is that their customer service department is pleasant to work with. One downside, though, is that their vector images are quite pricey. If that’s what you’re looking for, best go elsewhere. 

Prices at time of writing: Prices start at $79/month, which gives you either 5 images a day ($.53 per image) or 50 per month (no daily limit).

14. Depositphotos

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Depositphotos offers some of the best prices around, but being relatively new on the scene, they haven’t yet amassed a huge collection. Still, if you can find the image you’re looking for, the price will be right. One bonus is that they have a user feedback option that can help guide your search. They also regularly offer deals and coupons on specified image sets. Also, if you don’t use all your downloads in a month, they get transferred to the next month, so you never lose out.

Prices at time of writing: The standard subscription price starts at $49/month for 75 photos, but if you’re looking for something cheaper, you can try out their new “Flexible” plan for $29/month—It includes just 30 photos a month, but every additional photo after that is only $1 dollar each. On-demand starts at $49 for 10 images. 

15. Dreamstime

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If you like directly connecting with your photographers, Dreamstime offers a community-based experience.  As a member, you have access to more than 200,000 photographers from around the world. They have b customer service support (phone), a referral program for users, incentives for photographers, and great search options. Their editors review each photo before it gets accepted, so their image-quality is quite high.

Prices at time of writing: Photo credit packages start at $14.99 for 11 credits, and subscriptions start at $25 a month for 5 images. (All plans are half off through Jan 3rd, 2018).

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