The best stock photo subscriptions are an excellent way to save a considerable part of your budget when buying stock photos. These subscriptions vary in the number of photos you get per month, monthly fee, licensing options, and the quality and variety of photos. In my experience as a creator, I think these are the best stock image subscriptions you can get right now:
- Shutterstock: Best overall
- Envato Elements: Budget pick
- Adobe Stock: Best for graphic designers
- iStock: Premium stock photos
- Depositphotos: Cheap subscription
- Canva: Best for amateur designers
Let me explain each pick. Shutterstock is the father of subscriptions in stock photography, introducing the first one in 2009. So, it comes as no shock that it’s the best stock photo subscription even today. Shutterstock recently rebranded its subscription plans to FLEX, which now enables you to download images, videos, and audio tracks under a single plan, making it extremely versatile. It also harbors the largest collection of stock images at 434 million—of all the stock photo sites I’ve used (and I’ve used a lot), it’s the easiest for me to find a good photo here. If you’re just warming up to the idea of using Shutterstock, I recommend you start with the 30-day free trial or a 15% discount if you’re ready to buy.
Just because I like Shutterstock, it doesn’t mean it will suit you. If Shutterstock is too expensive for you, consider picking a budget pick like Envato Elements. It has a smaller collection of stock images (434 million), but you get unlimited downloads for a small monthly fee of $16.50. Alternatively, you can get our in-house discount of 70% off for the first month.
On the other hand, if you’re a graphic designer or someone already invested in the Adobe ecosystem, Adobe Stock should be your go-to option. It’s a close second to Shutterstock in terms of image quality, but it’s natively integrated into Adobe’s Creative Cloud. This means you can access all its photos from your favorite programs, like Photoshop and Illustrator. Give it a go with the 30-day free trial of stock photos and a complimentary 7-days free of the entire Creative Cloud suite.
These are just the top 3 best stock photo subscriptions in 2023. Keep reading this guide to find more information about them, the best deals you can get, and even discover some other subscriptions that might work better for you.
How to choose the best stock photo subscription
When it comes to choosing the best stock image subscription, it’s important to consider your main needs. Are you a blogger looking for images to enhance your content? Or are you a graphic designer in need of high-quality visuals for your projects?
Content library: The size and quality of the content library is a crucial factor in selecting a stock image subscription. Look for a provider that offers a wide range of images, videos, and graphics that meet your specific needs. Some providers may specialize in certain types of content, such as illustrations or vectors, so make sure to choose one that aligns with your requirements.
Features: Different stock image subscriptions offer different features, such as the ability to edit images, access to exclusive content, and advanced search options. If you need to create customized graphics or work with specific file formats, make sure to choose a subscription that caters to those needs.
Usage rights: It’s important to understand the usage rights of the images you download from a stock image subscription. Some subscriptions offer royalty-free images that can be used for commercial purposes, while others may require attribution or have limited usage restrictions. Make sure to choose a subscription that aligns with your intended use.
Price: Stock image subscriptions can vary widely in price, so it’s important to consider your budget. However, it’s also important to consider the value you’ll be getting for your money. Look for subscriptions that offer a high-quality content library and useful features at a reasonable price.
Customer support: When working with a stock image subscription, you may run into technical issues or have questions about usage rights. Look for a provider with responsive customer support, including live chat or email support, to help you quickly resolve any issues.
In short, when choosing the best stock image subscription, focus on your specific needs and look for a provider with a comprehensive content library, useful features, clear usage rights, reasonable pricing, and responsive customer support. By doing so, you can find the subscription that best meets your needs and helps you achieve your creative goals.
Best stock image subscriptions 2023:
Best stock photo subscription
- 433 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- 10 images, 1 video, 2 music tracks (30 days)
Why is Shutterstock the best stock photo subscription: Shutterstock’s All-in-one subscription lets you download photos, videos, and audio tracks under one affordable plan, costing $0.22+ per image and even having the free trial.
- The largest collection of stock images (433 million)
- 30-day free trial with 10 images worth $29
- Wide variety of buying options.
- Big discounts with the annual prepaid plans.
- Editorial images are expensive ($99.50–$199)
- Enhanced License affordable only when bought in bulk
- Image quality & variety: At over 433 million stock images and thanks to the strict review processes, Shutterstock’s image qualtiy and variety remain unmatched. In our experience, images are rarely similar to each other and do not come from the same photoshoot. Shutterstock adds over 100,000 new images weekly, ensuring that the library remains fresh. Currently, Shutterstock has 242 million photos, 92 million vectors, and 143 million illustrations (some of these overlap), as well as over 50 miilion editorial images, covering news, sports, entertainment, and archives.
- Price: Compared to other stock photo websites, Shutterstock is not expensive at all, being on par as most alternatives. The recently-updated Shutterstock pricing unified buying image, videos, and audio tracks under one subscription plan. All-in-one subscriptions are available with monthly, annual, and annual prepaid commitments and in six sizes, costing $25 to $249 per month (equivalant to $0.22 to $4.99 per image). Another option is to use on-demand packages, where images cost $9.16–$14.50 and $67.96–$99.50 for the Enhanced license.
- Licensing: All Shutterstock images are licensed under a comprehensive royalty-free (RF) license (it’s included with every purchase; even the free trial). There are two types of the RF license available: the Standard and Enhanced. The Standard license is ideal for commercial use and on blog or social media, providing $10,000 indemnity, while the Enhanced license is the best for merchandise, providing $250,000 indemnity.
- Customer support: Shutterstock customer support is available through live chat, phone call, and email. You can also find help through the help page, which answers most common questions. All types of customer support respond very quickly. However, we noticed that the sales team often tries to upsel a higher tier package than needed.
- Additional features: Most notably, Shutterstock offers Creative Flow access for free with an active subscription. This is a tool similar to Canva but less comprehensive. Shutterstock also has API for developers, WordPress plugin, and Adobe Creative Cloud add on.
- Free trial: 30-day free trial, during which you can download 10 royalty-free images. You keep the images even if you cancel the trial and pay nothing.
- Discounts: 20% discount if you buy an annual subscription instead of a monthly subscription, and a 33% discount if you make an annual prepaid commitment. 32.4% discount if you buy 5 standard images on demand instead of 2, and 37% discount if you buy 25 standard images with demand plans. 10% discount if you buy 5 Enhanced images instead of 2, and a 32% discount if you buy 25 Enhanced images.
Best stock photo subscription with unlimited downloads
- 7 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- Unlimited downloads (7 days)
Why is Envato Elements the best stock photo subscription for unlimited downloads: Envato Elements has the largest library of creative assets that are available with unlimited downloads while also offering one of the lowest prices and a free trial.
- Unlimited downloads with no daily limits.
- 7-day free trial with full access to all creative assets.
- Assets can be used commercially.
- Simple licensing.
- Plans for individuals, teams, and enterprises.
- One of the lowest indemnities in the industry.
- You can’t use creative assets for new projects after unsubscribing.
- A small collection of photos and videos compared to other stock agencies.
- No refunds.
- Image quality & variety: At over 7 million images, which is considerably less than at other stock photo sites like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, Envato Elements offers a surprisingly good variety. However, the quality of photos is lower than elsewhere, yet good enough for most projects.
- Price: Envato Elements’ pricing involves only one subscription plan with two commitments and one discount—all give you unlimited downloads of all creative assets. The monthly plan costs $39 per month, and the annual plan costs $16.50 per month. Students get a 30% discount, which reduces the price for the annual plan to just $11.50 per month.
- Licensing: Because you get unlimited downloads, the Envato Elements licensing is not as impressive. While it’s still royalty-free, you may not use the assets for merchandise or other purposes where the asset would represent the majority of the value.
- Customer support: Envato Elements customer support is available through email or a help page.
- Additional features: The best-known Envato feature is Placeit, the mockup and logo tool. There are also tuts+ for learning, mixkit, and reshot.
- Free trial: 7-day free trial, during which you get full access to all features, including unlimited downloads and the commercial royalty-free license.
- Discounts: Subscriptions for individuals are available with 57% cheaper yearly ($16.50/month) and monthly ($39.00/month) commitments. Students get a 30% discount on subscriptions, thus paying only $11.00/month. Each additional team member is 30% cheaper. Read more about Envato Elements discounts »
Best stock photo site for graphic designers
- 335 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- 10, 25, or 40 images (30 days)
Why is Adobe Stock the best stock photo subscription for Adobe users: The entire Adobe Stock library is integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud natively, making the search of images and other assets from all Creative Cloud apps (like Photoshop) very easy.
- Superb image and video quality.
- Offers templates, 3D objects, and fonts.
- More than 1 million free images.
- Creative Cloud integration.
- Works with Photoshop, Illustrator, & others.
- More costly than some alternatives.
- No promo codes or coupons.
- Expensive premium content.
- Image quality & variety: Adobe Stock gets most of its stock images from photographers using Lightroom and Photoshop, which are connected to the library. As a result, the Adobe Stock library contains photos from some of the best photographers in the world.
- Price: You can buy Adobe Stock stock images with subscriptions, which give a certain number of monthly credits that you can use to download images, videos, or audio tracks, similar to Shutterstock. Standard images cost $0.26 to $9.99 with subscriptions and $8.00 to $9.99 on-demand, while the premium images (higher quality) cost up to $119.80. The Extended license costs $72.
- Licensing: There are the Standard, Enhanced, and Extended licenses. The Standard license is included with all standard downloads, while the Enhanced license is included with the premium downloads. The difference is that the Enhanced license allows unlimited copies, while the Standard license is limited to 500K. The Extended license also grants you the use in merchandise and for other purposes where the image represents the major value of the product.
- Customer support: Adobe Stock customer support is its worst feature. The live chat always responds quickly, but the operators are almost exclusively unknowledgeable.
- Additional features: Integration into the Adobe Creative Cloud apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro makes Adobe Stock the go-to stock photo website for creatives. It allows you to browse all Adobe Stock assets from within the apps, thus significantly speeding up your workflow.
- Free trial: Adobe Stock free trial is one of the most generous among stock photo sites, allowing you to download 10, 25, or even 40 free royalty-free images, based on the plan you pick.
- Discounts: 20% discount when you buy a yearly subscription instead of the monthly one. Up to 97% discount on the price per image when you pick a larger subscription (i.e., 750 monthly downloads) compared to the smallest ($0.26/image vs. $9.99/image). Up to 20% discount on large credit packs (150 credits; $8/credit) compared to the smallest credit pack (5 credits; $9.99/credit).
Best premium image subscription
- 150 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- 10 images (30 days)
Why is iStock the best premium image subscription: iStock is the only stock photo site that offers premium images (called Signature) with subscriptions, costing as little as $0.44 per download.
- 150 million images.
- The Signature collection is of superb quality.
- Competitive prices.
- 10 images with the free trial.
- Signature images are a lot more expensive.
- Very expensive extended license.
- Very poor customer support.
- Image quality & variety: iStock divides images into two collections: Standard (Essentials) and Premium (Signature). The Signature collection is composed of technically better images that look more professional. It’s like buying Getty Images with subscriptions, while the Essentials are good for everyday use.
- Price: Essential images cost $0.22–$4.00 with subscriptions, while Premium images cost $0.44–$9.90. You can also get images on-demand with credits, costing $8 to $12 per credit, where Essentials cost 1 credit and Signatures 3 credits.
- Licensing: iStock licensing is virtually the same as Shutterstock’s licensing: The Standard License grants you up to 500,000 copies and $10,000 indemnity, while the Extended License grants you unlimited copies and up to $250,000 indemnity.
- Customer support: It is very rare even to get a response from the iStock customer support team.
- Additional features: Search Trends lets you browse the current visual trends by region, industry, and over time.
- Free trial: The free trial last 30 days, and you can get 10 royalty-free images.
- Discounts: 16.5% discount when you buy annual subscriptions instead of monthly (valid for Basic and Premium subscriptions. This discount is increased to 24% for Premium + Video subscriptions. 92% discount when you buy the largest Basic subscription plan instead of the smallest, 94% for the Premium subscriptions, and 53% discount for the Premium + Video subscriptions.
Best for bloggers
- 224 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- 10 images (7 days)
Why is Depositphotos the best for bloggers: Depositphotos subscription prices start as low as $1.44 per image, even with the smallest subscriptions, compared to $4.90 at Shutterstock and $9.99 at Adobe Stock.
- 224+ million images
- Good image quality
- No daily limit
- Reverse image search
- Great customer support (phone, live chat, and email)
- A collection of free images
- No custom packs (only available for enterprises).
- Limited flexibility of on-demand options.
- Image quality & variety: Depositphotos image quality and variety are mostly good, but it’s lacking compared to Adobe Stock and Shutterstock, especially for trending/new topics.
- Price: Depositphotos subscription prices start at $24.92 per month for 30 images and up to $166.58 for 750 images, costing $1.44 to $0.22 per image. On-demand options are more expensive, available in sizes of 3, 11, 25, or 100 images, costing $2.99 to $14.00 per image. Extended licenses are much more expensive, costing $63.96–$89.00/image. You can also get Unlimited downloads subscriptions ($4.99/month) with access to 1.3 million files.
- Licensing: Depositphotos offers Standard and Extended royalty-free licenses, almost identical to Shutterstock’s. The only difference is that Depositphotos offers much lower indemnity—only $5,000 for both.
- Customer support: The customer is one of the best stock photo sites. The live chat is knowledgeable and replies very fast, while the response from email takes one to three business days.
- Additional features: Depositphotos’ stock library is integrated into the VistaCreate editor. The site also has a free background remover from images and videos, an image upscaler, and an API.
- Free trial: The free trial last only 7 days, but you can get 10 royalty-free images with the 25 images/mo plan.
- Discounts: 16% discount on yearly subscriptions compared to monthly. 73.5% discount when picking the largest subscription plan of 750 monthly downloads compared to the smallest one. Up to 78.6% discount on bulk purchases with on-demand packs (11, 25, or 100 images) compared to the smallest (3 images). 28.1% discount by buying Extended License in bulk (25 images). On average, a 30% discount for buying videos in bulk (25 videos), and a 33% discount for buying Extended licenses for videos in bulk.
- 110 million
- Image price
- Royalty-free, CC0
- Free trial
- 30 days
Why is Canva the budget pick: Starting at just $9.99 per month, Canva is the cheapest option to get unlimited downloads of stock photos and access to an easy-to-use graphic design editor. These make Canva the best option for amateur designers and solopreneurs on a budget.
- 30 day free trial
- Inexpensive subscription
- Intuitive and super easy-to-use
- Huge built-in stock photo library
- Prompts team-work
- Bad at photo editing
- No one-time purchase option
- Can’t use it offline
- Lacks advanced design options
- Image quality & variety: A large portion of Canva’s image comes from free stock image sites, like Unsplash and Pixabay.
- Price: Canva is available with a free forever plan, which comes with a limited number of assets and functionality. Canva Pro costs $9.99 to $12.99 monthly and grants you full access to all features.
- Licensing: Canva offers two types of content: Free and Pro. The Free and Pro Content licenses cover all the content available on Canva’s platform, including photos, icons, illustrations, videos, audio, fonts, and templates. Free users can use Free content at no cost, and Pro content can be used by paying a fee or having a valid Canva subscription.
- Customer support: The customer is quite fast, and it usually takes around 2 business days to get a response through email.
- Additional features: The stock image collection is integrated into a super-intuitive editor, best suited for simple graphic designs, logo designs, and social media graphics.
- Free trial: 30 days free trial of Canva Pro.
- Discounts: 24% discount on the annual plan compared to the monthly. 3% discount for each additional team member.
Summary: Best stock image subscriptions
We reviewed 31 stock photo sites based on 14 data points in the categories of image quality and variety, pricing, licensing, image number, customer support, and additional features. We chose the 6 best stock photography subscriptions on the weighting assigned to each category:
- Image quality & variety: 20%
- Pricing: 20%
- Licensing: 20%
- Image number: 15%
- Additional features: 15%
- Customer support: 10%
Within each category, we also considered several characteristics, the number of images per most popular searches, technical quality, and added value. We also looked at the variety of pricing plans, minimum, median, and maximum image prices, and free trial terms. Finally, we evaluated stock photo sites’ customer support, licensing, and additional features that would enhance customers’ workflow.
A beginner’s guide to stock image subscriptions
How do subscriptions work?
A stock photo subscription can be used to get a certain number of images each month. When you sign up for a subscription plan, you’re given a fixed number of downloads each month.
The advantage of using subscriptions over on-demand or single purchases is that subscriptions guarantee the lowest price per image. By using subscriptions, you’ll benefit the most if you need images regularly. If you don’t use all your downloads in a month, certain stock photo sites roll them over to the next month, while others discard them. Conversely, if you use all your downloads, you can wait until the next month to get more or you can buy additional. Some stock photo sites give you additional downloads at a reduced price, while others require to you purchase more images on-demand.
How are subscription images licensed?
Most of the time, images downloaded with subscriptions are licensed under the Standard license. This is a type of royalty-free license, which allows you to use the image on the web, for social media, and even up to 500,000 prints. However, you may not use the image for resale, such as T-shirts, product packaging, merch, and online resale.
If you need the resale rights, you need to buy the so-called Extended or Enhanced license. This is a type of a royalty-free license similar to the Standard license, but it allows unlimited reproduction. In addition, it comes with higher legal coverage than the Standard license—the only option to get an Extended license in bulk si at Dreamstime for as low as $20.
Annual vs. monthly subscriptions
Most stock photo sites give you the option of monthly and yearly subscription plans. The main difference is that you may cancel the monthly plans at any time, while yearly plans last for 12 months. While the yearly plans bind you to a 12-month commitment, you get, on average, a 20-30% discount on the subscription price.
Therefore, we recommend annual subscriptions for those who are going to need for images for at least a year, while the monthly plans are better for those who need regular image downloads for a shorter time. Let’s compare the prices of the monthly and annual subscriptions:
|Stock photo agency||Monthly||Yearly|
A few stock photo sites offer free trials with their subscriptions. Generally, the free trials are available only with the annual plans as a reward for a longer commitment. The way they work is that you sign up for the free trial by creating an account and providing your payment information, but you won’t get billed just yet. Then you can download a number of stock images for free (usually 10) and use them even for commercial projects.
You can safely cancel the trial before it ends, and you won’t get billed. What is more, you get to keep the images you downloaded. Here are the best free trial currently available:
- Shutterstock – 10 free images, 1 video, or 2 audio tracks
- Adobe Stock – 10, 25, or 40 free images
- iStock – 10 free images
- Canva – 1st month free, you can get unlimited downloads
- Bigstock – 35 free images or videos.
- Dreamstime – 15 watermarked images
Best stock photo subscriptions
What is the best stock photo subscription?
Currently, Shutterstock tops our list of the best stock photo subscriptions. The reasons are many (and explored in-depth in this article), but in short, it’s because it offers high-quality photos; is affordable, costing only $0.22 per image; offers a 30-day free trial; lets you download a variety of assets; has the largest collection of stock photos (433 million).
You can try it 30 days risk-free thanks to its completely safe free trial. And when you sign up for the annual prepaid plan, it also throws in a 20% discount or a 33% discount with the prepaid option.