The Best Stock Photo Sites

Written by Matic Broz Updated on November 26, 2021

The Best Stock Photo Sites

Stock photos have one vital role—to illustrate. Thus, as a visual medium, they must be appealing. But finding high-quality stock photos worth your money is difficult.

To help you find the best source of stock photos, I’ve reviewed loads of stock agencies. And I narrowed them down to the 25 finest.

Of the 25 stock photo sites, I recommend three above all else.

The Top 3 Stock Photo Sites

Based on pricing, image quality, additional features, and overall reputations, these are the best stock photo sites:

1. Adobe Stock

If you want beautiful photos, Adobe Stock should be your first choice. It’s no secret that as the developer of creative apps, Adobe works with the world’s best photographers. So, it has access to the best photos, illustrations, and videos.

#1 Pick
Adobe Stock Logo

Adobe Stock

The best stock photo site for designers.

While not the cheapest, you save money with Adobe Stock. The integration into Adobe apps allows you to test images without buying them.

Adobe Stock shines thanks to the integration into the Creative Cloud. In other words, you can browse photos (and other assets) from within Adobe apps. As such, testing photos for a design costs nothing since you pay only for the images you use at export.

So, what does that mean? In short, creating elegant designs is effortless. Besides, you end up saving money despite Adobe Stock being costly.

Compared to other sites, Adobe Stock has a generous free trial with 10 or 40 free images. But it only comes with the annual plans. Ultimately, you get 10 or 40 free photos, no questions asked.

2. Shutterstock

Shutterstock leads the rankings in every view. It has the most stock photos (360 million), low prices, and a broad royalty-free license. Also, it’s used by many renowned firms and has high satisfaction among clients.

Alternative
Shutterstock Logo

Shutterstock

The best stock photo site for commercial use.

Despite the poor reviews on Trustpilot, Shutterstock is trustworthy and a great stock agency for individuals, small firms, and corporations.

For years, Shutterstock has enjoyed its place as the best stock photo site. But recent trends show that many competitors are catching up, especially Adobe Stock and iStock.

While the reason is unclear, I believe it’s due to the lack of innovation. For example, Adobe Stock has the integration, iStock premium photos, and Dreamstime the lowest prices. In the meantime, Shutterstock hasn’t improved.

Equally important, many customers complain against the misleading free trial policy. Why? Four days before the trial ends, Shutterstock charges you for the next month. Regardless, if you cancel the trial in time, you get 10 free photos.

3. Dreamstime

Dreamstime is a well-established stock photo agency with 200 million stock photos. It’s the only agency that offers subscription plans for extended licenses. So, to help you save even more, I partnered with Dreamstime to bring you a 30% discount on all your purchases.

Budget pick
Dreamstime Logo

Dreamstime

The cheapest stock photo site.

If you have a small budget, starting with Dreamstime is a good idea. Images are good, but the prices are even better.

Let’s talk about the Dreamstime’s downsides. Stock photos are good but often over-editedmainly the landscape photos. Also, the website looks outdated, turning me off as a customer.

If you can look past all that, Dreamstime can cover all your image needs. In fact, it’s trusted by Google, Coca-Cola, and hp, to name a few. Comparatively, you won’t find a better combination of the image number, price, and quality anywhere else.

Use a Calculator

Use this calculator to find the cheapest stock photos for your needs. You can choose between different licenses, plan types and durations and the number of images. It also includes discounts.

Which type of a license?
Include discounts?
What kind of a plan?
How many images?
Plan duration?

Need more information? Keep reading.

What are stock photos?

Stock photos are images photographers allow others to use in exchange for money. To use a stock photo, you must buy a license, which permits you to use it within pre-agreed terms.

Generally, we use stock photos to illustrate websites, ads, books, and magazines. Hence, they are available on almost every topic. Usually, stock photos portray everyday objects, people training or working, nature, food, textures, or landmarks.

What are stock photos used for?

Stock photos have the same uses as regular photosto illustrate content and augment designs. So, we use stock photos for:

Blogs & websites

Blog and website owners use stock photos to illustrate their posts. Stock photos allow them to break up long text blocks, thus livening up the webpage. Besides depicting online articles, we use them to convey our points.

For example, by using an image, I helped readers understand the rule of thirds. I also added a grid with Photoshop to help convey my point.

The Best Stock Photo Sites 1
Screenshot from Photutorial’s guide on the rule of thirds.

Commercials

Nothing grabs a consumer’s attention like a beautiful contextual photo. So, commercial designers use stock photos with caution in well-thought-out campaigns. The same goes for you; when creating ads, be careful not to use free stock photos. Indeed, they’re beautiful, but there are two problems.

First, free stock photos are licensed under a Creative Commons license. As a result, no one vets the images nor offers indemnification, meaning you’re on your own. Second, free photos are often overused because everyone can access them. So, customers have seen them plenty of times, making your ads appear cheap.

TIP. Rights-managed or extended licenses are, in most cases, the best choice for commercial projects.

Social media

Not everyone on social media is a photographer. Yet, beautiful social media posts are a must for any influencer or a brand. So, how do you get stunning photos? You go to a stock photo site and buy them.

Distribution

When I say distribution, I mean printing stock photos on mugs, T-shirts, and calendars. But, be cautious because by surpassing the distribution limit of a royalty-free license, you violate its terms.

Personal

For personal, non-commercial projects, you don’t have to worry about licensing. So, a CC0 or a royalty-free license is enough for printing a photo to decorate your apartment, using it as wallpaper, or in a school project.

What is a stock photo license?

Every photo is intellectual property, so the photographer is its rightful owner. Under copyright law, the owner of a photo has exclusive rights to that photo. But they may allow others to use it as well. Permission to use someone’s photo is called a “license”. You can generally procure a license by paying for it.

More often than not, photographers don’t license their photos. Instead, stock agencies do it for them by finding customers, setting the prices, and even handling legal issues. So, to get a stock photo license, turn to a stock photo site.

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Types of stock photo license

Stock photo licenses are given to you by stock photo agencies, such as Adobe Stock. You get the right to use the picture with a license, but you don’t become its rightful owner. Thus, you may use the photo for your projects, but you may not claim its ownership, resell it, or otherwise misuse it.

We distinguish four types of stock photo licenses based on the rights you get, price, and legal indemnification.

License typePublic domainRoyalty-freeRights-managed
CostFree$0.10-$10$100+
DistributionUnlimitedUsually 500kDepends on the agreement
LocationWorldwideWorldwideLimited
TimeForeverForeverLimited
Best forPersonal projectsCommercials, blogs, social mediaCommercial campaigns that require exclusivity
Best optionUnsplash »Adobe Stock »Getty Images »

Public Domain (PD)

A Public Domain license (also “Creative Commons Zero” or CC0) allows you to use licensed content free of charge for personal and commercial projects. Although you don’t pay for the license, you may use it for any project. Still, you may not resell the content, as you’re not its owner.

Royalty-free (RF)

A Royalty-Free license is the most basic stock photo license. In exchange for a one-time payment, you may use RF content forever in as many projects as you want. However, distribution is limited to around 500,000 copies. But few stock photo agencies allow unlimited distribution and reproduction.

Royalty-Free licenses cost between $0.10/photo and up to tens of dollars. You can also get an extended license, which is a form of royalty-free license that allows unlimited reproduction and distribution. Generally, the legal indemnification is also higher, up to $1M.

Rights-Managed (RM)

A Rights-Managed ensures exclusivity and unlimited reproduction. Each RM license is tailored to an individual campaign, and may not be used for other projects. Hence, it’s limited to a certain location, timeframe, and project. RM licenses are appropriate for large projects, so they cost hundreds of dollars.

And here’s why an RM license is important: a couple of years ago, two car companies used the same stock clip for their ads. What is more, the ads ran simultaneously, resulting in a backlash.

What are stock photo websites?

Stock photo websites are online agencies that collect content from artists and license it to customers. The term “stock content” or “stock media” encompasses stock photos, illustrations, videos, audio, and templates.

Stock photo websites (also “sites”) receive content from their contributors. These are the artists and photographers who upload their art to the sites, allowing the customers to use it.

In other words, stock photo agencies act as mediators between buyers and artists. For each successful buy, they take a significant cut away from photographers, often giving them less than half.

The best sites for commercial use

When searching for stock photos for commercial projects, you should keep photo value and quality in mind. One of the biggest challenges is finding a beautiful but rarely used image. The issue is many people have already seen it. So to make your design seem genuine, be careful with the image selection.

So, I recommend stock photo sites with a wide variety of high-quality photos. This way, you can find unique content; plus, job finding what you look for is much easier.

1. Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is, without a doubt, the best stock photo site for graphic designers. It works well with Adobe apps, allowing the users to test the photos without buying them. They only pay for the photos they use in the project’s final version. This feature alone almost pays off the subscription value.

Adobe Stock pricing is simple enough. You can buy stock photos with subscriptions and on-demand with credits.

  • Subscriptions ($0.26/image) are available as either monthly (more expensive) or annual (cheaper) plans of 3/10, 40, 350, and 750 monthly downloads. Annual subscriptions ensure better prices and a free trial of 10 or 40 images. The best prices come with the largest subscription plan (750 downloads) at $0.26. On the other hand, monthly subscriptions are more costly, but you don’t have to commit for a full year.
  • Credit packs ($8.00/image) are available in 5 different sizes: 5, 16, 40, 80, and 150 credits that cost between $8—$9.99/credit. You can then use credits to buy images, videos, Photoshop and InDesign templates, and 3D models.
  • Extended license ($79.99/image) is a RF license with unlimited distribution rate.
  • Free trial (10 or 40 images) is only available with the yearly plans of 10 or 40 monthly downloads. By applying for the trial, you get the first month free.

Read: Adobe Stock review & Adobe Stock Free Trial

2. Shutterstock

With over 350 million stock images and 200k added every day, Shutterstock is the largest stock photo agency. These numbers guarantee an endless variety of images, vectors, videos, and other stock media. Thanks to its strict technical standards for stock photos, Shutterstock’s quality never disappoints.

Shutterstock license is reasonably broad and allows up to 500k copies for the Standard license (royalty-free) and even more with the Enhanced license. So, Shutterstock is an excellent choice for businesses and individuals.

Shutterstock sells stock photos with subscription plans and on-demand with image packs.

  • Subscriptions ($0.22/image) is where you get the best price per image. Subscriptions bind you to a monthly or yearly contract, so they are the best option if you have consistent image needs. You can choose between 10, 50, 350, and 750 monthly downloads, starting at only $0.22 per image ($0.197 with my coupon code). To get the best prices, choose the largest plan of 750 images and sign up for an annual contract, which grants you a 20% discount.
  • On-demand packs ($9.16/image) don’t need a contract, so they’re more expensive than subscriptions. Depending on your needs, you can choose between 2, 5, and 25 image packs that cost $29, $49, and $229, consecutively. But remember that these are the prices for RF photos.
  • Extended license ($67.96/image): You can buy Enhanced license separately or in image packs of 2, 5, or 25.
  • Free trial (10 images): Shutterstock offers a free trial of 10 images for 30 days. All you need to do is sign up and claim your images.

Read: Shutterstock review

3. iStock

iStock, formerly iStockphoto, is an online RF stock imagery site and the father of microstock photography. It has been around for 20 years, in which iStock gained a worldwide reputation.

iStock offers a large selection of photos, illustrations, vectors, audio files, and videos. You can choose from a wide variety of plans, from monthly and yearly subscriptions to single and bulk on-demand.

  • Subscriptions ($0.22/image) are divided into two: Basic Subscriptions and Premium Subscriptions. The best prices per image come with the Basic Annual plan of 750 monthly images.
    • Basic Subscriptions allow you to download Essential (generic) images, which cost $29-$199/month.
    • Premium Subscriptions give you access to the Signature collection (high-quality images with high value), that costs $70—$399/month. You can save 30% by using my iStock coupon.
  • On-demand ($8.00/image): iStock offers ten credit packs from 1 to 300 credits that cost $8-$12. You can use the credits to purchase photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos at the following prices:
    • Essential photos, vectors, and illustrations – 1 credit
    • Signature photos, vectors, and illustrations – 3 credits
    • Essentials videos – 6 credits
    • Signature videos – 18 credits
  • Extended license ($79.99)
  • Free trial is not available at iStock. However, you may download free stock photos weekly. All you have to do is sign up for free to get access to one free photo, illustration, video, and audio clip each week.

Read: iStock review

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4. Depositphotos

Depositphotos is an RF microstock photo agency based in Florida. Its library contains 186 million files of high-quality photos, vectors, videos, and illustrations. Since it offers incredible e-commerce stock images, it’s the favourite of numerous bloggers and businesses.

Depositphotos sells images with plans for individuals and companies. Both include subscription plans and on-demand packs.

  • Subscriptions ($0.22/image) are either monthly or annual (14% cheaper) with 30, 75, 150, and 750 monthly downloads. You get the best prices ($0.22/image) by choosing the largest plan for a full year. But you can use my 15% promo code for Depositphotos and pay only $0.197/photo.
  • On-demand plans ($2.99/image) are available in 4foursizes of 3, 10, 25, and 100 images. You can choose between a standard license or an extended license. To get the best prices, choose 100 images plan for $2.99/image. In contrast, the smallest 3 image costs $14.00/image.
  • Extended license ($63.96) is available with on-demand packs only, costing $63.96—$89.00/image, based on pack size. Thus, the best investment of your money is buying 100 images plan, compared to buying 25 images 4 times.
  • Free trial is not available at Depositphotos. Or so you thought. At first sight, Depositphotos’ free trial doesn’t exist, but I’ll let you in on a little secret.
    To get Depositphotos free trial, sign up and wait a couple of hours to get an invitation to a 7-day free trial of 10 photos via email.
  • Free photos is a collection of 70k free files. Furthermore, Depositphotos lets you download watermarked images, thus giving you a chance to test the image within your design or project before buying it.

Read: Depositphotos review

5. Alamy

Alamy was founded in 1999, and ever since, it has been known as one of the great stock photo sites. Alamy’s library has grown to 200 million editorial and creative photos, vectors, videos, and 360-degree images.

Alamy offers quality stock images with RF and RM licenses on-demand only. As a result, you can’t get low photos prices, like at Adobe Stock.

  • Subscriptions: /
  • On-demand ($6.99/image)
  • Extended license ($19.99)

RF images cost from $6.96 upward, while rights-managed images cost between $19.99 and $199.99. To save even more, I encourage you to use my Alamy coupon code, which will save you an additional 15%. To save money, you can buy credits with image packs, which differ in price based on how you use the images.

Read: Alamy review

6. 123RF

As the name suggests, 123RF sells images under an RF license. According to its website, 123RF is trusted by Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and American Express.

123RF owns Designs.ai, an online graphic design platform based on artificial intelligence. Similarly to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, the 123RF image library is integrated into Designs.ai.

  • Subscription plans ($0.21/image) come in sizes of 10, 150, 350, and 750 monthly downloads. To get the best available prices on 123RF, choose annual subscription plans. But if you don’t want to commit for a year, costly monthly plans are a better option. In the end, subscription prices range $0.21—$3.00/image.
  • On-demand plans ($1.98/image) are more expensive, but they don’t bind you to a contract. So, they’re a better option when you need a couple of images. With the on-demand plans, you get credits to buy images.
  • Extended license ($49.50/image).
  • Free trial: /

Read: 123RF review

The cheapest sites

If you don’t care about image quality or value, choosing one of the cheapest stock photo sites is the way to go.

Don’t get me wrong; these stock photos are by no means terrible. Dreamstime, in particular, is an excellent stock photo site. I even partnered with Dreamstime to bring you a 30% discount.

Of course, most of the cheapest stock photo sites don’t have the same amount of quality photos as commercial sites. So, you have to search long before you find the right one.

1. Dreamstime

Dreamstime is, in my opinion, the cheapest site, with the prices starting at $0.158/photo. The lowest prices are bound to this link, which brings a 30% discount.

Since it was founded in 2000, Dreamstime has built a fair reputation for providing the cheapest stock images. This stock photo agency offers an extensive collection of subscription and on-demand plans, so choosing the right one might be tricky. Let me help you:

  • Subscription plans ($0.158/image) are available in six different sizes: 5, 10, 15, 25, 100, and 750 monthly downloads. By prepaying for the entire year, you get a 23% discount. I partnered with Dreamstime to give you an additional 30% discount connected to a link. This link allows you to get the best stock photo prices possible. With the largest plan, you will get stock photos for as low as $0.158/photo.
  • Credit packs ($8.00/image) come in ten different credit sizes, that you can use to buy images. However, the pricing of images depends on the image level. The higher the image level, the more credits it costs. To determine which level the image falls into, click on each image and check manually. Furthermore, levels change every day because they depend on image popularity and age. The credit prices range from $0.616 to $9.54 based on the credit pack you choose.
  • Extended licenses ($16.10/image) are uniquely sold with subscriptions at Dreamstime. This results in the best possible prices in the industry – $16.10 for an extended license. Of course, you can buy an extended license on-demand for 50 credits or $62.50.
  • Free trial (15 images)

Read: Dreamstime review

2. Storyblocks

Storyblocks (formerly Videoblocks) sells stock videos, photos, audio, and sound effects. Its content is available with unlimited plans, for which you pay a monthly fee to get unlimited downloads.

Storyblocks licenses photos under two licenses. An Individual license is ideal for individuals, while organisations need a Business license. Nonetheless, both are RF licenses, allowing unlimited distribution and covering $20k and $1mil, respectively.

  • Unlimited All Access plan ($30/month) is the best option for designers needing unlimited supply of stock videos, audio, and images. By choosing the annual plan ($30/month), you get a 53% discount compared to a monthly plan ($65/month). It includes full access to Maker, Storyblocks’ video editor. Put together, for $30/month, Unlimited All Access includes unlimited videos, audio, and access to Maker—buying these separately would cost you $55/month.
  • Video Only plans ($20/month & $10/month) are two stock footage plans. Unlimited Video plan ($20/month) gives unlimited downloads of HD and 4K footage, as well as After Effect templates. In contrast, Basic video plan ($10/month) allows 5 downloads of HD footage each month.
  • Audio Only plans ($15/month & $10/month) grant access to Storyblocks’ audio collection. Similarly to Video Only plans, you can choose Unlimited Audio ($15/month) for unlimited downloads of music and sound effects. Or Basic Audio ($10/month) for 3 monthly downloads of music.
  • Maker ($20/month) is a simple to use video editor with integrated Storyblocks library. The integration is ideal for importing new videos and audio to your project. You don’t even a license it to test. Only when you’re satisfied with your product, you license the content. You can use Maker for free, but the exported video will be watermarked.

Read: Storyblocks review

3. Bigstock

Bigstock, formerly Bigstockphoto, was founded in 2004 and acquired by Shutterstock in 2009. Now, it represents a successful stock agency with 100 million images and a wide variety of plans.

Bigstock sells images with daily and monthly subscription plans and on-demand with credits and cash. The best prices come with daily subscription plans, but you need a 12-month contract.

  • Subscriptions ($0.158/image) at Bigstock work a bit differently; they are divided into daily and monthly. Daily plans give you a certain amount of downloads per day, whereas monthly plans give you a certain amount of downloads per month. You can choose these plans for either 1, 3, or 12 months. The longer the plan lasts, the cheaper the images. The best prices ($0.158/image) come with the daily subscriptions of 50 images/day over 12 months.
  • On-demand ($0.99/image): You can choose between five image credit packs: 10, 25, 100, 250, and 500 images. These cost between $35 ($3.50/image) and $495 ($0.99/image).
  • Extended license ($49.50/image) can only be bought with credits (50 credits) or cash, starting at $49.50/extended license.
  • Free trial (35 images). Bigstock runs a 7-day free trial program during which you can download 35 free images. This is the most generous free trial.

Read: Bigstock review

4. Stock Photo Secrets

Stock Photo Secrets is a small stock image site with a relatively small library of 7 million images with little diversity. So, Stock Photo Secrets is fit for anyone looking for cheap stock photos but not as great for anyone who needs image variety.

  • Subscriptions ($0.167/image) come with monthly and yearly plans. As usual, yearly subscriptions offer lower prices per image but require you to sign an annual contract. The lowest monthly prices come with the largest plan of 500 monthly downloads for $105.00/month, which results in $0.21/image.
    To get the best possible prices, I recommend yearly plans. The most popular is the widely known “99 CLUB” plans, which gives you are fixed amount of downloads per year for a very reasonable price of $0.50/image. However, to the best prices at Stock Photo Secrets, consider the 500 downloads plan for $999.00/year, resulting in $0.167/image.
  • On-demand ($5.96/image) plans come in three sizes: 5, 10, and 25 images and cost $39, $55, and $149, respectively. Needless to say, the best prices come with the largest plan of 25 images, resulting in $5.95/image.
  • Extended license ($44.00/image) gives you a lot more freedom when it comes to promoting your designs, which is why it’s a lot more expensive. You can choose between 3 packs of 1, 5, and 25 images that cost $80, $300, and $1,100.
    To get the best price of an Extended license at stock photo secrets, choose the largest plan of 25 images: $44/image.
  • Free trial: /

Read: Stock Photo Secrets review

5. YayImages

YayImages is still a relatively young stock photo agency. In February 2019, it was acquired by Doublesix LLC. Since its stock photo library has significantly expanded, the website got an all-new look, and it received a forum. Moreover, YayImages has partnered with IBM, LiveChatInc, Google Cloud, SendGrid and a lot more to give you special perks.

YayImages license is very comprehensive and allows you to use the image for almost everything. It includes advertising, marketing, magazines, designs, web design, apps, games, blogs, websites, and more. However, you must not use them in any criminal or defamatory way.

As of 2021, YayImages sells images by 18,000 photographers from 145+ countries. You can buy images, vectors, and videos. The content is available with several options.

  • Subscriptions ($0.16/image) come in 3 sizes – 40, 100, and 260 monthly images. You can choose between monthly and yearly subscriptions. Monthly are more expensive (higher cost per image) but also more flexible. On the other hand, yearly subscriptions are cheaper but require you to commit for a full year. The best prices come with the largest yearly subscription plan of 260 image/month for $42.42/month or $0.16/image.
  • Unlimited plan ($8.25/month for unlimited downloads) gives you an unlimited amount of downloads per month. This plan is the best option for those, who need a large amount of photos but don’t want to overpay them. You can choose either a monthly or a quarterly (3 months) commitment. The latter is less expensive per month.
    Currently, there’s also a Special unlimited plan offer. It is the same thing as the aforementioned unlimited plan, but you can subscribe for a year. Keep in mind that the price gets even lower – $8.25/month.
  • Image credit packs ($19.99/photo) are the only on-demand option. YayImages offers 3 different packs that come in sizes of 50, 100, and 200 images. The largest image pack is the most cost-efficient with $1.00/image. Unfortunately, YayImages doesn’t provide information about whether the credits ever expire. Speaking from my experience, they either last 1 year or forever.
  • Extended license ($30.00/photo) is available with cash for $50 or for 30 credits. With the largest image credits pack, it will cost you $30.
  • Free trial: /

Read: YayImages review

6. Canva Pro

You might be surprised to find Canva among the best stock photo sites, but in fact, it is one of the most affordable on this list. Canva is originally a popular image editing tool, great for creating beautiful graphics for blogs, ads, and other projects, but it also has a built-in stock image library.

Canva Pro costs only $9.95/month, and for this price, you get access to unlimited use of 75 million photos and elements, which alone makes Canva extremely cost-efficient. However, a subscription to Canva doesn’t have much to do with stock photo pricing.

At Canva you’ll find two sorts of images: Free Media and One Design.

  • Free Media are free stock photos, graphics, music, videos and wallpapers. You may use these without buying them. You may, however, attribute the author and Canva, but you are not required to do so.
  • One Design media is licensed under a royalty-free license (read more about Canva’s licensing), which costs $1 for images, $3 for music, and $5 for video.

It gets better. If you’re subscribed to Canva you’re eligible to free export of the designs that incorporate the stock media.

Make sure that you use the free 30-day trial to see if it’s the right fit.

Read: Canva review

7. StockUnlimited

StockUnlimited is a small and little-known stock photo site. According to their website, StockUnlimited has been used by Discovery Channel and Royal Caribbean.

The motto behind their work i”, “Simple license model. No complicated licenses. No daily limits. It reflects in their pricing model that offers extremely comprehensive subscriptions and inexpensive image packs.

  • Subscriptions ($4.69/month for unlimited downloads) all come in the same size – unlimited downloads. However, they differ in the subscriptions time: 1 month, 1 year, and 3 years. Subscribing to a 3-year subscription plan guarantees the lowest prices by far. $169 for 3 years results in only $4.69/month for unlimited downloads. Additionally, all plans include access to 1 million assets, including images, audio, fonts, and templates.
  • Download packs ($0.50/image) come in three sizes as well. 10, 30, and 100 downloads that cost $9, $25, and $50. Naturally, the best prices come with the largest download pack – 100 assets for $50 result in $0.50/asset. Be careful, though, as the downloads expire after 1 year after purchase.
  • Extended license ($149.00/video)

Read: StockUnlimited review

The best premium sites

Premium stock photo sites aren’t only paid stock photo sites, but they also offer hand-picked, highly sought-after stock photos.

Naturally, premium stock photos have a high price tag, meaning you will pay handsomely for what you get.

1. Getty Images

Getty Images is a premium stock photo website with a long history of first-class photos for commercial purposes, including exclusive images from all over the world. It sells images under a rights-managed license that you can tailor specifically to your needs. However, it costs a lot more than a royalty-free license – from a couple hundred to several thousands of dollars.

All images are sold on-demand under a royalty-free license – you cannot purchase a rights-managed (extended) license. Getty Images sells images in packs that significantly reduce the overall price. A single image purchase costs $175 for a small image/low-res video and $499 for a large image or a 4k/HD video.

If you want to reduce the costs of images, purchase packs of 5 or 10. The price will drop to between $150 and $425 per download.

Sadly, Getty Images does not offer a free trial, nor can you purchase an extended (rights-managed) license.

2. Photocase

Photocase is a German stock photo agency known for its small but heavily curated library of superb stock images. In contrast with other stock photo sites, Photocase builds its library with a “quality before quantity” motto. Its photos aren’t only top-notch regarding the quality, but also the technical and artistic aspects.

There are no subscription plans at Photocase, but you will find plenty of Credit Bundles that can give you a generous bonus of up to 45%. You can buy images on demand starting at $6.24.

You can purchase images with your cash or purchase credit bundles first and then use credits to download images. The latter is cheaper because you get a hefty discount of up to 40% by buying credit bundles.

  • On-demand ($8.45/image): Credits can be purchased with several credit bundles, from 25 credits for $61 ($2.44/credit) up to 1000 credits for $1,690 ($1.69/credit).
  • Unsurprisingly, the more credits you purchase, the better price you get. To get the best prices at Photocase, purchase the largest credit bundle of 1000 credits and use the credits to purchase any photo. A small (S) photo will cost you only $8.45.
  • Extended license ($169.00/image): Photocase offers 3 extras in addition to their royalty-free license:
    • No Proof of Copyright: Enables the use of the image without the otherwise necessary proof of copyright (Artist / Photocase). ($90 or 30 credits)
    • High Print Runs: Allows the use of an image in a print total of more than 500,000 copies. ($300 or 100 credits)
    • Merchandise and Templates: Allows the use of an image in templates and as merchandise for resales, such as posters, mugs or T-shirts. ($300 or 100 credits)
  • These license are a great option for any sort of ecommerce stock images you might need for commercial use.

Read: Photocase review

3. Offset (by Shutterstock)

Offset is a premium stock photo site by Shutterstock. The critical difference between the two is in the quality of images and their price.

For the sake of customer experience, Offset has simplified pricing. You can only purchase images on-demand one-by-one or with image packs of 5 and 10. Of course, the bulk purchase grants you a hefty discount.

All images are licensed under a royalty-free license with unlimited distribution and no location and time restrictions.

  • On-demand (from $211.90/image): There are two available image sizes: Small (72 dpi) and Large (300 dpi). Small images cost less (from $211.90 to $249) based on the pack size, while large images cost from $299.90 to $349.

Because Offset is meant chiefly for high-end customers and enterprises, there’s no free trial, subscriptions, or discounts.

Read: Offset review

4. Pond5

Pond5 is an excellent online marketplace for stock videos, stock images, and video and sound effects. This website is not fantastic only for the customers but also for creators. The principle of Pond5 is that that you don’t own any content. Everything is owned by their creators, who can, the best of all, set the prices on their own. They and Pond5 split the earnings 50-50.

For your safety, Pond5 also offers a nice indemnification. Thus, protecting against any legal issues regarding the content downloaded from their site. Moreover, Pond5 will match any prices of their competitors if you find the same item elsewhere.

  • Subscriptions: $8.30/video: Pond5 has two subscription plans for their videos: a Monthly membership and an Annual. Monthly membership costs $199/month while the Annual costs $999/year ($83.25/month). Both plans guarantee the lowest prices possible at Pond5: $8.33/video with the annual plan. Each also comes with 10 monthly downloads and a monthly rollover of unused downloads.
  • On-demand: from $25.00/video: You don’t need any kind of plan in this case; you just pay as you go. However, you can pre-purchase packs, which give you nice bonuses with each purchase, ranging from 10% to 20%. Credit packs are a nice way to get more from your money’s worth.
  • Extended license: from $149.00/video: Pond5 offers 2 extended licenses: Business and Premium license. Business license can be used by up to 5 individuals on your team and provides up to $250,000 of indemnification. It costs $149. Premium license is even more comprehensive. Everyone on your team may use the downloaded content. Plus, it provides up to $1 million of indemnification.

Read: Pond5 review

Best free stock photo sites

Free stock photo sites offer stock photos under a Creative Commons 0 (CC0) license, which allows you to use images for free.

However, every website has its own version of the CC0 license. Make sure you read it before you use any photos to avoid legal issues down the road.

1. Unsplash

Unsplash is easily my favourite free stock photo site. Created by Crew, it was started 5 years ago as a Tumblr blog, which offered photos for free. Soon it became one of the most popular free stock photo sites with a library of over 1.5 million images from contributors.

You can use all their photos for free, for either commercial or non-commercial purposes. What is more, you don’t even have to ask permission or provide credit, although it is appreciated. You can read more about Unsplash License.

Since virtually anyone can post on Unsplash and no commission is paid to the author of the image, finding a good picture that perfectly satisfies consumers’ needs is challenging.

Even though Unsplash is an incredible free stock photo website, I recommend you use a site like Shutterstock for commercial purposes.

2. Pixabay

Pixabay is a sizeable German copyleft free-to-use website launched in 2010, created by Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger.

They offer just over 1.5 million free photos, vector graphics, illustrations and videos, shared on a very professional looking site. Additionally, Pixabay has its blog and community forum. Other members share the photographs you download.

Although the number of photos is far from impressive, they are only a free registration away from being available to be downloaded – all their content is under Pixabay License, making it free to use for personal and commercial projects.

It is easy to use the platform, which does not require registration to download photos. However, there are advantages to being registered and logged in.

Did you know? You can get up to 40 free images at Adobe Stock.
Get Free Images

3. Pexels

Pexels is another free stock photo website. Content on their website is under Pexels License, which allows users to use any photo and gives them the freedom to modify as they wish, at absolutely no cost.

Similarly to Pixabay, Pexedoesn’tn’t require you to create an account to download images. Remember that you need an account to use other features Pexels offers, such as liking photos, following photographers, and collecting images.

Just like at Unsplash and Pixabay, you are asked but not required to give credit to authors. The site is monetised by including sponsored images from paid stock photo collections to which they’re affiliated.

4. PikWizard

PikWizard is a free stock photo site with more than 1 million images in the library, which it sources from Wavebreak Media. Like any other similar website, PikWizard makes a living by offering premium stock photos from agencies like Adobe Stock. However, I dislike their design because they mix paid images in the carousel of free photos, and you don’t know which is which until you hover over an image. This whole process makes browsing images a lot annoying.

Where PikWizard stands out is its image editor, Design Wizard. To use it, first find an image you like within PikWizard, click on it and then click on the butt”n “Edit image for f”ee”.

Design Wizard is an online app similar to Canva that allows basic images adjustment. More importantly, it will enable you to create beautiful designs for social media, personal projects, and even infographics for your blog.

Design Wizard offers three plans: Free, Pro ($9.99/mo), and Business ($49.99/mo). Each paid plan comes with a free trial and a 25% discount if you choose an annual subscription.

5. StockSnap.io

StockSnap.io has a large collection of entirely free high-resolution and high-quality stock photos. It adds hundreds of new images daily, rapidly expanding its selection of photos.

All photos are released under the creative commons public domain, meaning that you can use them in any way you want without any attribution required. StockSnap.io also tracks the views and downloads throughout the site, it’s always recommending you the most popular photos.

6. Reshot

Founded in 2018, Reshot is one of the newest players in the free stock photo world. The Reshot website is based around a search engine with an increasingly popular minimalistic design. It focuses on finding high-quality images for its library.

Like other popular free stock photo sites, Reshot is not based on boring or cliché stock photos, but instead adopts the style of providing beautiful and inspiring images.

7. Foodiesfeed

As the name suggests, Foodiesfeed is the perfect free stock photo site for a food blogger, hobby or professional photographers, or even passionate foodies. Anyone can join its community from all around the world to share and download photos under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.

In the three years of its existence, almost 4 million photos have been viewed, more than 1.6 million downloaded, and 110k+ viewed every month.

8. Picography

Picography offers a small amount of high-quality and professional photos. All photos are licensed under a CC0 license. Popular searches on Picography include technology, scenery, business, and people. Interestingly, you can search by hashtags, such as #architexture, #urban, and #building.

As with any other free stock photo site, Picography appreciates attribution but doesn’t require it.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best royalty-free photo site?

Overall, the best royalty-free photo site is Shutterstock. It has the most extensive library (350+ million images), one of the lowest prices (from $0.22/photo), a free trial, a kind support team, and is 100% safe to use.

What is the cheapest stock photo site?

The cheapest stock photo site is Dreamstime, with pricing starting at $0.158 per photo. You can only get these prices at a 30% discount.

Where can I get high-quality photos for free?

There are several excellent free stock photo sites, including Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels.

How do stock photo sites work?

In short, creators offer their work on stock photo sites, for which you can pay a fee to use. By paying, you acquire a license that allows you to use the content within the permitted uses.

Is it illegal to use stock photos?

As long as you acquire a license to use the stock photo(s), stock photos are legal and safe to use. However, you may not use stock photos without owning a license.

How can I legally use stock photos?

To use stock photos legally, you must first acquire a license. Which license you choose is based on the party offering the photos and your intentions with the photos.

Are stock photos free to use?

Some stock photos are free to use – these are licensed under a sort of a Creative Commons 0 license. For promotional purposes, royalty-free stock photos are the best choice, as they guarantee safe use. For larger campaigns, an extended (or rights-managed) license is the best option.

What are stock photos used for?

People usually use stock photos to visualise their ideas, make promotional campaigns more successful, or create better products or product packaging. You may also use stock photos for personal purposes, such as a school project or creating a birthday card.

How much do stock photos cost?

Stock photos cost $0.158/image (at Dreamstime) and $125/image (at GettyImages) for a royalty-free license. Stock photos with extended licenses are usually a lot more expensive, starting at $16.10 (at Dreamstime) and up to several thousand dollars, based on your needs.

Where to find stock photos?

You can download stock photos from stock photo sites. These offer stock photos either for free (CC0) or in exchange for a payment (royalty-free and extended licenses).

Summary

Using free photo sites like Unsplash or Pixabay is tempting. However, if you need stock photos for commercial use, I recommend you buy them.

There are fewer free high-quality photos, which results in more people using them. You do not want your product or business to come across as cheap or a duplicate. If I had to choose one stock photo site, I would select Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, or Dreamstime.

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