Stock photos are a wild market: you can find anything from legit photos to scams. In this post, we sorted the stock photo sites we’re comfortable recommending to you based on the price, starting with the lowest. There are also some cheaper options, but we do not recommend them. You can find them among our stock photo reviews, rated with lower than 2 stars.
How to choose the cheapest stock photo site
If you’re looking for stock photos but don’t want to break the bank, there are a few things to consider when choosing a cheap stock photo site.
Cost: This might seem obvious, but you want to find a stock photo site that fits within your budget. There are a variety of stock photo sites available, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars per month, so determine what you can afford and start your search from there.
Image quality: While you want to save money, you don’t want to sacrifice image quality. Choose a site that offers high-quality images that meet your needs. Some sites offer higher quality images for a premium price, so determine if the extra cost is worth it for your specific use case.
Quantity: Consider the number of images available on the site. While some sites offer a smaller selection, they may have more unique or niche images that fit your needs. On the other hand, larger sites may have a wider range of images, but also may have more competition for the same photos.
Licensing: Make sure to read the licensing terms for the images you’re interested in. Some sites may have restrictions on how you can use their images or may require additional fees for certain uses. Check to see if the licensing terms fit your needs and budget.
Ease of use: Choose a site that is easy to navigate and search for images. Some sites offer filters and categories to help narrow down your search. If you’re new to stock photo sites, look for a site with a user-friendly interface to make the process as smooth as possible.
In short, finding a cheap stock photo site that fits your needs requires balancing cost, image quality, quantity, licensing, and ease of use. Consider all of these factors when making your decision to ensure you find the right site for you.
Cheapest Stock Photo Sites
Best stock photo site for unlimited downloads
- 7 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- Unlimited downloads (7 days)
Overview: Envato Elements is a popular marketplace that offers a range of creative assets including stock photos, video, fonts, audio tracks, templates, and more with unlimited downloads. Envato Elements is a good choice for creative that need a variety of creative assets while on a budget. Read our full Envato Elements review »
Why is Envato Elements the cheapest stock photo site: 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. You can get the full subscription for just $16.50 for month, and $11.50 as a student.
Pros & Cons
- 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 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 »
Runner up for the cheapest stock photo site
- 110 million
- Image price
- Free trial
- 30 days
Overview: Canva is a graphic design platform used to create simple graphic designs. It widely popular among amateur designers and has over 110 million stock images. Read our full Canva review »
Why is Canva the runner up for the cheapest stock photo site: At $9.99/month, Canva is cheaper than Envato Elements, but several of its photos are improted from Pexels and other free stock photo sites that you can get for free without an active Canva subscription.
Pros & Cons
- 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: Many of Canva’s images are imported from free stock photo sites like Pexels. Although these images are often very professional, Canva’s variety doesn’t match Shutterstock’s or Adobe Stock’s.
- Price: Canva is available with a free plan, which limits certain functions like resizing and premium assets. The Pro plan is available with a monthly ($12.99/month) and yearly ($9.99/month) commitments. Teams pay $14.99 per month plus $14.50 per month for each additional team member.
- Licensing: Canva offers multiple licenses based on the source of images. For its Pro content, a form of a royalty-free license applies, which gives you a perpetual, non-exclusive, and non-transferable, worldwide right to use the content.
- Customer support: Canva support provides fast and helpful assistance to users through their various channels including live chat, email and help center resources. Their customer service team is knowledgeable and courteous, making for a positive overall experience.
- Additional features: Canva’s additional features provide a more comprehensive design experience, offering a vast library of templates, elements, and design tools to customize graphics and marketing materials.
- Free trial: There’s a 30-day free trial for the entire Canva suite (tools + photos).
- Discounts: 23% subscription discount when you buy yearly instead of monthly.
- Unlimited plan ($8.00–$11.99/month) can be purchased on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. It gives you unlimited downloads of all YayImages assets, including extended licenses. However, the unlimited downloads have a rate limit, meaning you may download only a certain number of images each day.
- Lifetime Membership ($199) is a one-time purchase plan that gives you 10 downloads per day forever.
- Subscriptions ($0.14–$7.50/image) are available with daily download only. They come in sizes of 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250 downloads per day. You can also choose image sizes, subscription duration, and the number of users.
- Credits can be used to buy images ($0.80–$4.00), footage ($6.00–$60.00+), and enhanced licenses ($14.00–$70.00+).
- All licenses cover only $10,000 in legal indemnification.
- Enhanced licenses must be stacked to get a true extended license, which costs more than elsewhere.
To get the lowest prices at Bigstock, go to Pricing and click on the See All Plans button. Then select the 50 Images/Day for 12 months plan. It will cost you $2.879 and you will get 18,250 downloads that you may use within 1 year, with up to 50 a day.
Choose the largest 1-year plan with 500 downloads per month that costs $999/year.
- To get the lowest prices at Shutterstock, go to Pricing. Pick the largest plan subscription (750 monthly downloads) with the annual prepaid commitment. At checkout, enter the coupon code for 25% off.
- To get the lowest prices at iStock, go to Pricing. Among Basic subscriptions pick the largest plan (750 monthly downloads) with the annual commitment (green switch above the pricing). At checkout, enter the coupon code for 30% off.
- To get the lowest prices at Depositphotos, go to Pricing and pick the largest subscription plan (750 monthly downloads) with the yearly commitment. At the checkout, apply the coupon code for a 15% discount.
- In this case, the discount is not connected to the coupon code but to the link. First, click here to open a link that has a discount bound to it. Click on “Prices and downloads plans” and select the 750 monthly downloads subscription plan with a duration of 12 months. The 25% discount will already be applied.
- To get the lowest prices at Adobe Stock, click on Pricing and select the largest subscription plan with 750 monthly downloads with an annual commitment.
Summary: Cheapest Stock Photo Sites
|Stock photo agency||Our Rating||Price||Photos|
|Stock Photo Secrets||3.0/5.0||$0.167–$7.80/image||7 million|
|Adobe Stock||5.0/5.0||$0.26–$9.99/image||297+ million|
Are cheap stock photo sites worth it?
Unless you pick a premium stock photo site, no stock photo site is too expensive. After all, there’s not a huge difference between the lowest price and the most expensive. For example, Dreamstime sells stock images for as low as $0.16, whereas Adobe Stock sells them for $0.26. But here’s what you need to consider.
1. Overall plan scheme
The prices listed in this post are the lowest you can get. That means picking the largest plan (which gives the best price/image) for an entire year and applying a promo code.
But most of us don’t need 750+ images per month throughout the year. So, the price of a yearly plan doesn’t even apply to us. Likely, you need between 10 and 50 images per month. Smaller subscription plans are considerably more expensive, usually costing between $0.50 and $10 per image.
Thus, in the end, the price range is not even that big. And that’s why I recommend considering other factors, as well.
2. Image quality
More than in pricing, stock photo websites differ in image quality. If you cherish aesthetics, you know how important high-quality images taken by a professional photographer are. Do you want to use a photo that an amateur took with their smartphone for an expensive ad campaign, a website, or a blog post?
Therefore, I value image quality above everything else, as I know it crucially affects my success. So, if you need affordable stock images that look great, I recommend Adobe Stock, Shutterstock, and iStock.
Most customers don’t need additional features, but they’re a welcome addition when included in the price. The clear winner in this category is Adobe Stock’s integration into Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Instead of first browsing photos, then downloading, and finally opening your project, the integration allows you to browse the stock images directly from your Adobe app.
As a benefit, you can test images (and other assets) in your content even before buying them. It’s the ultimate money-saver and workflow booster.
Similarly, other sites also offer various integrations. Canva has a drag-and-drop editor but fewer images than Adobe. Shutterstock and Desygner have not-so-good image editors.
Variety is also important. The price and image quality are not important when you can’t find the right image. Therefore, I usually stay away from sites with few images.
In addition, before subscribing, I browse images to see if I can find what I’m looking for. If there are too many red flags, meaning unsuccessful searches, I stay away.
Cheapest Stock Photo Sites FAQ
What is the cheapest stock photo site?
The cheapest stock photo site is Dreamstime. Royalty-free images cost $0.168, and extended licenses cost $16.10. These prices are available with a 30% discount and the largest subscription plans.
How much do stock photos cost?
The price of stock photos varies between stock photo agencies, the plans, and licenses under which they are sold, as well as their quality, exclusiveness, and value.
Is it illegal to use stock photos?
Using stock photos is legal as long as they are used within the license’s allowed uses. Allowed uses depend based on which stock photo license you purchased.
Cheapest Extended license stock photos?
The cheapest Extended license stock photo can be purchased at Shutterstock for only $9.16 per image. To get this price, you need to purchase the 25-image pack.
What is the cheapest way to buy stock photos?
The best way to buy the cheapest stock photos:
1. Go to Dreamstime and use a 30% discount.
2. Click on Prices and download plans in the top right corner.
3. Verify that you received the 30% discount.
4. Choose the plan that works the best for you. With the 750 monthly downloads plan, you get the best $0.158/image price.
5. Enjoy your cheap stock photos.
To identify the best stock photo sites, we took a holistic view of 31 stock photo agencies that incorporated image number, quality, variety, prices and pricing options, licensing terms, features, and customer support.
- Image quality & variety: 20% of the score. We browsed each stock photo site for over 50 search terms and analyzed the resulting image quality and variety. Both were scored qualitatively based on our expertise and experience. The quality check comprised technical quality, including exposure, sharpness, grain, saturation, color temperature, and added value. The variety check was primarily focused on checking what percentage of images came from the same photo shoot.
- Stock photo prices and pricing options: 20% of the score. Price is the crucial factor in choosing stock photos, and having various options helps customers find the best plans. We checked whether the stock photo agency offers subscriptions, on-demand options, and which sizes. In addition, having a free trial is a bonus as it allows customers to get an insight into what they can expect. Finally, we considered the minimum, median, and maximum price per image and the price per extended license image.
- Licensing terms: 20% of the score. We read and took notes on every stock image license. We compared them based on how many copies, reprints, and impressions they allow and their indemnity value.
- Image number: 15% of the score. The number of images is essential when rating stock photo sites because when you need thousands of images, you can quickly run out of free photos. We checked each stock photo site’s database and took notes on the number of images.
- Additional features: 15% of the score. Additional features are meant to simplify or enhance a customer’s workflow. We reviewed and tested all the additional features where possible. Since some are limited to enterprises, or we couldn’t get in touch with the support team, we searched for customers with access to the additional features and asked for their opinion.
- Customer support: 10% of the score. Crucially, when testing customer support, we didn’t tell them who we were, so we got treated like every other customer. We took notes of the response times, contact options (live chat, email, and telephone), and the usefulness and kindness of the support teams.
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About your guide
Matic Broz is a multifaceted creative professional, with experience as a photographer, graphic designer, and business owner. He has a decade of experience in helping other creatives improve their craft and start their own businesses. His writing and research have been featured in notable publications such as The Guardian, PetaPixel, and USA Today. Additionally, his scientific research has been recognized with a cover feature in the prestigious MDPI-owned journal. In his leisure time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with dogs. Read more
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