Since the beginning of stock photography 100 years ago, the cost of stock photos has significantly decreased, especially with the advent of microstock agencies. What does that mean for individual purchases, and how much do stock photos cost when bought in bulk?
Here’s everything you need to know to help you determine how much stock photos will cost you.
How much does a stock photo cost?
The average price of a stock photo hovers around $1.11, but it’s essential to remember that this isn’t a universal price point. Premium images or those purchased on-demand or with cash can become notably pricier, with some exceeding $10 or even $100.
When it comes to purchasing stock photos in bulk, the costs become more affordable. With large subscription plans, you can expect to pay around $0.20 per image, while smaller subscriptions might set you back $5.00 or more per photo. The final price is contingent on factors such as the subscription’s size, duration, and the provider you choose.
To score the best deals on stock photos, consider opting for large subscriptions that grant you numerous monthly downloads and extend over a longer period, such as a year rather than a month. Some stock agencies (for example, Shutterstock) provide a prepaid option, which can reduce prices by approximately 20%.
How much does a stock photo subscription cost?
Subscription prices vary based on the plan’s size, type, duration, and provider and thus remain the key factor when selecting a subscription. Most subscriptions give you a certain number of monthly downloads, while few offer unlimited downloads in exchange for a flat monthly fee.
How much do subscriptions cost?
Classic subscriptions cost between $29 and $249 per month or $0.22–$9.99 per photo. They usually come in sizes of between 10 and 750 monthly downloads and everything in between, most commonly 25, 50, 100, or 350.
Subscriptions are also usually available in two durations, monthly and yearly. A yearly commitment ensures from 20% to 50% lower prices compared to the monthly, but it also binds you to a 12-month contract. Some agencies, like Shutterstock, also offer a prepaid option, which is even cheaper than the yearly one.
In the following table, we aggregated the pricing of the most popular subscriptions:
Cost of stock photo subscriptions
How much do unlimited subscriptions cost?
Unlimited subscriptions differ from regular subscriptions in that you get unlimited downloads in exchange for a flat monthly fee. They cost $15 per month on average, but the price depends on the quality of the service and the total number of photos.
Canva and Envato Elements provide the most value among all unlimited subscriptions since they have the highest-quality images. Included in the Canva Pro price is a complete graphic design platform requiring zero experience.
We collected all unlimited subscriptions in the following table:
|Agency||The total number of photos||Monthly cost|
|Envato Elements||6.1 million||$16.50–$39.00|
How much do on-demand purchases cost?
On-demand purchases cost $10.00 per image on average. The price within an agency ranges by about 1.5 times between the smallest and the largest packs, although the differences get as high as 10x.
On-demand purchases differ from subscriptions in that you don’t get certain monthly downloads. Instead, you may download 100 images one month, none the next, and then 50 the next. On-demand purchases can be divided into single and package buying options.
Single on-demand purchases are self-explanatory—you pay for and download one image at a time. It’s also the most expensive option of them all. Conversely, buying image packs gives you a certain number of image downloads that you may use whenever you want to (usually within one year from purchase). This option is much cheaper than single purchases, and the price gets lower the larger the image pack you buy.
We collected on-demand image prices in the following table:
|Agency||Package sizes||Cost||Cost per image|
|Shutterstock||2, 5, 25||$29–$229||$9.16–$14.50|
|Adobe Stock||5–150 (credits)||$49.95–$1,200||$8.00–$9.99|
|Depositphotos||3, 11, 25, 100||$42–$299||$2.99–$14.00|
Some stock agencies don’t sell image packs but instead offer credits that you may use to download any creative assets and not just what the image pack specifies. Therefore, credits are usually a much more flexible on-demand option than image packs while costing roughly the same.
How much do extended licenses cost?
Extended Licenses cost $75 on average, but the prices can get as high as $200 and even over $1,000 at some stock photo sites.
Up until this point, we have discussed only the pricing of standard royalty-free licenses, which are generally cheaper and suitable for most use cases. But sometimes you need extended rights or higher indemnity—in these cases you need to get an extended royalty-free license.
We collected extended license image prices in the following table:
|Agency||Package sizes||Cost||Cost per image|
|Shutterstock||2, 5, 25||$199–$1,699||$67.96–$99.50|
|Adobe Stock||single purchase||$79.99||$79.99|
|Depositphotos||1, 5, 25||$89–$1,599||$63.96–$89.90|
In the following table, we collected the minimum and maximum image prices of images, for both the standard and extended royalty-free licenses at the same time.
|Stock photo site||Minimum image price||Maximum image price|
|Offset by Shutterstock||$211.90||$349.00|
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Do you have to pay for stock photos?
Yes and no, because there are both free and paid stock photos. You can use free stock photos free of charge, but you might have to attribute the author. On the contract, paid stock photos are licensed under a royalty-free license, which requires you to pay a one-time fee before you use them.
What are the different ways to buy stock photos?
You can buy stock photos with subscriptions and on-demand with credits or cash. Subscriptions are more cost-efficient (meaning the lower price per image), while on-demand options give you more flexibility in the terms of when you download the images.
How much should I pay for stock photos?
How much you pay for stock photos depends on how you use them. Generic photos for blogs and websites cost from $0.22 to $10, while stock photos used in marketing and advertising cost around $100 and even up to several thousand.