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?
The median cost of a stock photo is $1.11, while the average is between $1.00 and $1.50. But this is not a one-size-fits-all price tag. Stock photos bought on-demand or premium photos can be significantly more expensive, while subscription photos can be significantly cheaper. Here’s everything you need to know to help you determine how much stock photos will cost you.
Looking For Great Stock Photos?
Shutterstock is the best source of high-quality, royalty-free photos available at affordable prices.
How Much Does a Stock Photo Cost?
The median cost of a stock photo is $1.11, but this is not a one-size-fits-all price tag. Premium photos and those bought on-demand or with cash can become significantly more expensive, often costing well over $10 (and even $100+).
Stock photos bought in bulk cost much less, $0.20 or so with large subscriptions, $5.00 or more with small subscriptions. The price depends on the size, duration, and the provider of the subscription.
You can get the cheapest stock photos with large subscriptions, meaning lots of monthly downloads, and subscriptions that last longer, aka for a year instead of a month. Some stock agencies (i.e., Shutterstock) also offer a prepaid option, which drives the prices even lower by about 20%.
How Much Does a Stock Photo Subscription Cost?
Subscription prices vary based on the size, type, duration, and provider of the plan 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, offer also a prepaid option, which is even cheaper than the yearly.
In the following table we aggregated the pricing of the most popular subscriptions:
|Agency||Sizes||Monthly cost||Cost per image|
|Shutterstock||10, 50, 350, 750||$25–$249||$0.22–$4.90|
|Adobe Stock||3, 10, 25, 40, 750||$29.99–$249.99||$0.26–$9.99|
|iStock||10, 25, 50, 750||$29–$199||$0.22–$4.00|
|Depositphotos||25, 30, 75, 150, 750||$24.92–$166.58||$0.22–$1.44|
|123RF||10, 50, 150, 350||$22.42–$169||$0.36–$3.00|
How Much Do Unlimited Subscriptions Cost?
Unlimited subscriptions differ from regular subscriptions in that you get an unlimited number of 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 that requires zero experience to get started.
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.
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