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iStock Review May 2022

Matic BrozUpdated May 17, 2022

Our Verdict

iStock, formerly known as iStockphoto, is one of the best stock photo sites for royalty-free stock images, with pricing options suitable for individuals, small and big businesses, as well as corporations. Stock images are split into standard and premium, which helps you prioritize image quality or lower pricing.


  • 10 free images during a free trial give you a good insight into iStock and its services, and you get the first month free.
  • Essential and Signature collections let you choose between a lower price or higher quality.
  • Integration into the Adobe Creative Cloud allows you to browse iStock images without ever leaving Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.


  • The support team sometimes takes a long time to reply, while other times you may get a response within hours.
  • For now, the free trial is not available in all countries since it’s only been released recently.

Best for Commercial Use


on iStock’s website


rating 4.5

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Extended license$144–$216
Free trialYes (10 images)

Who is iStock Best For?

iStock is the best option for anyone who needs high-quality stock images with a royalty-free license. It also serves as a good Adobe Stock alternative, since it offers a similar integration (but not as smooth), but Adobe Stock’s image database is twice as large.

In addition, iStock can be the cheapest stock image site, when you apply a coupon code for a 30% discount, which is available only to newcomers. However, existing customers can get up to a 20% discount on all purchases.

Best Alternatives

Best Overall & for Graphic Designers


on Adobe Stock’s website


rating 5-0

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Extended license$79.99
Free trialYes (10, 25, or 40 images)
ReviewAdobe Stock review

Most Popular


on Shutterstock’s website


rating 4.5

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Extended license$67.96–$99.50
Free trialYes (10 images)
ReviewShutterstock review

Shutterstock Alternative


on Adobe Stock’s website


rating 4.5

Photutorial rating

Our ratings take into account a product’s benefits and coverage levels. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Extended license$63.96–$89.00
Free trialNo
ReviewDepositphotos review

iStock Pricing

iStock sells stock photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos with two types of subscription plans and with credits on-demand.


Subscriptions are divided into Basic (for Essential images), Premium (for Essential & Signature images), and Premium+Video (for all images, videos, and music). All subscriptions come with annual and month-to-month commitments. When you buy plans with an annual commitment, you get a lower price per month, but you can’t cancel early.

  • Basic subscriptions ($0.22–$4.00/image) come in sizes of 10, 25, 50, or 750 monthly downloads costing $29–$199/month. With Basic subscriptions, you may download Essential images only, which are usually more generic-looking. As a result, they are generally used for personal projects or to illustrate websites, but not for marketing campaigns.
Downloads per monthAnnualMonthly
10$29 ($2.90/image)$40 ($4.00/image)
25$49 ($1.96/image)$65 ($2.60/image)
50$90 ($1.80/image)$99 ($1.90/image)
750$166 ($0.22/image)$199 ($0.27/image)
Basic subscription pricing comparison
  • Premium subscriptions ($0.44–$9.90/image) come in sizes of 10, 25, 50, or 750 monthly downloads costing $70–$399/month. With Premium subscriptions, you may download Essential and Signature images. Signature images are generally superior, technically and value-wise, to Essential images. Therefore, Signature images are the best used for advertising and marketing, as well as an expensive alternative to Essentials for customers with larger budgets.
Downloads per monthAnnualMonthly
10$70 ($7.00/image)$99 ($9.90/image)
25$120 ($4.80/image)$149 ($5.96/image)
50$199 ($3.98/image)$229 ($4.58/image)
750$333 ($0.44/image)$399 ($0.53/image)
Premium subscription pricing comparison
  • Premium + Video ($5.30–$14.90/download) comes in sizes of 10, 25, and 50 monthly downloads, costing $99–$349/month. With Premium+Video subscriptions, you may download all images (Essentials & Signatures), videos, and music. This subscription is a great option for anyone with diverse stock media needs.
Downloads per monthAnnualMonthly
10$99 ($9.90/download)$149 ($14.90/download)
25$165 ($6.60/download)$229 ($9.16/download)
50$265 ($5.30/download)$349 ($6.98/download)
Premium + VIdeo subscription pricing comparison

Credit packs

When you don’t need to download regularly, it’s better to choose credits, which you may use anytime after the purchase, whereas subscriptions expire each month. With credits, you can buy images or videos with a royalty-free or extended license (more about the licenses later).

Pack sizePriceYou can get up to
1$12 ($12/credit)1 image
3$33 ($11/credit)3 images
6$60 ($10/credit)6 images or 1 video
12$115 ($9.58/credit)12 images or 2 videos
18$170 ($9.44/credit)18 images or 3 videos
24$220 ($9.17/credit)24 images or 4 videos
36$325 ($9.03/credit)36 images or 6 videos
60$520 ($8.67/credit)60 images or 10 videos
150$1,250 ($8.33/credit)150 images or 25 videos
300$2,400 ($8.00/credit)300 images or 50 videos
Credit packs pricing comparison

How many credits does iStock content cost?

The following table explain how many credits images (Essential and Signature) and video clips (Essential and Signature) cost as well as the price for exnteded license for images and videos.

Price in creditsPrice for credits
Essential images1 credit$8–$12
Signature images3 credits$24–$36
Essential video clips6 credits$48–$72
Signature video clips18 credits$144–$216
Extended license for images18 credits$144–$216
Extended license for videos21 credits$168–$252

Compare subscriptions and credit packs

Basic subscriptionsPremium subscriptionsPremium + Video subscriptionsCredit packs
Full image library
Video clips
Music and sound effects
Lowest prices on images
Lowest prices on videos
Standard license
Extended license
Boards to organize and share files
Access to iStock Editor
Support for plugins
Comparison of subscriptions and credit packs

iStock Licenses

Standard licenseExtended license
Products for resale / Electronic templatesNot permittedUp to 100,000 postcards, greeting cards or other cards, stationery, stickers, and paper products;
Up to 10,000 posters, calendars, or other similar publications, mugs or mousepads; or
Up to 2,000 t-shirts, sweatshirts, or other apparel, games, toys, entertainment goods like CDs or DVDs, framed or mounted artwork.
Unlimited for electronic products such as mobile applications and electronic templates.
Print run500,000Unlimited
Number of Permitted Users1 at a timeUnlimited within the same legal entity
Legal Guarantee Amount$10,000 per item of content$250,000 per item of content
Adapted after iStock’s license agreement

Related: The full iStock license agreement is a lot more complex and longer than my summary, so I encourage you to read it yourself. 

iStock Promo Code

Here at Photutorial, I prepared a collection of all iStock promo codes of up to 20% discount. You may use the promo codes to get the discounted price on subscription plans and credit packs.

20% Off

20% off on all iStock subscriptions and credits

More Less

The Verdict

iStock has a Photutorial rating of 4.8 and ranks 2nd among stock photo sites. It offers excellent image quality with a good variety of pricing plans that are suitable for customers of any budget. Everyone can also get 10 stock images with iStock’s 30-day free trial period.

iStock has a low customer rating of 1.8 out of 5. While the company’s lower customer rating may seem like a concern, the reviews reflect only a very small portion of all customers (less than 0.1%), since satisfied customers rarely leave reviews. With that in mind, iStock is still a highly reputable and quality stock photo site.

To clarify, customers complained that they had to pay for stock images; isn’t that reasonable since photographers expect to get paid for their hard work? Other customers complain about being unable to cancel annual plans early. To explain, annual plans cannot be canceled early since you agreed to a yearly commitment for a lower price. If you don’t need a yearly supply of photos, you should get a monthly plan, which is more expensive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does iStock have a free trial?

Yes, iStock recently introduced a 30-day free trial. As a new customer, you can download 10 royalty-free and high-quality stock images from iStock’s Essentials collection free of charge. The Essentials collection includes standard stock photos, vectors, and templates.

Can you use iStock images for free?

No, all iStock images are royalty-free, meaning you may use them forever after you pay a one-time fee. The only way to use iStock images for free is to sign up for the free trial, which lets you download up to 10 stock images for free.

Is iStock free to sue?

You can get up to 10 free images with the 30-day free trial, but other than that iStock is not free. To use iStock’s stock images, videos, and music you need to pay for a royalty-free license, which costs from $0.22.

Is iStock legitimate?

Yes, iStock is legit. It’s one of the most reputable stock photo agencies. In addition, it’s owned by GettyImages, which is a popular choice even among the largest brands in the world.

Is iStock royalty-free?

Yes, all iStock content is royalty-free, meaning that after paying the one-time fee, you may use the image forever. When you need an unlimited reprint license or a larger indemnification, you can get an Extended license, which is a broader version of the royalty-free license.

Is iStock good for commercial use?

iStock is one of the best stock photo sites for commercial use due to the combination of low prices, good variety, broad licensing terms, and high-quality images. For that reason, iStock scored 4.9/5.0 and ranked 2nd on the Photutorial scale of stock photo sites.

How to download iStock images without a watermark?

To download images without a watermark, you need to purchase the said images under a Standard or Extended license. Doing otherwise is not only impossible but would also be forbidden as it is categorized as stealing.

Which is better GettyImages or iStock?

The main difference between GettyImages and iStock is in the pricing and image usage rights. iStock image pricing starts at $0.22/image, while GettyImages costs from $150/image. However, GettyImages allows unlimited reproduction for every image, while iStock requires you to buy an extended license.

How much does iStock extended license cost?

iStock’s extended license costs $144–$216 (18 credits) in addition to the standard license, which costs $8–$36. The exact price depends on the size of the credit pack you purchase, which cost $8–$12/credit. The bottom line, you will pay at least $152 to use iStock’s extended license (and up to $252).


Photutorial reviewed iStock based on 14 data points in the categories of image quality and variety, pricing, licensing, image number, customer support, and additional features. Photutorial rated iStock based 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 iStock’s customer support, licensing, and additional features that would enhance customers’ workflow.

Information provided on Photutorial is for educational purposes only. Your situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, nor do we recommend or advise individuals to buy or sell particular stocks or services. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Photutorial adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved, or otherwise endorsed by our partners.

About the author

Matic Broz profile image

Matic Broz is a photographer, graphic designer, and stock photographer. For over ten years he's been helping photographers improve their photos and graphic designers find the best images for their designs. His work has been featured by Lifewire and PetaPixel. In his free time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and petting random dogs. Read more

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