The bottom line
iStock is worth a try if you’re looking for an alternative to Shutterstock and Adobe Stock. Although it has 50% fewer photos, iStock is great for cheap downloads of premium images, which you can get with subscriptions for as little as $0.44. You can also get a 30-day free trial, which is currently available in only a few countries.
Best for: Commercial use, premium images, a combination of image and video downloads.
- Standard (Essential) and Premium (Signature) image collections
- 10 free images with the free trial.
- Numerous integrations (Adobe CC, Dropbox)
- Slow support
- Free trial not available everywhere
|Number of photos||148 million|
|Number of videos||12.9 million|
|Free trial||Yes (10 images)|
iStock is comparable to Shutterstock and Adobe Stock regarding the basic subscriptions, but it has fewer images (148 million). However, iStock excels at licensing premium images and videos, both of which you can get with subscriptions, costing only $0.53 per premium image! However, Extended licenses are unusually expensive–even up to 3x times more than at Adobe Stock–for no apparent reason. Therefore, we recommend iStock to anyone looking for either standard or premium image downloads, but not for extended licenses used in merchandise. You can also get 10 free images with the free trial.
iStock sells all stock images and videos with a royalty-free license, which means that every asset you buy and download, may be used perpetually without having to pay any additional fees. This is extremely useful for the use of images in graphic design, advertising, blogs, and websites, for personal use, and even for merchandise.
The best way to get stock images from iStock is through subscriptions, which are divided into Basic, Premium, and Premium + Videvo, each available with monthly and annual plans and in four sizes. The reason for multiple subscriptions comes from the division of iStock’s images into Essential and Signature collections. The former contains standard, cheaper images, while the latter has premium images of higher quality and with higher value.
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.
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. You get a lower monthly price when you buy plans with an annual commitment, 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 month||Annual||Monthly|
|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)|
- 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 month||Annual||Monthly|
|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 + 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 an excellent option for anyone with diverse stock media needs.
|Downloads per month||Annual||Monthly|
|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)|
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 monthly. With credits, you can buy images or videos with a royalty-free or extended license (more about the licenses later).
|Pack size||Price||You 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|
How many credits does iStock content cost?
The following table explains how many credits images (Essential and Signature) and video clips (Essential and Signature) cost, as well as the price for an extended license for images and videos.
|Price in credits||Price for credits|
|Essential images||1 credit||$8–$12|
|Signature images||3 credits||$24–$36|
|Essential video clips||6 credits||$48–$72|
|Signature video clips||18 credits||$144–$216|
|Extended license for images||18 credits||$144–$216|
|Extended license for videos||21 credits||$168–$252|
Compare subscriptions and credit packs
|Basic subscriptions||Premium subscriptions||Premium + Video subscriptions||Credit packs|
|Full image library||✕||✓||✓||✓|
|Music and sound effects||✕||✕||✓||✕|
|Lowest prices on images||✓||✓||✕||✕|
|Lowest prices on videos||✓||✓||✕||✕|
|Boards to organize and share files||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Access to iStock Editor||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Support for plugins||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Standard license||Extended license|
|Products for resale/Electronic templates||Not permitted||Up 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, other apparel, games, toys, entertainment goods like CDs or DVDs, and framed or mounted artwork.
Unlimited for electronic products such as mobile applications and electronic templates.
|Number of Permitted Users||1 at a time||Unlimited within the same legal entity|
|Legal Guarantee Amount||$10,000 per item of content||$250,000 per item of content|
Related: The full iStock license agreement is much more complex and longer than my summary, so I encourage you to read it yourself.
What is iStock?
iStock, formerly iStockphoto, is a royalty-free microstock photo agency from Canada, founded in 2000 and acquired by Getty Images in 2006. iStock was the first stock photo site that leveraged crowd-sourcing of stock photos, thus being crowned the founder of microstock. Now, 22 years later, iStock offers 148 million stock photos (124.4 million Essential, 23.2 million Signature), 12 million (9.2 million Essential, 3.7 million Signature) million videos, and music.
Essential (basic) and Signature (premium) collections.
Having a choice between standard, lower-quality but still great images and premium, superb-quality images is a huge plus. This lets you prioritize budget over quality and vice-versa, thus making iStock ideal for clients on tight budgets as well as those with an unlimited budget.
The Signature collection (premium images) is actually very inexpensive, considering you get excellent images for just $0.44/image. In contrast, one premium image can cost anywhere from $50 up to several hundreds of dollars, at other stock agencies.
10 free images during a 30-day free trial.
Like every other good stock photo site, iStock offers a free trial during which you can download 10 royalty-free images from the Essential collection. Considering the monthly price of this subscription, the free trial saves you up to $40 on the first month.
However, because the free trial has been released just recently (January 26, 2022), it’s still in the testing phase. For that reason, it’s not available in every country yet, nor could we create a list of available countries because it changes all the time.
Integration into the Adobe Creative Cloud.
Like Shutterstock and the natively-integrated Adobe Stock, iStock can also be integrated into Adobe’s suite of apps named Creative Cloud. This integration lets you browse all iStock assets from your favorite CC apps, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
To integrate iStock with CC, you first need to download and install the plugin, which is available for Mac and Windows.
iStock doesn’t work only with Creative Cloud but also with everyone’s favorite file hosting service–Dropbox. You can connect your iStock account to access and share your content across all devices and even with other users.
We’ve tested iStock’s support team multiple times and it always took a while to get a response (when we actually got it). The main downside to iStock’s support is that it doesn’t provide the live chat, like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Depositphotos do.
Free trial is not available everywhere
Since the free trial is still in the trial (pun intended!) period, iStock keeps enabling and disabling in all countries. In other words, the list of countries that can access the free trial keeps changing all the time.
|Best for||Best for Subscriptions||Best overall||Best for Graphic Designers||Best for Bloggers|
|Images||140 million||392 million||280 million||180 million|
|Free trial||Yes (10 images)||Yes (10 images)||Yes (10, 25, or 40 images)||No|
|Review||(current article)||Shutterstock review||Adobe Stock review||Depositphotos review|
|See it||See it||See it||See it|
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.
iStock Review 2022 Summary
iStock has a rating of 4.8 out of 5.0, indicating that most customers are satisfied with their purchases. Consumers satisfied with iStock mention affordable subscriptions, premium images, and the free trial. iStock ranks 3rd among the best stock photo sites.
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 for free. 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 paying 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 use?
You can get up to 10 free images with the 30-day free trial, but iStock is not free. To use iStock’s stock images, videos, and music, you must pay for a royalty-free license, which costs $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, a popular choice even among the largest brands in the world.
Is iStock royalty-free?
Yes, all iStock content is royalty-free, meaning you may use the image forever after paying the one-time fee. When you need an unlimited reprint license or a larger indemnification, you can get an Extended license, 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 must 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, Getty Images or iStock?
The main difference between Getty Images 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 costs $8–$12/credit. The bottom line is that you will pay at least $152 to use iStock’s extended license (up to $252).
Why you should trust us
We have been testing stock photo sites for years, while also being photographers ourselves, thus being able to tell a good image from a bad image that is not worth your money. We have tested, studied, and compared iStock in every possible way multiple times, which included creating several accounts and testing customer service, free trial, and the process of buying a subscription–whether it’s legit and safe or not.
In addition, this iStock review was not endorsed by iStock, which shows in that we mention both pros and cons of this stock agency, and even provide alternatives. The review was written with our editorial integrity in mind, thus throwing away all biases and presenting you with the facts only. Finally, we talked to iStock customers and read hundreds of customer reviews to find out what others think about iStock, and whether or not we missed something. Thanks to dozens of hours spent testing, researching, and writing, you’re able to write this most thorough and unbiased iStock review.
How we tested and rated
To review iStock accurately, 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 crucial 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, impressions they allow, and indemnity value.
- Image number: 15% of the score. The number of images is essential when rating stock photo sites because you can quickly run out of free photos when you need thousands of images. 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.
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.
- iStock pricing page, iStock. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
- Kim Peterson, Microstock photography represents a new business model, The Seattle Times, Updated May 28, 2007. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
- Donna Bogatin, iStockphoto CEO on Getty Images acquisition: Exclusive interview on one year anniversary, ZDNet, February 19, 2007. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
- Ben Woods, iStockphoto rebrands as iStock, and introduces a new logo featuring ‘Getty’, TNW, September 17, 203. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
- iStock plugins, iStock. Retrieved July 17, 2022.