Stock photography statistics and trends in 2023

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Stock photography statistics and trends

The advent of digital photography and the proliferation of easy-to-use platforms have made stock photography an increasingly popular and indispensable tool for creative professionals worldwide. This industry allows photographers to sell their photos to businesses, bloggers, and advertisers looking for high-quality images to bolster their visual content.

From businesses that need powerful visuals to capture attention and convey their message to digital marketers that require consistent streams of fresh, professional images, stock photography has become a go-to resource. As we venture into 2023, we see a variety of compelling statistics and trends emerging in the stock photography industry.

Stock photography market size

As the world continues to become more digital, the demand for high-quality imagery keeps growing. Our latest research reveals the following statistics and trends for the stock photography market size:

  • The global stock photography market size is estimated at $4 billion in 2023.
  • It is expected to reach $6.7 billion in 2023.
  • The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 7.7%.
  • The market size will more than double in a decade.
Stock photography market size
Stock photography market size (Source: Photutorial/Matic Broz)

The most popular stock photo sites

As businesses experience fluctuations in popularity over the years, it’s important to examine long-term trends to get a comprehensive picture of their performance. To shed light on the best stock image companies, we have compiled Google Trends data on the search popularity of all stock photo sites from 2004 to 2023, including Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Getty Images, iStock, and Envato Elements, in the graph below.

  • Shutterstock has been the most popular stock photo site since 2011.
  • Adobe Stock and Envato Elements are the fastest-growing stock photo sites.
  • Getty’s popularity more than halved compared to other stock photo sites since 2006.
  • iStock has also been losing in popularity since 2008.
Stock photo sites popularity over time
A graph of the best stock photo site’s popularity (2004–present) (Data source: Google Trends)

The graph reveals both emerging and declining stock photo sites. Getty Images success peaked around 2006 and has been steadily declining since then, as has iStock since Getty Images acquired it in 2006. These Getty-owned stock sites have seen a drop in popularity while innovative stock photo sites have been gaining momentum.

Shutterstock is currently the most popular stock photo site, having held its position since 2010 when it surpassed Getty Images and iStock. Notably, Shutterstock is also our Editor’s Choice for the best stock photo site, the best Getty Images, Adobe Stock, and iStock alternative, and the best stock photo subscription.

Two other sites have also enjoyed tremendous success in recent years. The first is Adobe Stock, which became the close second to Shutterstock after Adobe acquired Fotolia in 2015. The very affordable Envato Elements has also gained momentum in the last four years and currently enjoys about a third of Shutterstock’s popularity.

What can these statistics and trends do for you? They represent customer satisfaction and popularity among clients, which can aid in making informed purchasing decisions when buying stock photo sites.

The biggest stock photo sites

Earlier, we already counted the number of stock photos at each of our best stock websites, but let’s sum up all stock photos now, including editorial, royalty-free, and completely free.

In our research, we found that there are 2.3 billion stock photos available online. Around 210 million of those are editorial photos, and 20 million are free stock photos.

Stock photo siteNumber of photos [in millions]
Adobe Stock313
Getty Images202
Stock Photo Secrets9
Envato Elements8.5
Stock Unlimited1

When you’re looking to buy stock photography, the size of the image collections matters a lot, but it’s not the only factor to consider. For example, Envato Elements has only 8.1 million images, but it’s still ranked #2 on our list of the best stock photo sites thanks to affordable pricing.

The biggest stock photo sites is Shutterstock with 8.1 million in its library. It’s followed by Alamy, Adobe Stock, and Getty Images.


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