Choosing a Stock Photo Site: Guide and Reviews

Whether to buy high-quality images for your project or to sell your photography effortlessly, you will need to find the best stock photo sites.

There are many options out there, but what is the most suitable one for you? Check out our detailed guide and find out which are at the top of the list.

Top Picks

  1. Shutterstock – Best Overall
  2. Depositphotos – Best for Free Images
  3. Dreamstime – Best on a Budget
  4. 123RF – Best for Vector Images
  5. PIXTA – Best for Asian-Themed Images
  6. Alamy – Top Choice for Photographers
  7. Pond5 – Top Choice for Designers

Top Choices in Detail

Now that you know our top choices let’s dive into the full details of each and help you find the ideal one for your needs.

1. Shutterstock – Best Overall

  • More than 350 million stock images
  • New stock images are added daily
  • Monthly subscription and on-demand pricing model
  • From $49/month

Shutterstock is one of the oldest stock photo websites, which has allowed it to amass quite an impressive number of stock images.

Currently offering more than 380 million images, with approximately 200,000 new ones added daily, Shutterstock is undoubtedly the place where you can find the perfect picture for your project.

For companies and individuals that need many high-quality stocks, Shutterstock is a good solution because of its vast base of visuals for every situation. This is perhaps why there are so many customers raving about their variety.

You’ll be able to find stock images, photos, videos, and music here, as well as 3D models, social media, and print templates.

Shutterstock also offers tools to modify further your chosen images, such as image resizers, collage maker, and a very straightforward Shutterstock editor to modify its pictures further.

The excellence of this stock photos company comes at a price, and Shutterstock certainly has one of the most expensive pricing lists. Subscriptions are based on the number of monthly downloads, and you can purchase 10, 50, 350, or 750 monthly downloads.

The most extensive package is the cheapest, giving you 750 photographs per month for $199. You can also get a yearly subscription for $1,999, which brings the price per image down to just $0.22.

We found that that this low price is only for quantity. If they don’t need that many photos or don’t want to subscribe for a whole year, the price is higher.

For example, $29 per month gets you only ten images, working out to $2.90 per image, instead. Shutterstock does offer a one-month trial for those who are unsure if it’s the right fit for them.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a one-time purchase, we recommend checking out other photo stock websites on this list. The on-demand plan at Shutterstock for just two images costs $29!

Pros:

  • Unmatched photo collection
  • One-month trial available
  • Proprietary editor

Cons:

  • On-demand plans are expensive

2. Depositphotos – Best for Free Images

  • More than 214 million images
  • A superb collection of free images
  • Custom pricing available
  • From $29/month

Depositphotos is one of the newest photo websites around, and it has grown exponentially in a short time. Currently offering more than 214 million images, videos, and vectors, you will be delighted with what’s on offer at this stock image website.

Apart from the beautiful images and collections, we were impressed by the 10 million high-quality stock videos and numerous music and soundtracks available.

The site also features lots of photo manipulation tools. It has an excellent API program and a free background remover. You can use its Crello editor to edit your images further before publishing them.

In terms of price, Depositphotos has a very similar pricing model to Shutterstock, one of the biggest sites on our list. It offers subscription plans for 10, 75, 150, and 750 images per month. The cheapest subscription plan costs $9.99 per 10 images.

As with Shutterstock, the most significant savings come from getting the 750-images-per-month plan, which works out to the same $0.27 per image.

Should you decide to go for one of the yearly subscriptions, you’ll get a further discount, bringing the lowest price per image down to just $0.22 per month.

On-demand plans come in packages of 3, 10, 25, and 100 images, and you’ll have to chunk out $42 for just three stock photos.

However, it does offer many deals that make many of these pricing tiers much more accessible. Depositphotos also has an extensive library of free images that you can use if you’d like to try it out before committing.

Pros:

  • Good selection of available tools
  • Special deals offered
  • Free images available for download

Cons:

  • No free trial

3. Dreamstime – Best on a Budget

  • More than 169 million stock photos
  • Excellent searchability
  • Vast and active community
  • From $25/month

Dreamstime is another one of the sites that has been around for a while. Founded in 2000, the site has established quite a community behind itself, with 37 million existing users working together to create a great experience for new members.

It currently offers 169 million stock photos and numerous vectors, illustrations, video, and audio files for you to download and use.

Perhaps the only negative point is it doesn’t provide any tools to its customers. Still, it has one of the detailed searches among the competition.

It is also one of the most affordable options on our list. The site offers two pricing systems, a credit-based one and a subscription model.

The subscription model starts at $25 per month for five downloads, while the smallest credit package starts at $14.99 for 11 downloads.

A reason to add this site to the list is that you can also try the site’s services for free with 15 free commercial use images, downloadable without having to pay a dime.

The option with most value, as always, is to go for the most expensive yearly subscription, which nets you 9,000 photos per year at $2,028 per year.

Pros:

  • Excellent search algorithm
  • Biggest community
  • 15 free stock photos

Cons:

  • No tools available

4. 123RF – Best for Vector Images

  • More than 110 million creative works
  • Excellent for vectors
  • Great selection of easy-to-use tools
  • From $30/month

Talking about the greatest stock photo website around without mentioning 123RF would be like discussing pasta without mentioning Italy.

Operating successfully since 2005, the site currently has more than 110 million creative works to offer its visitors, with about 90,000 more added daily.

123RF is the place to be if you need vectors, so it’s often considered one of the go-to photo stock site for vector creators. However, it also has more than enough videos, illustrations, and audio files for you to download and use without having to worry about copyright.

Additionally, at 123RF, you will find a great selection of tools for editing your images. Some of the proprietary tools you can use to save time are filters and effects, background removal, and auto-enhance options.

123RF also offers various tools. Choose from designs.ai, such as graphic maker, font pairer, color matcher, and calendar.

As with most of the stock photo websites on this list, you can sign up for a subscription model or download packs.

The smallest package of 10 images will cost you $30 per month with the subscription model. However, the same amount of images will cost you about $4.50 per image as a download pack.

For the most considerable savings, consider their yearly plan with 350 images per month, which works out to $0.36 per image.

Pros:

  • Excellent vector selection
  • Multiple tools available
  • 25% discount on yearly plans

Cons:

  • Confusing pricing plans

5. PIXTA – Best for Asian-Themed Images

  • A single image buying option
  • Images for the Asian market
  • Prices based on image/footage size
  • From $30/month

PIXTA is one of Japan’s finest when it comes to stock photography, with more than 64,300,000 stock photos, illustrations, and videos. A good portion of free stock images and videos is also available.

However, apart from images, illustrations, and videos, PIXTA lacks many of the features other websites on this list can brag about. You’ll not be able to find any audio here or 3D models like on other sites on the list.

On a positive note, they are currently working on a quality image editor. It’s currently in its beta phase, allowing you to edit your images for free. Even in its beta phase, though, it is very rich in features, rivaling even Adobe Photoshop in some aspects.

PIXTA is also one of the least expensive stock photo sites on the list. It offers all three types of pricing – subscription, credit, and on-demand. The subscription plan starts at $15 per month for three images, and you can buy ten credits per $10.

On-demand, single purchase prices depend on the image size and use, with the starting price of $5 per small image. For the absolute cheapest price per image, you’ll want to get the annual version of the plan that gives you 750 pictures per month. It works out to about $0.27 per image.

PIXTA is the perfect place for stock images that would fit the Asian market the most. Those looking to subscribe to the site long-term might find other photo stock sites with more images and better use of their budget.

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Great selection of Asian-themed content
  • Excellent photo editor

Cons:

  • No audio-only files are available

6. Alamy – Top Choice for Photographers

  • 6 million 4K & HD videos
  • Excellent policy for contributors
  • Great-quality 360° images
  • From $19.99 per license

Alamy is the website to head to if you need something more than your regular, run-of-the-mill images.

It has an extensive library of 4K and HD videos. It is also a rare stock photo agency that offers 360° images. Alamy also doesn’t lack when it comes to images, either – the site currently has more than 260 million images in its library.

However, according to many photographers, it should be more famous because it has a fair policy for its contributors.

Alamy doesn’t skimp on money and doesn’t further edit images sent by contributors, unlike other sites on this list. It is one of the best sites for photographers, as Alamy values its contributors’ skills and artistic expression.

The pricing structure at Alamy is set up a little differently from other stock sites. Images are priced based on the usage purpose, and users can buy licenses for vectors, illustrations, and 360° photos.

The cheapest license we found was the one for JPEGs and vectors, which costs $19.99. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the royalty-free license for 360° images, which goes for $399.99.

Pros:

  • 360° images
  • Easy to understand pricing model
  • Fair policy toward contributors

Cons:

  • Commercial use gets expensive

7. Pond5 – Top Choice for Designers 

  • Excellent selection of footage, music, and after effects
  • Allows for price matching through best-price guarantee
  • Great selection of free apps
  • From $199/month

Pond5 is another contender for the leader of stock photos on the internet, but you should also check it out if you need more than just still images.

It has an extensive collection of over 25 million stock videos, music, photos, and sound effects. What differentiates it from other paid stock photo sites on this list is its impressive collection of 3D models, which take the stock photo experience to the next level.

It also has a great selection of free apps you could use to ensure your visuals are on par with the rest of your content.

Unlike other stock image companies, where searches deliver underwhelming results, Pond5 Visual Search allows you to find what you are looking for effortlessly.

You can also use its Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro integrations to further modify the content before publishing it, making it the easiest stock photography site for editing.

You can opt for membership, which starts at $199 per month, or you can purchase credit packs, starting at ​​$250.

The former provides you with 120 annual downloads from Pond5’s special membership collection. The latter gives out free bonus credit that scales with your chosen package ($160 free with the $1,000 plan).

Pros:

  • Useful integrations
  • Numerous 3D models
  • Credit-based pricing available

Cons:

  • The monthly subscription on a pricey side

How to Select the a Stock Photo Site

When you start looking for stock images, you’ll soon realize that there are more than enough websites for you to download pictures from.

Considering that many of these are based on monthly subscriptions and that not many of them allow free trials, you might end up wondering which one to commit to.

To help you out, we did the research. Some of the parameters we used are the types of visuals offered, editing tools, pricing, and anything extra that would make one website’s offer more tempting than the others.

Depending on what type of content you are creating, you might benefit from one type of visual more than others (images vs. videos, for example). This is something you should base your search on when looking at the best stock image websites.

While all of the sites listed above offer a magnificent number of images, some of them also provide videos, audio, or other types of visuals you could use to enrich your web content.

Designers and marketers from a particular niche or targeting another type of content might find 360° images more beneficial to their users than regular JPEGs. Developers also need clips to capture the visitors’ attention.

Pricing is also a factor to consider when picking between the different stock image sites, especially for those who need a lot of images every month.

There is also the question of whether you need to purchase something one-time or if you need to start a subscription. This will heavily influence the price per image ratio, and therefore your website of choice.

On the other hand, the opportunity to edit your pictures or visuals on the spot, instead of paying for another editor or publishing them as is, can be beneficial for many users. Unfortunately, the cheapest stock photo sites generally don’t always offer this extra feature.


FAQ

Can I use stock images on my website?

As long as you purchase royalty-free images labeled for commercial use, you can use them on your website. They can also be used for marketing and advertising, branding, and projects with a for-profit purpose.

What is the best royalty-free photo site?

The parameters for sites for stock photos are subjective. Still, it is safe to say that Shutterstock is the best in terms of price per picture if you get the most expensive subscription.

It also has a massive stock image library. Pond5 is the go-to choice for 3D models, and Alamy should be your choice for 360° images.

What is the cheapest stock photo site?

Which stock picture site will turn out to be the cheapest for you depends on how many images you would need and how you would like to purchase them.

If you need the lowest price per picture, go with the top-tier 750-images-per-month package with the biggest stock photo site such as Shutterstock or Depositphotos. This way, you will get an image for less than $0.3.

What is a stock photo license?

Every photograph you can find on the internet belongs to someone. The right to use someone else’s picture is what stock photo websites sell. This is known as licensing, and there are two most common types.

A royalty-free license grants unlimited usage of an image, while a rights-managed license provides its holder specific and per-use exclusive rights.

What is a Stock Photo Website?

A stock photo website is a site that sells the rights for ready-to-use images that business owners, designers, and marketers can use to enrich their content.

There are also free stock images on some websites, but these are well-overused by now. The selection also tends to be limited. These sites typically don’t have enough images to cater to a specific need a business might have.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right image for your next project doesn’t seem like a difficult task at first. However, once you add copyright issues, unique niche requirements, or a low budget into the mix, the hunt may turn out much more complicated than you anticipated.

This is why we’ve done the research for you and compiled this list of the best stock photo sites on the web.

This article has been supplied by a paid advertiser. Content has not been independently verified by Los Angeles magazine.