People use stock photography sites for many purposes, from adding optimized, fast loading images to websites, to supplying high-profile advertising campaigns with customized, stylish high-resolution photos and artwork. If you are looking for a photo to make your brochure or website homepage stand out from your competitors, or you are writing a blog, you will require unique photos, video footage or audio files. The sheer number of stock image companies can be daunting. Let’s take a deeper look into their offers. Here is a handy comparison list of the six most popular paid stock photos websites. Three are the best stock photo sites for Digital Media and three are for Traditional Media.
Digital Media vs. Traditional Media
In the beginning, we have to distinguish between digital and traditional media. Digital Media is any media that is used on computers, websites, blogs, etc. The images you see on websites are considered digital media. As well as the audio or video tracks. Digital media files do not need to be high resolution, since they will be optimized for a website, and you might find yourself needing a lot more digital media files to use throughout your site. In this case, a subscription plan is the best solution. Traditional Media, on the other hand, is media that is printed in publications, used outdoors or on television. Anything that uses visuals or audio in a commercial form must be purchased or have the original rights. Often, depending on if people or places are involved, there might be a time limit or renewal fees involved, so that the models, artists, and creators can continue to get fairly compensated. You might require higher resolution photos for traditional media, which is why they might cost you more, but the quality is much better.
The Best Stock Photo Sites for Digital Media
Nowadays, the Internet is full of websites offering photos, but it’s hard to find one that meets users expectations. Therefore, we keep a very close eye on that matter, and we have reviewed three of the best stock photo sites for digital media.
Depositphotos is a relatively new company with an affordable pricing structure. Their top selection of media is available for one of the lowest per image costs around. Users do not find their current library robust or easily searched. It can make researching difficult. Yet, when they find the right picture, the price will be rewarding. The company also has an excellent user feedback option, so you can learn more about others’ experiences with a particular artist/photographer before buying, or to simply guide your image search further. Depositphotos offers pictures and video, but no audio. They have a good selection at one of the lower per photo costs around, with low-resolution photos starting at around $1. Photos prices start at $39 for five images or up to $159 for 25 images. Subscriptions range from $50-$219, based on the number of pictures and how frequently you download, as well as the length of commitment.
- Images, illustrations, videos, and vector images are available
- The website is easy to navigate
- Affordable and reasonable prices
- Regular deals and coupons on specified image sets
- Users leave feedback on image providers
- Multiple languages supported
- Phone and LiveChat support
- Lack of audio files
- An advanced search option for images is not available
If you are looking for a stock image service that specializes in images and illustrations, you have to chose Big Stock. Their straightforward, inexpensive pricing model, paired with a broad range of images, meets most digital marketing needs. It makes Big Stock the best stock photos for online use and it is the most famous company for website’s photos. However, if you are looking for vector images, you will pay more here, so you may want to look to another company. Image credits start at $35 for ten images and up to $495 for 500 images. Subscriptions are $79-$99 per month, depending on the number of photos and how frequently you download.
- Plans and pricing are clear and understandable
- Images, vector images, videos, and illustrations are available
- Live chat and phone help
- Users can submit and sell their photos
- Expensive vector images
- Audio files inaccessible
iStock is run by the highly esteemed Getty Images. Due to low prices, affordable subscription plans, a large image variety, and versatility, iStock is a perfect source for graphic designers and small advertising agencies. With millions of pieces for sale, iStock is one of the better choices for those in need of lots of online, royalty-free, low-resolution images for websites or newsletters. The iStock website can be a bit challenging, however, to users who prefer to browse without a keyword in mind. Overall, the search function via keywords is easy and intuitive for the reader. This is a good service that offers great images at a good price. iStock is one of the better choices for large quantities of online royalty-free content, especially if low-resolution options are acceptable. The pricing starts at $33 for three images and up to $520 for 60 images. In the case of a subscription, you can pay $40-$199 per month. These prices are also dependent on the number of downloaded images per month and on the kind of commitment, whether it’s annual or month to month.
- Images, video, audio, illustration and vector files are available
- You can pay-as-you-go or durational plans images per month
- Affordable subscription and credit system
- Rich base of images
- Submissions possible for users
- Thin selection for high-quality print media
- The website can be buggy and sometimes difficult to use
- Unclear plans and pricing section
The Best Stock Photo Sites for Traditional Media
Here, we will focus on the best three stock photo sites for traditional media. If you are looking for high-quality images for magazine ads or TV commercials, it is tough to find them without getting involved in legal issues. Below, you find useful information about the three best images websites for traditional media.
Getty Images offers one of the biggest databases of stock media, especially for premium, conceptual, high-resolution and editorial images. So, if you are looking for historical photos, celebrity photos, sports photos, animals photos or some unique video footage, you can surely find these on Getty Images. The site is a great photo source for people who are working in traditional media such as print, TV, billboard or radio. Getty is irreplaceable when it comes to designing high impact campaigns. The company offers high-resolution, licensed art and a broad range of royalty-free media, with over eighty million different high-design, conceptual pieces for sale. It is also a good option for multinational companies and global advertising campaigns. Getty Images has websites in many different languages that will help you deal with usage laws across country borders. The site is easy to search and navigate for high-concept imagery, videography, and sound. Prices vary depending on the rights, usage, and size and can be upwards of hundreds of dollars each.
- The largest library, by far, and the premium library for finding high-resolution, highly conceptual, artistic print media images
- Exclusive image purchase is available
- Images, videos, audio and illustrations are accessible
- Website easy to navigate
- Site available in many languages
- Users can submit their content
- Offers 35 million pictures for free to use
- Due to the expensive media, it is probably cost prohibitive for digital use, unless requiring exclusive imagery.
- Pricing varies per photo and not shown unless you sign in and create an account
123RF is a perfect solution for those who are looking for affordable subscription programs. With low-resolution photos starting as low as $1 per photo, 123RF is matchless when it comes to value. It’s a great alternative to the big stock photo services. The company also has a wide selection of over thirty-seven million images video, audio and vector files. In the case of 123RF, a low price doesn’t mean low quality. Users can expect high-quality photos for a reasonable price too. 123RF also has a live chat, phone support and an easy to use checkout process. There is the one important downside. 123RF doesn’t have many filtering options, so the search can be challenging. Keep in mind, however, that their photos are so great you might not need them. The prices start at $39 for 40 credits, $59-79/month for up to 5 images per day depending on how many months you commit to and a new subscription option of $159-229/month for 780 photos per month depending on how many months you sign up for.
- One of the lowest priced subscription programs
- Images, illustrations, and vector images are available
- 100% money back guarantee
- Easy to navigate website
- User submissions accepted
- Live chat and phone support
- No ability to filter photo search results
Shutterstock is an ideal resource for high-resolution images, especially for large-format designs, billboards, and other print media. They offer a variety of subscription plans to meet various user needs, making its pricing model more flexible than some other high-res photo options. Shutterstock has a huge library of 70 million images and files. Their database contains everything – stock photos, videos, illustrations, and vector graphics, besides audio files. It is the main reason why Shutterstock lags behind its greatest competitor – Getty Images. Shutterstock would be an excellent choice for agencies, publications, and companies with the need to use high-quality photos and illustrations. The pricing starts at $29 for 2 images and up to $299 per month (for 2 users) for up to 750 downloads per month. All come with the standard license.
- Extremely high-resolution images
- One of the leading stock photo companies
- A variety of subscription plans
- Images, videos, illustrations, vector images, video, and music
- User submissions are accepted
- iPhone, iPad and Android apps to search and download on the go
- Phone and email support
- Lack of audio files
- Fees are unusually high
Stock Pictures Usage Laws
It is crucial to understand each type of license offered for a photo or other media. This helps you to avoid the potential of a legal case being brought against you or your business. Most large stock photography companies have detailed information available on their websites. If a company does not offer this information, it is always reasonable to contact them directly to find out about any usage regulations.
With so many details included above, it can be difficult to understand exactly what each term refers to. Below you can find the list of terms with short explanations.
Audio – As with video clips, audio clips are not available on all stock photo websites. The audio needs are often very specific to the intended use.
Creative license – photos that can be used for selling things. Usually, these photos are staged by a photographer, art director and often involve other people or talent.
Credits – while many stock photo sites are subscription-based, meaning you can download an unlimited or specified amount of photos in a certain period, some will have the option to use credits to purchase images instead. Depending on the type of photo and license, it will vary.
Illustrations – images that are computer generated or artist drew, rather than photographed. These typically cost more than regular photographs due to the amount of work that goes into creating them.
Royalty Free Images – images or other pieces of media that can be used without having to pay for royalties with each incidence of use.
Subscription Service -programs that allow users to pay a set fee per month or year to receive a designated number of credits or daily downloads.
Vector Images – images that utilize geometrical primitives. Vector images are utilized for printed projects. They are costly to use but often are the best choice for printed media or for promotional use.
Video – not all stock photography companies offer video clips as part of their services. Video clips can vary in size and quality and cost the most of all media forms available on stock photo websites.
Finding a stock photography company to suit your needs is a tricky task. You have to take into consideration issues like your budget and a purpose of utilizing your downloaded media. Aside from ensuring that you find the right company, it is also important to find a legitimate service that details licensing requirements for each image or piece of media. You have to be careful and remember that the user value of your website, blog or TV commercial will increase with additional media files.