Top 5 Best Stock Photo Sites for Royalty Free Images
If you’ve ever tried searching for stock photo sites on the Internet, you probably know what a pain it can be. The term “stock photo” comes with a bit of a negative connotation. People tend to picture the smiling faces typical of holiday ads and dentist brochures. In reality, however, stock images are so much more. They’re gorgeous landscapes, high-res close-ups, quirky illustrations, and nearly anything else you can dream up. The right photo can bring an otherwise average blog post, inforgraphic, video project or presentation to life. But finding stock images that are simultaneously beautiful, affordable, and easy to license can be a laborious task.
The truth is, high-quality stock photos don’t have to come hand-in-hand with stress or a high price tag. Thankfully, over the last few years there’s been a growing number of websites with beautiful stock photography popping up all over the web. In this post, we’ve boiled it down to our top 5 stock photo sites.
The Most Popular → Shutterstock
Price: £5.56 per image
Shutterstock has 35 million royalty-free stock photos, and with 10,000 new high-resolution images added every day, the collection is expanding rapidly. Their images are extremely high quality and high-resolution, making them suitable for any project, no matter how large the format. The site is extremely easy to navigate, with images organised into popular categories and featuring a useful keyword search tool.
Shutterstock’s prices are comparable to iStock; a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for. Users can browse the collection by registering for free, and there are a number of simple pricing plans in order to download stock photos. Subscriptions start at £109 per month (for 350 images) whilst ‘Image Packs’ start at £32 for 5 images (which can be downloaded at any time for up to one year).
Whether you are running a team or need hundreds and hundreds of stock photos per month, their flexible subscription plans, and image credits will suit your needs. Updated with more than 10,000 new images daily, you’re sure to find something great every time you visit this photo library!
The Most Impressive → Adobe Stock
Price: £1.99 per image
Adobe Stock is one of the newest players in the stock photo game and currently features about 40 million images (it shares its catalogue with Fotolia). Their library is integrated into Creative Cloud subscriptions, which means that they have put a lot of work into how the service works with its suite of design tools. This means you can access photos directly inside Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. This is great as allows designers and editors to create and comp the images before buying a license. While Adobe Stock might be more on the expensive end, the ease of use is second to none, and the size of their stock photo collection is massive.
Images can be purchased for as low as £5.99 a piece, or you can subscribe to one of three plans: 10 images per month for £19.99, 350 images per month for £99.99 or 750 images per month for £119.99. If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber (even on the Photoshop plan), you can get a discount on the lowest package. One nifty feature here is that Adobe will allow rollover, so if you don’t need images in a given month, your leftover licenses will roll over into the next month for up to a year.
Adobe now offer a 30 Day free trial which allows you to download 10 free images and then cancel within the first month!
The Most Established → iStock
Price: £5.22 per image
Started in 2000, iStockphoto (now iStock) is one of the oldest and largest stock photo agencies around. Designers of all types love iStock, and for good reason. It’s affordable, the pictures are of very high quality, and it boasts a number of impressive search tools (including searching by color). The site also features ‘browse by category’ function, making it easy to find what you’re looking for amongst the thousands of images it holds (even if it’s something weird!).
There are a variety of monthly and annual no-limits subscription packages with prices starting at £25 per month. Users can also load their account with credits in advance to enjoy click-and-go downloads. iStock offer some of the highest-end stock photos to choose from, especially if you decide that you occasionally need a really unique photo or illustration.
The Most Reasonably Priced → PhotoDune
Price: £1.64 per image
As another newcomer to the stock photography market, PhotoDune with its diverse, fresh, and relatively inexpensive content is definitely one of our favourites. As part of the hugely successful Envato group (who run ThemeForest, AudioJungle, GraphicRiver, CodeCanyon and VideoHive) they definitely know what they’re doing. This experience not only gives Envato a head start with the design of the site, but brings a large existing contributor base right into PhotoDune. So why does this matter? Well this means there is an broad selection, reasonable pricing and user friendly interface.
We think the PhotoDune website is great for a number of different reasons. First, the previews are huge so you get a very detailed view of the image before deciding to purchase. Secondly, each stock photo is tagged properly so searching for images (even obscure ones) is relatively easy. Thirdly, image prices are based on different size options (small, medium, large and extra large), which is ideal if you’re on a budget. This helps open up the market not just for larger companies but also for price conscience individuals!
The Most Intuitive → DepositPhotos
Price: £2.25-4.20 per image
Depositphotos is a fairly established company within the stock photo market and it comes with a very affordable pricing structure. The site currently has more than 16 million royalty-free stock photos with about 70,000 images added weekly by 246,000 photographers.
All of images, vectors and videos are categorised in one of the site’s 37 categories and there is an intuitive search interface that yields pretty accurate results. In addition to this, it allows you to filter images by several parameters such as image orientation, colour, size and more. One other great function on Depositphotos is the ability to upload a reference image (like Google image search), the software then attempts to find photos with broadly matching content or layout.
Depositphotos is unique in that it offers three types of pricing options: on demand downloads (10 images for £42), monthly downloads (75 images for £59), and a flexible plan (30 images for £25). Despite it not being the most wide-ranging of all the stock photo sites, the flexibility of their plans is definitely their best feature.
So what does royalty free actually mean?
In a nutshell ‘Royalty free’ means you just need to pay for rights to use the photo once per end product. You don’t need to pay additional or ongoing fees for each person who sees or uses it – and that’s about it!
What’s the difference between a standard and extended license?
If you look at the licence options on most of the stock photo websites above they will give you the choice of a standard or an extended licence. So what’s the difference we hear you say? Well basically it’s all to do with how many end products you’re making with that one photo and also what format you are using it for (e.g. print, website, social media, video).
With a standard licence you are limited by the amount of copies (usually fewer than 250, 000) and also restricted under specific formats. However, with an extended licence, you can make an unlimited amount of copies across all formats. In addition to this, the other main difference is that under the standard license, your end product (incorporating the item you’ve licensed) must be distributed for free, whereas under the extended license your end product may be sold.
Free Photo vs. Paid Stock Photo
So why can’t I just use an image from Google? Well, if you do a Google Image search, the resulting photos are not necessarily ones that you’re free to immediately use. In most cases, the photos are covered by photographers’ copyrights and you can get into serious trouble if you use them.
If you’re looking for photos to use for a design and want to keep yourself out of copyright issues, you need to locate websites that define the copyright license of each image. Otherwise, if one has not been stated explicitly then navigating licensing restrictions for free images (particularly for commercial use), can be a real nightmare.
So don’t bother trying to use copyrighted images, they may save you a few pounds but will get you into all sorts of trouble if you’re caught! Paid stock photos are a great way to quickly and easily license images for legitimate use in your projects, whilst helping support the freelance community!
Do you have a favourite stock photo website that we forgot to add to our list? What qualities do you look when choosing? Share your thoughts and comments below!