best stock photo sites

10 Best Stock Photo Sites in 2024 For Freelancers [Free & Paid]

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If you’ve ever tried searching for stock photo sites on the internet you probably know what a pain it can be to find something good.

⚠️ Warning, the ones on Google are not royalty-free. ⚠️

Firstly, the phrase stock photo comes with a bit of a bad reputation. People often think of the cheesy smiling faces seen in magazines and adverts. However in reality royalty-free images are so much more…

What is a Stock Photo Website?

In a nutshell, stock photo sites sell images that are already shot, edited, and ready for use.

Stock images can be stunning landscapes, detailed close-ups, cool illustrations, and anything else you can imagine. The right photo can bring an otherwise boring piece of content to life.

However, finding images that are affordable and easy to license can be difficult.

In this article, we’ve boiled down our top 10 best stock photo sites to find royalty-free images (both paid and free!).

#1 Adobe Stock#1 Unsplash
#2 Shutterstock#2 Pixabay
#3 iStock#3 Pexels
#4 DepositPhotos#4 Vecteezy
#5 PhotoDune#5 Desygner

Best Paid Stock Photo Sites

The truth is, high-quality stock photos don’t have to come with stress or a high price tag. Luckily, over the last few years, there’s been a growing number of affordable websites that sell amazing royalty-free images. Here are our top 5 favorites.

1. Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock
Adobe – Best Stock Photo Sites

💰 Get a 30 Day free trial at Adobe Stock! 💰

Adobe Stock is one of the newest players in the stock photo game. It currently features about 40 million royalty-free images.

This means that they have put a lot of work into how the service works with a range of design tools. We think the ease of use and the size of their stock photo collection is awesome.

Also, you can access photos directly inside Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. This is great as it allows you to create and compose the images before buying a license.

While Adobe Stock might be a bit more expensive you can buy credits or a subscription plan to save.

In addition to this, if you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber you can get a discount on subscriptions. One cool feature is that Adobe will allow rollover which means if you don’t use your licenses then they roll over into the next month.

2. Shutterstock

Shutterstock - Best Stock Photo Sites
Shutterstock – Best Stock Photo Sites

💰 Get 15% off at Shutterstock! 💰

Shutterstock has 35 million stock photos and its collection is growing quickly. Updated with more than 10,000 new royalty-free images daily, you’re sure to find something great every time you visit!

Firstly, images are extremely high-resolution making them suitable for any project.

Secondly, the site is really easy to use with images organized into popular categories and featuring a useful keyword search tool.

Finally, with flexible subscription plans and image credits, you will find something that suits your needs. Whether you’re a freelancer and only need a few or a business that needs hundreds of royalty-free images per month.

Shutterstock’s prices are similar to iStock – a bit higher, but you get what you pay for. 👍

3. iStock

iStock – Best Stock Photo Sites

💰 Get 15% off at iStock! 💰

Started in 2000, iStock is one of the oldest and largest stock photo sites around.

Creators love iStock and for good reason. It’s affordable, the images are high quality and it has a number of clever search tools.

The site also features a browse-by-category feature. This makes it easy to find what you’re looking for even if it’s something weird!

There are a variety of flexible monthly and annual subscription packages. Also, users can also load their accounts with credits in advance to enjoy easy downloads.

To sum up, iStock offers some of the higher-end royalty-free images to choose from. This is helpful if you decide that you need a really unique photo or illustration.

4. DepositPhotos

Depositphotos - Best Stock Photo Sites
Depositphotos – Best Stock Photo Sites

💰 Get 20% off at Depositphotos! 💰

Depositphotos is a fairly established company within the stock photo market. The site currently has more than 16 million royalty-free images with about 70,000 added per week.

All photos, vectors, and illustrations are categorized well which really makes a difference. There is also a clever search page that allows you to filter images by orientation, color, and size.

One nice feature on Depositphotos is the ability to upload a reference image (like Google image search). The software then tries to find a stock photo that roughly matches the content or layout.

So, despite it not being the most well-known of all the stock photo sites, the flexibility and pricing is definitely their best feature.

5. PhotoDune

PhotoDune – Best Stock Photo Sites

PhotoDune is another big player in the stock photo market and is part of the popular Envato group (which also includes Envato Elements) so they definitely know what they’re doing.

So why does this matter? Well, this means the website has a wide selection, reasonable pricing, and is super easy to use.

We think the PhotoDune site is great for a number of different reasons. Firstly, 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 is a breeze. Also, image prices are based on different size options like small, medium, large, and extra-large. This is ideal if you’re on a budget.

To sum up, PhotoDune is definitely one of the most flexible and reasonably priced stock photo websites on our list.

Best FREE Stock Photo Sites

Are you on a real budget? no problem. We’ve collected our pick of the best free stock photo sites that don’t cost a penny. All the images on these sites are free to use for personal or commercial purposes (there are still a couple of restrictions so check each site).

1. Unsplash

Unsplash - Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Unsplash – Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Unsplash offers a huge collection of beautiful editorial style stock photos and is one of our personal favorites.

It’s home to over 2.5 million free beautiful stock photos shot by a global community of photographers.

Browse featured collections like Athletics, Travel, or Technology to spark some inspiration. Unsplash adds new images to download every day.

All photos are released for free under the Unsplash license which means they are pretty much free for whatever use you want.

2. Pixabay

Pixabay – Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Pixabay is another great free stock photo site with over 2.2 million images, videos, and music clips available for download.

Its landscape photography is particularly strong and the Editor’s Choice is well worth a look if you don’t have something specific in mind. 

All photos are released under the Pixabay license which is similar to the Creative Commons CC0 but slightly more restrictive.

The quality of photography isn’t as consistently high as Unsplash but if you can’t find anything there then Pixabay might be able to help.

3. Pexels

Pexels - Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Pexels – Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Pexels also offers a wealth of stock photos for free. These cover a range of topics from landscapes to fashion so you’re sure to find something suitable. 

The search function on Pexels is what really makes it stand out from the crowd. Firstly, each image is nicely tagged making it easy to find the perfect image. Secondly, the search page has multiple filters which makes it one of the easiest stock photo websites to use. 

When you find a photo you like you can choose from several size options when downloading (including custom sizes).

Pexels also has its own license which shows how and where you’re allowed to use the images.

4. Vecteezy

Vecteezy – Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Vecteezy has a library of over a million free stock photos, vectors, and illustrations. However, there are a few features that make this website stand out against other stock photo sites.

Like Pexels, the site has a great search function that allows you to filter photos by color, orientation, style, and number of people.

Also, it provides signed model and property releases for all free photos where needed. This protects users from any legal liabilities.

Finally, its content team reviews each photo that’s submitted for quality. This means their collection is high quality and not padded out with rubbish content.

Vecteezy requires attribution but does include signed model and property releases for every free photo. This protects you and your project.

5. Desygner

Desygner - Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Desygner – Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Our last favorite free stock photo site is Desygner. Get instant access to a library of royalty-free photos that can also be used in cool pre-designed templates.

Browse through a growing collection of high-quality images perfect for branding, logos, print, and more.

Also, with their Free plan, you get access to their design tool where you can combine photos, text, and effects to create eye-catching designs.

All content on Desyner is free of use under the Creative Commons CC0 license.

Wrapping Up

Do you have a favorite stock photo site that we forgot to add to our list? What qualities do you look for when choosing? Share your thoughts and comments below!

Bob is our content editor at the Video Collective. He's a videographer and a real tech geek with over 13 years of experience in video production. Loves coffee but hates Marmite.
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