Stock photography sites target the publishing, advertising, and design markets. Professionals and enthusiasts opt for stock photos to avoid the expense, time, and travel associated with executing photo shoots.
Many stock photo websites boast millions of assets, including still photos, video footage, vector images, and graphic illustrations. All are keyworded, accommodating easy searches. An individual or business can browse the library and download an asset for commercial or personal use.
Disclosure: I am a photo contributor to Shutterstock, iStock, and Adobe Stock. Also, we have a previous article on becoming a stock photographer.
In this article, we’ll compile a list of 33 stock photo sites, the large, medium, and small sites, along with some niche sites.
In addition, we’ll tell you how many images a site contains, the cost per image, and the plans offered. But first, a word about licenses.
Types of Stock Photography Licenses
The industry has no guidelines that stock photo sites must follow. Therefore, various licensing models have emerged. Most stock photo sites operate with either Royalty Free or Rights Managed licenses.
Royalty-Free Stock Photography
A business or individual purchases a license to an image for a one-time fee. Then, they may use that image as many times as they desire. There is no need to renew the license for the photo once you’ve purchased that license. This is the simplest and most common form of stock photo license.
Rights Managed Stock Photography
As the name implies, this type of license allows the buyer to use an image under the terms specified in the license. Rights managed licensing is typically used for editorial and commercial clients, such as print media and ad agencies.
The Leading Stock Photography Websites
There are two leaders: Getty Images and Shutterstock. Together, the two companies combine for about 85 percent of the stock photography market. No other stock site owns as much as a 5-percent market share.
1. Getty Images
We start with Getty Images because they have the largest library. Getty is the worldwide leader in visual content collections and archiving. The company has 520 million stock images. In addition, Getty archives another 280 million historical images, vintage photos, and photographic studies of fine art.
With websites in 23 languages, Getty provides content to media outlets, advertising agencies, and public relations firms worldwide. It licenses both royalty free and rights managed images. However, its prices eliminate many potential buyers. Pricing begins at $175 per download for small images and low-resolution videos.
Getty acquired iStock and Unsplash to market stock photos at more affordable rates.
Founded in 2000, iStock pioneered the stock photography industry. The company was purchased by Getty in 2006 and began to incorporate the keyword system developed by Getty. Images are grouped into collections, while filters such as age and ethnicity aid in searches.
iStock offers 160 million media files, with prices beginning at $29 per month for 10 downloads.
You can get 15% discount by using our code: PHOTOCOURSE15
Launched in 2003, Shutterstock features more than 440 million images and operates an online platform in 21 languages. It offers royalty free and rights managed licenses. In addition to stock images, video, audio, and design tools are available.
The price structure begins at $29 for a monthly subscription of 10 images per month. Also, Shutterstock owns Bigstock, Pond5, and GIPHY; and it partners with Vecteezy.
You can get 10% discount by using our code: PHOTOCOURSE10
Unsplash joined the Getty group of stock photo companies in 2021. With 5 million images, Unsplash offers unlimited downloads for $84 a year.
A subsidiary of Shutterstock since 2009, Bigstock holds more than 125 million royalty-free photographs and illustrations, available for almost any purpose.
Their stock photo packs begin at five images a day for $79 per month. 10 downloads a day with a monthly limit of 300 images cost $99 a month.
Images are available in a variety of sizes in JPG format as well as vector and EPS files.
In an effort to expand its offerings and attract the discount buyer, Shutterstock acquired Pond5 in 2022. Pond5 is a video-first content marketer but also has a library of 90 million stock photos, along with music tracks and sound effects. Video prices start at $25 per download, and photos at $1 each.
In early 2023, Vecteezy entered into a partnership with Shutterstock. Marketers and designers searching Vecteezy for stock photos also have access to high-quality stock photos from Shutterstock’s library.
Vecteezy offers free stock photos from a collection of 20 million images; however, some restrictions apply, and the site is cluttered with ads.
An online database to search and share animated images, GIPHY was purchased by Shutterstock in early 2023. GIPHY registers 1.3 billion search queries every day and posts more than 15 billion daily media impressions.
The content is free, but restrictions limit it to personal and noncommercial use only.
The Mid-Size Stock Photography Sites
9. Adobe Stock
Adobe Stock showcases 310 million high quality stock images and graphic resources. These include graphics, vector images, video footage, and illustrations. In addition, the company features 3D assets and templates that integrate seamlessly with programs like InDesign, Illustrator, and Premier Pro.
Pricing begins at $29.99 a month for an annual plan that includes 10 assets a month. Also, Adobe Stock offers a limited selection of free images, vector illustrations, and videos.
Fotolia was acquired by Adobe in 2014; Its collection of images is now part of Adobe Stock.
With a large library of 350 million stock photos, vectors, and videos, Alamy is one of the best stock photo sites. The British company started in the business in 1999 and has operation centers in India and the United States. Its website is fast, making it easy to search and find images.
Prices start at $13.96 per download for a 25-pack of images for personal, presentation, or newsletter use. For a website, a 25-pack is $34.96 per download. For marketing campaigns, which do not include advertising, the 25-pack is $119.99 per download.
One of the early stock photo sites, Dreamstime was founded in 2000. It holds 218 million photos as well as a collection of vectors and video footage. Royalty free, high resolution images and many public domain photos are available for free.
The pricing structure is confusing. You can “Access our library of over 1M free images” for $4.99 a month, the website says. Two subscription plans of 5 or 15 monthly downloads are both $25 a month, with the 15-download plan offering the first week for free.
With a collection of 265 million files, Depositphotos offers royalty-free images, videos, vectors, and illustrations.
A library of 11 million icons and stickers in PNG format is free. The premium package allows 2,000 downloads a day in a plan for $8.25 a month.
With 210 million royalty-free images, illustrations, and videos, 123RF makes its assets available through a variety of plans. A limited number of images are free.
Unlimited downloads from a collection of 100 million stock photos cost $19 a month. The Premium plan includes all the company’s assets at a monthly price of $139.
123RF is owned by the Inmagine Group.
A design platform for creating graphics and presentations, Canva offers basic design tools for free. Canva Pro is marketed to professional designers and creators.
Pricing begins at $119 per year for unlimited downloads of more than 100 million assets, including high quality images, videos, graphics, and audio. Registered non-profit organizations may access Canva’s premium features at no charge.
Canva purchased Pixabay and Pexels in 2022.
The Small Stock Photo Sites
Operating as a photography community that includes designers and content creators, PixaBay makes its catalog of 4 million images available free of charge. It’s not mandatory, but consumers may donate to artists as a way to thank them for their work.
Pixabay earns revenue through its website traffic, social media, and affiliate marketing campaigns.
Pexels maintains a collection of 3.2 million stock photos and videos. All their assets are free to use with no attribution requirements and the freedom to modify and edit the images as you wish.
Founded in 2004, Can Stock Photo offers lower prices than most other stock photo sites. With 60 million high quality images, the company touts its quick downloads for one-time purchases.
A small JPG is $3.50 for a single image. A full-size photo or vector image is $13. Subscription plans start at $39 per week for up to 70 downloads.
A subscription service that targets ad agencies and marketing professionals who have a steady need for content, Envato Elements features a library of 9 million exclusive images, along with graphics, templates, and videos.
Their individual plan costs $16.50 a month for unlimited downloads. A team plan is $10.75 a month per member.
With a huge variety of creative assets, this is one of the best stock photography sites for anyone on a budget.
With thousands of images in hundreds of categories, StockSnap is one of the best free stock photo websites. Images are available for personal or commercial use. And all images are free to download.
Marketed to designers and online content providers, Freepik houses 50 million assets, including high quality stock photos, vectors, illustrations, icons, and fonts. Many of these assets are editable.
Thousands of these assets are completely free; however, the company charges for much of its collection.
Pricing is $12 a month for an annual subscription with a limit of 100 downloads a day
Burst is powered by Shopify and has more than 20,000 images. All images are free to download for personal or commercial projects. Stock photos from Burst require no attribution.
Niche Stock Photo Websites
If you’re in need of content for a food blog, Foodiesfeed is the perfect stock photo site. With about 2,500 photos of food, searchable according to type, you’ll find just the right images with great detail and color.
And the price: free.
Using machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance their photos, JumpStory has a library of 25 million photos, videos, icons, and vector illustrations. In establishing its brand, JumpStory promotes itself as featuring images “created by passionate amateurs” and emerging photographers.
Pricing begins at $39 a month for unlimited access. A Pro plan, which includes an editing tool, is $59 a month for a group of up to five users.
Founded by Ryan McGuire, who also shoots all the images, Gratisography is the quirkiest of all the stock photography sites. You’ll find no handsome 30-something male in a business suit here.
You will find 700 images that are out of the ordinary; some weird, some funny, and some outrageous. But you may find the perfect picture.
All photos are available to download for commercial or personal purposes for free.
With more than 12,000 images in the lifestyle and interior design niche, Kaboompics offers its entire portfolio at no charge. Each photo is part of a complete photoshoot, so you have a number of options. And with each photo, you can download a color palette, which integrates the photo with your design.
And did I mention it’s free?
Websites Gaining Traction for Stock Photos
26. Negative Space
Thousands of high resolution images are available for personal or commercial use at Negative Space.
More than 20 categories include business, food, technology, nature, and sports. All photos are free to use with no attribution required.
New among stock photo sites, Picography is an excellent source for high quality images that are free. All photos are licensed for personal and commercial use and require no attribution.
This is a small company with a collection of thousands of stock photos. For the most part, Rawpixel features quality, high resolution photos. The library includes illustrations, backgrounds, and PNG elements.
Rawpixel’s free plan allows five downloads a day from their free and public domain collections. The premium plan costs $8.99 a month and offers unlimited downloads for commercial use. Rawpixel donates 10 percent of its premium membership fees to the international charity Hope for Children.
Picjumbo has thousands of free high-resolution stock images that can be used for personal or commercial projects.
In addition, the company offers Premium plans with access to more than 200 collections at $49 a month, $129 a year, or $249 for a lifetime membership.
30. Yay Images
Founded in 2008, this Norway-based company is one of the early entries in the business of stock photos. With 13 million stock images and about 3 million vectors, Yay Images sports a large library of work from talented photographers.
Yay Images’ Unlimited Plan, which includes all their visual assets, is $8.25 a month. A Lifetime Membership, with a limit of 10 downloads per day, is $149.
With 1.7 million stock images, Dissolve is based in Canada and licenses stock footage and images for royalty-free and rights-managed uses.
Prices for a small image of 600 pixels range from $5 to $49. A large, 2,500-pixel image costs from $7 to $209. Full, original-size photos sell for $9 up to $349. Bulk orders of five or more images are discounted from 5 percent to 15 percent.
32. Life of Pix
With a portfolio of about 1000 stock photos, Life of Pix offers free high resolution images for commercial or personal use. An attractive and easy-to-navigate site, Life of Pix has no copyright restrictions.
Photos are categorized in galleries, such as nature, city, people, etc. The photographs are contributed by Montreal-based Leeroy Advertising Agency and its network of photographers.
33. Death to Stock
A small company with about 5,000 unique images, Death to Stock is a New Zealand stock photo site. The website states that their license is “Do what you wanna;” however, the site includes a page with more specifics.
Prices start at $12 a month for small businesses and $42 a month for agencies. Both are billed annually.
A Stock Photography Site Discontinued
Minus 1. StockUnlimited
In a competitive marketplace, a stock site occasionally goes out of business. StockUnlimited.com had more than a million photos in 25 categories. The company’s library of images is now available as part of the free collection at 123rf.
Stock photography is a $4 billion global market, with hundreds of companies competing for a larger slice of the pie. About eight of those companies dominate the market. Shutterstock reigns as king because of its pricing, selection, and simple licensing.
I would approach any free stock photo site with caution. Free is always in the budget, but free doesn’t always get you what you need. And that may not be the only downside.
I hope this article gives you a better understanding of the world of stock photography. If you have any questions or comments, please submit them in the space below.