iStock Review 2023: Pros, Cons, Pricing & Features
iStock is one of the top stock photo agencies in the industry, and the pioneer in the microstock model –selling royalty free photos online at low prices with minimum payment requirement–. They're backed by Getty Images, and they're well-known for their high curation level and extensive catalog that includes a huge collection of exclusive images. You can buy these photos on demand using credits, paying between $8 and $33 per image depending on the collection you choose and the credit pack you use. The lowest prices come with subscriptions: you have various plans to hire per month or per year, for access to the whole library or to budget images only, and they let you get awesome high quality photos for as little as $0,22 to $0,49 each. iStock is one agency definitely worth knowing and using if you like quality, variety, and affordability. Find the best iStock images right here, just type in your keywords in the search bar below and hit the magnifying glass button to see results!
iStockphoto.com (now iStock by Getty Images – read all about the name and ownership change here) is one of the top stock photography agencies, and nothing less than the pioneer in the Microstock image industry, and one of the top 5 in our Best Stock Photo Sites List.
Besides its impeccable reputation, iStock has an impressively large selection of stock photos, video, illustrations, vectors, and audio files that are highly curated with the highest quality standards, and they add value with a collection of exclusive content. With the amount of experience and the largest stock photo library of exclusive images, this stock agency is certainly worth considering if you are looking for royalty-free images that are both affordable and high quality.
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iStockphoto Review – Facts
- Millions of high-value, exclusive images you won’t find anywhere else – including photos, illustrations, vectors, audio, and video.
- Millions of high quality, affordable images for everyday design needs
- Millions of high-resolution stock videos, both exclusive and non-exclusive/affordable
- Exclusive imagery is always trendy and current, as iStock actively brief their exclusive contributors with the most sought-after topics and styles
- Subscription plans with monthly and annual options – enabling rollover of unused downloads.
- Single image purchase on-demand, plus credit packs for saving in bulk purchases – credits never expire
- Advanced image search: keywords and search by image, with advanced filter options like file type, contributor, collection, size, shape, complexity, details, additional filters, color, file number, and lightbox.
- Accepts PayPal and all major credit cards: Visa, American Express, and MasterCard. They also accept US money orders or checks from US or Canadian banks.
- Free weekly photos, illustrations, video clips, and audio clips.
- Signature artist of the month – follows a different contributing artist each month and gives the story of their art and what it means to them.
- Supports many languages including English, German, Korean, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian and Spanish
- Their FAQ is thorough for everyone, including buyers, sellers, individual purchasers, and corporate accounts.
- iStockphoto.com was founded in April 2000, with the initial attempt at launching into stock photo around 1999.
- iStock is owned by the biggest stock photography agency in the world, Getty Images.
- iStockphoto has its corporate headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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A Highly Curated Library with Millions of Stock Photos for Every Buyer Need
iStock was the first “microstock” agency, inaugurating the business model where companies offered stock photos on an online searchable library, under Royalty-Free license, and with a micropayment (a minimum payment) requirement. They were soon followed by several other companies, and today they have many competitors selling stock media online. But iStock found the way to remain distinctive: adding value to their offer via their unique image curation.
Today, this agency offers a massive catalog with millions and millions of photos, vectors, and illustrations (and other stock content types such as video, too), divided into two main collections: Essentials – Hosts a huge selection of high-quality images for everyday design needs, covering the most popular themes and topics, and at a very affordable price Signature – Includes a large volume of images with higher production value and artistic worth, that are exclusive to iStock, which also makes them more unique and less widely used. Signature images come at a higher price point but are still very reasonable Like this, iStock has an image for every buyer's need. If you want budget photos that can be used in professional designs, Essentials is for you. And if you want more artistic, first-class imagery and are willing to spend a little more to get them, you will find what you're looking for in the Signature collection. Learn more about iStock's collections here. Note: Stock also offers a very rich stock footage library, also curated into Signature and Essentials segments, which you can buy per file, on-demand with credits, or with their new Premium subscription for both image and video downloads (more on this, below!)
Flexible Buying Options and Affordable Prices
As for subscriptions, iStock offers a lot of variety for all kinds of budgets. All plans come with monthly download limits, but you can hire them monthly or annually. Plus, they have two alternatives: Basic subscriptions for Essentials downloads only, which are cheaper, or Premium plans that give you access to both Signature and Essentials images. Monthly plans have four different volume options, starting at just 10 and up to 750 images a month, prices ranging between $40 and $199 for Basic plans, and from $99 to $399 for Premium. Annual plans give you an even better price: Basic falls between $29 and $166, and Premium is from $70 to $333. This means up to hundreds of photos every month, costing as little as $0.22 each! See iStock full Plans and Pricing here. It's worth noting that iStock's Essentials collection is par with many other stock photo agencies ‘ catalogs, and their subscription plans are much cheaper. While at most other image banks a 750 download plan costs around $250 per month, the iStock Basic plan is only $199!
NEW! iStock Premium + Video Subscription
In 2023, iStock has introduced a new offer: a subscription plan with sitewide access, meaning you can download both images and videos, from Essentials and Signature collections, all with the same subscription! There are three different volume options for this plan, for 10, 25, and 50 downloads per month. Hired month to month, prices are $170, $270, and $410, respectively. If you go for an annual subscription you can save a bit more, as the cost lowers to $115, $192, and $308. These plans are exceptionally awesome if you tend to use stock footage in your work. Because you can get high-quality, exclusive video content for as little as $6.16 per clip! Keeping in mind an HD stock video usually goes for between $10 and $150, it's a real bargain.
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Perks in iStock Offer: Easy Search
iStock adds useful functionality to make their offer a very convenient one for buyers. Mainly, they take care of making all their photos easy to find.
For this, they have a fantastic built-in, keyword-driven search tool. Using their own controlled vocabulary, they deliver results very fast based on keywords you can enter in a dedicated search field on their site. This field is complete with an auto-suggest feature that throws popular searches matching what you're typing. And you can further filter results using advanced functions. From sorting them according to various criteria (most relevant, popularity, most recent), to narrowing matches according to the collection, license type, people (or the absence of), composition, even color.
But by far their best feature is the “search by image”, which lets you use any image of your choice as a search parameter, using image recognition technology to find similar content in their library. All you have to do is upload the photo you want to find similars for, and the system takes care of the rest. Keywords and advanced filters will apply to these results too, for extra precision.
Flexible Royalty-Free Licensing
All images in iStock are available under a Standard Royalty-Free license which grants perpetual use in multiple projects, without any geographic limitations, and for commercial, editorial or personal purposes. It's very flexible and affordable: you pay once and you get to use the photo forever, always within the accepted terms. All images come with Standard License by default, and prices expressed in their website correspond to this option. There are very few restrictions on an image used with this license. Mainly, the print run is limited to 500,000 copies, and you're not allowed to use the photo in products for resale, be they physical or digital. They have Extended Licenses available, at a higher price point of 18 credits (added to regular image price), which eliminate some of the main restrictions in Standard RF license, but each extended right is sold as a separate license, letting you add as many as you wish: unlimited print run, use in physical products for resale, multi-seat (allowing more than one person to work with the photos), use in digital templates for resale, and greater legal guarantee coverage.
To help you understand which license you need, they have this very useful guideline:
The Summary of our iStock Review
iStock (former iStockphoto) is not only a pioneer company but also one of the leaders in the stock photo industry since the beginning, and there are good reasons for this.
For one, they have been around for 17 years now, and this history adds to their reputation to give you the tranquillity of knowing you're dealing with experienced professionals and acquiring a serious and reliable service. Equally important, they offer many things that other image banks do not have. Their exclusive collection is the main one, followed by their high standards curation. With iStock you are certain to get the best imagery in the industry, as they offer only high-quality, carefully reviewed content. And you can buy exclusive photos that are more unique and will increase the value of your designs. Plus, their prices are very affordable, their buying options are convenient, and their licensing terms are flexible.
iStock has a lot of positives for customers, which makes many buyers choose them when they want to get stock photos for their projects. They have a loyal base of clients and of contributor photographers. And after reading this, you may be one of them too!
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Here are the most frequently asked questions about iStock and its service, and we answered them all:
Is iStock Free?
No. While you can sign up for free at iStock website, surf the libraries and even download the free stock photos, illustrations and videos they release on their homepage once a week, if you want to download your choice of images at iStock, you need to pay for them. You can opt between credit packs and an annual or monthly subscription, according to your budget and needs.
Does iStock Have a Free Trial?
Yes, it does. But for the time being, the iStock free trial –which gives you the first month of a basic, annual Essentials plan for free including 10 free stock images downloads– is only available for some countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America. We believe at some point they'll extend the offer to more regions, and we'll inform you accordingly if/when that happens.
Is iStock Safe?
Yes. iStock is a pioneer company in the web, with 20+ years of history and backed up by a very prestigious parent company, Getty Images. iStock is very safe and trustworthy.
Is iStock Royalty-Free?
Yes. iStock's license agreements are all royalty-free. Both the standard and the extended licenses available. Once you pay and download an image from iStock, you are never required to pay another penny to use them.
Is iStock Free for Commercial Use?
No, while iStock's images are royalty-free and thus suitable for commercial use, you need to pay for the photos if you want to use them. Plus, the license agreement is very flexible but still comes with a few limitations regarding how you can use the content.
How to Download iStock Images Without Watermark?
The only way to download iStock images without watermark is to use the download button on their image page(s) –which means, to do an official and authorized download. You have three options for this: 1. Download the weekly free files from their homepage (for free). 2. Use the 10 free image downloads from the iStock free trial (for free and only if you reside in a country where the offer is valid). 3. Download images using credits or a subscription (paid, yet very affordable).
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3 reviews for iStock Review 2023: Pros, Cons, Pricing & Features
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September 2014 istockphoto changed the credit system. Before the 5:1 conversion my creditsBalance was 17. After the 5:1 conversion i’ve got 4 credits.
I’m only used 2 credit images in the old system, so for 17 credits i can download 8 pictures.
In the new system i can only download 4 images for those 4 credits.
Conclusion: istockphoto ripped me of for 50% !!!
Amos Struck –
Sorry to hear about that Mark. They certainly try to do it right for their customers. I would advice to contact them directly and ask for a refund or so. Best, Amos
Buyer beware! While I have always loved the selection of quality Stock Photography, iStock has gotten SO much worse every year Getty Images has owned it. I was contacted by an iStock rep who “sold me” on going with the monthly membership plan. He explained that with the number of images we were downloading, we could save money by going with this plan and even be able download 3 times as many images each month as we already were. He asked me how many Users I would need, and I said “just one” since we really only had 1 main designer. All went well for several months until we get a call out of the blue stating that we were in violation of the legal terms of our agreement. It appears that if you sign up for only one user account, only one person, on one computer from one location can download any images. (They track your downloads by IP address.) If someone else within your company tries to help them out and download any images for them, it violates the terms and they have the right to sue you for well over $100 per image… for every image you have ever downloaded under the agreement… totaling well over $20,000.00. No warning… just here’s what you are liable for by violating the terms. (note…there IS a small paragraph deep within their terms and conditions documentation on their website that states one user means “one seat”) This was never explained to me by the rep. I wonder how many people they rope in this way?
This isn’t the first issue we have had with iStock. My recommendation… do your research and find another stock imagery company. I know we will be!
Erik Porter –
Running into this same nightmare. Got talked up into this incredibly ludicrous plan. If you’re at an agency paying for a certain number of downloads, what does it matter who actually downloads it?
I’m in Australia, and by Australian law pricing must not be misleading or deceptive, it must show all included taxes and charges.
iStock advertised that a particular subscription would cost $230 AUD. I spent 3 weeks choosing images. When I went to buy the subscription they charged an additional $23 in tax, and then I also found on… my credit card over $5 in foreign exchange conversion fees. Unfortunately I needed to continue with the purchase as I had already committed time to finding the images I needed.
I have written to iStock twice to get them to refund the additional money, I have also spoken to them several times and they are not interested.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission agree that iStock is in breach of Australian law and I am currently taking up the matter with the Office of Fair Trading.
I suggest you don’t deal with iStock as there are plenty of honest businesses out there you can work with.