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iStockphoto Review (now iStock)


iStockphoto.comiStock Logo (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.

Besides it's 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 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
  • Exclusive imagery is always trendy and current, as iStock actively brief their exclusive contributors with the most sought-after topics and styles
  • Accepts PayPal, Visa, American Express and MasterCard. They also accept US money orders or checks from US or Canadian banks.
  • Searchable by: keywords, file type, contributor, collection, size, shape, complexity, details, additional filters, colour, file number and light box.
  • 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.
  • 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 their corporate headquarters in Alberta, Canada.
istockphoto review search ball

iStockphoto Review search ball

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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. 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, divided in 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 still very reasonable

Like this, iStock has an image for every buyer 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 fill find what you're looking for in Signature collection. Learn more about iStock's collections here. 

Flexible Buying Options and Affordable Prices

Originally iStock only sold images via a minimum purchase requirement, and then in bulks. But later on they added a very popular buying option: stock photo subscriptions. Right now they combine a credits system for on demand buying and subscription plans that offer you the lowest prices.

Their credit system is very simple. They price all their files in credits, and they sell you credit packs that you pay upfront, and later use to download the images you want. The bigger the credit pack, the less each individual credit cost and therefore the cheaper each photo will be. They have packs from 3 and up to 300 credits, making each credit cost from $12 and as low as $8 each.

One of the best things about iStock is they don't price their photos according to resolution or size, but rather according to collection.

Essential images are just 1 credit each ($8 – $12)

Signature images are 3 credits each ($24 – $33)

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Another great, more recently added feature is the quick checkout: if you only want to buy one image, you can simply hit the download button on that image page and you're taken directly to the payment page, skipping the step of buying the necessary credit pack. The price is the same, but you do it much quicker!

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: subscriptions for Essentials downloads only, which are cheaper, or plans that give you access to both Signature and Essentials images.

Monthly plans have small volume options, starting at just 10 and up to 250 images a month, price ranging between $40 and $199 for Essentials plans, and from $100 to $399 for full collection including Signature. Annual plans give you an even better price, with higher volume limits from 50 and up to 750 downloads per month. Essentials fall between $89 and $160, and Signature + Essentials is from $189 to $320. This means up to hundreds of photos every month, costing as little as $0.21 each! See iStock full Plans and Pricing here. 

It's worth to note that iStock's Essentials collection is par to many of other stock photo agency's catalogs, and their subscription plans are much cheaper. While at most other image banks a 750 downloads plan costs $200 – $250 per month, Essentials plan is only $160!

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Perks in iStock Offer: Easy Search

iStock adds user 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 in 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. Once in the search page you can you can use advanced functions to sort your results. By default, your most relevant results will be displayed first with automatically differing images rather than the same image replicated in different iterations. But you can also sort by popularity or newness. Plus, you can filter results by collection, license type, people (or the absence of), composition and there is even a handy color chart which shows you images relevant to any color you want!

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's very few restrictions to image usage 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 them 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 LogoiStock (former iStockphoto) is not only a pioneer company but also one of the leaders in the stock photo industry since the beginning, and there's 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 tranquility 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 being 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 in 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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About the author

I am a publisher and entrepreneur in the stock imagery field. I focus in providing knowledge and solutions for buyers, contributors and agencies, aiming at contributing to the growth and development of the industry. I am the founder and editor of Stock Photo Press, one of the largest networks of online magazines in the industry. I am the founder of Microstock Expo, the only conference dedicated to the microstock segment. I created several software solutions in stock photography, like the PixelRockstar WordPress Plugin. Plus I am a recurrent speaker at Photokina Official Stage, and an industry consultant at StockPhotoInsight. I am passionate about technology, marketing and visual imagery.