Because we love stock photos as much as you do, and because we know finding the right stock photo agency to buy high-quality images from is no picnic in the park, we took upon the task of finding and listing the best stock photo sites in one big fat list.
No more guessing, no more tedious research for you. When it's time to buy stock photos and high-resolution photos, take the word of the experts and simply find royalty-free images in the best offer according to your current needs!
This list is very useful to find your supplier for the best images for marketing purposes as well as creative projects! And if you're looking to buy photos to use in your business, don't miss our huge list with 102 master tips to create visual content!
Here it is! Read it, bookmark it, consult it, share it. It’s yours!
Best Stock Photo Sites 2020
Top 5 Stock Photo Websites for Everyone
These 5 stock photo websites are at the top of the market. They are all that we call microstock agencies, selling royalty-free stock images at very low prices with the minimum payment requirement.
Microstock is one of the best buying models for stock photos – check out this explanatory article on why microstock is so convenient. The Royalty-Free license is by far the most convenient for both commercial and creative works – get a detailed review of Royalty Free License here. We recommend you also check our Best Free Stock Photo Sites Guide and our guide to the best Stock Illustration Websites.
These offers are wide and aim at covering most photo buyer needs, be it commercial projects, editorial work, artistic and personal endeavors, etc.
So without further ado, here are the top 5 stock sites and if you are into medicine stock photos – check out our guide to get the best medical stock photos.
Whenever you need a photo to use in your blog posts, websites or social media, visit any of these stock image websites for inspiration and to help save your budget:back to menu ↑
StockPhotoSecrets Shop – The Budget-Friendly Agency
The StockPhotoSecrets Shop is a smaller stock site specifically aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. Developed by a team of experts at Stock Photo Now and backed by me –a veteran in stock photography industry– and my great team, the Shop offers over 5 million royalty-free images under flexible plans and packs tailored to fit into any budget. For us, this is one of the best stock photo websites perfect for blog posts or social media.
You can buy images on demand with image packs, starting at 5 for $39 and up to 100 for $360 – resulting in individual photos for between $3,60 and $7,80. But it is in subscriptions where you’ll find the best and most convenient deals.
The star product is the famous 99club plan: 200 downloads a year for $99. it’s a super flexible offer as you have a whole year to use your downloads, and you pay only once a year too. Not mentioning the really low price, with photos at just $0,49 each!
There’s also plans with monthly download limits, starting at 25 images for $35 and up to 500 images for $105. If you hire these plans annually, you pay between $550 and $999 per year, just once, and save hundreds of dollars. Like this, you can get a great image for as little as $0,16! They are adding up to 100,000 new images monthly.
- Get more info in our 99club review and our Monthly Plans review
- Check StockPhotoSecrets Shop full plans and prices
Shutterstock – The Best Stock Photo Giant
Shutterstock is one of the largest stock site and also one of the best stock photography websites and one that has been around for longer than most. A microstock agency responsible of introducing the innovative stock photo subscription model –now extended across the market–, and famous for having the largest stock photography library in the web, with over 190 million files and counting. They have strict technical standards and obviously a seemingly infinite variety in content. The site also has a very handy search feature making it easy to browse through the millions of images and find the right one you want to use in social media, blog posts and ads.
Check out how Shutterstock compares to its main competitor, here.
You can buy royalty-free stock images on demand with image packs, at 5 photos for $49 or 25 for $229 –resulting in between $9,16 and $9,80 per photo–, but the best prices are those of subscriptions. Shutterstock has plans for 10, 50, 350 and 750 downloads per month, available monthly or annually. You can hire them for from $29 to $249 per month, depending on volume and length. And you will be downloading high definition stock photos for as little as $0,22 each! Learn all details about Shutterstock pricing right here.
You're going to love the chance to save money with our awesome Shutterstock Coupon Code that gives you up to 15% off in your purchase! Grab it now and spend less in your stock photos!
What you'll love even more is that you can now test their images and service quality for free with the new Shutterstock Free Trial that gives you 10 free downloads for 30 days!
- Get more info in our Shutterstock review
- See Shutterstock full plans and prices
- Grab our special Shutterstock Coupon Code with up to 15% off
- Use the Shutterstock Free 1-Month Trial to test the waters
iStock – The First Microstock Agency
iStock (previously known as iStockphoto) was the pioneer company in selling stock photos online under a royalty-free license, using a micropayment method –therefore, the first microstock agency–. This is the model adopted by most of the stock photography sites that populate the web today.
With 18 years in the industry and backed by the prestigious Getty Images, of whom we will talk son, the iStock stock site sells photos on-demand with credit packs (the larger the pack, the lower the unitary price) and subscriptions. The agency is now famous for its highly curated library that hosts hundreds of millions of photos in two main collections. But you can also use the site’s search feature or browse images by category.
You may be interested in learning how iStock compares to the one other leading stock photo agency, too.
Essentials are the collection that hosts budget-friendly, high-resolution quality images that you can use for marketing campaigns. You can buy single stock images at just 1 credit each –between $8 and $12 depending on credit pack used–. Subscription plans for Essentials downloads only are the most affordable, letting you choose between 10 and 750 images a month, and with both monthly and annual options. Of course, the larger the plan and the longer the commitment, the lower the per-image price. Choose to invest from $29 up to $199 per month, and get photos for commercial purposes for as little as $0,21!
The Signature collection offers the best photos that not only have greater commercial potential but are also exclusive to iStock. Buying on demand they are 3 credits each –$24 to $33– and subscription plans for Signature also include access to Essentials. Maintaining the same volume and duration options, prices start at $70 and go up to $399 monthly. But this means you can get exclusive, top-class photos for as little as $0.43 each!
Want to know the good news? We have an exclusive and limited-time iStock Promo Code that saves you 15% on credits and subscriptions! You can buy your choice of credit packs at a cut price! Hurry up before it expires!
- Get more info in our iStock review
- Check out full iStock plans and prices
- Grab our exclusive iStock Promo Code with up to 15% Off
Adobe Stock – The Graphic Designer's Best Friend
Adobe Stock is a stock photo service owned by Adobe –the design software giant– and it is built on the base of the photo library of Fotolia (a well-known stock photo agency acquired by Adobe).
This best stock photography website is fully integrated into the Creative Cloud platform, allowing access over 80 million stock photos right within your design apps, streamlining the design process and saving time and effort. It’s ideal for designers using Adobe’s cloud applications, but it also works independently, from its own website. All photos are enabled for commercial use, as well as for non-commercial purposes. You might ask yourself: “Can I use these photographs for offline marketing campaigns?” Of course!
Adobe Stock sells photos via subscription only, but they have a small plan of only 3 downloads a month, at just $29,99 –so $9,99 per image–, that you can hire for one month and renew at your discretion. You can also opt for an annual commitment of 10 downloads per month for the same monthly price. And then you have bigger plans for 40, 350 and 750 photos per month, that you can hire monthly or annually for between $79,99 and $249,99. Like this, you can get great images taken by talented photographers for as low as $0,26 the unit! Here you can learn it all about how much are Adobe Stock photos.
What’s even cooler is now you can try the service without spending a penny. With our Adobe Stock Free Trial, you get up to 10 FREE images for 1 month! Start your trial today!
- Get more info in our Adobe Stock review
- Check Adobe Stock full plans and prices
- Use our Adobe Stock Free Trial and get up to 10 Free images for one month
Best Premium Stock Photo Websites
This is the cream of the top in the stock photography industry. Most agencies –including the top 5 listed above– sell high-resolution images, but premium stock photography websites offer high-end photography aka the best stock image with that little extra something. Do keep in mind some of them work with Rights Managed licenses instead of Royalty Free. This comparative guide between Royalty-Free and Rights Managed images will come in handy!
Images by professional photographers, having higher production value or portraying exclusive locations are some of the key features in these services. If that appeals you, do check them out:back to menu ↑
Photocase – The Unique Premium Stock Photo Website
Photocase is a premium stock image websites based in Berlin, and its image library certainly reflects it. This company excels since over a decade in a style that became uber-popular recently: best authentic stock photos. Their super tight curation and strict review standards make their collection small, and very high quality —see a selection specially curated for you here–. A premium stock photo site for the best photos if you want unique imagery!
Photocase sells all its photos on demand, and they’re priced according to size from small to large. Buying by the unit –paying as you go– photos will cost you $14 to $42 each. But if you want to buy in bulk, they have a credit pack system to save you from a ten and up to thousands of dollars: they price photos from 5 to 15 credits. Great way to get premium stock photos from one of the best stock photography websites, at lower prices!
Another great way is to seize our special Photocase Coupon Code, with 5 FREE credits plus a 10% discount on your purchase!
- Get more info in our Photocase review
- See Photocase full plans and prices
- Grab our special Photocase Coupon Code with 5 free credits plus 10% off
Getty Images – The Most Prestigious Agency
Getty Images is one of the most prestigious stock photography agencies in the world. So much that it is almost like the stock photography definition in itself. A traditional company that started life before the Internet era and quickly adapted to an online platform, this agency is famous for its super varied catalog full of first-class photography for commercial purposes, including millions of exclusive images from all around the globe, plus a very large collection of editorial content.
In Getty Images you can buy photos under Rights Managed license, a more traditional licensing model that is tailored according to your specific needs and may include exclusive usage of the photo among other perks. This license has much higher price points than Royalty-Free, costing from hundreds and up to thousands of dollars. See what you can do with Rights Managed images here.
But they have a great selection of Royalty Free photos and editorial images that you can buy in an Ultrapack on demand, with great discounts for bulk purchases. Priced according to size, royalty-free images here cost from $125 to $499 the unit, and you can save up to 15% buying packs for 5 or 10 downloads, saving you hundreds of dollars.
If you’re looking for the prestigious photos of Getty Images, Getty Images Ultrapacks are very convenient, saving you up to 15% off regular price and making premium photos more affordable.
- Find more info in our Getty Images review
- See Getty Images plans and prices
- Grab your Getty Images Ultrapack with up to 15% Off regular price
iStock Signature – The Affordable Premium Offer
iStock is not only one of the most popular microstock websites around (and the pioneer in the space). It also has a great premium stock photo service with super affordable rates. Thanks to its dedicated curation, they offer a huge collection of exclusive, high-level images: Signature. While still Royalty-Free and very cheap, these photos are a good fit if you’re looking for something extra but you can’t pay hundreds of dollars for it.
Signature photos are available on-demand with credits, at just 3 credits per photo. Depending on the credit pack you buy, this will mean between $24 and $33 the image. But to get them at lower rates you can get a subscription. Plans that let you download Signature images also include access to the other main collection (Essentials) for the same price. There are options for 10, 25, 50 and 750 downloads per month, hired monthly or annually. According to your selection, you’ll pay from $70 and up to $399 a month, getting premium, best stock photos for as little as $0.43 each. By far the lowest price in the best royalty-free images!
Even lower for you thanks to our exclusive iStock Promo Code with 20% off in credits for a limited time! It gives you a 20% discount on any credit pack, so use it today!
- Get more info in our iStock review
- See iStock plans and prices
- Grab our exclusive, limited-time iStock Promo Code
Best Stock Photo Sites with Unlimited Downloads
We also think of you, buyers needing lots and lots of photos all the time. We are listing the next three stock photo websites that have plans with unlimited downloads, letting you really maximize your budget and access the large number of images you need. Below you'll find the best websites offering unlimited plans, and you can also find more in our list of Unlimited Downloads Agencies.back to menu ↑
Canva Pro – Unlimited Downloads with Complete Design Solution
Canva is a popular image editing tool thought for non-designers wanting to accomplish simple yet effective designs. But there is also Canva Pro, their premium, subscription-based service that is intended for business users. This platform offers a large library with over 60 million images, illustrations, icons, templates and more. And the subscription comes with unlimited downloads at no added cost!
What sets Canva Pro aside isn't just the unrestricted download cap, though. But the fact it's a complete design solution for those who aren't design-savvy. To the user-friendly editing tool, Canva Pro adds a Brand Kit feature to easily create branded visuals for different purposes. Another important function is a Publishing assistant to manage and send out designs to your different channels from one place. And that's just to name a few. This full-pack of design made simple costs only $9.95 a month (when you pay yearly upfront, otherwise it's $13.95 monthly). Such low pricing makes it a perfect ally for small businesses and individuals who need a lot of cool designs all the time but can't afford a designer. And in general, for anyone who values great stock images and easy-to-use editors.
- Find out more in our dedicated Canva review
- Sign up and check Canva Pro pricing
- Try Canva Pro for Free! Click the banner below to get 30 days of Canva Pro for free, including unlimited downloads!
Storyblocks – The King in Unlimited Stock Media
Storyblocks is a stock media platform specializing in unlimited download plans. They came to life under the brand “Videoblocks”, offering royalty-free stock footage with an “all you can eat” fixed subscription, and later expanded to include stock images and audio files, rebranding into the Storyblocks we know today. Each media type has its own library and plans, with this being the main, still imagery offer. This is one of the best websites if you want unlimited best stock images.
Storyblocks does things differently from most stock photography sites. It has a wholly-owned library with over 400,000 images plus stock footage and stock audio catalogues, and they sell you subscriptions to access them. They have an Unlimited All Access plan that lets you in to the stock image collection as well as the video and music libraries, to download as many assets as you wish, for only $65 a month or $349 a year (which saves you a lot from the monthly regular plan). Given you can get as many images as you wish, the average per-image price can easily go down to single cents per download! A very good deal if you need lots and lots of photos all the time.
- Get more info in our Storyblocks review
- See Storyblocks prices and plans
StockUnlimited – The Pioneer with the Large Collection
StockUnlimited is a stock imagery website that pioneering with unlimited downloads offer. They were the first in adapting that model to stock photos, and are still at it today. Initially a library of illustrations and vectors, StockUnlimited now offers over 1 million visuals including stock photos, plus extra media types like audio and font files.
They offer on-demand packs starting at $9 for 10 downloads and up to $50 for 100 –so between $0.50 and $0.90 per image–, but the star is their unlimited downloads plan, which you can hire monthly for $19, yearly for $79, or for three years for $169. A very low price for all the images you want! Plus, StockUnlimited packs and plans include all media types: you can download stock photos, vector illustrations, audio files, and fonts indistinctively. It’s a very good deal to get all kind of stock media for one fixed rate, without worrying about limitations!
- Get more info in our StockUnlimited review
- See StockUnlimited plans and prices
Envato Elements – The Small Curated Service
Envato Elements is a relatively new service by stock media platform Envato. This platform hosts several marketplaces specializing each on one media type (stock photos, stock footage, stock vectors, stock audio, etc.). Elements is essentially a curated collection with handpicked files from all of their marketplaces –over 630,000 items in total– and you can buy a subscription to access them. It includes stock photos, vector illustrations, videos, audio tracks, templates, tutorials, and more.
The plan they offer is very simple: unlimited downloads from the entire collection, and you can hire it monthly for $29, or annually for $228 –which saves you 34% from monthly price–. If you need different media types and lots of files, this is certainly a good option to consider!back to menu ↑
Best Niche & Trendy Stock Photos Agencies
There are websites in the stock photo market offering different, unique stock photos with specific aesthetics, concept or topic. Generally, they’re deliberately smaller collections, as they’re more tightly curated and/or the subject they cover is narrower. Niche agencies have their charm, and if you’re after something specific, they’re ideal. Most of these agencies specialize in genres or themes that are currently trending –see what is trending today in our Photography Trends 2018 Report!–. Here’s a selection of the best.back to menu ↑
Photocase – Artsy Photos with Berlin Style
You might have noticed Photocase is already listed under Premium Stock Photo Sites, but did you know it is also a very unconventional stock photo agency? From day one, this German-based company has been cultivating a very distinctive and unique stock photo collection, full of artistic, extraordinary and rare, yet beautiful, photos —check out this special collection of them!–. Heavily influenced by the Berlin style, their library follows an authentic aesthetic with unconventional models, non-posed shots and out-of-the-box concepts. This is the most trendy photographic style of our days, as you can learn in our article about Authentic Stock Photos.
If you're looking for authentic, unique and outstanding visuals with a modern feel, you should definitely try Photocase. You can buy photos on demand for between $14-$42 each, and if you use credit packs you can get them for as little as $7,60-$33.
Even better, if you use our exclusive Photocase Coupon Code you'll get 5 FREE credits plus a nice 10% off!
- Get more info in our Photocase review
- See Photocase plans and prices in detail
- Grab our exclusive Photocase Coupon Code with 5 free credits + 10% off
TONL – Accurate Representation of People of Colour
TONL is a stock photo agency looking to bring diversity to stock photography, through accurate and modern representations of people of color, their culture, and their lives. Theirs is a relatively small yet varied library, covering most popular topics in lifestyle photography with authentic, natural-looking photos showing models from various cultural backgrounds and racial heritages.
You can buy TONL photos on demand for $20 the piece, and they also offer small subscription plans for 15 and up to 75 downloads, ranging between $29 and $105 –which equals to as low as $1,40 per image–, a very affordable offer for unique and diverse stock photos.back to menu ↑
DragonImages – Professional Asian Stock Photos
DragonImages is a stock photography brand and studio based in Asia, the property of successful stock photo company Pressfoto Group. They produce regionally specialized stock imagery, looking to provide creatives with professional, high quality and varied photos representing Asian culture and people. This small brand is helping to add diversity to the large pool of stock photo collections available, following one of the biggest photography trends of the latest years.
Being a brand rather than an agency, DragonImages' photos are available at various outlets, including the Pressfoto agency as well as the top stock photo sites listed above, and many more. Prices for their images vary according to the agency, sometimes being less than $1 per photo. If you're looking for fresh, modern Asian photos, they are a great option!
- Get more info in our Diverse Stock Photos post
- See DragonImages collection
Best Free Stock Photo Websites
Free stock photos have been luring people into the web since back in the early days of the Stock Xchng platform. We love free stuff as much as you do, but when it comes to free stock photos, things get risky. You'll see, free stock photos aren't always what they appear to be, they hide considerable danger and they can easily get you in lots of legal trouble when using them. Why? Two main reasons:
- Their license is flawed: Most free photo download sites use a form of Creative Commons license (mostly Creative Commons Zero – CC0) and while this licensing type allows for legal usage of the content in commercial projects, it does not cover you if the image infringes rights to privacy, private property or copyright.
- They don't police content: These sites usually work on the low-cost end, they crowdsource their images, and they don't have resources to police submissions. So anyone can upload anything, even photos that aren't theirs or that don't meet legal requirements to be licensed under Creative Commons safely.
For those reasons, we are not fans of free stock photo sites, and we normally don't recommend them. It's just so much safer and not so much more expensive to use professional microstock agencies. But as we know how appealing free stock photos can be, we did our research to find the best free stock photo websites out there, listed below. Do keep in mind that at any of them you must revise the image validity on your own, and you'll be at your own risk using the photos. Here are 5 options, you can find 20 more in our list of the Best Free Stock Photo Sites!back to menu ↑
Best Stock Photo Sites for Freeback to menu ↑
Pixabay – Best Free Photo Website
Pixabay is a very large free stock photo site based in Germany, created by Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger (both with a background in computer technology). They provide images you can download and use free of charge, that they crowdsource from users. They have amassed a collection of over 1.4 million files and counting offered on a very professional, “stock-photo-agency-looking” site that includes a blog and a community forum.
Images are under Creative Commons Zero license, free to use in both personal and commercial projects. While they note that these photos can still be subject to privacy and property rights, they have a dedicated staff member –a photographer and image editor– tasked with reviewing submissions not only for quality but also for legality. This is a big plus, that nearly no other free photo site has, and adds more safety to their service.
They make money via sponsored photos: they include results from Shutterstock –listed in our top stock photos sites above– collection in your searches, and you are redirected to purchase at that agency if you wish to download those images. But Pixabay's native images are free of charge. Creative Commons photos are still risky to use, but having the added reassurance of an experienced reviewer makes this free stock photo site worth exploring.back to menu ↑
Unsplash – The Master of Free Stock Photos
Unsplash is a free photo download site created and managed by the owners of Crew –a platform connecting customers with freelance designers, web developers, and small studio services–. It started 5 years ago as a modest Tumblr blog offering leftover photos from a custom shoot, for free. And it escalated to one of the most popular free photo sites around, used by titanic brands of the likes of Apple, hosting over 500,000 free photos from contributors, and integrated into various other platforms and products.
Their photos are high quality, modern, authentic and with a strong youthful feel. And they're all available to download and use for free. Unsplash uses their own custom license, which is essentially a Creative Commons Zero license but removing the right to compile their photos –this avoids you creating a competitor service using their images–.
On this site, all images are for free and there is no catch, owners use it to fuel traffic and customers to their Crew services, and lately, they are developing business opportunities based on Unsplash directly. It's a very pro-like website, and the team behind it is very serious about it. While it's still a CC0 license model to be cautious about, it's also an undeniably cool service to get stock images free.back to menu ↑
Pexels – New Free Stock Photos
Pexels is a free stock photo site based in Germany, created by twin brothers Bruno and Ingo Joseph, both with a background in computer and software technology. The site aims at providing free photos that are more authentic and modern. They have hundreds of thousands of photos submitted by users –including many more aggregated from similar free photo sites–, API integrations, and a very cool blog.
Pexels images are all under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, enabling use in commercial projects and without attribution requirements, at absolutely no cost.
The site monetizes by including sponsored images from paid stock photo collections they're affiliated to, in their results and galleries. If you like one of those photos, you'll be redirected to the agency website to buy it. But their own, native images are free. You know CC0 means risk, but this is certainly a serious and respectable website.back to menu ↑
Life of Pix – Free Stock Photo Agency
Life of Pix is a free stock photography website created by Canadian digital agency LEEROY, offering a very large collection of high quality, free stock photos with a strong artistic feel, for creatives to use in their work. They have hundreds of thousands of photos donated by photographers, ready to download for free. They have a very cool and edgy website that catches your attention right away.
All their photos are donated to Public Domain, and so they don't have any copyright requirements –although Life of Pix encourages attribution–. They forbid mass distribution, though, limiting you to 10 images and demanding writing consent from them for higher volumes. However, for end-users, there's no limit to downloads.
Life of Pix is an affiliate to Adobe Stock –listed amongst our top 5 stock photo sites above–, and they include images from that library in their galleries and results. If you want one of those photos, you must pay for it. All the rest are free of charge. Public Domain Images can be tricky too, but this site has a lot of love and work invested in, making it a serious option for free stock photos.back to menu ↑
Gratisography – Free Stock Images
Gratisography is a free stock photo website that markets itself as artsy and out of the norm. It's founded by graphic and web designer Ryan McGuire –owner of Bells Design–, who is also an experimental visual artist. The goal of the site is to offer unique, more intimate, more appealing images, as opposed to the predictable “stocky look”. The modest collection has around 450 photos, all signed by Ryan himself, and is of high quality.
These images are free to download and use, no catch. The license is custom, but it is pretty much a CC0 licensing model with some restrictions similar to Royalty-Free (but it's NOT Royalty Free), like the sensitive use and defamatory use limitations. It's to be noted the site expressly says their images might be subject to privacy and property rights, and that while they enable commercial use, they recommend “due diligence” before using photos in commercial projects (which means, it's up to you to check its legal status). However, being all images owned by Ryan, at least you know where they come from.
The site slightly promotes McGuire's design business and also has some affiliations with top stock photo sites of the listed above. McGuire's photos, however, are free. This is a cool website to find extraordinary, quirky photos for free. But do take their word about due diligence.back to menu ↑
Best Practices to Use Free Stock Photos
Regardless of which site you choose to go with, there are a few tips for using free stock images in the safest way possible. And we're telling you now:
- Vet the site – Verify its reputation, check who founded/owns/runs it, how they monetize, etc. A cool looking site with lovely photos is awesome, but that's not the only thing defining its suitability! – We gave you a helping hand by reviewing the best five sites right above.
- Check the licensing model – Remember Creative Commons has different variants, CC0 being the most popular but not the only, and each has different terms. Public Domain and custom licenses will show up to. See what they entitle carefully.
- Find out where images come from – It's not the same a site that crowdsources from everyone than a site that owns all the files they offer. Knowing this will help you decide if/how to use those photos.
- Avoid shadowy fields in commercial use – Refrain from using photos that depict recognizable people, private property, logos, trademarks, and landmarks.
- Or diligently verify the legal status yourself – If you want to use a photo with people or other risk factors, invest time and resources in verifying and double-checking its legality: model releases, property releases, copyright owner consent, etc. It's a pain to do, but better safe than sorry!
If you want to skip all this hassle altogether, you can: get Royalty Free stock images at super low rates in any of the Top Stock Photo Sites we listed above!back to menu ↑
Stock Photo Websites FAQ – All Your Questions Answered
Next, we are going to answer all the main, commonly asked questions about stock photography, how it works and what does it offer. You’ll have no doubts about these concepts when you’re done the reading!
What is a stock photo license?
Stock photos aren’t really for sale: when you buy a stock photo, what you actually buy is a license to use the photo in a certain number of ways. But the copyright (the ownership, so to speak) of the image is not yours. The license is the legal agreement between the agency and owner of the photo, and you –the end-user–. See more details about the most popular stock photo licenses.
What are Royalty Free stock photos?
Royalty-Free is a type of stock photo license. It’s the most used one in microstock photography and the most popular amongst buyers. Mainly because of its flexibility and low cost: with this license, you pay a flat fee, only once, and you get a considerable number of usage rights, forever. Get more details on what are Royalty Free stock photos.
Are Royalty-Free photos free?
No, at least not by definition. The name Royalty-Free refers to the fact that one license lets you use a photo multiple times, in multiple projects and for as long as you want without ever having to pay royalties. But most royalty-free stock photos are paid. You might find, however, some sources offering them free of charge. More likely than not these sources will be stock photo agencies giving away free photos. You can learn where to get free stock photos here.
Are all Royalty Free licenses the same?
Not necessarily. Each agency can and often do customize their license agreements. However they all follow a standard for Royalty Free license model, so the main terms are common to all of them. You must always read the license terms carefully to make sure you understand them (and your intended use is covered)! You’ll find the agreement on the agencies’ websites.
What’s the difference between Royalty-Free and Rights Managed license?
Both licenses let you use stock photos legally with a commercial purpose, but Royalty-Free is more flexible, gives a set of general usage rights, it’s a one-time fee and it’s cheap. Rights Managed is tailored for your intended use, it’s more specific, allows exclusive use, and it’s higher priced. Plus extra royalties may apply depending on the case. See a comparative review on Rights Managed and Royalty Free licenses.
What can I do with a Royalty-Free stock photo?
The question should be what can’t you do! Royalty-free photos can be used in commercial, editorial and personal projects, both printed and digital: websites, banners, flyers, decoration, packaging, social media, etc. Under the Extended License, they can also be used in products for resale. Most agencies sell high definition images that are suitable for professional use. You can solve most, if not all, of your creative needs with stock photos. See what you can do with Royalty-Free Photos here.
What can I not do with a royalty-free image?
There are a few copyright restrictions in Royalty-Free license. In general terms, you cannot sell the image as is to anyone else, you cannot use it in defamatory ways, and you cannot use it in products for resale unless you have an Extended License. Always make sure to read all the limitations carefully prior to using a stock photo. See what you cannot do with Royalty Free images.
What is an Extended license?
Extended License is a license that gives you, as the name gives away, bonus rights added to the standard Royalty-Free agreement. For a higher cost, this adds perks like unlimited copies, extra seats and more importantly, the right to use photos in products that you can resell for a direct profit. See more details on the Extended License.
Do you have a question that is not answered here? Drop a comment below this post and we’ll happily answer it!back to menu ↑
How to Find the Best Stock Photo Site for You
Gotten this far, you’re probably thinking “there’s a lot of really cool stock photo websites out there, how on earth am I going to decide which one to use?”. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. And we’ve found there are some really useful tips to identify the best stock photo site for you! Here’s what you must consider:
- How many images you need and how often: this way you’ll know whether to go for subscriptions or on-demand models, and it’ll be easier to find the agencies with the best deals – check out this great comparative guide for subscriptions vs. single image purchase!
- How much you can/want to spend on the best stock photos: knowing your budget limits will help you find an agency with deals that fit your pocket
- How you prefer to spend: having clear if you want to make a large upfront investment, if you’re willing to sign up for periodic fees, or if you rather spend less even if it means paying higher prices for photos, will aid you in deciding which agencies have more options for you
- Reviews: reading comprehensive stock photography agency reviews are great to fully know what a company has to offer – Check out our Agencies section full of comprehensive reviews!
- Free trials: seizing free trials from agencies is a very simple way of testing their service before spending money
- Special deals: finding special discounts and bonus deals from agencies is a very good way of saving money – Visit our Coupons section packed with special discounts and bonuses!
Following these simple tips, you will easily clear your way amongst the large crowd of very good stock photo offers to find the one that is meant for you!back to menu ↑
Best Stock Photo Sites: There's One for Everyone!
So that was our giant list of the best stock photo sites around. Reviewed, analyzed and curated just for you! If there's one obvious conclusion at this point is this: no matter what you're looking for, what budget you have and what your spending preferences are, there is a stock photo website out there that has exactly what you want!
You're all set with any of the top stock photo sites:
- StockPhotoSecrets Shop – Great for small, limited budgets
- iStock – Ideal for those wanting exclusive content cheap
- Shutterstock – Suitable if you love the variety
- Adobe Stock – Perfect for Creative Cloud users
And don't forget you also have lots of options for specific needs!
- Premium? Unique and authentic? Photocase
- Unlimited downloads? Storyblocks
- Ethnic and culturally diverse? TONL
- Free photos? Pixabay
And these are just some of your many options!
Which ones are you exploring first? Do you know of a good stock photography websites we haven't listed? Drop us a comment and let us know!
PS: If you need stock videos – check out our guide to the best stock footage sites on FootageSecrets.com.