Finding the right stock photo agency for your needs is hard. Registration is free for all agencies but when it comes down to purchasing stock photos and images, an investment needs to be made. Each stock photo agency has its benefits and each solves design, photo and media needs. But which one is best for you? Many buyers invest in a few agencies to deal with their ever changing priorities and maintain an active membership with many. These short reviews of the top stock photo agencies will be helpful in educating stock photo buyers about the differences and benefits of each stock photo agency. If you want an even quicker snapshot of each agency, this Top 5 list may serve your purpose better.
Shutterstock is a global e-commerce company and a leading provider of stock photos, illustrations, and footage. Their library is extensive with over 15.2 million photos and 300,000 contributing photographers. Their focus and competitive edge is to provide low-cost images bought on subscription. Smaller buyers who require few images per year will pay more for this privilege but will only need to invest $49 USD to download from their stock library. With their various subscriptions, you could be paying as low as 28¢ and up to $4.08 per image. The standard license limits the reproduction of the image to 250,000 times.
The biggest benefit of using Shutterstock is its vast collection of images. Their history in the stock photo market has enabled them to build an image and stock photo library where buyers can find what they need. If a subscription package is not what you are looking for, try their other stock photo agency, Bigstock, where images and stock photos can be purchased through credits.
iStockphoto is one of the original stock photo agencies offering royalty free stock photos, vector illustrations, videos, music, audio and Flash at affordable prices and exceptional quality. The iStockphoto library has a collection of 8.3 million photos that is known to be of higher quality than other stock photo agencies. The Vetta Collection, Agency Collection and Exclusives are unique, handpicked images that reflect creativity and build an impression. Standard licenses allow up to 500,000 impressions, a higher value than other stock agencies.
The smallest initial investment for a first time user is $18 USD. The buyer can download 12 x-small stock photos, 4 small photos, a collection of xs, s, and med photos or one large stock photo with a standard license. Photos are downloaded with 300 dpi resolution.
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Adobe Stock is a stock photo service offered by Adobe –powered by established stock photo agency Fotolia, which they also own–, and it's fully integrated into Creative Cloud platform. Adobe Stock's library with over 70 million images (plus videos, 3D models and more) is available directly within any Creative Cloud design app such as Illustrator, InDesign, etc., and you can search, test edit and license stock photos in seconds, without ever leaving your design worksheet. This seamless workflow experience is the added value in Adobe Stock, but it has also its own stand-alone website and you can use the service outside Creative Cloud and Adobe software too.
The minimum investment is of $29,99, which gives you 3 image downloads per month (you can hire it for one month only, or renew it month to month). Images come in all available sizes at no added cost. Hiring a larger subscription lets you save in single image price, as it goes down to between $3 and $0.27 per photo with monthly or annual plans, ranging from 10 to 750 downloads per month. Premium images, videos, 3D models and other extra graphics come at different price points and mostly on demand.
Dreamstime is a distinguished leader in stock photography with over 11 years of dedicated business in the industry. Dreamstime is committed to using the latest technologies on state of the art hardware to make them technologically progressive yet simplistic in use. Their focus on community has built their usability and library, positioning them as a leader with over 11 million images. They buying options include both subscriptions and credits with image prices ranging from 77¢ to $1.25 per image for credit purchases and 20¢ to 43¢ per image with subscriptions. The minimum investment for a buyer to start immediately downloading is $10 USD for credits, which will award 10 x-small level 0 photos or 3 x-small level 1 photos or 2 x-small level 2 stock photos. Standard licenses limit copies to 500,000 on any purchased stock photo.
Dreamstime has evolved as a stock photo agency due to their community development model that encourages contributions from their buyer and photographer communities. It is a model that has spread the word and built trust in the company's ability to grow as the industry changes.
123rf gives you more for a lot less offering stunning, practical stock photos that are refreshing and intriguing. They are newer to the industry than the other stock photo agencies and have quickly gained an audience. Their library has 9.5 million photos. Their standard license restrictions include unlimited use and rights to the image. Buyers have the option of credits or subscriptions to purchase images.
The lowest buy in for a new member is $15 USD. This translates into 15 small images (note the image size is 400 x 200), 7 medium or 5 large images. The price-per-image for subscription buyers ranges from 21¢ to 59¢.
123rf, overall, is a great option for purchasing stock photos. They are hip, have a great vibe and are working up the microstock ladder to be a leader in the industry. Image sizes are smaller than other stock agencies but prices are still very competitive.
Image: © fotum – Fotolia.com