When it comes to stock photos, there’s a wealth of images floating around, but it’s never easy to choose the right subscription service. While some sites offer a “pay-as-you-go” plan, others require users to purchase a subscription that can be costly. Some sites even host a ton of free images. So, what’s the best site out there?  We break it down to give you a little bit of everything, from the free to the extravagant.

1. Fotolia–consistently reliable

Fotolia offers over 22 million royalty free stock photos. The site offers a pay-as-you-go credit plan, as well as a monthly subscription. Credit plans range from 27 credits ($35) to 9,400 credits ($7,000)—a range of $0.74 to $1.30 per credit. Some photos may be as little as 1 credit, but other images take more than a few credits depending on image size. The monthly plans are pretty flexible–$25 will get you 5 images for a month, while $8,160 will get you 1,000 images a month for an entire year.
Pros: The pricing is reasonable compared to many other sites, and the different payment options give users a lot of freedom.
Cons: Many of the images are taken in Europe so they may look out of place in an American website. Searching the site can be slow, and in the past people have complained that their accounts were terminated, and their credits disappeared.

2. Stock.Xchng–free, quick, and easy

Stock.Xchng is a subsidiary of Getty Images that provides free-to-use stock photography and illustrations. The site has over 400,000 images for users to browse.
Pros:  It’s FREE, and it’s not too difficult to find what you need.
Cons: The searching can be a little confusing, and the site does not have nearly as many images as some others. The quality and sizing of images is also limited, and because the service is free and popular, images may be duplicated on many other websites.

3. iStockphoto–elite photos with a price tag

iStockphoto is a royalty-free stock photo provider that, like Fotolia, offers a pay-as-you-go plan, as well as a subscription service.  A 3 month plan with 35 daily credits runs at $995, and buying by the credit costs from $1.47 to $1.75 per credit. Photos themselves can cost 5 credits on the low-end, but many mid-range price photos can run around 30 credits.
Pros: It’s a popular site, so there’s a huge variety of quality images. It also gives the user the option to narrow down choices by price.
Cons: It’s one of the most expensive sites, and the subscription doesn’t offer any huge benefits because it’s based on credits per day rather than images per day.

4. Photodune–new, yet experienced

Photodune.net is fairly newer and was publicly launched in August 2011 by Envato. It now has a media collection topping 3.5 million items. The site offers a simple “buy now” option, as well as a “prepaid credit” option. The advantage of choosing prepaid is that users do not have to pay the $2.00 surcharge that goes along with buy now. The site also offers a monthly free photo. Most photos are in the $1-$10 range, which users can purchase after signing up for a free account.
Pros: Photodune makes purchasing photos pretty simple, without the hassle of dealing with credits. A free monthly photo is a plus (many other sites offer weekly/monthly free photos).  The prices are reasonable and upfront.
Cons: The photo library is not as large as some of the bigger sites, so it may not be the best option for all professional needs.

5. Flickr–a social photo community  

Flickr is an image and video hosting site with an online community that was acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. So, it’s not necessarily a stock photo site, but it’s still a good place to look. The site is popular with bloggers who share images to embed in social media and blog posts. Anyone can sign up for a free account, and the site offers two different types of paid accounts that essentially eliminate page ads and give users more storage space. For free photos, you can search through their Creative Commons section, as these photos don’t hold a full copyright. Users also have the opportunity to contact photographers in order to purchase licensing.
Pros: It’s a pretty trendy site that combines aspects of social media and sharing that we have all come to love. Plus, the fact that it’s a global community means there’s so much to see.
Cons: Since the rights vary by photo, nothing is completely streamlined, which makes the site a little harder to sort. And, with such a large community it’s easier for low quality photos to make their way onto your screen.
This is just a small sampling of sites out there, as there is certainly no shortage of available images. What are your favorite stock photo sites?

Posted In: Marketing, Web Design

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