Top 10 stock photo agencies

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In order to settle on the best merchant of royalty free images, you need to be well informed. Thus, whether you’re a designer or a publisher, this fresh list of top 10 stock agencies may prove useful in judging which source of images is the best one for your practice.



Fotolia has been keeping its 4 million users happy since it launched, back in 2004. Now, 24 million stock files make up one the largest collections on the Web, and anyone is free to browse through the gorgeous vectors and images without having to register first; and as you do, bear in mind that Fotolia also gives away free images sometimes, together with comps for planning projects to use in a design.

Starting with the 7th of October, Fotolia launched a mobile application (Fotolia Instant) and a brand new collection assigned to uploads channeled through a Smartphone. Thus, photographers contribute with spontaneous and only top-notch quality captures which are then priced at 3 credits and can be bought from the Instant Collection. When you wish to buy something from Fotolia, there are two options available, namely subscriptions and credits. Going the path of credits would allow users to access the fabulous Infinite Collection, and enables Extended Royalty-Free Licenses. One credit can be derived from $0.74, and when you’re forced to manage with a tiny budget, the Low Cost Collection has over 12 million images, which cost 1 to 6 credits, laid at your service.

A subscription starts by choosing an Individual or Multiple Membership, then a Daily or Monthly type. Daily Subscriptions come with $0.19 for each download, and a daily limit which the user must set anywhere between 25 and 250. Monthly Subscriptions require that the user settle on a download limit from 5 to 5000, and all unused downloads from one month simply Rollover to the next. Fotolia’s current BOGO offer takes the charge off the second month of a subscription made for 5 images and $25 per month (checkout subheading ‘Fotolia’).


2. 123RF

123RF is an ideal source for creative professionals in need of royalty-free stock images. The agency’s current count has peaked to 22 million stock files, and with each new day another 35.000 additions make it past the scrutinizing examination. 123RF is the second and last agency on this list that has a mobile application for inspired contributors, and its name is 123RF On-The-Go. Needless to say, the images originated from the mobile platform look dashing.

It may prove useful to know that 123RF yields a free section of 30.000 photos, graphics, audio and digital files, whence any registered member can download away at no charge. As a matter of fact, I truly believe that this free section is one of the heftiest gift-wrapped collections that I’ve ever seen in terms of microstock agencies. What is more, 123RF’s 100% Money-Back Guarantee is certain to bring anyone peace of mind, knowing that if they should reconsider a recently made purchase, there is always the option of asking for full refunds over the first 72 hours.

In order to buy images from 123RF, users need either engage in a subscription, or use prepaid credits. The Basic and Premium subscription plans are tailored according to the period of time that members wish to enlist. The lengthier the commitment, the better: the daily download rate scales up, and most importantly, so do the discounts for when you buy a stock image. On the flipside, On Demand credits never set a daily limit for file downloads.

Pixta Stock


Pixta Stock offers over 7,000,000 royalty-free stock photos. Tons of high quality pictures available at very affordable prices. You can easily download and use them for a variety of purposes such as websites, packages, magazines, TV and web apps use with a simple license. Royalty-Free contents: Purchase once then use it as many times as needed. Editing is also permitted. Price depending on size and the minimum purchase amount starting from one. They accept PayPal as well.


3. iStock

iStock is the original and universally appreciated marketplace for stock images. It may as well be the most famous stock agency throughout the world. iStock launched 13 years ago, and right now it takes pride in its exclusive collection of 6 million photos, vector illustrations, Flash media, audio and video files. There are no words to describe how delightful the images encased in iStock’s vaults really are. I also need to point out the perfection I’ve encountered in the Editor’s Picks section, where fabulous recommendations from iStock’s high-level experts are put on display. And while you’re wandering around the site, it would be a good idea to visit iStock’s Lightbox once in a while, as it features several freely available images every week.

If you’re on a mission to find an image based on specific criteria, iStock’s search box is remarkably rich in details, and it will produce concise matches to your every quarry. Moreover, at the present moment, the agency’s exclusively available stock images are targeted with a thrilling offer: some of those exclusive royalty-free files are available at half the normal price.

Before taking an image from iStock, one has to sign up for a subscription, or use the agency’s credit system. An amount of 15 to 30.000 credits can be taken in a single episode, with attached discounts that go as far as 25%. What is more, choosing to pay with credits at checkout unlocks a notable benefit: just insert the code ISTOCK14, and the price you have to pay is cut down by 14% (click on subheading ‘iStock’ for a direct path to the mentioned offer).


9. Bigstock

Bigstock unfolds a collection of over 15 million illustrations, vectors, and photos at the disposal of creative professionals. Right now, Bigstock hands over a 7-day Free Trial where curious visitors can sample what it would be like to get images from them on a regular basis. During this lovely free trial, 5 images can be downloaded and re-downloaded every day, for an entire week (and naturally, you may cancel anytime). After the trial’s ending, if you want to take images from Bigstock, you can take up an annual subscription for 5 images per day where the price of an item is just $0.35, or pay in advance for credits (and save up to 27%).


10. Dreamstime

Dreamstime has been a prominent figure of the stock photo industry for 13 years, and in all this time the agency secured around 18 million gorgeous vectors and images in its vaults. Signing up for Dreamstime is most beneficial to designers, due to the fact that the agency assigned them a free section. Thus, designers are free to download photos, web design graphics, and illustrations from the mixture of files encased there. Dreamstime also has an awesome offer: 60% discount for any purchase from them during the first 24 hours after a potential client’s first visit on the website. As such, new members have a whole day ahead to buy top-grade images at the most accessible cost.


4. PhotoSpin

PhotoSpin’s singularity is given by the unusual manner in which the agency makes its royalty-free content available to its clients. To be precise, PhotoSpin has commissioned the over 4 million stock images in two separate sections, a Premium Collection with 1.5 million JPEG and EPS files, and an Expanded Collection with 2.4 million. The former is PhotoSpin’s budget-friendly endeavor, which users can benefit from only after they’ve chosen either a Plus or a Super Plus plan for all future acquisitions (and so pre-establish their download size). The latter, Expanded Collection, is available after customizing a monthly subscription according to 4 categories, 4 time settlements (1, 3, 6, or 12 months), and 16 various subscription plans.


5. Thinkstock

Thinkstock is granted a special place in my top 10 outstanding stock image agencies. Its conceptual blueprint was based on bringing together a variety of known royalty-free image providers in a single platform. A brand of Getty Images, Thinkstock channels the combined content of more than 40 partners like Jupiterimages and iStock. The main difference about buying images from Thinkstock is the fact that prices never really depend on the size of the image you intend to download, which makes a size L just as accessible as size S. Mind Thinkstock’s offer and save money when subscribing by using codes: R4HPC46N cuts 20% off a the price of a Pro annual subscription, and GTDPC46N takes 60% off monthly subscriptions.


6. Depositphotos

Depositphotos so far gathered approximately 17 million, photos, vector images, and videos. The section encasing rich EPS and AI vector illustrations is over 2 million-strong, and those beautiful images are just begging to be snatched, not to mention that some free treats are assigned each week. Aside from that, Depositphotos has another lovely routine, namely that of directing season-specific images into the unique Sales Lightboxes, and thus make them available for download at a 20% discount. For instance, right now there are 134 photos and many vector files placed in the Harvest Time collection. Buying images from Depositphotos happens with credits (pay-as-you-go, where 50 credits are $50, and the user can acquire Extended Royalty-Free Licenses), or a monthly/daily subscription starting with $0.15 per image.


7. Cutcaster

Meet Cutcaster, an exclusive source of stock vectors, illustrations, and photos. On my first visit to their website, the first impression was that all the files are so meticulously organized in categories, according to topic. The Crescendo Collection with its 920 magnificent images, and Cutcaster’s delightful picture collections are eye candy. Buyers don’t really have to sign up if they wish to buy something, as they can simply pay-as-they-go with paypal or by credit card. Alternatively, going the route of credits to shop from Cutcaster can bring about discounts of up to 49% to the standard price of a purchase, and one credit translates from $0.89. Three of the credit bundles come with increasing discounts: 19% off for Bronze, 31% for Silver, and %39 for Gold.


8. Stockfresh

Stockfresh completes my list of the stock photo industry’s elite of the moment. Founded by the makers of stock.xchng and stockxpert, Stockfresh presently yields over 2.7 million stock photos and vectors. The section which stands out the most is that comprised of 300.000 perfect stock vectors, clipart, and illustrations. As far as pricings are concerned, $4.99 transforms into 5 credits, and the amount of prepaid credits can go as far as 500 in one shot. As for the alternative, a subscription costs $99 per month. Finally, I would like to comment that starting a Stockfresh will always turn up relevant results in no time at all.

Catalin is the founder of Mostash – a social marketing boutique – and he’s always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.

  • Fotopro

    Looks like most of these are royalty free sites which only an uneducated hack photographer would sign on with. Knowledgeable & skilled professional photographers only deal with rights managed agencies. If you want to make a living selling your work you have to get paid real dollars using time tested rates. Why settle for pennies when you don’t have to? The only one making money are the owners of these RF agencies who act as vultures trolling for suckers just happy to see their credit line–if you get one! Do your homework and learn the business instead of becoming another victim. Hack photographers are killing the industry unnecessarily and shooting themselves in the foot in the long run. Of course the quality of the work speaks for itself.

  • sunnyd is a great site – 50% goes to contributors and it sells images individually