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Today’s Tried-And-True Top 10 Stock Photo Merchants


If your job involves the use of high-quality and royalty-free images, you need to know which of the stock photo agencies have the best market value. In order to help you achieve that understanding, I’ve made a top 10 with the best options of the industry as perceived nowadays.




If your job involves the use of high-quality and royalty-free images, you need to know which of the stock photo agencies have the best market value. In order to help you achieve that understanding, I’ve made a top 10 with the best options of the industry as perceived nowadays.



Fotolia launched in 2004, and now caters to the needs of well over 4 million professionals with 24 million images, vectors, and videos. Newcomers are always impressed by the fact that Fotolia offers visitors free images and comps for planning projects to try in a design. The beginning of October marks the launch of Fotolia Instant, a Smartphone application meant for contributing photographers who can now act on a moment’s inspiration and then upload high resolution photos into the Instant Collection, where it will be put up for sale at the price of 3 credits.

Fotolia’s stock files are top-class and well worth the investment. Take the agency’s credit system for instance, where a single credit can be translated from only $0.74. If a user decides to buy images using Fotolia credits, this form of payment grants access to the elite files encased in the Infinite Collection, and it also permits the enlisting of Extended Royalty-Free Licenses. What is more, when the budget you have to work with is too small for your liking, you are at liberty to use prepaid credits in order to acquire any of the multiple-sized images placed in the Low Cost Collection (depending on size, priced between 1 and 6 credits).

With Daily subscriptions, users decide on a value ranging from 25 to 250 downloads/day at the cost of $0.19/item. On the other hand, Monthly subscriptions assign the price of $0.84 to one image, and a total monthly count of 5 to 5000 downloads. At the moment, Fotolia’s BOGO offer states that, in the case of a Monthly subscription fixed for the price of $25 to 5 images downloads per month, the second month is free (click on subheading ‘Fotolia’ for more information).



iStock is without question one of the three leading stock agencies of the moment. For those of you who don’t know this, iStock is in fact the original stock photo merchant, having started out in 2000 ahead of anyone else. The last 13 years have spawned iStock’s reputation as a first-rate provider of exclusive stock images for creative professionals. iStock still works within an exclusive setting, and now commands an assembly of 6 million illustrations, photos, Flash media, vectors, video footage, and audio files.

It’s always a good idea to visit iStock’s website, and while you’re at it go ahead and investigate the section with Editor’s Picks, as it contains all kinds of images recommended by iStock’s leadership. On a similar note, the iStock Lightbox is worth passing through every now and then, as it assigns free treats at the rate of one image per week. The iStock file search launches a thorough and precise process that never delivers irrelevant content. In this sense, an army of filters is employed to refine the search and make sure that you are presented with no more and no less than exactly what you’re seeking.

When it comes to buying images from iStock, users can either pay with credits, or take up a subscription. Taking the path of prepaid credits has its advantages; for instance, in a single shot, 15 to 30.000 pieces can be equipped with a discount of up to 25%. Moreover, today, iStock’s homepage informs that some of the agency’s exclusive stock files are available at half of the regular price. Also, users can save 14% from their credit-based purchase by typing in ISTOCK14 at checkout (click on subheading “iStock” for further details).



123RF is a commendable source of stock photos. Customers are free to take from a hefty selection of more than 22 million royalty-free files (audio and video files, photos and vectors). Over the course of an average day, 123RF’s selection team evaluates and adds approximately 35.000 fresh creative assets to the agency’s vaults. 123RF is one of the only two microstock agencies in this list that employ a mobile application as alternative for regular upload procedures. With 123RF On-The-Go, contributors are able to submit their photos at any given time, and only top-quality submittals make it through.

123RF also offers free giveaways: members are free to download anything from a set of 30.000 stock files: loads of graphics, digital arts, and audio files. Apart from 123RF’s alluring free section, I’d like to point out the fact that 123RF stands by its 100% Money-Back guarantee, insofar as whenever users change their minds about one of their recent orders soon after they’ve been completed, the agency pays them back in full. To be specific, the guarantee is valid for 72 hours after users made a purchase.

As regards payment options, in order to acquire stock images from 123RF, clients are required to settle with either of three choices: Basic or Premium (subscriptions), and On Demand (credits). The Basic and Premium plans enlist a larger number of downloads allotted to one day as more time is subscribed, and they also commission more discounts under the same conditions.



Stockfresh is an intuitive and convenient stock image agency. Overall, Stockfresh controls around 2.7 million royalty-free stock vectors and photos. Most of all, I’d like to make a point of praising one of the agency’s sections. Some of the most outstanding pieces of work I’ve ever chanced upon make up a section of 300.000 glorious vectors, illustrations, and clipart. As for the agency’s accessibility, Stockfresh fares well: subscriptions come with the price of $99 per one month, and the alternative allows 5 to 500 credits to be acquired in one session for the individual price of $4.99. The user interface from Stockfresh is charming and uncomplicated, so that clients never waste any time in tracking down the ideal images.



For the present time, Bigstock proposes an amazing 7-day Free Trial. There is no hidden catch once someone engages in this trial, and it may be cancelled out at any moment. However, being partial to the trial means that you get a week’s worth of free treats from Bigstock’s 15 million-strong collection of astute vectors and images, which can be downloaded (and re-downloaded for free) at the rate of 5 images in a day. Looking past the free trial, if you should choose to buy images from Bigstock, credits or a subscription will do the trick. The way of prepaid credits can save you up to 27%, while a yearlong subscription at the download rate of 5 per day attaches just $0.35 for a file.



Dreamstime is another noteworthy stock photo supplier. The agency started out in 2000, which speaks volumes about the agency’s experience. Since then, Dreamstime gathered over 18 and a half million stock images. Taking royalty-free images from this source is easy and well worth it. The latest fantastic offer from Dreamstime says that, if you create an account during the first 24 hours since first visiting, for the remaining time of those 24 hours, the user benefits from a 60% discount to any acquisition. Last but not least, Dreamstime created a free section for the exclusive use of designer clients, comprised of fantastic web design graphics, photos, and illustrations.



Thinkstock stands out by the manner in which all its stock files were aggregated. In other words, Thinkstock’s content is drawn from the vaults of more than 40 partner stock image agencies, including those of huge brands like iStock and Jupiterimages. Another unique aspect is the fact that Thinkstock doesn’t establish the price of a royalty-free file on the grounds of its download size, and thus users may as well go with the largest version, and it will cost as much as a size S. In addition, Thinkstock offers sizable with the use of codes: R4HPC46N takes 20% off in the case of a Pro yearlong subscription, and GTDPC46N enacts a 60% discount to monthly subscriptions.



Depositphotos is a top-grade stock image provider. Its total count amounts to 18 million photos, vectors, and videos. A daily or a monthly subscription to Depositphotos attaches the price of $0.15per image. Out of that multitude of amazing stock files, I really fancied Depositphotos’ extensive section with vector illustrations, which is where you’ll come across more than 2 million awesome files. What is more, it would be a good idea to check on the Depositphotos Sales Lightboxes time and time again, as they encase season-relevant images. In this instant, 134 stock photos and tons of vectors now form up the Harvest Time collection and are sold with 20% discount.



Cutcaster brings my list of top 10 first-rate stock agencies to a close. It is one of the few microstock agencies that rely on an exclusive database of creative files, all of which are sorted according to topic into collections. Cutcaster’s Crescendo Collection yields 920 crisp images, and the picture collections are also great to look at. Registration is not required in order to make a purchase; outsiders can simply pay-as-they-go with paypal or straight with their credit cards. For users, the price of one credit is just $0.89, and out of the 4 available credit bundles, three bear a certain discount: 19% for the Bronze package, 31% for Silver, 39% for Gold.



PhotoSpin is a great favorite of mine. This agency has a unique way of making its approximately 4 million royalty-free EPS and JPEG stock files available for sale by means of two main collections. The first and largest of these is the Expanded Collection, which harbors 2.4 million photos and illustrations. In order to take an image from this huge collection, the user has to put together a customized subscription based on 4 categories, 4 monthly time spans, and 16 various subscription plans. The other 1.5 million stock files from PhotoSpin’s are encased in the Premier Collection, whence users can buy images after deciding on the size of all future downloads by choosing a Plus or a Super Plus plan.


I'm the editor-in-chief of I'm a designer and developer by day, and a writer and musician when the feeling strikes. I enjoy vintage advertisements and puzzles with an absurd amount of pieces. Follow me on Twitter.

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