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Looking for the best value stock photo subscription for your entrepreneurial journey?
As you know, pictures speak a thousand words.
A good blog post has high-quality images to engage readers and help them visualize information.
Well-chosen pictures catch your readers’ attention and stick around in their minds for a long time.
Needless to say, if you want your audience to take action after reading your post, it better have some images.
It’s not just photos – illustrations lend a creative air to your blog and videos are entertaining.
Visual content is king!
Good images aren’t hard to find if you look in the right places.
The best place to find professional-quality images, illustrations, videos and vectors are stock photo websites.
In this post, I review the best value stock photo subscription sites.
My top choices offer a large variety of stock visual content, quality work from talented photographers, videographers and graphic designers, and subscription-based pricing packages that work out to be affordable for most bloggers.
Let’s get cracking!
How do stock photo subscriptions work?
Stock photos are images that are already taken and ready for use.
They are created by talented visual artists and distributed by the stock photo agency.
You purchase a license to legally use the images and download them directly on the stock image website.
Stock images are available to purchase in two ways: as a subscription and image credits/packs.
A subscription allows you to download a fixed number of images daily, weekly, monthly or annually.
The best paid stock photo sites offer a low price per image, and more images at a price that bloggers and small businesses can afford.
Agencies offer multiple stock photo plans tailored to the needs of individuals, businesses and enterprises.
Different price points allow you the flexibility to scale up or down as your usage requirements change.
They also help photographers, graphic designers and videographers get their work before a large buyer base.
Image credits are also an affordable option for bloggers.
They are more suited when the need for photos is limited. Image packs may also limit the size of photos that can be downloaded.
In contrast, the best stock photo plans have no restrictions on image size.
Using images legally online
An image acquires a copyright as soon as it is created.
It is up to you to determine how you can use the image without violating copyright.
Copyright violations attract financial penalties running into thousands of dollars.
Stock photos mention the licensing agreement clearly and come with some restrictions.
Here are some terms to know:
A royalty-free license allows unlimited use of image, vectors and videos on a stock photo website.
It is the basis for the business model used by stock photo websites everywhere – people and businesses would rather purchase images at a relatively low cost and use them freely, up to an extent.
Restrictions still apply to royalty-free content.
For instance, commercial use of images may be prohibited, only a certain number of print runs may be permitted, and use of the image for resale items could be disallowed.
Rights-manage is the other commonly used licensing model.
You (“licensee’) pay a fee to use the content, and the fee is based on usage.
Standard vs extended vs editorial license
Under a standard or regular license, stock images and videos are distributed for free.
Under an extended license, they can be sold.
An extended license does not apply to bloggers, but suits the needs of businesses.
Companies that use a stock photo on an app, poster, greeting card or any item, and create unlimited physical or digital duplication’s of the item for sale buy an extended license.
Images with an editorial license can only be used to illustrate a news or magazine article rather than selling something.
A standard license is for a free product regardless of whether or not it will be used in an editorial way.
- If the last person who the image will reach (“end user”) can freely access the image, then a regular license will do.
- If the end user is part of a product intended for sale, then an extended license is the right choice.
Public domain images (Flickr Commons and Wikimedia Commons)
How do you know that the image you like is a public domain image?
- It doesn’t have a copyright
- The copyright has expired
- The copyright holder chose to make the image available in the public domain
- The image is a U.S. work published before January 1, 1924 (from January 1, 2020, works from 1924 entered the U.S. public domain)
Look for the Public Domain Mark 1.0, or CCO 1.0 Universal Public Domain Mark.
You don’t have to credit a public domain image.
Copyright-free images are a dime a dozen.
The quality of public domain works isn’t exactly stellar, although you may find the occasional photo that looks great and is perfect for your post.
Unless you’re willing to spend an hour or more trying to find a quality photo that matches your requirements, it is best to give public domain works a miss.
Creative commons images
A Creative Commons license allows photographers to make their work available to the public while controlling how they are used.
A Creative Commons image may allow or forbid commercial use.
If you’re earning money from your blog, you may not be able to legally use a Creative Commons photo that doesn’t permit commercial use.
Other requirements of Creative Commons licenses:
Attribution: You can tweak, distribute, remix or build upon the artist’s work as long as you credit them as the original creator.
Attribution-ShareAlike: You can tweak, distribute, remix or build upon the artist’s work as long as you credit them as the original creator, as well as license the new creation under the same terms.
Attribution-ShareAlike No Derivatives: You can redistribute the image without changing it in any way and need to credit the artist.
Social media images
Social networks such as Pinterest, are filled with amazing visual content.
Problem is, you cannot use them legally without permission from the creator.
If the image’s copyright holder is a company you promote on your blog, you can request their permission.
It doesn’t hurt to ask a fan or follower if they will let you use their image on your blog.
Some may welcome the idea of added exposure and only ask you to credit them correctly.
For most bloggers, paid stock photo sites make more sense from a practical and financial point of view.
If you’re planning on succeeding with your online entrepreneurial venture with a platform such as Pinterest, then you need a premium stock photo subscription, period!
Once you have identified a good stock photo subscription site for your needs, all that’s left is to make the most of the top-notch work available to you for a fixed payment.
Top Six Best Paid Stock Photo Sites…
Depositphotos is easily the best value stock photo subscription site for all kinds of image requirements. You can make the most of an image library of over 149 million files.
Photos, vectors, editorials and videos
One of the reasons that makes Depositphotos among the best paid stock photo sites is its extensive library of photos, vector images and videos.
- A look at the photo gallery reveals that the images have been taken by professional photographers, or at least someone who is familiar with the craft.
- The technical and artistic qualities of photos are good enough to illustrate blogs, books, flyers and different types of content and merchandise.
- Editorial photos on the site are curated to reflect the latest news and topical events from all over the world.
- Stock vector collections encompass a range of themes.
- The most popular themes or relevant themes aligned to holidays (Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day…) or major events (ex: vectors related to COVID-19 and work from home are most sought-after currently) are highlighted.
- Contributors are also featured, drawing eyeballs to talented artists’ work.
- You can access a large catalog of high-definition video clips encompassing a variety of themes.
- Among the popular ones are fitness, cityscapes, nature, fashion, beauty, health and technology.
The user-friendly search tab allows quick searches, while the tags of popularly searched topics also help speed up the time to find the best stock photos, vectors and videos for your requirement.
The photobank has separate plans for individual and business buyers.
The entry-level ‘Flexible’ plan is currently priced at $9.99 per month for ten images.
They also offer a $29.99 a month for 30 images, essentially providing a plan for every budget.
Another great feature most stock photo subscriptions don’t offer…
You can roll-over unused images to the next month!
If you like what you see on Depositphotos, consider opting in to the annual plan of $99/year for a 20% discount overall.
Need to publish content every day?
Get on a monthly subscription plan, starting at $69 for 75 photos and vectors, $99 for 150 and $199 for 750 images.
Yearly subscription nets big savings – as low as $0.22 per image for the top-tier $1,999 plan guaranteeing 750 images each month.
The stock photo site’s ‘On Demand’ plan grants an extended license and charges $89 per image for the use of a single image for projects whose print run exceeds 500,000, $359 for five and $1,500 for 25 images.
You can pay for 50 ($359), 100 ($699) or 500 ($2999) images within a year or subscribe to the monthly plan.
Custom plans are also available to meet unique stock photo requirements.
This is a nice touch that enables you to leverage image resources on your own terms.
Multiple support options
Depositphotos offers phone, email and live chat options.
The live chat isn’t automatic, rather, you have to sign in first to connect to a support executive.
Bigstock lives up to its name, offering photos, vectors, illustrations and videos spanning all popular categories.
It is the sister company to another popular stock photo website Shutterstock.
Thousands of images in every category
Sort your visual content from A-Z categories by the type of image: photos, vectors and illustrations.
The option to exclude a keyword allows you to refine your searches. Another great addition is you can specify by
You can also search for the most popular images, new images and photos most relevant to your query.
Additionally, you can specify by license: editorial, non-editorial or model released.
Popular categories like food and industry bring up millions of results.
Over four million images are filed under the abstract category alone, so you’re not lacking in options as far as creative content is concerned.
Bigstock also has a large video library in high definition, standard definition and web video quality.
You can tell that they have been created by talented videographers and editors.
Moreover, the variety of videos on the site is pretty amazing.
You can try Bigstock free for a week, downloading up to 35 royalty-free stock images and video clips.
You can choose monthly or yearly subscription plans that allow a certain number of image downloads a day.
Purchase image credits for as low as $35 for 10 images and up to 500 for $495, and use them within a year.
Monthly video plans start at $79 for 5 videos/day.
- Royalty-free/Standard license
- Extended license
Many support options
Bigstock offers live chat, telephone and email support.
An FAQ section covers common queries from customers, contributors and partners.
Another one of the best value stock photo subscription sites available at your disposal.
Established in 2000, iStock by Getty Images is one of the earliest stock content marketplaces and a dominant player with over 160,000 global contributors.
A part of the visual media company Getty Images, iStock offers photos, vectors, illustrations and videos, as well as audio clips through Getty Images Music.
Over 30 million images
iStock is well-stocked: not only can you access more than 30 million photos, vectors, illustrations and videos, you also have the chance to use some among the six million exclusive images (unique and not available elsewhere) on the site.
All visual files are available royalty-free.
- The site offers curated stock photo collections around topical issues and most popular categories.
- If you need eye-catching stock illustrations, iStock will meet your demanding expectations.
- Diverse, creative and meticulous, the collections showcase artistic talent and technical finesse.
- Stock videos from iStock offer high production value.
- Not only do you have a diverse choice, but you will also find engaging media files reflecting the latest video trends.
- Unlike some stock photobanks, iStock offers 4K videos, which offer a higher resolution than 1080P HD video and make a bigger visual impact before audiences.
The Signature collection features top-quality exclusive images, videos and illustrations based on trending topics, while the Essential collection has non-exclusive images to suit general projects.
iStock spotlights an artist every month, and curates visual content to dominant trends and news.
For instance, at the time of writing, the photobank was offering a selection of free images relevant to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including free virtual backgrounds to add vigor to Zoom calls being made by remote working teams worldwide.
You can purchase credit packs, downloading them as required, or opt-in to a monthly or annual subscription plan.
On the yearly plan, you can make a single full payment or 12 monthly payments.
The pricing structure is straightforward.
You pay more for exclusive images in the Signature collection.
If you buy credit packs, one Essential image is equal to 1 credit, while one Signature image is equivalent to 3 credits.
The credit pack starts at $12, offering bigger savings per image as you purchase more credits.
The Signature subscription gives you access to all high-value images from the premium collection, and is priced at $10/month for ten images.
The Essentials plan is priced at $40 per month for ten image downloads.
You can purchase up to 250 images a month on the monthly plan and download 750 files a month on the annual plan.
With the annual subscription, you can carry over up to 250 unused downloads to the next month. Both plans save you quite a bit on large volume downloads, another reason why iStock is among the best stock photo plans.
iStock by Getty Images offers email and phone support.
The site’s FAQ page includes all common queries in detail.
Dreamstime offers over 46 million photos, vectors, illustrations, videos and audio clips.
It is different from the stock photo sites discussed so far in that it allows contributors to sell the rights to their work.
The website has an excellent collection of visual resources across all popular image categories, an editor’s choice catalog, and top collections featuring the work of different photographers.
Editorial photos on Dreamstime relate to the latest news, with some specially chosen by the photobank’s editors.
Illustrations also span a variety of themes; you can search by category, sub-category, and refine your search broadly by browsing the latest uploads or the best-selling assets.
Dreamstime also offers video files encompassing a variety of categories, including animation, luxury and famous landmarks.
If you’re looking for royalty-free audio clips, you can choose from thousands of professionally produced music and sound effects across themes and genres.
You can buy a royalty-free license for a one-time fee and use images and videos any number of times.
Alternatively, you can – for a higher price – purchase the rights license to gain full ownership of a visual asset.
Contributors determine their own price for selling the right to their work, but in line with Dreamstime’s price band of $250-$5000, depending on the work’s popularity.
As with virtually all the best paid stock photo sites, credit packs and subscriptions are available.
You can buy on-demand, paying for image files based on the file size (XS to XL) and levels from 0-5.
The higher the level, the more popular the asset and greater the price.
Monthly subscription plans allow a fixed number of image downloads, and as many as 750 a month.
Opting in to the three-, six- and 12-month plans lowers the per image price, bringing it down to as less as $0.23 for each asset.
- Full copyright
Dreamstime offers phone and email support, but no live chat.
A useful FAQ section covers common queries from buyers and contributors.
Although the site is search-friendly and content-rich, it lacks the clean and attractive interface of iStock and Depositphotos.
Envato Elements is a one-stop shop for stock photos, videos, graphics, music and sound effects.
The website also offers web and CMS templates, fonts and presentation templates.
More than 50 million photos
Crowd-sourced stock photography market Twenty20 is part of the Envato Elements ecosystem, and together, they make over 50 million photos available to buyers.
You will find all the common image categories you see on the best paid stock photo sites.
Search by specific keywords or choose one of many collections, which include ‘human kinds’, ‘in bloom’, ‘vintage and rustic’, and ‘caffeine fix’.
Envato Elements has a good collection of graphics, organized by categories ranging from vectors, objects and icons to illustrations, patterns and textures.
You can use them to break up the text in your post, explain your main point, and add a more human touch to your content (high-quality images of happy faces work like a charm!).
Images also help optimize your blog’s searchability on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
If you’re using WordPress, you can add an alt text to the image to describe what it is about.
When someone from your target audience performs a Google image search for the particular alt text, your image will show up.
The user can then click-through to arrive at your blog.
You can also access a vast library of HD, Full HD, 2K and 4K stock videos.
If you need audio clips to go with your creative/commercial project, you can choose from thousands of music tracks, including background vocals and instrumental music, and refine your search based on tempo (very slow to very fast).
Envato Elements has three subscription plans: Individual ($16.50/month), team ($16.50/month) and enterprise plans offering custom solutions, dedicated account management and a high degree of indemnification.
You can download as many images you want, which is a compelling reason to use the site if you need a large volume of images, videos or audio clips.
- Single-use: Every time you download an asset, you get an ongoing license for a single and specific use. If you need to use the same asset again, you must register once more for a different end use.
Envato Elements offers phone support, FAQ and help centers, and an active forum.
The pretty unusually-named 123RF stock photo subscription site makes this list for much of the same reasons as my other picks.
The photo agency has been around for more than ten years, and has expanded its offerings over the years, adding stock video and audio files.
They also have some pretty neat tech features, as discussed below.
More than 65 million photos and vectors
The 123RF photobank adds nearly 100,000 new images every day.
There is something for bloggers in every niche, from the usual categories like fashion, technology, business and healthcare to abstract, texture and vintage photos.
A ‘Trending’ section comes in handy when you’re writing a blog covering the holiday season or the latest news and events.
What really stands out is the site’s vector image gallery.
You’ll find unique and creative works here, which shows that talented visual artists have signed up with 123RF.
Another reason why 123RF is among the top ten best value stock subscription sites is the quality of its stock videos.
Videos span a number of categories, and depending on your needs and budget, you can choose from 240WD, 480SD, 720HD, 1080HD and 4K videos.
Better resolutions are available for higher credit purchases (60 credits for 720HD and 180 credits for 4K videos).
Stock audio files on 123RF are categorized by genre, mood and instruments. Free audio clips are also available.
You can buy one image at a time or choose a subscription plan.
123RF has a minimum purchase requirement and every image is priced in credits and according to size.
A single image is equivalent to six credits, and for most bloggers, it may make more sense to buy the cheaper credit pack or sign up to the lowest priced subscription plan that allows you to download images in any size.
123RF has daily and monthly stock photo subscription plans. On the daily plan, you can download five images a day, and sign up for a month, three months or 12 months, with longer subscriptions earning you a bigger discount per image.
The monthly plan allows 780 photo downloads a month, with no daily limits.
If you sign up to the 12-month plan, you will be paying as little as $0.24 per image.
- Extended licenses
- Editorial use license
123RF has a free online photo editor that you can use to create the right sized photos and make other enhancements.
The site uses advanced image search technology, including geolocation and reverse image search.
You also have the option to organize your photos in lightboxes, and send them to others.
You can make payments using your credit card, PayPal or do an online bank transfer.
For any queries, have a look at their detailed FAQ page first.
If you still have questions, you can call 123RF’s customer support team on a toll-free number or fill their online form.
Shutterstock is the real OG in the stock image business.
Founded in 2003, the stock agency has a library of over 220 million royalty-free stock photos, illustrations and vectors, and more than ten million video and music files.
Shutterstock started out as a subscription-only site and started providing a la carte pricing in 2008.
Possibly the world’ largest royalty-free image collection
More than a million new images are added to the photobank every day.
The site’s video library has over 11 million HD and 4K footage.
Need editorial images?
Choose from 40 million across news, sports and entertainment.
Shutterstock also has an extensive music library that you can use for your YouTube videos or podcasts.
Search by keywords, categories, licenses or a reverse image search.
Use the Shutterstock editor to add text, filters and logos.
Along with the excellent choice in photos, vectors, editorial images and videos, the quality of visual content on the site makes it one of the best value stock subscriptions for bloggers.
Professionally captured and created, the images and footage can attract your readers and emphasize your message, making your posts more shareable and driving results from your affiliate marketing efforts.
Shutterstock offers subscription plans and on-demand packs.
Currently, you can buy as few as 10 images for $49/month or up to 750 images at $249/month on a subscription plan.
If you need stock images only now and then, an on-demand pack is more suitable.
You can buy 5 images for $49 and 25 for $229.
Your subscription is valid for one year.
Shutterstock does not offer image credits, making it a better option than sister company Bigstock if you need a high volume of images for one or more blogs.
There isn’t much difference in the quality of stock images between the two, so it mainly boils down to your volume requirements.
The site’s FAQ section covers pretty much all questions you may have as a subscriber. Phone, email and chat support are available.
The best value stock photo subscription sites are essential to bloggers, and vital to the success of any content that aims to educate, inform or sell.
Once you have identified a stock photo website that matches your needs, you never have to worry about adding professional-quality photos, graphics and videos to your blog.
While this post has provided an overview of the top paid stock photo sites, make sure you visit each and have a look around.
They all will certainly make your blog better and earn you loyal readers.
This sums of the best value stock photo subscription for bloggers available for 2020.
Hopefully with the insight I’ve provided, you can now make a much more educated decision on which plan best suits your blog/website.