If you’re a travel site (such as ours), or even a different kind of website then you may be wondering where can get the best images, videos and other content for your project. Whether it’s for a marketing campaign, to help illustrate pages, for social media, or another use then there are lots of places you can get images, videos, vectors and other content. Some of these can be free and some may be paid, which means whatever your budget there are options available.
Here are the best paid and free stock photo websites where can easily and quickly download images and other content for your projects. Further down you can also find some common questions and answers about stock photographs.
Disclaimer: plans, prices, stats and other details are all believed to be correct at the time of writing but may change. Check the mentioned website/service for the most up to date details. Screenshots below have been captured from the websites mentioned at time of publishing. Be sure to check full details if you choose to sign up to any of the mentioned agencies.
Best Paid Stock Photo Websites
Here are some of the best-paid stock photo agencies.
Dreamstime is one of the largest stock photo websites with over 150 million photographs in their collection. To find the image you want you can use the search box, image tags, as well as by using the different categories you’ll find on their homepage. Licencing options include both commercial use, editorial use, as well as extended licenses.
Dreamstime is our current favourite agency and we have been using them for the last 6 months (prior to publishing this article). We find their prices and promotions are fair and affordable, and their collections of images offer everything we need.
- Subscriptions offering a set number of downloads, from 5 images to 750 images. They offer both monthly and annual plans, and the monthly plans can also be cancelled anytime
- Credit packages ranging from 11-2000 credits which can be used for buying the pictures. The amount of credits you need for a download will depend on the size and rating of the image
- Video subscriptions offering 1-25 downloads per month
Adobe is well known for its photography, graphic design and other creative tools, but has now created its own stock photo collection. Their library also includes the assets from Fotolia which has since been purchased by Adobe. In their collection, you’ll find over 90 million photos, vectors, illustrations and other assets, perfect for design projects, websites and other uses.
Note that with Adobe Stock you can also (at the time of writing) get a 30-day trial which gives you 10 free downloads.
- Subscriptions with either a monthly or annual commitment and offering between 10-750 downloads
- Credit packs of between 5-150 credits that can then be used to purchase images
Alamy is a huge agency with over 230 million images, vectors and videos. They offer editorial news-type content as well as normal stock and cover everything including conceptual designs, sport and fitness, landscapes, cultures and more. Alamy isn’t necessarily the cheapest agency but do offer very clear pricing, such as licensing for website use, magazines and books, personal use, social media and more. They also license images in a range of formats from XSmall to XXLarge.
- Various licenses from personal use to marketing packages – as well as Royalty-free image licenses
Shutterstock has one of the largest selections of stock images on the market with over 350 images, as well as other types of media such as vectors, video and audio. Shutterstock also offers a great interface and some of the best filter options which in turn helps you find the perfect photograph or video that you’re looking for. For those looking for travel images then take your pick from over 50 million options, and for nature photographs there are an incredible 112 million+ images – all of which you can filter down with more specific keywords or by using various filters that are available.
- Subscription packs including monthly and yearly options and with download limits ranging from 10-750 images
- On-demand packs offering between 5-25 images
iStock by Getty Images
iStock is another one of the biggest stock agencies around with millions of images and videos. They were previously independent but are now part of Getty Images. Within their collection you’ll find everything from travel, food, lifestyle, seasonal, business, you name it.
They have various subscription plans including annual and monthly with options to download between 10-750 images per month. They also have images in two collections which include “Essentials” and “Signature”. As well as this you could instead choose to buy a credit pack which range from 1 credit to 300 credits. Using these credits you can exchange them for image or video downloads.
- Subscription packages both annual and month-to-month offering between 10-750 downloads per month
- Credit packs with 1-300 credits to use to download images and/or videos
Pond5 is a library that is popular for video content with over 22 million clips. As well as this they license images, vectors, 3D models, Photoshop PSD files and more. You can almost think of Pond5 as a specialist agency which are great for designers and filmmakers in particular. Their content has even been used by the likes of Disney, BBC, Discovery Channel and many more.
- Pond5 offer a range of plans such as pay as you go, monthly or annual subscriptions as well as custom-tailor made options
Depositphotos have a library of over 190 million files including photographs, vectors and videos. The site has a nice layout and useful filters to help you find the content you need. Including filters such as the number of people, editorial or non-editorial, orientation, colours and more. For those after travel photographs, you’ll find over 19 million options, lifestyle over 14 million options, and sport over 6 million.
- Subscription packs from 30 images to 750 images – both monthly and yearly options
- On-demand packs from 10 images up to 100 images
123rf was created in 2005 and now have a library of over 160 million images. To fuel this collection they have 300,000 contributors who regularly help to add new content to their website. As well as stock photographs you’ll find other content types such as video, vectors and audio. When searching for content you’ll find a few key filters. such as orientation, the number of people and various others. You can also filter by ‘Relevance’ or ‘New’ too.
- Subscription plans from 10 images a month up to 750 images a month
- On-demand Credit packs which offer a range of credits that you can then use to purchase photographs. These range from 20 credits up to a user-defined amount
Best Free Stock Photo Websites
Here are some of the best free photo websites to consider. One thing we’ve found with many of these sites is that they sometimes mix in alternative options in the results. For this reason if you are searching for a destination photograph then always check the tags and captions to determine if the photograph is of the place you’re looking for.
Pixabay is a fantastic free stock photo website and we have used them many times to help illustrate our content. They offer over 1.9 million stock images, videos and music which you can use for free and without credit or attribution. As well as photographs you will find illustrations, vectors, videos and music, although we have only used images and illustrations ourselves so far. When downloading an image or other content you’ll also be given the option to make a donation to the artist/contributor although this isn’t compulsory.
Unplash is another top website for downloading free images. They list over 2 million high-resolution pictures including travel, nature, architecture, lifestyle and many more themes. They also use an infinity scroll setup rather than typical pagination. When downloading you’ll have the option of “Small”, “Medium”, “Large” or the original size. You’ll also get prompted to offer a credit if you wish but this isn’t compulsory.
Finally, another website where you could get free stock photographs is through Pexels. Similar to Unsplash they use an infinity scroll once you search and also in their explore section. On their site you’ll find over 100k+ images tagged as travel, 85k+ images tagged as nature, 37k+ for lifestyle and heaps more across many other categories. Also available are options to filter by orientation, size and colour or use suggested tags to narrow down your search.
Stock Photos Common Questions
What is best – free or paid stock photos?
Both free and paid stock photographs are good in their own way, but you’ll normally find a lot more options on the premium websites as more photographers and artists will likely want to contribute to them. We find there are also more higher quality images on the paid sites. Mike (who runs this site) is a contributor to many libraries and contributes his best images to the sites that offer a commission on downloads, but then some of his other shots to the free sites. Another very important benefit of using premium/paid stock photo websites is that they normally offer legal protection with the images you purchase.
How much do stock photographs cost?
The cost of stock photographs will vary depending on the subscription or download package that you purchase as well as the license you need. If you decide on a monthly subscription for a standard royalty-free license then you will likely get the best deals where images might cost you as little as 15p per photograph (or something equivalent currency for your country). To get those really low prices per image you generally have to go for a big subscription such as 750 images per month and these may also cost you upwards of £100 per month. You can find plenty of other deals though where the cost per image is a bit more but the monthly cost is much less.
Many stock agencies also offer on-demand pricing too but these may cost around £5+ per image as well as enhanced licenses and sometimes even exclusive use licenses. Check around some of the suggestions above in this article to see what suits your requirements.
How do I get the cheapest deals when buying stock photographs?
We would recommend keeping an eye out for promotions before committing to a long term plan. Often websites such as Dreamstime have special offers allowing you to download a huge number of photographs for a great price. One such deal we’ve previously had was 100 images for £39 which works out at 39p an image. When signing up to a subscription package then check the terms and also if it’s possible to turn off auto-renew or cancel whenever you like, such as if your budget or demand for content changes.
Where can you get a free trial for stock photographs?
A free trial is a great way to try out a service and also to check if the product (in this case images) are right for you. You can find free trials available through Adobe Stock as well as Dreamstime allowing you to download between 10 and 15 photographs over 30-days. If you did sign up make sure you set a reminder before the trial is up in case you get charged but don’t want to continue your subscription.
What are royalty-free images?
Can you use stock photographs on your blog or website?
With most stock photography agencies you can use the images that you license on your website, such as a blog or other type of site. Sometimes there are rules such as the image can’t be uploaded in the highest resolution or you need to give credit to the photographer or website but for the price you’ll be paying for the image we feel this is completely worth it.
How do you find the perfect photograph if it’s buried in huge stock libraries?
Stock photo libraries can be quite overwhelming at first, as you’ll have the choice of millions of photographs. To narrow down your search and make it easier to find the image you’re looking for then simply be more specific with your search.
Every image (or video) would have been keyworded and should also have been assigned a category. This means that when you search, the website will try and find the best match. You will also find lots of filters (especially on the premium sides) that help you to really narrow down your search. We have found that some of the free agencies don’t have the best algorithms and sometimes suggest content that isn’t relevant, so always check the description and keywords if you can to check the image matches up. Or for a specific place then see if you can find an official photograph online or on their website to check against.
Are there other ways to buy photographs for your projects?
Another way of buying photographs for your images is to contact photographers directly and then asking if you can purchase their images. The price you pay may have to be negotiated with this method but you might still get a great deal. A good way to find top travel photographers is to look on Instagram, Flickr, 500px and other major photography sites.
You can also often use images from sites such as Flickr with attribution and links – although this is our least preferred source of content.
Should you credit free stock photo websites?
Why shouldn’t you use stock photo images?
A reason that you may not want to use stock photo images is that they can sometimes look staged and customers may not be able to relate to the image quite as much. As well as this, the image may be getting used by a huge number of other businesses, so your customers may see the image that you’ve decided to use on a competing website.
Therefore if you wanted some truly original images then consider hiring a photographer to take them yourself, or license images that are rights-managed and can be exclusive to you (although this will certainly cost you).
How do stock photo agencies build their huge collections of images?
Stock agencies will get contributions from photographers from all around the world, and these photographers will all have skills in taking different types of images. Such as some photographers may be fantastic at people photography, whilst others may be great at taking architecture photographs. The photographers will then submit their images to the stock agencies who will assess the image and then add to their library if they feel the image is good enough. If people then decide to license the image then the photographer will get a commission.
Can you submit to stock photo agencies?
Yes, if you’re a somewhat decent photographer then you definitely can. Nowadays you don’t even need an expensive camera either and your phone camera (depending on your phone) might also do the trick. You’ll find that the agencies can be picky and the process to submit can often involve submitting your images to then be reviewed and then would be added if they pass the approval process. For other ways to make money from photography read our article: 5 Steps to Make Money from Your Travel Photos. Also see our tips on photography techniques.
Stock image libraries are a fantastic and often affordable way to find, download and license images, videos and other content for your projects. Nowadays there is a huge number of websites available and with gigantic libraries of content for you to download at just the click of a button. As well as this not all libraries (such as some of those above) require you to pay to license or use the images which makes them a great option for those with a low or even no budget.
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