Using top-quality images is a priority for any designer, advertiser, content manager, or publisher, and some sources are better than others. I decided to set up a list of 10 most sought microstock agencies of today, in the hope that it will help you get a broad perspective of the industry’s finest stock image providers.
The leading position in my top 10 stock image agencies is claimed by Fotolia. Not only does this agency possess an uncommonly large collection (24 million royalty-free images), but no less than 4 million professionals placed their trust in Fotolia, who supplies them with rich images to use in their projects.
A few moments of scrolling through Fotolia’s content and you’ll be taken with the diversity of high quality vectors and photos put on display. And anyone can do it, because you don’t have to register in order to peruse files. Even if you’re not a member just yet, you definitely have cause to visit time and time again, as Fotolia sometimes releases free images and comps for planning projects to use in a design.
Fotolia’s credit system is the only payment method which allows downloads from the premium Infinite Collection, and enables Extended Royalty-Free Licenses. The price of one credit is as low as $0.74. However, Fotolia is mindful of the times when you have no choice but make do with a small budget, insomuch as it created a Low Cost Collection with 12 million images in multiple sizes, priced between 1 and 6 credits.
Fotolia’s Daily or Monthly subscriptions first of all require settling for an Individual (freelancers) or Multiple Membership (creative agencies). A Daily subscription would provide 25 to 250 images per day for the accessible price of $0.19 each. On the other hand, Monthly commitments pledge 5 to 5000 downloads for a month, and in this case all unclaimed downloads don’t just disappear, but Rollover to the next month. Moreover, Fotolia’s current offer targets monthly subscriptions: the second month is cost-free for any subscription plan of 5 images and $25/month (reach the offer by clicking on subheading ‘Fotolia’).
123RF is one of the mightiest stock image agencies on the Web. Presently, the agency’s vaults encase 22 million stock images, and over the course of one day 35.000 new files are added. It was very interesting to learn that 123RF’s contributors have the option to submit their finest works not just in the usual way, but also by a mobile application called 123RF On-The-Go. Frankly, my first thoughts were to question the quality of the images sent by mobile. Nonetheless, as I browsed through more and more files, I realized that I simply could not tell which ones were uploaded via On-The-Go, and which were submitted in the regular manner.
In order to buy images from 123RF, users have to go forward with a prepaid credit system (On Demand credits), or take up a subscription. As far as the two subscription plans are concerned (Basic and Premium), a bigger rate of daily downloads and larger discounts are made available as longer commitments are taken.
123RF members automatically gain access to a rich section of free photos, graphics, digital and audio files. Over 30.000 items await you there, and this must be the biggest freely offered collection of stock images that I’ve ever come across. Good customer experience is everything to 123RF, and the agency’s refund policy proves this. Clients have 72 hours after purchasing a stock file to retrace their steps, and ask for all of their money back in case they’re not 100% sure about what they’ve just bought. No questions asked, and no hidden catch. 123RF wants nothing more than to see you content with your final choice.
Everyone knows that iStock was the first ever Web source for stock images. The agency set out 13 years ago, and has since then gathered well over 6 million exclusive vectors, illustrations, photos, Flash media, video and audio files – all of which are neatly organized and categorized, and really easy to find.
As a matter of fact, if you should employ the iStock search box to find something specific, all the abundant criteria put in place there are sure to refine your search and find an exact match, so you never have to waste time scrolling through many results when you need to find a particular image. Nevertheless, if you can take some time, I suggest you pay a visit to the Editor’s Picks section, because it harbors some very interesting recommendations. Apart from this section, you may also wish to check the iStock Lightbox time and time again, as it puts up one free file every week.
Currently, iStock entertains a most compelling offer: some of the agency’s exclusive files are on sale at half of their original price, which is a great bargain. In order to buy royalty-free images from iStock, it’s paramount to sign up for a subscription or pay with credits. Credits are subject to up to 25% discounts, and in one strike the user can equip 15 to 30.000 credits. What is more, if you click on the link in subheading ‘iStock’, you will be redirected to an offer where 14% off any credit-based purchase is enabled by typing in the code ISTOCK14 when placing the order.
There is always a place for PhotoSpin in my top 10 stock image providers. There are two main compartments where PhotoSpin’s 4 million images are located: the first one is the Expanded Collection, comprised of 2.4 million illustrations and photos, and the other 1.5 million are stacked in the Premier Collection. In order to buy images from the Premier Collection, clients have to settle on the desired size of all future downloads by choosing the Plus or the Super Plus plan. On the other hand, the Expanded Collection is accessible after the user customized her/his subscription according to 4 categories, 4 time periods, and 16 various subscription plans.
One of my favorite stock image suppliers, Thinkstock, is brand of Getty Images, and the special thing about this agency is the fact that it aggregates tons of royalty-free images from more than 40 partners (iStock, Jupiterimages, and many others). The second special thing about Thinkstock is that the agency never sets the price of an image according to its elected download size, so a size L is the same as S. In addition, the one-year Pro subscription is now subject to a 20% discount if you type in the code R4HPC46N when placing the order. On a similar note, inserting code GTDPC46N will enable a discount of 60% for any monthly subscription.
Depositphotos is an awesome stock photo agency, and it was bound to make an appearance in my prime selection. A sizable amount of 17 million vectors, images, and videos wait in the vaults of Depositphotos. In order to buy any file, prepaid credits or a subscription must be equipped beforehand, and the price of a single image in the case of a daily or a monthly subscription is merely $0.15. Depositphotos also takes pride in a 2 million-strong vector illustrations section, which gives away free files each week. What is more, the Depositphotos Discount Lightbox puts up images pertaining to a season on sale. For instance, the current Harvest Time collection discounts 314 photos and many vectors by 20%.
Cutcaster is yet another viable addition to my top 10 stock image gurus. This agency’s files are all-exclusive, and categorized by topic into many collections. Out of these, the Crescendo Collection really seized my interest with its 920 glorious images, and so did Cutcaster’s fantastic picture collections. In order to buy exclusive royalty-free images from Cutcaster, it’s not mandatory to sign up, so non-users can simply pay as they go with their paypal account or with the credit card. Registered users pay $0.89/credit, and four credit bundles are available to them: Bronze (with a 19% discount), Silver (31% discount), Gold (39% discount), and the customizable package which starts with the minimum of 100 credits.
A hefty 2.7 million stock files in total make up the database of Stockfresh. The section which I loved the most was the one comprised of 300.000 gorgeous clipart, illustrations, and vectors. The user interface that Stockfresh designed for its users is delightfully simple. As a matter of fact, everything is so time-effective: the Stockfresh search box just hands you the images that you need, without having to brave an endless scrolling through loads of possible matches. Buying from Stockfresh happens according to a credit system or with a subscription. The price of a single credit is $4.99, and 5 to 500 can be pre-acquired at once. Finally, a subscription costs $99 per month.
Bigstock is a praiseworthy stock image provider with a weighty collection of 15 million vectors, photos and illustrations. Presently, the agency instated an awesome 7-day Free Trial, which enables the would-be user to acquire up to 5 photos or vectors each day for a whole week, and also re-download them as necessity dictates. Hence, the potential customer basically gets 35 free downloads in just the first week, and the free trial can be cancelled anytime. When buying an image, users use credits (credit packages come with discounts of up to 27%), or subscriptions (a subscription for the duration of a whole year, with 5 designated downloads per day, attaches the small price of $0.35/image).
Dreamstime concludes the list. This agency has managed to amass a bulky amount of top-grade stock images over the course of 13 years of activity: thousands and thousands of new files have been added to the general collective every single day, until Dreamstime has come to sell 18 and a half million stock images. There is a positive aspect of Dreamstime that targets designers in particular, insofar as they are granted access to a free section where they’ll find plenty of illustrations, web design graphics, and photos to download. On top of everything, Dreamstime now has an offer which allows for people who register within 24 hours of their first visit to use the remainder of that time buying anything at a 60% discount.