The Best Stock Image Agencies in 2013

If you’re looking to buy royalty-free images from a good source, the options are manifold. As a designer/blogger/writer, you want to be sure that the deal you make provides you with flawless images to use in your work and for a convenient price. Perhaps I can be of assistance: below you will find a list of stock photo websites that hold the most promise in terms of quality and price.





Number one on our list is Fotolia. First launched in 2004, Fotolia has amassed a large collection of royalty-free stock photos of over 24 million to date.  Browsing and getting a membership is free and you have many options to choose from to fit your needs and budgets.

Fotolia offers you many buying options such as the traditional Credits (as low as $0.74) or their popular Subscription services. Subscriptions are available with Daily or Monthly download quotas and include any image from the Standard Collection. Heavy users will like the Daily option that offers 25 to 250 image files a day for as low as $0.19 each.

With Monthly Subscriptions, there is no daily download limit, but rather a monthly quota limit ranging anywhere from 5 to 5000, with a low price of $0.84 per file. Another added benefit of Monthly subscriptions are Rollover downloads, where all unclaimed downloads at the end of one month are added on to the next month, as long as the Subscription remains active. For your convenience, Fotolia will automatically renew your Subscription, however you are free to cancel it at any time.

Fotolia’s On-Demand Credit system offers other benefits too. Credits let’s user purchase not just Standard Collection images but also premium files from Fotolia’s Infinite Collection, Extended Royalty-Free Licenses and the new Low Cost Collection as well. The Low Cost Collection of over 12 million images offer bigger savings as all image sizes from small to extra-extra large (S – XXL) cost 1 – 6 credits, respectively. Savings of up to 60% can be found at Fotolia.

As a treat, Fotolia is offering readers a Buy One, Get One offer to their monthly subscription of 5 images a month. Purchase your first month for $25 and get your second month free. Visit Fotolia by clicking the image to redeem.





We absolutely love 123RF. Let me tell you why. You can take your pick from their collection which totals a staggering amount of over 22 million stock files: audio, video, photos and vectors. With each passing day, the 123RF team approves around 35.000 new creative files into their midst. Overall, I’d say that you’ll surely find anything you need. Here’s another interesting fact: 123RF On-The-Go is their application for contributors who can submit their designs/photos via mobile. And nothing short of excellent makes it through.

Let’s get to the best part: free giveaways. 123RF enables their users to download anything, free of charge, from a variation of 30.000 images and other files. All of those graphics, digital arts, and audio files are completely at your disposal. The only thing you have to do is access their free section. Aside from this compelling factor, 123RF also has a 100% Money-Back policy. According to this, should the users change their minds about a purchase, the agency issues them a refund. And it’s safe to say that 72 hours is more than enough time to know for sure if you got the right image or not.

Now, here are some facts about getting in league with 123RF. You can go either of three routes: Basic, Premium, and On Demand. Basic and Premium make available more downloads per day as longer subscription periods are employed. Moreover, the longer the elected subscription time, the larger the discounts are. Alternatively, the On Demand plan relies on credits, and doesn’t come with a daily download limit.




The occupant of third place in our elite selection is the seasoned collector, iStock. Everyone knows about iStock, since they’ve been around for nearly 13 years and are considered to be the pall-bearers of the stock image concept. During all this time, their vaults have amassed circa 6 million exclusive photos, vector illustrations, audio, video and Flash media files for the use of creative-minded people.

What’s really hot right now about iStock is their half-priced offer enacted for half of their content. In other words, if you seal the deal with iStock now, you can choose from their exclusive files at half of their normal cost. Have a glimpse at their selection of recommended Editor’s Picks, and be sure not to miss the Lightbox section, because it contains free images added on a weekly basis. Apart from that, you will notice that their search options are incredibly precise, with many types of filters that make sure to track down the exact match of what you seek.

Here’s what we know about iStock in terms of pricing. The user can opt for a credit system, or a subscription plan. As far as credits are concerned, you can buy 15 to 30.000 with a discount of up to 25%. Newsflash: by punching in the code ISTOCK14 at checkout, you get a discount of 14% for purchase via credits. Click the link attached to ‘iStock’ from above, and it will send you there directly.




Meet Depositphotos. They have an extensive collection of stock vector images, photos and videos; 17 million, to be precise. The section comprised of vector illustrations is very attractive, encompassing approximately 4.600 files, out of which one is given off every week for free. Be sure to make the acquaintance with their Lightbox – a tool designed for organizing custom collections of photos. You’ll definitely be happy that you did and don’t forget to take a look at their Harvest Lightbox where you’ll find super season images at 20% off. Their pricings are split into Pay-As-You-Go by credit, and customizable subscriptions. With the latter option, you decide on the number of days or months and on the download rate for each.




I really took a fancy at Thinkstock, as well. I couldn’t help it, seeing as whichever file you decide to download, the size of choice does not affect its price; it will cost the same. Right now, their clients can benefit from a discount of 20% off a pro annual subscription by using the code R4HPC46N, or save 60% from the total cost of a monthly subscription with the aid of code GTDPC46N. Besides, all files look marvelous, and come with a license. Thinkstock partnered up with over 40 stock photo sources, including the likes of iStock and Jupiterimages, to put together a diverse palette of vectors, illustrations, and photos, ready for use.




PhotoSpin is one of our favorites. It yields 3 million crisp stock images, placed in two major collections. They have a fairly interesting system. The Expanded Collection encases most of PhotoSpin’s treasures (2.4 million stock files), and it is made available for users via payment systems tailored according to 4 categories, 4 options (1, 3, 6 months, or one year) and 16 subscription plans. The other, smaller collection is Premium. In the case of Premium Collection, the user has to assign a size to the images that he intends to download henceforth, and thus choose either Plus or Super Plus as parameters for the download of JPEG and EPS-type images.




Cutcaster commands an exclusive reserve of rich illustrations, vectors and photos, tightly organized by topic. I’d like to make a point of how rewarding it might be to check out the 920-strong Crescendo Collection, together with the exquisite picture collections. Both of them are quite a sight for sore eyes. When it comes to purchasing, Cutcaster allows for non-members to pay-as-they-go, so you’re not forced to commit to anything if you don’t want to. And if you do become a member and need something more long-term, there are four credit packages, namely bronze, silver, gold, and customizable, which involve savings of up to 49%.




Stockfresh greets you with the most charming user interface. It’s the most ideal tool for when you need to find a pixel-perfect image on short notice. Their search filters are to-the-point, so you never ever waste time scrolling through irrelevant files in order to identify the perfect one for you. Out of their over 2 and a half million files, around 300.000 vectors are rounded up into what I reckon to be a wonderful collection. Investing in a Stockfresh membership will present you with two choices: a prepaid credit package starting from $4.99 per credit, or a monthly subscription plan beginning with $99-a-month. All in all, Stockfresh is a fine choice.




Behold Bigstock, an agency with more than 14 million stock files on the table. Their illustrations, vectors and photos are beyond reproach, and you can see that through first-hand experience by signing up for a 7-day Free Trial. In essence, while partaking into this trial, you are at liberty to download up to 5 images in a day, regardless of size, with no charge attached to re-downloads. You might ask yourself, what’s the catch? Well, actually, all cards are on the table, and you may cancel the trial whenever you wish. Apart from that, Bigstock’s prices are convenient. A credit package is eligible for savings of up to 27%, and a subscription for a whole year with 5 downloads per day comes with a price of $0.35 for any individual file.




Dreamstime started off in 2000, and now they’ve come to stand by an impressive collection of 18 million stock files, with thousands of new additions every day. Cool fact: designers are privy to the option of downloading from a selection of thousands of images completely free of charge, after registration. And as far as pricings are concerned, their informational page translates every expense into the currency of your area. Taking photos and illustrations from Dreamstime can be done with credits, or with monthly subscriptions. The required minimum amount of credits is 11, and there is no upper limit. Furthermore, the smallest monthly subscription allows for 750 downloads in 30 days.

By Luigi

Co-founder of Designrfix

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  1. Thanks for the biggest collection of stock images providers. I know only one, and that is ShutterStock, and Flickr, where I actually able to find some awesome images to use them online in my projects.

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