Since I have ramped up my niche site building, I have been constantly on the lookout for free and cheap stock photos that I can use. Free stock photos are great but sometimes the photos I am looking for are quite targeted and the free ones might not be suitable. I found quite a number of very valuable blog posts on free stock photos but not encountered any good ones for cheap stock photos.

Most cheap stock photos blog posts were targeted at big time stock photo buyers that I am not. I do not need 3000 stock images per month! I will probably need a maximum of 20 per month at the moment with the scale of my operations. So this kickstarted my search for the cheapest stock photos for beginning site builders and bloggers like me.

In this post, I will give a detailed list of usually recommended stock photo agencies (12 to be exact!) and the breakdown of stock photo pricing and plans. Mainly there are 2 types of plans: 1) monthly subscription and 2) credit-based (pay per download), which means that you buy a certain amount of credits and download as and when you need the photos.

To standardize the comparison, I will be looking at prices for 10, 20, 50 & 100 stock photos per month. Also, I will be comparing small (800 x 600) and medium (1600 x 1200) size photos. At the end of the article, I will give my recommendations based on the comparsions listed. So if you are short of time and can’t read the entire stock photo agency review, just scroll the end. Let’s not delay any further!

No time to read the entire post? Click here for the cheapest XXL stock photo website! ($1/image – Yes! Even for 10 photos)

1. Shutterstock

ShutterStock

Shutterstock offers high-quality royalty-free stock photos, drawings and more than 2 million video clips and pieces of music. It was founded in 2003 by Jon Oringer. Oringer uploaded more than 30,000 of his own stock photos and made them accessible via subscription, founding the heart of Shutterstock.

In February 2011, Shutterstock announced a two-year partnership with the AIGA, to provide creative encouragement to its supporters. Shutterstock surpassed 200 million stock image downloads, making it the first stock organisation to accomplish this milestone.

Shutterstock offers a few different plans in order to suit your photo needs. A free ‘browsing’ account is available in case you want a taste. They offer monthly subscriptions plans.

Subscription Plan

2 standard license monthly subscription plans: professional and basic.

The professional plan allows you to download 750 images every month, including access to all JPEG and Vector sizes. It costs between $199 ($0.27 per image) to $249 per month depending on the period of subscription.

The basic plan allows you to download JPEG and Vector of all sizes at any time for up to one year. It costs $49 for 5 downloads ($9.80 per image) and $229 for 25 downloads ($9.16 per image).

Shutterstock is a definite strikeout for small niche builders like me but suitable for publishing companies that need tons of high quality stock images. However, if you are a developer and would like to check it out, click here!

2. Dreamstime (trial available)

DreamsTime

Dreamstime is a microstock photography agency sourcing stock photos and artworks from international providers. In July 2015, Dreamstime had over 34 million images online from approximately 300 thousand new photos added each week and more than 11 million users.

While based in Brentwood, Tennessee, they also have offices located in Bucharest, Romania. The website has been around since 2000 as a Royalty free stock photography website and in 2004, Serban Enache and Dragos Jianu co-founded Dreamstime.

Signing up on Dreamstime is free and gives you access to not only paid but free stock photos (Limited Royalty Free Licenses (RF-LL)).  The website offers both a pay-per-download credit plan that is best for occasional downloads and a subscription-based plan that’s suitable for large amount of files.

Subscription Plan

2 types of subscription plans: monthly and daily

There are 2 monthly plans (all-at-once subscription) available in Dreamstime.

5 images per month plan: $39 ($7.80 per image)
10 images per month plan: $69 ($6.90 per image)

The daily plan is totally out of my league and suited for people who need to download 25 images per day (750 per month) so I will not be covering it in this review.

Credit Plan (Pay per download)

The credit plan for Dreamstime is a little tricky because each image has a content level rating between 0 to 5. Each image starts off at content level 0 and rises up the ranks depending on the number of downloads.

Level 0: Small – 2 credits, Medium – 3 credits
Level 1: Small – 3 credits, Medium – 4 credits
Level 2: Small – 4 credits, Medium – 5 credits
Level 3: Small – 5 credits, Medium – 6 credits
Level 4: Small – 5 credits, Medium – 7 credits
Level 5: Small – 6 credits, Medium – 8 credits

The credits are valid for one year and you can use at any time. The credit plans within my consideration range are (level 5 photos):

11 credits: $14.99 ($8.18 per S image – about 2 S images or $10.90 per M image – about 1 M image)
30 credits: $34.99 ($7 per S image – about 5 S images or $9.33 per M image – about 4 M images)
60 credits: $68.99 ($6.90 per S image – about 10 S images or $9.20 per M image – about 8 M images)
120 credits: $124.99 ($6.25 per S image – about 20 S images or $8.33 per M image – about 15 M images)
260 credits: $250.00 ($5.77 per S image – about 43 S images or $7.69 per M image – about 33 M images)
500 credits: $470.00 ($5.64 per S image – about 83 S images or $7.52 per M image – about 63 M images)

If you are interested to check out the vast collection in Dreamstime, click here! You will enjoy a 10-15% discount when you sign up for their plans for the first time. Or you can just sign up using the same link for the free stock photos which are pretty good!

3. Fotolia

Fotolia

Fotolia is one of the favourites for a couple of niche site builders I know of.  Fotolia is a microstock photography agency that is based in New York, New York; started by Oleg Tscheltzoff, Patrick Chassany and Thibaud Elziere. Fotolia provides an international supply of 29 million royalty-free photographs, vector graphics, in addition to videos through several different payment methods. Though, photographers who use Fotolia are subject to commission for each image licensed by the website.

In exchange for a 50% stake in the company in 2010, Fotolia raised $150 million in growth equity from buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. On December 11th, 2014, Adobe announced it was buying Fotolia for $800 million in cash, aiming at incorporating the service to its Creative Cloud solution.

The website offers a user-friendly interface and is accessible to anyone. Registering is free however it offers an on-demand credit plan, monthly or a daily subscription.

Subscription Plan (monthly payment)

10 M or 5 XXL images per month: $25 ($2.50 per M image)
20 M or 10 XXL images per month: $40 ($2.00 per M image)
50 M or 25 XXL images per month: $75 ($1.50 per M image)
100 M or 50 XXL images per month: $100 ($1.00 per M image)

Credit Plan (3 credits for Small images and 6 credits for Medium images)

26 credits: $35 ($4.04 per S image – about 9 S images or $8.08 per M image – about 4 M images)
54 credits: $70 ($3.90 per S image – about 18 S images or $7.80 per M image – about 9 M images)
112 credits: $140 ($3.75 per S image – about 37 S images or $7.50 per M image – about 18 M images)
290 credits: $350 ($3.63 per S image – about 97 S images or $7.26 per M image – about 48 M images)

Comparing the subscription and credit plan, the subscription plan is definitely cheaper if you are definitely downloading photos monthly. There’s good news for new members to Fotolia! You will get a 20% discount for your first purchase. You can click here to find out more about it.

4. Deposit Photos

Deposit Photos

Deposit Photos is a royalty-free microstock photography agency centred in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Founded in November 2009 by Dmitry Sergeev; Depositphotos provides you support in 15 different languages.

Deposit Photos currently offers over 21 million royalty free photographs, vector images, stock footage and editorial files.

Photos can be downloaded only in JPG/JPEG format so that they remain high quality. Video files are a maximum of a minute in length, and are available to download in certain formats.

All images can be downloaded using “Pay-As-You-Go” credits or subscriptions while video files are accessible only for download using credits. Credits provide immediate purchasing and downloading convenience while subscription plans have a number of options based on daily or monthly download limits.

Subscription Plan

2 types of subscription plans: monthly and daily

There are 3 monthly plans (1, 6 & 12 months plan subscription) available in Dreamstime.

10 images per month plan: $49 – 1 month subscription ($4.90 per image), $249 – 6 months subscription ($4.15 per image), $439 – 12 months subscription ($3.66 per image)
30 images per month plan: $99 – 1 month subscription ($3.30 per image), $499 – 6 months subscription ($2.77 per image), $909 – 12 months subscription ($2.53 per image)

The daily plan is totally out of my league and suited for people who need to download 5 images per day (150 per month) so I will not be covering it in this review.

Credit Plan (2 credits for Small images and 4 credits for Medium images)

50 Credits: $50 ($2 per S image – about 25 S images or $4 per M image – about 12 M images)
100 Credits: $95 ($1.90 per S image – about 50 S images or $3.80 per M image – about 25 M images)
150 Credits: $140 ($1.87 per S image – about 75 S images or $3.74 per M image – about 37 M images)
500 Credits: $455 ($1.82 per S image – about 250 S images or $3.64 per M image – about 125 M images)

I am currently using Deposit Photos but will be switching over my #1 recommendation once my credits run out. If you want to find out more about Deposit Photos, you can click here!

5. Photospin

Photo Spin

PhotoSpin is started by a group of creative professionals with experience in photography, design, marketing, and filmmaking. PhotoSpin was started back in 1996; they believed everyone should have easy access to high quality photography.

PhotoSpin was originally a company that built over 60 CD-ROM products and content for other publishers and companies. After that, they offered images on the web as singular downloads. They license and promote the work of its contributors so that they may be exposed to you.

PhotoSpin offers a less chaotic way of using their website. They let you to subscribe once and download images whenever you want for a year.

They offer 2 subscription plans, Plus and Super Plus. Depending on what you need, both plans have multiple time and download limits you can select to your comfort. If you want images of a higher than usual quality, Super Plus is for you as the images are 5100px/17 inches and up to 60MB.

Subscription Plan

2 types of subscription plans: super and super plus

Both subscription plans are totally out of my league and suited for people who need to download 500 images per month so I will not be covering it in this review.

Single Image Option

Small JPG (864px / 2.5 inches@300ppi / RGB / JPG): $2
Screen JPG (1024px / 14 inches@72ppi / RGB / JPG): $4
Medium JPG (1800px / 6 inches@300ppi / RGB / JPG): $8

If you think PhotoSpin is for you, click here to check out the details.

6. iStockphoto (or iStock)

iStock

iStockPhoto is an online microphotography website that was founded in 2000 by Bruce Livingstone; headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. iStockPhoto was aquired by Getty Images, a famous stock agency, in 2006.

iStockPhoto offers different kinds of pictures, artworks, videos and audio files. Credits for images vary between 1 to 150 credits, depending on size and image type. Credits can range from $0.95 to $1.50 US dollars.

Originally iStockphoto was a free stock imagery website. Over the course of time, it shifted into its current micropayment model and started charging for images in 2001. iStockphoto has been cost-effective since that adjustment. The website accepts various currencies so that you aren’t faced with any obstacles in buying what you need.

Files can be downloaded instantly, and used in nearly anything. The basic license contract prohibits only a few things, such as web templates, adult content, etc. Depending on the original size of an image, it can be bought in various different sizes so that you may pick whichever suits your needs best.

Non-expiring credits at iStockPhoto allow you to pay per download while subscribing to the website enables you to access all of its images for either a month or a year depending on what you choose.

Subscription Plan

2 types of subscription plans: monthly and yearly

Both subscription plans are totally out of my league and suited for people who need to download 250 images per month so I will not be covering it in this review.

Credit Plan (2 credits for Small images and 4 credits for Medium images)

50 Credits: $50 ($2 per S image – about 25 S images or $4 per M image – about 12 M images)
100 Credits: $95 ($1.90 per S image – about 50 S images or $3.80 per M image – about 25 M images)
150 Credits: $140 ($1.87 per S image – about 75 S images or $3.74 per M image – about 37 M images)
500 Credits: $455 ($1.82 per S image – about 250 S images or $3.64 per M image – about 125 M images)

If you want to find out more about iStockPhoto, click here to go to the website.

Do you want to go straight to my recommendations? Click here!

7. 123RF

123RF

123RF is a community-based website that offers a royalty-free microstock image collection. The website provides an opportunity for photographers, illustrators and designers and to expose and promote their work to people like you.

123RF has done an excellent job of rising through the microstock ranks to currently be in the top 5 agencies for most contributors, which can benefit you as the user as there’s more images to choose from. 123RF’s upload process is one of the easiest in the business, with no annoying interfaces or other things to hassle with.

123RF offers an on-demand credit plan that has no daily limit on standard images, editorial images, videos, audio and several other types of media or a subscription plan that suits better for people that need several images over a period of time. The subscription plan has a ‘per day’ and ‘per month’ options depending on what works for you.

Subscription Plan

The subscription plans are totally out of my league and suited for people who need to download a minimum of 150 images per month so I will not be covering it in this review.

Credit Plan  (2 credits for Medium images (S image equivalent) and 3 credits for Medium-Large images (M image equivalent))

40 Credits: $60 ($3 per M image – about 20 M images or $4.50 per ML image – about 13 ML images)
90 Credits: $125 (2.78 per M image – about 45 M images or $4.17 per ML image – about 30 ML images)
200 Credits: $275 ($2.75 per M image – about 100 M images or $4.13 per ML image – about 67 ML images)
400 Credits: $539 ($2.70 per M image – about 200 M images or $4. 05 per ML image – about 133 ML images)

If you want to check 123RF out, click here!

8. Can Stock Photo (free photos available)

Can Stock Photo

Can Stock Photo is a stock media provider which licenses and promotes images, photos, picture clip art, digital illustrations and video files on behalf of photographers, artists and videographers worldwide. It was one of the earliest microstock agencies created at the time in 2004. Can Stock Photo is great for first-time stock photo purchasers searching for a wide range of stock photos and videos.

Since it has been around for a while, there are really no limits to the types of photos that can be found. Images are at good value with credits costing 50 cents or less if you buy huge numbers which is good for people looking to make several purchases. The website also offers free weekly images and non-member purchasing options.

Subscription Plan

1-week subscription – 10 S, M or L images per day (70 images maximum): $39 ($0.56 per image)
1-month subscription – 10 S, M or L images per day (300 images maximum): $99 ($0.33 per image)

Credit Plan (2 credits for Small images and 3 credits for Medium images)

15 credits: $9 ($1.2 per S image – about 8 S images or $1.80 per M image – about 5 M images)
45 credits: $25 ($1.11 per S image – about 23 S images or $1.66 per M image – about 15 M images)
100 credits: $50 ($1 per S image – about 50 S images or $1.50 per M image – about 33 M images)
215 credits: $100 ($0.93 per S image – about 97 S images or $1.40 per M image – about 71 M images)
450 credits: $200 ($0.89 per S image – about 225 S images or $1.33 per M image – about 150 M images)

If you want to check out Can Stock Photo’s plans and the free weekly photos, click here to go to the website.

9. Pond5

Pond5

Pond5 is another royalty-free online marketplace for stock footage, audio, images, and visual effects. Arguably the dominant agency in microstock video, the website began accepting direct submissions of media. Pond5 is noticeably different than most microstock agencies because they initially launched their website with videos amongst the other media they offered. Pond5 can deliver instant satisfaction because those who buy videos also buy photos.

Pond5 is based in New York City, launched in 2006, and is headed up by CEO Tom Bennett and Dana Tower who is ex-VP of Marketing at Getty Motion and ex-Director of Market Development at Corbis Motion. Pond5 didn’t add photos until 2011. They established a partnership with 123RF to get their collection to a respectable size with 7 million photos being added at the time.

Pond5 offers a simple pricing method that uses credits. 1 credit is equal to $1. You can choose how many credits you wish to buy, however they come in 250, 1000, and 5000 packages. There are no subscription or credit plans for Pond5. This stock photo agency allows the contributors to set the pricing for the content. I can’t give a definite price due to this but prices start from $1 for small images.

Pond5 also offers free public domain photos that you can use. If you are interested in Pond5, click here to check it out now.

10. Yay Micro (trial available)

YAY Micro

Yay Micro is one of the lesser-known stock image websites because they are a relatively recent addition to the microstock world, launched at the start of Jan 2008. They added approximately 500,000 images in their first year – quite an achievement for start-ups of that time. Currently, they have 6.9 million images in their collection. YAY Micro aims to be the best creative and editorial microstock agency in terms of  price and quality.

YAY is located in Oslo, Norway. YAY was founded by Jan Ole Kjellesvig, Linda Johannessen and Oddbjørn Sjøgren.

They have 3 plans available: single image purchase, the subscription plan and budget image deals. The high-resolution images command a single purchase price of $19.50 while the small images are $1.95.

Subscription Plan

Unlimited small images (online usage only): $9.90 per month
Unlimited medium images: $49.90 per month
Unlimited high-resolution images: $99.90 per month

Budget Image Deals (Similar to Credit Plans)

10 small images: $9.90 ($0.99 per image)
25 small images: $19.90 ($0.80 per image)
100 small images: $59.00 ($0.59 per image)

5 medium images: $29.00 ($5.80 per image)
10 medium images: $49.00 ($4.90 per image)
25 medium images: $99.00 ($3.96 per image)
100 medium images: $299.00 ($2.99 per image)

You can click here for a 20% discount on your first purchase at Yay Micro and for a free stock photo too.

11. Big Stock (trial available)

Big Stock Photo Review

BigStock is an online international royalty-free microstock photography website that sells images via a credit-based system. BigStockPhoto was founded in Davis, California, in 2004. BigStock adds to its collection every day as photographers and designers submit their work from all over the world for the end users to take advantage of. As of June 2015, BigStock had more than 20 million images, photos, vectors and creations available, all royalty-free.

On September 23, 2009, BigStock announced that it had been purchased by Shutterstock. BigStock currently offers free trials for its users so that you can decide whether or not you like their collection of high-quality media. Several of their plans offer 25, 50 or 100 images a month depending on what subscription suits your needs the best.

Subscription Plan

The monthly subscription plans are totally out of my league and suited for people who need to download a minimum of 150 images per month so I will not be covering it in this review.

Credit Plan (1 credits for Small images and 2 credits for Medium images)

10 Credits: $35 ($3.50 per S image – about 10 S images or $7 per M image – about 5 M images)
25 Credits: $49 ($1.96 per S image – about 25 S images or $3.92 per M image – about 13 M images)
100 Credits: $169 ($1.69 per S image – about 100 S images or $3.38 per M image – about 50 M images)

You can click here to check out Big Stock now.

12. Dollar Photo Club

Dollar Photo Club Review

Dollar Photo Club is a committed, royalty-free image library entirely for creative experts. Created by Fotolia, another online stock media website mentioned above, Dollar Photo Club provides unique access to over 25 million images, for just a dollar each.

Buying Dollar Photo Club membership means that you won’t be faced with daily limits, hidden charges, and credit expiration and you’ll get straightforward access of all the website’s images for just $1 – all high resolution and professional-quality. And with 100,000 images added to their library every day you’ll never need to concern about not finding any suitable images. If this website has a selling point it’s that it promises high quality professional media for its end users like you.

Dollar Photo Club offers two plans; monthly and annual. Depending on what you need, the monthly plan is just right for those who need 10 images and don’t mind waiting an hour for application review time. If you don’t mind spending the extra buck, the annual plan offers no waiting times and 99 images for you to download.

Subscription Plan

2 types of subscription plans: monthly and yearly

10 XXL images monthly membership: $10 ($1 per image)
99 XXL images annual VIP membership: $99 ($1 per image)

Any additional images that you purchase beyond the 10 or 99 images will cost $1 each.

According to the website, there is a review process for the monthly membership where there is an average 30% acceptance rate. However, the annual VIP membership has a 100% acceptance rate!

You can click here to check out Dollar Photo Club now!

Finally we have come to the end of this review! Well done if you are still reading this.

Recommendations

Comparing all the plans mentioned above, here are my recommendations based on the order of preference.

1st: Dollar Photo Club

I really like Dollar Photo Club after reviewing all the stock photo agencies because it provides high-resolutions images at the most value for money prices! They provide the cheapest XXL quality images at $1 each. That’s pretty incredible because $1 could only get you small images from the other stock photo agencies (when you subscribe in large quantities).

In addition, they have 100,000+ new images added every week and affiliated to Fotolia, an established and reputable stock photo agency.

My preference is for the annual VIP membership plan because it can be used yearlong and 99 images could take me a few months to use up. Additional photos after the 99 images cost $1 each.

Also, I might not need to use images monthly so it makes more sense for me to use the annual plan instead of the monthly one. The 100% acceptance rate is another plus to join the annual VIP because they limit the number of members they take in. If you are interested, click here to check out Dollar Photo Club now.

2nd: Yay Micro

Yay Micro has really competitive pricing plans for small images and great for budget buyers. The 2 plans that I like are the unlimited small images monthly subscription plan (online usage only) that costs $9.90 per month and their credit plan (budget image deals) where you can get the cheapest small images for $0.59 (100 images plan) – $0.99 (10 images plan) each depending on the plan. The M images plan is not as good as Can Stock Photo’s.

If you need the images for a blog where you do not need high-resolution images, Yay Micro can save you quite a bit of money. You can check  Yay Micro out by clicking here.

3rd: Can Stock Photo

Can Stock Photo provide the cheapest credit plans (pay per download) for M images. You can get M images from $1.80 (5 images plan) and under. The credit plans for S images are pretty good too, starting from $1.20 each (8 images plan). Click here to find out more!

I hope this comparison guide was useful. Please leave any questions or comments you have regarding this guide below!

Do you have any other paid stock photo websites to introduce to us? Or what is your favorite stock agency? Tell us in the comments section!

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2 Responses to Cheapest Stock Photos for Blogs and Websites – A Comparison Guide

  1. SherryV says:

    A very thorough review for photo options. Of course, I am usually, interested in the least expensive. Thank you for the jump ahead option, but reading the whole page was helpful in knowing how that end of affiliate marketing is setup. Pictures are very important and a writer cannot possibly take all their own.

    • Jane says:

      Hey Sherry

      I’m glad you like the stock photos review. I tend to go for the most value for money option too. Pictures are really crucial in this day and age.

      Cheers

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