Best Stock Photo Sites 2021
Tell your story with high-quality images
Compare leading stock photo databases with thousands of photos, videos and vector images & find the perfect image to suit your needs.
Best Stock Photo Sites 2021
Compare leading stock photo databases with thousands of photos, videos and vector images & find the perfect image to suit your needs.
2021's Best Stock
Photos Sites
Last Updated December 2021
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Stock Photos Sites
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A good picture can convey messages, express emotions, and sway the stoic mind, which is why pictures are used in everything from website design to marketing campaigns, emails, personal communications, and beyond. But not all pictures are created equal. You can find photographs that bring a tear to your eye with their magnificent beauty, while others can make you cry for an entirely different reason.
Yes, good photography is a talent that not many people possess. Fortunately for those of us who weren't so graciously endowed, there are stock photo libraries. Today, HD stock photos are a huge market, and from private consumers to multi-million dollar corporations, everyone is utilizing these high-quality images to tell their stories.
What are Stock Photos?
Stock photos are pictures taken by professionals and put up for sale within a royalty-free marketplace. These quality photos can be used for commercial design purposes and hold no legal requirements for attribution. Stock images can be of any number of things, including landscapes, people, events, and more.
Today, stock photography is a broad term that refers to many types of created works, including photographs, illustrations, vectors, clip art, cartoons, videos, audio files, three-dimensional mock-ups, and more. You can even get uniquely-designed stock photos made to fit your business model or needs.
There are three general categories of stock photography: macrostock, midstock, and microstock. Macrostock photos are high-end and come with a hefty price tag to prove it. These are exclusive high-resolution photos that are taken for a specific company or purpose. Since you're hiring the photographer or paying for the rights to own the shoot, these tailor-designed stock photos can't be used by anyone else. Midstock is the middle road, less exclusive, and comes with a more reasonable price tag. Finally, microstock photos are the most common. They can be used by multiple buyers and are also the most affordable. The best site for stock photos will offer a good variety of all three types of quality photos to choose from.
Top 3 Stock Photos Sites
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  • Flexible pricing plans
  • Meets a wide range of customer needs
  • Creative design tools and features
  • No 24/7 customer support
  • Can be overwhelming to use
Adobe is a multinational computer software company that has a whole slew of creativity and multimedia software products. You might be familiar with some like Photoshop, Acrobat Reader, and Adobe Creative Cloud. Adobe launched a stock photo platform not too long ago to add even more value to its product offering, and consumers are flocking to it like birds. With more than 100 million images and assets to choose from, handy app integration, and easy pricing plans, Adobe Stock is one of the best options for stock photos today.
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  • Includes user-friendly photo editor and presentation builder
  • Free API plugins for easy integration
  • Millions of assets to choose from
  • No live chat feature
  • Lacks on-demand plan options
Shutterstock has been around for more than fifteen years, and it shows. The service excels at delivering a quality experience both in terms of the products and the experience it offers. You can really see it in the details like making an API available, providing millions of high-quality content items, and using data-driven information to help subscribers get the best results. Consumers and businesses alike will find a lot of value in this unique stock photo and video service.
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  • Receive curated recommendations
  • Reverse image search feature
  • Selection of free images and vectors
  • Expensive extended licenses
  • No free trial
Depositphotos has been around for a decade now, and it has certainly proven itself to be a leader in the stock photo industry. With attention to smaller niche interests like editorial pieces and backgrounds, Depositphotos delivers a library of top-quality photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and more.
Why Buy Stock Images?
For the uninitiated, this might be a really good question. After all, buying pictures that you can get off of the internet seems like a waste of resources. Well, there are several good reasons to subscribe to the stock photo school of thought. For one thing, it's legally-legit. That is, you won't get slammed with any copyright infringement lawsuits because you picked the wrong image on Google. Stock photo services sell royalty-free, high-resolution photos. So, when you buy stock images, there are no worries about legalities tripping you up.
For another thing, stock photo libraries are incredibly affordable. Sure, you could hire a professional photographer to take pictures every time you needed an image. But that will cost you both an arm and a leg, not to mention the time you'll spend hiring the photographer, setting up a photo shoot, selecting photos, editing, etc. Stock photo libraries offer you millions of professional, high-quality images with the press of a button.
How do Stock Photos Work?
Stock images are used by businesses and regular consumers for any number of projects. You can tap into this powerful visual aid by following these steps:
Visit any of the professional stock photo agencies online.
There are countless sites where you can buy stock images, so browse the market to find the best site for stock photos that fit your needs. Read online reviews and user feedback to get a feel for what kind of experience you can expect, the type of free stock photos available, and whether the brand offers free trial stock photo plans.
Browse through the stock photos available in their library.
A word of caution, though. Don't go into these sites without a vague idea of what you're looking for, or you may never come out. There are literally millions - from artistically-designed stock photos to more traditional images, and all but the strongest of resolves have gotten lost in the endless sea of adorable kitten stock photos. They were just looking for a welcome image...
Seriously, though, there are millions of stock images on these sites. So, you should have a basic term you’re looking for. You can put that term into the search bar, and the system will return relevant stock photos that match your keyword or phrase. Good stock photo agencies will have filters to narrow down the selections even more. Filter photos based on things like file size, surrounding image content, color palette, and more. You can drill down pretty deep with some of these sites, so feel free to get finicky.
Choose the photo you want to purchase.
Here’s where things start to get real. Once you’ve found the stock photo that conveys your message, or at the very least fits the bill, you’ll want to purchase it from the stock photo service. You’ll need to either sign up for an account or buy credits, depending on which service you’re working with. Most stock photo agencies offer the option to sign up for a monthly or annual plan that lets you download a set number of photos, videos, or files each subscription period or buy credits in bulk and use them for any photos you want to purchase from within the library.
If you're planning on buying lots of high-resolution photos (image-heavy websites, email marketing campaigns that rely on visual appeal, the editor of a weekly newsletter, etc.), then it's worthwhile for you to sign up for a subscription plan. Otherwise, the credits work out most economical since most sites let you carry them over time without expiration.
Bear in mind, though, that the best site for stock photos will also have a hefty collection of free stock photos. So, you may not have to pay for the images every time you want one. Granted, these will probably not be the same quality or the same variety of selection. But if you find free stock photos that you like, you can save a bit on the price tag.
Download your file.
Once you have an account or the credits you need to make a purchase, you'll pay for and download the stock photo or file of your choice. The photo comes as a royalty-free file, and it can be used as many times as you want for personal or commercial uses. There are various things to keep in mind here, though:
1. Some stock photo services do limit the amount of times you can use each image, so read the terms and conditions carefully.
2. Commercial design use is not uncategorically-allowed. In fact, there are several rules that apply to the use of your newly-acquired HD stock photos since the photographer still owns the rights to the image. Some restrictions include no resell (you can't turn around and sell the image you just bought) and a maximum number of copies that can be made of the image.
What About Licenses?
It won't do you much good to have crisp, beautiful, high-quality images with a tacky watermark declaring the name of the artist who drew, created, or took the pictures. But if the image belongs to someone else, you are legally required to credit them for their work whenever you use it. Right? Well, sort of.
There are several types of licenses for stock photographs, but you’ll generally only deal with three of them. These are:
Public domain
Some stock images found on these websites are useful bits of property that fall under the creative commons public domain. Any work that falls within this category holds no copyright because the originator has waived their rights to it legally. What this means, in plain English, is that public domain licensing is a total free for all. Anyone can use, duplicate, modify, copy, or do whatever else you want with these images without asking permission from the original owner of the image or having to pay a fee to do so. This can be commercial or private use.
Royalty-free photos are the ones that you'll usually get from these stock photo agencies. It's a basic copyright license that you can buy and gives you the rights to use your purchase files under certain conditions. Generally, these can be used repeatedly and commercially, albeit with a few slight restrictions like the ones we mentioned before.
Rights managed
Rights-managed licensing is much more restricted. You can purchase the rights to use the image one time. If you want to use it more than once, you'll have to purchase additional licenses.
Stock Photo Libraries: Open the Door to a Whole New (Visual) World
HD stock photos can enhance any project you’re creating, whether it’s for a school project or a new product launch. Fill your presentation with just the right picture to get your message across in a single glance. Find the right site for you, and see if it has a free trial. Stock photos can make your point without you ever saying a word.
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