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iStockphoto Alternatives

Updated on January 13, 2016

Let's face it...

3,127,864 registered members, over 4 million images contributed by over 50,000 photographers at the rate of 27,000 images per week. iStockphoto is the largest microstock agency alive.


They have changed the way photographers work and the stock photography business forever. They are the first to provide stock footage and audio too. Their archive quality is still unmatched in the industry.


I have been using iStockphoto since 2004. Before it was acquired by GettyImages, a standard resolution file could be downloaded for 1 credit, then they made the images smaller so you had to pay 2 credits to get that same size, now its 3 credits and counting. To top it off they have altered exchange rates and raised credit prices.


For designers, what was once an inexpensive alternative to purchasing more expensive stock photos has slowly become less so. Despite raises, the site's popularity continues to grow.


I have been looking for alternative providers for some time. I have tried many and here are the sites I find useful.

Dreamstime
Dreamstime

Dreamstime

http://www.dreamstime.com

Dreamstime is a distinguished leader in stock photography and a major supplier of high quality digital images at reasonable prices. All stock images available are provided by Dreamstime community's photographers, shot on film or digital and approved by editors. Structured on categories and subcategories, the database is renewed with thousands of fresh images and titles on a daily basis.

Fotolia
Fotolia

Fotolia

http://www.fotolia.com

Fotolia is the first worldwide social marketplace for royalty free stock images, allowing individuals and professionals to legally buy and share stock images and illustrations.

Fotolia offers the largest image bank of free and affordable royalty free photos and illustrations perfect for any medium, web or print.

BigStockPhoto
BigStockPhoto

BigStockPhoto

http://www.bigstockphoto.com

BigStockPhoto provides designers with an alternative to high-priced stock photography, in addition to providing photographers with a marketplace to sell their work.

BigStockPhoto offers highest quality print and web resolution images - both photos and vector art - for virtually every use.

123rf
123rf

123 Royalty Free

http://www.123rf.com

123RF offers a single subscription option where you can get access to a wealth of high-resolution images. Alternatively, you may purchase credits and download images, all for a very low rate. One of the oldest players in the industry. Around 7.5 million images.

GraphicRiver
GraphicRiver

GraphicRiver

http://www.graphicriver.net

Graphic river has more than just stock photos. It is a marketplace for Graphics, Design Templates, Textures, Vectors, Isolated Objects and Icons.

ShutterStock
ShutterStock

ShutterStock

http://www.shutterstock.com

This site is subscription only, you cannot buy single images. You can subscribe for a month, three months, six months or one year, and download up to 25 images per day. One month subscription is $249. They also have an on demand plan which you can download images any time for up to one year for $49. Overall archive quality is very good.

DepositPhotos
DepositPhotos

DepositPhotos

http://www.depositphotos.com

This is a relatively new player in the field. They offer subscription and single-order credit plans. Prices vary depending on the plan you choose, and they accept all popular payment methods, including SMS. One credit is one dollar and medium resolution images are 2 credits. They have a growing archive of 2 million images. The archive quality is OK.

Vote for your favorite and help others pick their next microstock agency. After voting, why not tell the world why you love or hate that agency? Use the reader feedback section below to tell us what you think.

Your Favorite Agency?

See results

Offline Stock Photo & ClipArt Collections - Remember the old days?

There are many great cd and dvd collections on sale today. Most of these archives are specialized, meaning that you can buy thousands of images on the same subject for a bargain price.

Free Alternatives

There are free alternatives too. Although the quality of their archives are below average, they make great alternatives for casual use.

Why Switch?

If you're here, you must be looking for an alternative provider. What is your reason for switching?

What bugs you most about iStockPhoto?

See results

Comments? Suggestions? Your Favorites?

© 2009 WizzyFX

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      Elise Bush 17 months ago

      This is a great list that I will use. After 11 years as an iStock customer (credits and subscription), I am not renewing. I have complained about the lousy search engine from day one. And it has only become worse. Searches return thousands of irrelevant results, including worthless photographs with multiple views of the same shot filling a page. iStock has no interest in customer retention or professional quality.

    • profile image

      obama 20 months ago

      Fotolia is the worst!

    • profile image

      Sam 2 years ago

      Great list! Another great stock photo site is http://www.looklagoon.com. LookLagoon specializes in nature, wildlife and landscape photography, with thousands of professional royalty-free images starting at $3. Wholesale prices are also available to designers. It's a wonderful alternative!

    • lovettuk profile image

      lovettuk 4 years ago

      Wow! Great List. this is extremely useful being a graphic designer, I mainly do illustrative work or use my own photography, but I'm limited because I don't have photos of certain animals, locations, etc. Thanks for the advice!! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yeah, istock is no longer an option. Whatever these guys are thinking, I can only hope people stop buying the stuff. What is interesting is that you can find a lot of the exact same images on other platforms because photographers submitted them to multiple services.

      I found Bigstock to be quite good in quality.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just went to buy a photo from Istock expecting it would be maybe $10 as I only needed web quality OMG! $105.00AUD thank you??? how can they justify that? and that's for a small scale, you can pay $298.50 for the XXXlarge that's outrageous. that just blows my mind, photodune it is for me!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The other sad thing about iStock is that they have made major changes to their agreements with contributing photographers that lower the amount photographers get paid as they raise the amount they charge. After getting successful with the help of the photographers and the design community iStock turned around and cheated them by making it harder and harder to get a decent fraction of the sale price. This happened after iStock was purchased by Getty Images, and then Getty was purchased by a venture capital company, who don't care about the little guys who helped build the business.

      Thanks for the list of alternate sources for stock photos.

    • HalloweenRecipes profile image

      HalloweenRecipes 5 years ago

      Lots of good photo info. I do have a question. Do you have to attribute a photo from istock or any of the other photo selling sites? If the answer is year, how do you do that? Thanks

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for posting this, really helpful.

    • profile image

      inspirationz 5 years ago

      interesting reading about all the different microstock options out there - thanks for posting :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Dreamstime would not even inform you that your credits are about to expire. So hard to send an email huh. Very unhappy with their service. Also their photos and prices are not that good.

    • mihgasper profile image

      Miha Gasper 5 years ago from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

      Check SXCdotHU, they are great too.

    • profile image

      KidCreative 5 years ago

      Great lens! Another stock photo website that's really cool - decent selection and awesome quality & prices - Arena Creative Stock Imagery http://arenacreative.com

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Great lens

    • Iain84 profile image

      Iain84 6 years ago

      I love Fotolia. The pricing system is easier to use than the others and they've got a MASSIVE collection which is incrediblt broad. I've found pictures on there that I wouldn't have thought you could get! Excellent stuff.

    • profile image

      athensfever 6 years ago

      Great lens... I've been searching for stock photo sites for a while... I think you have a good set of links here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thank you! I could not remember the name of graphicriver! I was searching the internet high and low.

    • profile image

      solvermode 6 years ago

      Hi, good lens! I have also one about this theme... http://www.squidoo.com/TopMicrostockAgencies

    • WizzyFX profile image
      Author

      WizzyFX 6 years ago

      @ScottMeyer: Great! Thanks! As micro-stock companies get older and have a stronger user base, they tend to increase their prices (but keep the photographer's share the same!). This pushes both consumers and producers of content to search for alternative providers. In order to meet this demand, new micro-stock companies emerge very rapidly. I update this list quarterly. Please feel free to submit new sites you have found.

    • profile image

      ScottMeyer 6 years ago

      As a photographer who is interested in shooting stock I will have to add this to my bookmarks and refer to it again!

    • profile image

      emberstudio 6 years ago

      I'd add StockFresh as a great new alternative to istock. Very affordable, no confusing pricing variables or tiers, and excellent quality images.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have the same complaint. I was trying to buy one of their pictures on istock for 70 credits until, I discovered I could only print them at 6 or 7 inches. No way too expensive. What good is 6 inches at 300dpi? and that is a XL photo. If you need an expensive a postcard go to istock. I Need to Print A0 poster. What are they thinking?

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 6 years ago

      A good resource page for people looking for places to put their work. There are a few listed that I am not really fond of, but that is just my opinion. Leaving you with a Blessing from a SquidAngel

    • profile image

      EquineMassageSchool 6 years ago

      I recently sent an email to iStock pretty-much saying the same things you did on this page. What put them on the map were good quality, affordable images but every time we turn around they are raising the prices either by flat-out increases or by creating special collections such as "vetta" where photos that used to cost 1-3 credits now cost 30.

      In their response they invited me to "research about the current image price on the market." Well, I am doing that. I plan to purchase my images elsewhere from now on.

    • profile image

      ChrisDriscoll 6 years ago

      Just wanted to throw it out there that as a seller iStock is by far my least favorite agency. I will never submit another photo to them and know many other photographers who feel the same. At one point they were my top agency but their latest contributor rate drop to 15% is pretty ridiculous.

    • EdTecher profile image

      Heidi Reina 6 years ago from USA

      It's great to have a list of alternative inexpensive and free photo sources. Blessed by a SquidAngel ~

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I agree with this completely. The founder started it as a community thing and everyone contributed. Then he sold out to this big company, not even for as much as you would thing. Now prices have skyrocketed.

      It went from before were it was just right to now where it is way too expensive. They burned us from both ends, the amount of credits required to buy a typical photo increased, often by many multiples. meanwhile, the value of a credit decreased. They are now worth about 60 cents. When I started using the site it was close to a dollar.

      I hope this site fails and I'm pretty sure it will.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      iStockPhoto used to be a great place to find good, inexpensive images. As you say, since the acquisition by Getty the prices have gone up and up. It's now too expensive. Hopefully these alternatives will force them to be reasonable again. Let's promote these other services as much as we can. I know I won't recommend iStockPhoto anymore.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: I agree there will be new era for small players that can continue to grow very quickly...for example look at Pixmac, http://www.pixmac.com/!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      @anonymous: I think this field of business will grow and prosper....and so there will be a potential threat of competitors.....market share of istock will go surely down....

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      My prediction is that iStockPhoto will have to change it's pricing model in the face of upcoming competition or become totally irrelavant over the next 2 years.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      iStockPhoto is getting out of control.

      Not so long ago, you could buy royalty free DVDs from leading stock houses, with around 30-50 images on related subjects for around $200.

      Now with this online mechanism we are paying up to $60 per image!!!! With the ability to sell large numbers of the one image, everyone should be making a great profit.

      Without doubt istock is great but the pricing has switched over to insane for one-off images.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thank you.

      I have had nothing but problems with iStockPhoto and logging in / staying logged in / photo defaulting to largest after moving from page and returning. (IStock was always helpful on credit returns, though).

      Done with them after a year and a half. Thanks for the info.

    • WizzyFX profile image
      Author

      WizzyFX 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Hello Nathan, thank you for your comment. None of the competitors have a search system that clarifies each word on your query. In my opinion that is more of an annoyance than a handy feature. Only useful option on iStock is the CopySpace which is awesome. Contributors on dreamstime have a nice option that allows you to have an expert tag your photos for a small fee, as a result overall keyword quality is better. In short all of the alternatives provide relevant results and advanced search option, they are all pretty good with search.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thanks a bunch. Excellent list. And those istock prices are just insane getting out of hand.

      Freaking 5 credits minimal for loads of the extra small version pictures now.

      That's the price going up times 5.

      Do you have any experiences about the alternatives search qualities to share with us?

    • WizzyFX profile image
      Author

      WizzyFX 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you Jana. I'm glad you liked it!

      You are absolutely right. I'm an Opera user for years. Browser incompatibility and totally unnecessary Ajax stunts was one of the reasons I stopped using iStockPhoto.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Thanks wizzyfx. I have an addition to your complaints. Since yesterday we can't buy pics via Mozillas Firefox. It's only possible with IE. Since a couple of month we had already a lot performance problems with iStock in Firefox.

      So I was looking for an alternative. Thanks for your list. I think I found one. :-)

      For me an ideal online photo stock has to provide tagged pics in the future so that I can browse through my collection offline...

    • profile image

      Melbourne_Osteopath 7 years ago

      Exactly what I was looking for. Great info. I typed in "alternative to istock" and you were number 1 in Google. Lens rated.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      [in reply to Houcha]

      Houcha, you sound like a Getty Images employee...

      Amateur photographers - sounds good to me if you upload a bunch of photos you've taken, sell hundreds or even thousands of copies for a dollar or two each, making decent $$$. The only difference between Getty (istockphotos) and the alternatives is that Getty is probably making more profit and screwing their photographers at the same time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      "Reasonable price" – you got to be kidding. A couple of dollars for an image that can be used freely forever after? And we're talkinga bout images that took an individual time and effort to produce. You pay more for machine- and massproduced items (with next to nothing production cost per item). Amateur photographers! These website are only using you as slave labour!