Top Ten Stock Image Resources

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Images are an integral part of any project – whether it’s a business brochure, a blog post or a new website design. A well-placed photo is the perfect way to bring an interesting visual element to whichever project you’re working on…but the big problem can be where to source these images from.

Ideally everybody would commission a professional photographer to take unique and relevant photos for their project – though the cost of this is what stops most people. However, a photographer than spends a day in your office taking pictures might cost around $500 but they can provide you with an array of unique shots that can be used over and over again in brochures, website branding and offline marketing.

Many people make the mistake of stealing copyrighted images from Google Images and Flickr, which can result in costly legal action – reverse image searching means it’s easier than ever for photographers to ensure their photos aren’t being used illegally.

The Creative Commons license makes it possible for users to post selected photos for free, though this is a tricky area and can easily lead to problems, particularly if the photographer granting the CC license doesn’t have permission themselves – this can be common with pictures of celebrities that you can find under a CC license.

Plus, there are plenty of oddities when it comes to image copyrights. For example, did you know that the night time lights of the Eiffel Tower are copyrighted? This means anybody sharing a holiday snap featuring the iconic Parisian skyline could be at risk of legal action!

Unless you’re a whizz on the Creative Commons licensing agreement the safest option is to stick to hiring your own photographer or purchasing high quality stock images, which is what we’re going to be talking about today.

There are hundreds and hundreds of stock image libraries out there, with prices ranging from a very cheap to the very, very expensive. Licenses of all shapes and sizes exist and it can really be confusing to know where to start, which is why we’ve put together a list of our top ten resources for stock imagery.



One of the most recognisable names in stock imagery, Shutterstock hosts an impressive online library of 47 million images, videos and music tracks. Their image library is 100% royalty-free and each download contains unlimited usage to keep things simple. Both pay as you go and subscription services are offered, as well as a free picture and vector once a week.

As well as the standard categories and search functions, they also feature ‘Photo Collections’, which capture a mood rather than a specific images – current collections include ‘Street View’ and ‘Love Story’, and a great places to find an image you might not have known you were looking for.



Powered by Getty Images, iStock’s site features a slick design and gives users the opportunity to purchase photos, illustrations, videos and audio files all in one place. Their pay per download credits packages start at £20 for three credits and their hefty subscriptions packages start at £99.92 per month.

iStock helps users find the perfect image in a variety of ways, combining a traditional search engine with more abstract functions, including their ‘Photo Picks’ feature and a rotating ‘Featured Photographer’ section.



Boasting a large library of over 36 million images, Fotolia is a UK-based image website that is ‘devoted to offering affordable creative imagery. Our crowdsourced library includes millions of royalty-free images, vectors, illustrations and video footage clips.

Subscriptions start at £16 per month for ten medium images and the Fotolia credit packages start at £10.20 for ten image credits, though a current deal for new customers will give you 20% off of your first purchase – even if it’s a subscription, so there are some great savings to be made.

Getty Images


Arguably the biggest player in the image game, Getty Images are the heavyweights, providing images to national newspapers, magazines and online publications. Quite simply, there’s nobody who does high quality, up to date images like Getty, so if it’s a snap of the latest celebrity, or coverage of the biggest international sporting event, it’s Getty you’re likely to turn to.



Part of the far-reaching Envato Market, PhotoDune offer royalty free images that start at a budget-friendly $1. They feature monthly freebies, featured weekly authors and highlighted images that are handpicked by the Envato team.

Prices vary from photo to photo and two licenses are offered, as well as a variety of sizes, so it’s easy to download only what you’re going to use. There’s no fluff at PhotoDune – it’s a simple to use service that does exactly what it says on the tin, with minimal fuss.



With almost 20 years of experience, Fotosearch like to keep it simple and to the point, describing themselves as providing ‘high-quality images to creative professionals for use in their designs and presentations.’

Their images are a mixture of royalty-free and rights managed and the company boasts an impressive client list, including Random House, Purina and Reebok. Well, if it’s good enough for them…



Alamy are proud to call themselves the owners of ‘the world’s largest collection of stock images’, and at over 54 million, it’s certainly an impressive collection.

They feature a list of categories that are more diverse than most websites, including the likes of ‘book covers’ and ‘culture’, alongside the usual ‘nature’ and ‘architecture’ options.

Corbis Images


Corbis’ library of stock imagery is made up of both royalty-free and rights managed pictures, so make sure you know which option is best for you before purchasing. There’s a handy guide to each type of licence on the website, to avoid any confusion.

A helpful search engine allows you to search not only for what you’re looking for, but also what you’re not looking for at the same time, which helps retrieve results that are tailored to your project. A common flaw with stock image websites is how difficult it can be to find the perfect image, so Corbis Images’ search function is a big help.



A haven for designers, 123RF features a huge library of over 36 million images – which is pretty impressive. However, their strength lays in the diversity of the images they have on offer. It’s not only photography and illustrations that 123RF have for sale but also icons, infographics and vectors, making their site a bit of a one stop shop for designers.

Their pricing comes in at £69 for a one month subscription that covers five downloads per day, and their on demand option starts at £15 for 20 credits, with no daily limit.



Our last entry, Dreamstime has a relatively small library of just over 12,000 photos, images and illustrations ready for purchase. While there aren’t as many options available as the bigger players listed above, there is a nice mix here and categories range from animals to technology and cover all major bases.

Both credit packages and subscription plans are available, with credits starting at £10.23 for 11 images and subscriptions coming in at £145 per month for 25 downloads a day.