As visual content continues to be an important part of Web design, and a complimentary asset to written materials, stock photo sites are becoming increasingly popular.
Free stock photo sites, like the ones listed in our previous article on the subject, can be found all over the Web and have impressive libraries of photos which can be used free of charge by Web designers, bloggers, and other digital content creators.
The drawback of these sources is that they often share the same limited pool of photos, or become so popular that you end up seeing the same images used by many different sites. It's difficult to do something unique when you're using the same images everyone else is.
You can also run into issues with licensing. Some of the less reputable sites out there are simply passing along images sourced from other free stock photo sites, and there isn't a defined agreement between the photographer or artist and the distributor. There are many reliable sources out there that do their due diligence, but in many cases you end up getting what you pay for.
RocketTheme often uses images sourced from reputable free sources like Unsplash which serves as a promotional resource for photographers, but there are also times that we want to use content that can only be found through a premium stock photo resource.
Below, we have listed five great resources for premium stock photo images. These resources are reputable, and provide excellent source material with clear licensing terms.
The Dollar Photo Club is a newcomer to the stock photo game, but it has made big waves. Boasting stock photos, illustrations, and vector images for just $1 a piece, it certainly fits the budget of most independent bloggers, and small businesses that want to use high quality images to accent their content without dropping a fortune to do so.
There are two options of membership. The first is a month-by-month membership of $10/month that requires you to apply in order to qualify for. The application process takes about 24 hours to complete, but if accepted, you receive 10 downloads (with rollover) each month plus the option to purchase additional photos at $1 a piece.
Alternatively, you can pay $99 for a one-year subscription that gives you 99 downloads per year and the ability to bypass the review process during sign-up. This plan is called the VIP membership.
Dollar Photo Club is part of Fotolia which has a library of nearly 38 million stock images.
You have the option of the standard license which gives you the ability to put images on sites with unlimited traffic, or apply the image to just about any commercial application. If you want to sell t-shirts or some other printed material with the image being the sole feature, you will need to buy an enhanced image license which is typically just a few bucks more.
Note: Dollar Photo Club has announced it is ceasing operations as of April of 2016. Its customers are being referred over to Adobe Stock which is offering to accept the transfer of any existing credits and maintain the $10/month deal for one year after transfer.
Shutterstock is perhaps one of the most recognizable brands in the stock photo world. With a library of about 40 million photos, vectors, videos, and music tracks to choose from, it is a multimedia powerhouse used by a variety of businesses for just about anything you could imagine.
Plans range widely in price. You can do a pay-as-you-go subscription and purchase images in orders of 2, 5, and 25. The prices of this plan type range from $9.16 per image to $14.50.
You can also subscribe to get 25 images per day, which is a more reasonable deal for businesses that deal with a lot of multimedia content. These plans range from $199/month to $249/month.
You can also browse the entire Shutterstock library for free, and even set up light boxes to plan out future purchases.
Images are distributed with a standard license that enables you to use them commercially in any application that includes less than 250,001 viewers or copies. You can't use the images on t-shirts or anything sold directly for the image itself, but there is an enhanced license available that covers this if needed.
iStock is part of Getty Images, and a popular resource for artists, small businesses, and more.
Like Shutterstock, iStock has a range of media types including: images, illustrations, videos, and music clips.
iStock handles purchases in a credits system. You can purchase credits as a pay-per-download or subscribe to one of their membership plans and save money in bulk.
Per-download prices start at $15 for 1 credit and go up to $2,400 for 300 credits.
The subscription plans allow you to get 750 downloads per month at $166.58 and $333.25 for their standard and full library, respectively.
iStock's licensing scheme is a bit more relaxed than the others in this list. With a standard license, you have an unlimited reproduction run, can use it in electronic items for resale, and do a limited run of physical items. Video and audio content is more restricted as you can't use them on items for resale.
However, you can purchase extended licenses for each item that bypasses these restrictions.
Veer is promoted largely as a resource for creative professionals. This includes stock images and fonts.
Veer is really good when it comes to buying stock images in bulk. Veer enables you to subscribe in a month-to-month basis, similar to Dollar Photo Club, and gives you access to 20 images per day at a rate of $229/month. You can alternatively sign up for a yearly plan at $2,388/year for the same 20 images per day.
Credit packs, enabling you to purchase images individually, are available with a per-credit price ranging from $0.99 to $1.54 depending on how many credits you're buying upfront.
Stock images are generally priced at $1 each with fonts starting at around $6.
Veer's licensing varies depending on the type of media and its source. You can purchase standard and extended licenses, as well as specific licensing to meet your needs. For example, you can license an image used in a product for resale for about $188.
VectorStock specializes in royalty free vector art, but also has an abundant library of stock images available.
VectorStock has over 4,000 free vectors available, in addition to its extensive library of premium media.
VectorStock separates its materials into five categories. The category number determines the cost (in credits) of an image, ranging from 1 credit to 10 credits for a standard license and 25 to 100 credits for an expanded license.
1 credit is $1 USD. After doing a quick search, I discovered that most of the vectors I found were category 1, making them available at $1 a piece.
If you need vector images specifically, this is generally the place to go.
If you need a wider variety of image files including photographs and non-vector illustrations, then you will probably be better served by another site in this list.
Stock photos are an important part of the greater creative market. They make it easier for creatives to put together media, build websites, and offer a quick way to add a visual touch to other forms of content.
If you go with a premium service over a free resource, you will have to pony up a bit more cash, but you will have access to a much larger pool of images to choose from.