Microstock for designers – where to buy photos and illustrations (updated)

As a webdesigner I need quite often some photo or illustration for my graphic designs, or as a part of the website content. At the beginning of my career I used some free stock photo sites, but after some time I realized, that the searching of the right photo took me quite a long time and the result is poor. So I started to use microstock – you can get there photo from few cents and the microstock agencies have really big portfolios (some of them have more than 6 millions items!) and the quality is excellent.

Microstock agencies sell photos, vector and bitmap illustrations, flash, footage, audio – all with Royalty Free Licence (you can use it several times, but without exclusivity), with Enhanced Licence you can use those items also for printings on mugs, t-shirts,…

On most of the microstock sites you have two possibilities:

1. Subscription

You will pay some money and after that you can download every day couple of images in various resolutions and formats (same price for big images, small images, vector format…). Subscription is quite expensive, but if you need some fresh images every day, it is a excellent solution for you (and also cheapest, because the price for one image can be then less than $1).

2. Credits

You will pay just for images that you buy. The more credits you will buy at once, the smaller price per one image you will get. You will pay more for bigger images and for additional formats (EPS, SVG, AI, RAW, TIF).

Let’s look at the best microstock sites, where you can buy graphics (sorted by portfolio size):


Shutterstock


Shutterstock

Link: Shutterstock
Portfolio size: more than 6,5 mil. photos and illustrations, 105 000 video clips
Selling: Photos, Illustrations (EPS), footage

Subscriptions

25-A-Day Subscriptions – you can download 25 images every day, including access to all JPEG and Vector sizes

Duration Price
1 month $249
3 months $709
6 months $1349
12 months $2559

Footage Subscriptions

Resolution 5 Downloads 10 Down. 25 Down. 50 Down.
Low Resolution $49 $89 $199 $379
Standard Definition (SD) $149 $269 $639 $1199
all formats, including High Definition (HD) $249 $449 $1059 $1999

Credits

Shutterstock is not based on credits, but have some special subscription which is similar to buying a credit package – it’s name is On Demand Subscriotions and it enable you to download images any time for up to one year:

Size Downloads Price
Small & Medium Jpegs 12 Downloads $49
Small & Medium Jpegs 60 Downloads $229
All sizes, vectors 5 Downloads $49
All sizes, vectors 25 Downloads $229

Small & Medium images – the longer side of the photo is 500 (small) or 1000 (medium) pixels.

Available payment options:

  • By credit card

Notes

  • Biggest portfolio (adding more than 80 000 images every week)

Dreamstime


Dreamstime

Link: Dreamstime
Portfolio size: 5.4 mil
Selling: Photos, Illustrations

Subscriptions

Dreamstime offers various subscription programs:

Duration 10 images/day 25 images/day 50 images/day
1 month $129 $240 $420
3 months $370 $660 $1,130
6 month $680 $1,250 $2,160
12 month $1,300 $2,400 $3,740

The advantage of subscription is, that the price of the smallest image is same as the price of vector or RAW format – it is still one image.

Credits

Images on Dreamstime come in several sizes:

Size Price [credits]
Extra Small size (480 pixels) 1
Small size (800 pixels ) 2
Medium size (3MP – up to 5MP) 3
Large size (5MP – up to 8MP) 4
Extra Large size (8MP – up to 12MP) 5
Highest size (over 12MP) 6
Additional format (RAW, EPS, AI) 6

The price depends also on the image downloads – the more popular image is, the higher is the price – they have several levels for it. The price increase is following:

Downloads Level Price increase [credits]
0–4 level 1 – yellow 0
5–19 level 2 – red 2
20–49 level 3 – pink 4
50–99 level 4 – blue 6
over 100 level 5 – green 8

Available credit packages:

Credits Price
7 $7
22 $20
56 $50
120 $99

They also have a set of extended licenses for uses not covered by the standard license – the price doesn’t depend on the resolution and level.

Name Price [credits]
Unlimited Seats 25
Increase Maximum Copies 50
Web Usage 50
Print Usage 50
Sell the rights image based

Available payment options:

  • by credit card
  • via Paypal

Interesting notes:

  • offers Sell the Rights licence – represents a full ownership of the downloaded image and the buyer use such image exclusively.
  • you can search for Dreamstime exclusive photos
  • possibility of additional formats (RAW, AI, EPS)
  • very good search options

Fotolia


Fotolia

Link: Fotolia
Portfolio size: more than 5,4 mil. photos and illustrations
Selling: Photos, Illustrations (AI, EPS, SVG), preparing footage

Subscription

With subscription you can download 25 – 250 images every day, with the price per image from $0.27 to $0.14

Daily downloads 1 month 3 months 6 months 12 months
25 $199 $499 $899 $1,649
50 $378 $948 $1,708 $3,133
100 $716 $1,796 $3,236 $5,936
150 $1,015 $2,545 $4,585 $8,410
200 $1,274 $3,194 $5,754 $10,554
250 $1,493 $3,743 $6,743 $12,368

Credits

1 credit = $1.00, the minimum credit purchase is 10 credits, the maximum is 2000 credits. Fotolia offers the following promotions for online purchases:

Credits Promotion
100 +5%
200 +10%
500 +15%
1000 +20%
2000 +25%

Prices for images

Image size Price
XS (0.12 MPx) 1 credit
S (0.5 MPx) 2 credits
M (2 MPx) 4 credits
L (4 MPx) 5 credits
XL (8 MPx) 6 credits
XXL (16 MPx) 7 credits
XXXL (+30 MPx) 8 credits
V (vector) 4 credits
X (Raw) 10 credits

Available payment options:

  • By credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Visa Electron, Delta)
  • By Paypal
  • By Webmoney
  • By Wire Transfer

Notes:

  • They didn’t start selling video files yet, but will start soon
  • Most of the vector illustrations are in SVG format

iStockphoto


iStockphoto

Link: iStockphoto
Portfolio size: 4,6 mil files
Selling: Photos, Illustrations, Footage, Audio, Flash

Subscriptions

iStockphoto offers various subscription models – you can choose the duration and the number of credits you want to spend every day (price of one credit is $0.24 – $0.4)

Daily credits 3 months 6 months 12 months
10 - $699 $1,299
30 $979 $1,862 $3,542
60 $1,862 $3,542 $6,730
120 $3,542 $6,730 $12,783
240 $6,730 $12,783 $24,288
480 $12,783 $24,288 $46,146

Credits

You can buy credits in various packages, so the price of one credit is $1.50 – $0.95:

Credits Price
12 $18
26 $38
50 $70
120 $165
300 $370
600 $680
1000 $1,050
1500 $1,500
2000 $1,900

The prices of files (photos, vector illustrations, flash, video, audio) on iStockphoto depends on the resolution (for images, video) and on the complexity (vector illustrations, audio, flash):

Size Price [credits]
XSmall (400×300) 1 credit
Small (800×600) 3 credits
Medium (1600×1200) 6 credits
Large (2560×1920) 12 credits
XLarge (4200×2800) 18 credits
XXLarge (4900×3300) 22 credits
XXXLarge 28 credits
Vectors (EPS format) 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 credits according to complexity
Video 15, 25, 40, 75, 90 credits according to resolution
Aidio 2, 5, 15, 25 credits according to complexity
Flash 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 kcredits according to complexity

Available payment options:

Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Paypal. Accept also payment in US funds only by either International Money Order or check drawn ONLY on a US or Canadian bank account.

Notes

  • Highest quality of the content (but less photos from one photo sequence)
  • Only this one agency offers flash and audio

BigStockPhoto


BigStockPhoto

Link: BigStockPhoto
Portfolio size: more than 3,1 mil. photos and illustrations
Selling: Photos, Illustrations (EPS)

Subscription

none

Credits

Credits Price
1 $2.50
10 $20
20 $35
30 $45
100 $140
300 $300

This is the only one agency, where you can buy only one credit.

Image size Price [credits]
S (900 px) 1 credit
M (1600 px) 2 credits
L (2400 px) 4 credits
XL, EPS (3800 px and more) 6 credits

Available payment options:

  • By credit card
  • By Paypal
  • By Google Checkout

Stockxpert


Stockxpert

Link: Stockxpert
Portfolio size: more than 3,1 mil (adding 50 000 images / week)
Selling: Photos, Illustrations, footage

Subscriptions

With subscription you can download 25 images every day

Duration Price
1 month $220
3 months $500
12 months $1000

Credits

Images on Stockxpert come in several sizes:

Size Price [credits]
XS web resolution ~ 0.5 MB, 400×300 1
S web resolution ~ 1.5 MB, 800×600 2
M postcard size ~ 6 MB, 1600×1200 3
L A/5 size ~ 12 MB, 2400×1800 5
XL A/4 size ~ 24 MB, 3500×2400 10
XXL A/3 size ~ 46 MB, 4900×3300 15
V vector file EPS format 1–20***

Available credit packages:

Credits Price
5 $5
10 $10
20 $20
50 $40
100 $80
200 $160
500 $400

They also have a set of extended licenses for uses not covered by the standard license:

Name Type Price [credits]
E1 Multi seat license #1 Up to 5 persons 25
E2 Multi seat license #2 Unlimited persons 50
E3 Physical retail items Up to 10,000 prints 50
E4 Electronic resale items Unlimited run 75
E5 Extended print license Unlimited run 100

Available payment options:

Type Method Speed
Worldpay VISA / MC Instant
Paypal VISA / MC / AMEX Bank transfer / Etc. Instant (except for e-check)
Bank transfer Bank transfer Takes several days

Crestock


Crestock homepage

Link: Crestock
Portfolio size: not published
Selling: Photos, Illustrations, Flash

Subscriptions

With subscription you can download 20 images every day

Duration Price
1 month $179
3 months $500
6 months $960
12 months $1,800

Credits

Images on Crestock come in several sizes:

Size Price [credits]
Small 2400 × 1600 5
M 3000 × 2000 10
XL 4200 × 2800 15
V Vector in EPS format 10

Available credit packages:

Credits Price
100 $90
500 $1,425
1000 $750
3000 $1,800

Available payment options:

  • Paypal
  • Credit card

Notes

  • 50% Off on your first purchase
  • Crestock doesn’t offer extended licences – images should not be used on items for re-sale such as web templates, e-cards, screensavers, postcards, posters, t-shirts, mugs, mousemats and similar.

Microstock comparison

In the following table you can compare the agencies according to their portfolio size, selling formats and payments methods:

Agency Portfolio Selling formats Payment options
Shutterstock 6.5 mil photos, illustrations, footage Credit card
Dreamstime 5.4 mil photos, illustrations Credit card, PayPal
Fotolia 5.4 mil photos, illustrations, footage (soon) Credit card, PayPal, Bank transfer
iStockphoto 4.6 mil photos, illustrations, footage, flash, audio Credit card, PayPal
BigStockPhoto 3.1 mil photos, illustrations Credit card, PayPal, Google Checkout
Stockxpert 3.1 mil photos, illustrations, footage Credit card, Paypal, Bank transfer
Crestock photos, illustrations, flash Credit card, Paypal

Price comparsion

Here is another comparsion which will show you which agencies are cheap and which are expensive. In the first column, I wanted to point on the minimal purchase (just for case when you need one small image for your website), second column is the price for 25 small photos and the third column for 200 bigger photos (with the width at least 800 pixels). The Small project column represent the price of images, that you will need for some small project:

  • 1 small image (600 px width)
  • 4 bigger images (1000 px)
  • 1 photo for A4 print (3 500 px)
  • 2 vectors (middle complexity)

Price comparsion

Here is another comparsion which will show you which agencies are cheap and which are expensive. In the first column, I wanted to point on the minimal purchase (just for case when you need one small image for your website), second column is the price for 25 small photos and the third column for 200 bigger photos (with the width at least 800 pixels). The Small project column represent the price of images, that you will need for some small project:

  • 1 small image (600 px width)
  • 4 bigger images (1000 px)
  • 1 photo for A4 print (3 500 px)
  • 2 vectors (middle complexity)

The last two columns are for subscriptions comparing – price for standard one year subscription with 25 downloads / day and the smallest-cheapest subscription.

Agency 1 photo 25 photos 200 photos
800px
Small project Year subs.
25 img/d.
Smallest subs.
Shutterstock $49 $98 $249 $98 $2559 $249
Dreamstime $10 $30 $200 $30
1+8+12+8
=29 credits
$1900 $129
Fotolia $10 $25 $50 $31
1+16+6+8
=31 credits
$1,649 $199
iStockphoto $18 $38 $680 $165
3+20+15+2­4
=75 credits
$3542 $699
BigStockPhoto $2.5 $48 $280 $45
1+8+6+12
=27 credits
Stockxpert $5 $40 $320 $40
2+12+10+20
=44 credits
$1000 $220
Crestock $90 $90 $750 $90
5+20+15+20
=60 credits
$1799 $1799

In the table you can find some interesting facts:

  • when you need only one image, then BigStockPhoto is the cheapest
  • Dreamstime and Fotolia have nice low prices
  • iStockphoto is the most expensive agency

But remember the price is not everything. You should also look at the portfolio size and quality, the search options, that each agency offer (exclusive images, vector format, minimal size, similar images,…), the licenses they offer (I will post another comparison article about extended licences soon) and on the other aspects…

Some others agencies

Here is list of some other (smaller, younger) agencies. I will add detailed information about them in the future:

  • Pixmac – one of the youngest, but with lot of nice features and more than 7 mil. pictures
  • Can Stock Photo – nearly 2 mil. images

What is your favorite microstock agency?

Do you use microstock as a source of cheap images and footage? If yes, what agencies do you prefer?

19 Comments

  1. Well, if i was looking for a microstock site to buy good quality vectors for a good price, i think i would skip shutterstock, istock, fotolia and other agencies and choose vectorstock.com. This site has a big vector library, and the price is much smaller that in other microstock agencies – only 1 dollar for vector. I’m a designer and i am thinking of uploading my portfolio there and becoming contributor.

  2. I have checked out quite a few of these (not ALL of them – that would take months) and I went for one called ingimage.com. Relatively small collection of million or so really decent images and you get 50 XL images per day for £44/month – definitely worth considering if you use high-res.

  3. I know about this site, but I heard, that they are too selective, the percentage is too small and also the sales are low. So I didn’t upload there.

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