Top Stock Photography Websites

Stock photography is increasingly popular in the world of advertising, education, and everything in between. If you are in need of photographs for a particular project, then stock photography websites are exactly where you need to go. This article will discuss the uses for stock photography, the importance of stock photography websites, and the best stock photography websites to use.

best stock photography websites

Why is stock photography important?

While stock photography might not be something that we think about on a daily basis, it is a very important part of what we see every day. Stock photography is the supply of photographs that are licensed for specific uses. Stock images are easy to use because they are already taken, edited, and ready to be used. They are a one-stop-shop for all of your professional photography needs.

You may be wondering if it costs anything to gain access to these photographs. The answer to this question is yes. Authors of these photographs submit their photos to stock photo agencies and consumers have the ability to purchase these images from those websites. These authors make money off of their images through These websites are essentially huge, digital catalogs full of images. Users can pay for stock photographs on these websites and download them directly to their devices.

What’s the purpose of using stock photos?

If you are not familiar with the world of stock photography, you might question its practicality. That is completely understandable. Little do you know, there are huge benefits to stock photography subscriptions. Purchasing these subscriptions solves any graphic design need you could ever have.

For starters, you have access to any photograph you could ever need at the click of a button. Stock photos are a very efficient and low-cost solution to finding photographs for a project. There is also no need to hire a photographer or take the photographs yourself. Stock images are ready to be used at a moment’s notice because they are already shot, cropped, and edited.

As well as being an easier solution for photography needs, stock images are far cheaper than hiring a custom photographer. The most a stock image will usually cost is around $15. It is more cost-efficient to purchase a subscription to a stock photo website than to hire a photographer every time you need the rights to use a photograph.

Finally, you can find a picture of almost anything you can think of on a stock photo website. The images depict individuals of all different races, genders, and ages. In this day and age, it is important for people to see representation within advertisements and entertainment. Moreover, these websites contain a photograph for virtually any idea that you wish to express, even if it is not necessarily a concrete thought. Stock photo websites make this process easier because photographers submit a wide variety of work for people to choose from.

royalty free stock photos

Royalty-free stock photos

Royalty-free licensing is the most popular kind of licensing in the world of stock photography. This is the case because it has flexibility and low cost. Just like anything, this kind of licensing is different at every agency you go to. Royalty-free licensing essentially gives customers the right to use any image in commercial, personal, and editorial projects without any geographical or durational limitations.

You might be wondering exactly how to purchase and use royalty-free stock photos. The process is more simple than one might think. Usually, customers buy the image once and get to use it however, whenever, and wherever they want. The prices of these photographs tend to range anywhere from $1 to $15. In some cases, individual photographs can be even cheaper with a subscription to a stock photography website. Now, it is important to understand that when you purchase these images from websites, you are purchasing the rights to use the image and not gaining full ownership of the image. With that being said, anyone else has the opportunity to purchase and use the same photographs as you. At the end of the day, the original author holds the copyright for their images.

Limitations on stock photo use

Stock photos can be used for a number of different purposes. There are, however, limitations on what exactly you can use them for. These limitations are put in place to ensure that people cannot use these images for illegal activity or inappropriate topics. It is also illegal for people to resell or redistribute purchased stock photographs. Keep in mind that you are not the owner of these images; you have simply purchased the rights to use an image.

Stock photography vs. custom photography

Another distinction to make in the world of stock photography is the difference between stock photos and custom photography. As we discussed earlier, stock photos are images that one can purchase the rights to and use at their own convenience. Custom photography, on the other hand, is different because photographers are hired for a specific purpose. When people want custom photography, they hire photographers to shoot unique photos that fit a client’s specific needs. Stock photos tend to be more generic images of people, places, and things that are licensed for a specific use. Custom photography is a way for people to communicate a distinct idea rather than a generic one.

The best stock photo websites

Obviously, the most popular place to find stock photos is on stock photo websites. The most popular stock photo websites contain a photo library with millions of images for consumers to choose from. They essentially have an image to express any concept or idea you might be thinking of. The images on these websites are high quality and ready to be downloaded at a moment’s notice. Let’s take a look at some of the best stock photo websites and see what they offer.


Shutterstock is considered to be one of the top three stock photo websites by many. They are a widely popular choice because their commission rates for photographers start at 25%. This is great because artists that submit to Shutterstock get their fair share for the work they produce. They have a selection of over 270 million royalty-free images for their consumers. In addition to that, they have great subscription plans that allow consumers to purchase the rights to most of their images for $1 or less. The Shutterstock website is known for being very user-friendly and they have great technology tools.


Next, Fotolia is another top dog when it comes to stock photo websites. It is currently in the process of becoming an Adobe Stock photography service, which is a huge development for them. As you can probably imagine, being under Adobe’s Stock is a great achievement for them due to their great reputation in the world of digital design. Just like Adobe, Fotolia is a creative powerhouse in the world of stock images. Fotolia offers its users a selection of over 13 million stock images to choose from. In addition to that, Fotolia sets itself apart from the competition because they accept work from both professional and amateur photographers. This gives their consumers a chance to choose from a wide variety of different work.

Photographer checking photo on computer


Dreamstime is considered to be one of the best stock photography websites by photographers. This is the case because they have a great commission for their artists. Photographers receive 25%-50% of the royalties from each sale, which is hard to come by. This is definitely worth taking into consideration during the decision-making process if you prioritize the needs of the individual photographer over the website. Dreamstime has very high-quality standards that set them apart from its competitors. Every photograph on their website has to be approved under stringent standards. They have a selection of 161 million photographs.

Getty Images

If you’ve ever worked with stock photography before, you have probably heard of Getty Images. They were one of the very first companies to start licensing stock images online They are known to be reliable and never disappoint with their images. Getty Images’ selection consists of over 350 million images. Getty has a lot of photographs that convey emotions or concepts. These include images that are engaging, unexpected, and overall exciting. Getty Images is a great choice for those that appreciate the classics.


Stocksy is fairly new in the world of stock photo websites. They were established in 2013 upon a humanitarian business model. They pay their photographers a 50% commission rate because they value fair pay and understand that individual photographers deserve to be paid accordingly for their hard work. Stocksy has a focus on creating a sustainable career for their photographers instead of a short-lived one. Stocksy has a wide variety of artistic, contemporary images for its users to choose from. They have a modern, fresh take on the world of stock photography.

stock photography

Are stock photographs worth exploring?

As you can probably see, there is no lack of great options when it comes to stock photography websites. Each one has its own personality and that is something that is worth experimenting with before you purchase a subscription. So, get to exploring and find what’s right for you!


  • What are the best stock photography websites?
  • How can you use stock photography?
  • What is the difference between stock photography and custom photography?
  • What does it mean when a stock photo is royalty-free?
  • Are there limitations to how I can use stock photos?

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