Buying Stock Images For Your Website

Buying Stock Images For Your Website

Buying stock images

In this article, we’re going to look at option two in our mini series on website graphics – buying stock images. There are a lot of different services out there and they’re not all equal. For the most part, small to medium size businesses and bloggers will be looking at the royalty free, microstock end of the market but we’re going to look at the broader picture so you know how to make a comparison.


The first thing you need to know about stock images is that they mainly come in two flavours:

Royalty Free

Royalty Free or RF images doesn’t mean you can use them free of charge. In this case, it means that you’re buying images that can be used multiple times, for multiple purposes, with no time limits and you don’t have to pay royalties each time you use it. The conditions of use will stipulate what you can and can’t use the image for, the size at which it can be display and also the maximum number of times you can reproduce an image – iStockphoto, for example, allows 500,000 reproductions before an Extended License is required. You should always check what usages are permitted when downloading a file. Some are permitted for commercial purposes, some are limited to editorial use only, some can be displayed at a maximum of 800px x 600px on a website… You get the idea. Read the small print before you buy.

Rights Managed

Rights Managed, RM or licensed images are at the premium end of the scale and mostly out of the reach of us humble bloggers. This sort of licensing gives tighter control on the specific use and allows for exclusivity for the purchaser, if required. The value of the license is determined by a multiplicity of factors including what purpose the image is being used for (e.g. advertising, editorial), duration, print run, territory, whether exclusivity is required, and so on.


Next, you need to know that there are two main types of stock image sellers:

Traditional Stock Images


Getty is one of the front runners of the stock photography market and one of the largest in terms of revenue. They provide premium digital media produced by selected professionals on both a Royalty Free and Rights Managed basis.

Corbis Images

Similar to Getty in terms of reputation, quality and price range, Corbis is another premium supplier of digital media to some of the biggest names in advertising, graphic design, business and entertainment.


With a library of 37.21 million images and 450,000 new ones being added each month, Alamy is huge. They supply both Royalty Free and Rights Managed images but are still fairly pricey as an option for most bloggers.

Microstock Images


Now owned by Getty Images, iStockPhoto were the pioneers of the microstock industry. They provide a more affordable alternative to the traditional suppliers and are particularly popular among print and web designers buying images for projects. You can purchase images through iStockPhoto on a Royalty Free basis, either Pay As You Go or buying credits which, over time, provide better value for money.


Providing an alternative purchasing model is ThinkStock – another Getty Images production. This time they offer selected Royalty Free images from their collection either as part of an image pack or on a subscription model.


If iStockPhoto and Thinkstock are the diffusion lines of Getty’s designer range, then Veer is Corbis’ off the peg offering. You can pay as you go by credit card, buy pre-paid credits or take out a subscription. Veer also offers fonts, alongside the usual Royalty Free photographs and vector illustrations, and also gives you the option to buy more specific licenses if their standard limited use license isn’t enough.


Shutterstock have a library of over 27 million images that are provided on a Royalty Free basis, either as part of an image pack or on a subscription model.


Also owned by Shutterstock, BigStock provide Royalty Free images either as part of a subscription model or, for low volume requirements, on an individual basis with pre-paid credits that are valid for one year from purchase.

And some more…

Above are the big players in the microstock image market, however there are a lot of other sites popping up. This is just a very small selection:

Deposit Photos

According to them, they’re the world’s fastest growing microstock service. Your buying options are subscription based or by pay as you go credits.


16.5 million images available on either pre-paid credits or as part of a subscription package.


Nearing 23 million Royalty Free images in this library, offered on a subscription or credit basis.

This is a smaller library of images than the others at only 5.5 million, however the prices for the Royalty Free photo packs and subscriptions are also that much smaller.


Promising the “most exciting stock photography” on the internet, Photocase sell Royalty Free licensed images with pre-paid credits or as part of a subscription package.


Another subscription or credits based service for Royalty Free images, this time with over 7 million in the library. Pixmac has a bonus collection of over 55,000 images available for free.


If we’ve missed any great stock image resources, please let us know about them in the comments.

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