Where is the cheapest place to buy stock photos?

Where is the cheapest place to buy stock photos? That is what I aimed to find out with this post. I look at the subscription plans for 3 stock photo agencies and compare their rates.  For this price comparision exercise, I focus purely on my need, which is going to be less than 300 images per month. I also will also be using the monthly option since I don’t want to tie myself for the long run.

To make an accurate comparison, I need to standardise the pricing. Most of the time, you will find that different stock photo sites have different prices and packages. Users have to do a bit of math gymnastics if they want to compare Apple with Apple. What I did was to take the pricing for each services and create an excel sheet that compares the cost of 1 photo.

Hopefully, the result of my research can relieft you of some of these mental calculations.

First of all, let’s take a look at the pricing plans for the different stock image agencies.

#1 Depositphotos.com

Depositphotos has the best clarify in terms of presentation. It is easy to see the  images prices for each photo according to the different pricing plans. Best of all, there is no limit to the kind of resolution and sizes that you can download. This makes a HUGE difference as you will see later on when one company try to differentiate its pricing according to photo size.

#2 Shutterstock.com

For Shutterstock, the pricing is straight forward as well. However, it didn’t bother to do the calculation for each photo so I had to do it.  In this case, since I needed only less than 300 images, I am looking at the cheapest stock image package, which is $249 for 750 images. This works out to be $0.33 per image.

#3 iStockphotos.com

iStockphoto’s subsciption was a nightmare for me to go through. First, there is this ‘build your own subscription’ plan thingy that lets you decide on how many credits you want and for how long the period.

Then there is also this internal credit system where each image size requires a different amount of credit. Worst of all, if the photo is exclusive to istockphotos, there is a different credit pricing. See the images below.

For normal photos

For exclusive photos

For me to know how much each photo cost, there are a couple of steps I need to go through

  • First is to estimate roughly what kind of size I need. For this example, let’s choose the XLarge image that is non exclusive i.e. 12 credits for 1 photo.
  • Second, decide on how many credits I need tobuy and for how long. Since I need less than 300 images per month, let’s assume I will need 300 photos. That work out to be 3600 credits.
  • Third, choose the price package that can give me 3600 credits, which is the $3795 for the 3 month package.
  • Finally, divide 300 by the total cost of $3795 , giving us $12 per photo.


Here a summary of different pricing for a person like me who needs less than 300 images per month.

  • Depositphotos: USD0.33
  • Shutterstock: USD0.33
  • iStockphoto: USD12!!!

So the first 2 options seem to be ideal. To choose between the two, I eventually go for depositphoto because the overall price of USD99 is much cheaper than ShutterStock’s USD249 package. Although the latter allows me to download more image per month, I need only 300 and will settle for Depositphoto.

Hope you find this useful if you are searching for the cheapest place to buy stock photos!

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4 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. zavera says:

    I think istockphotos is a great place to buy cheap photos, thanks for the excellent analysis for stock photos!

  2. Shawn says:

    Great thanks for the info. This will come in handy.

  3. Easin Miazi says:

    Very nice and professional collection of photos which are very rare. I really appreciate this.

  4. Sigilist says:

    Very nice analysis which hit on issues I hadn’t thought through. I rarely need enough photos to buy into one of these sites, but now I have a better idea of which one is best for me when I have a month where one project might require throwing down on one service of choice.

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