In a world dominated by visuals, finding high-quality and cheap stock images is a necessity for content creators, marketers, and designers alike. Fortunately, there’s no need to break the bank when searching for the perfect visuals to enhance your projects.
Here’s a no-nonsense guide to the best websites for buying cheap stock images without compromising on quality.
Table of contents
If you want to quickly find out the main takeaways for this article, here is a TLDR table that might help:
|Price per image
|Extensive library, high-resolution images, flexible pricing
|Can be expensive
|Professionals and businesses needing diverse, high-quality visuals
|Affordable, diverse content, flexible pricing
|Not as premium as Shutterstock
|Users seeking affordability without sacrificing variety
|from $0.22 / $0.44
|Premium quality, Getty Images library, credit-based system and subscriptions
|Can be expensive
|Those wanting access to high-quality visuals from Getty Images
|Affordable, mix of free and premium content, focus on vectors and illustrations
|Limited selection of stock photos
|Designers and illustrators looking for a blend of free and premium resources
|Diverse digital assets beyond just images, straightforward pricing
|Not as focused on stock photos as other platforms
|Users looking for more than just stock photos
|Planet Stock Photo
|$50+ per image
|Niche focus on environmental and sustainability themes, high-quality images
|Individuals and businesses aligning their projects with eco-conscious themes
What are Stock Photos?
Stock photos are ready-made images that photographers and creators license for use in various projects.
These images cover a wide range of subjects, from nature and people to objects and concepts.
People use stock photos in websites, blogs, presentations, and other creative works to save time and resources instead of taking their photos. They offer a convenient way to access professional-quality visuals without having to hire a photographer or invest in expensive equipment.
But are stock photos free?
Some stock photos are available for free. There are websites, such as Unsplash, Pixabay, and Pexels, that provide high-quality images at no cost.
But what’s the catch?
Why you have to pay for stock images?
Stock photos are often paid for several reasons:
- Professional Quality: Paid stock photos are usually of higher quality, shot by professional photographers using advanced equipment. This ensures that the visuals meet industry standards and are suitable for a wide range of uses.
- Extended Licensing: Paid stock photos often come with extended licensing options, allowing users to use the images for commercial purposes, print media, and other applications beyond personal use. This expanded usage typically requires a fee.
- Exclusivity: Some stock photo platforms offer exclusive or premium content that is not available for free. These images may be unique, rare, or have a higher production value, justifying the cost associated with their use.
- Supporting Photographers: By paying for stock photos, users contribute to supporting photographers and content creators. This financial support helps sustain the production of high-quality images and maintains a thriving ecosystem of creative professionals.
- Additional Features: Paid stock photos may come with additional features such as higher resolutions, vector formats, or the absence of watermarks. These features enhance the versatility of the images and make them more suitable for various projects.
- Legal Protections: Paid stock photos often come with clear and comprehensive licensing agreements, providing legal protection for users. This clarity helps users understand how they can use the images and mitigates the risk of copyright infringement.
Why search for cheap stock images?
Finding the cheapest alternative for buying stock photos can be crucial for various individuals and businesses for several reasons:
💡 Limited Budgets: Small businesses, startups, freelancers, and individuals often operate on tight budgets. Opting for cost-effective or free stock photo options allows them to access high-quality visuals without overspending on their limited resources.
💡 Frequent Content Needs: Some content creators, bloggers, or social media managers may require a large volume of images regularly. In such cases, finding affordable or free stock photo options helps manage costs associated with content creation.
💡 Project-Specific Budget Constraints: Certain projects may have specific budget limitations. In these cases, opting for cheaper stock photo alternatives becomes essential to stay within the allocated financial constraints.
💡 Testing and Prototyping: During the early stages of a project, such as testing a concept or creating prototypes, individuals or businesses may prefer not to invest heavily in premium stock images. Cheaper alternatives allow for cost-effective testing and experimentation.
💡 Non-Profit and Educational Organizations: Non-profit organizations, charities, and educational institutions often operate with limited funds. Finding the cheapest stock photo options enables them to access visuals for their materials and campaigns without diverting resources from their primary missions.
Personal Projects: Individuals working on personal projects, such as personal blogs, portfolios, or creative endeavors, may prioritize finding affordable or free stock images to enhance their projects without incurring unnecessary expenses.
💡 Cost-Conscious Marketing Campaigns: Marketers executing cost-conscious campaigns may seek cheaper stock photo alternatives to maintain a positive return on investment. This approach helps them stretch their marketing budget while still using engaging visuals.
💡 Startups and Emerging Brands: Startups and emerging brands often face financial constraints in their initial stages. Opting for economical stock photo options allows them to build their visual identity without compromising on quality.
Cheapest Stock Image websites
Lowest Price per Image: $0.27
Shutterstock stands tall as one of the leading stock photo platforms globally, known for its extensive library of high-resolution images, illustrations, and videos. While it may have a reputation for premium content, Shutterstock caters to various budget constraints through its flexible pricing model.
- Subscription Plans: Shutterstock’s subscription plans allow users to download a specific number of images each month for a fixed fee. This is a cost-effective option for those with consistent content needs.
- On-Demand Purchases: If you have occasional image requirements, Shutterstock’s on-demand purchase option lets you buy images individually without committing to a subscription.
Use Case: Shutterstock is the go-to choice for professionals and businesses requiring diverse and high-quality visuals for their projects. While it may not be the cheapest option, the investment often pays off in terms of the breadth and quality of the available content.
Lowest Price per Image: $0.22
123RF positions itself as a cost-effective alternative without compromising on content diversity. Offering images, illustrations, vectors, and videos, 123RF provides flexibility in pricing to suit different user needs.
- Subscription Plans: Similar to Shutterstock, 123RF offers subscription plans for users with regular content requirements. These plans provide a fixed number of downloads each month at a predictable cost.
- Credit Packages: For those with sporadic needs, 123RF’s credit packages allow users to buy a specific number of credits, which can then be used to download images.
Use Case: 123RF is ideal for users seeking affordability without sacrificing the variety of content. With its extensive collection, it caters to a broad audience, including designers, marketers, and content creators.
🟢 iStock by Getty Images
Lowest Price per Image: $0.22 / $0.44
As a part of the Getty Images family, iStock brings a touch of premium quality to more budget-friendly options. With a credit-based system and subscription plans, iStock offers versatility in purchasing.
- Credit-Based System: Users can buy credits, and each image download costs a certain number of credits. This allows for flexibility in choosing images based on individual needs.
- Subscription Plans: iStock provides subscription plans that cater to different levels of usage, making it suitable for both occasional and frequent users.
Use Case: iStock strikes a balance between premium content and affordable options, making it an excellent choice for those who want access to high-quality visuals from the renowned Getty Images library.
Unlimited images at $7 per month.
Vecteezy specializes in vector graphics and illustrations, making it an ideal platform for designers and illustrators. While vectors are the primary focus, Vecteezy also offers a selection of stock photos.
- Free and Premium Content: Vecteezy provides a mix of free and premium content. Users can purchase images individually or opt for subscription plans for more extensive access.
- Vectors and Illustrations: With a focus on vectors, Vecteezy is an excellent choice for those specifically seeking high-quality vector graphics and illustrations.
Use Case: Vecteezy caters to designers and illustrators looking for a blend of free and premium resources. It’s a go-to platform for vector enthusiasts.
🟢 Envato Market
Lowest Price per Image: $2
Envato Market is a comprehensive marketplace offering a range of digital assets, including stock photos through its section called PhotoDune. It stands out by providing a variety of assets beyond just images.
- Pricing Model: PhotoDune uses a straightforward pricing model where users pay per image (as little as $2 per image). Additionally, users can purchase credits for added flexibility.
- Diverse Digital Assets: While PhotoDune focuses on stock photos, Envato Market as a whole provides themes, templates, and more, catering to a wide range of creative needs.
Use Case: Envato Market is suitable for users looking for more than just cheap stock images, such as website themes and templates. It’s a one-stop-shop for various digital assets.
🟢 Planet Stock Photo
Prices start at $50 per image
Planet Stock Photo distinguishes itself by focusing on images with an environmental and sustainability theme. This niche approach makes it an excellent choice for those with a specific focus on eco-friendly visuals.
- Pricing Structure: Planet Stock Photo utilizes a straightforward pricing structure, allowing users to purchase images individually based on their needs.
- Sustainability Theme: With a focus on nature and sustainability, this platform is ideal for individuals and businesses aligning their projects with eco-conscious themes.
Use Case: Planet Stock Photo is perfect for those looking to incorporate environmentally conscious visuals into their projects. It’s a niche platform with a unique offering in the stock photo space.
Getting cheap stock images FAQ
Determining the absolute “cheapest” option among the mentioned platforms can depend on various factors, including your specific usage needs, the type of content you’re looking for, and your preferred pricing model.
However, generally speaking, Vecteezy has the most affordable option with unlimited downloads for only $7/month.
Stock photo prices typically range from $1.00 to $1.50 on average. However, there are more budget-friendly options available.
For example, if you get a monthly subscription with Vecteezy, the more you download the less you pay per image. Let’s say you download 100 images in that month. That would translate to $0.07 per image.
While there are numerous free stock photo websites available, it’s essential to note that using them for commercial purposes might not be the optimal choice. These platforms often lack legal coverage, making them less reliable for commercial use.
Stock image credits are often found in the editorial image use info. Regardless of the license (Royalty-Free or Rights-Managed), it’s not a legal must unless the license says so. However, giving credit is seen as an ethical practice and is generally a good idea.
For stock photography, finding the right balance between quality and affordability is crucial. Each platform mentioned here has its strengths and caters to different needs, ensuring that users can access high-quality cheap stock images without exceeding their budget constraints.
Whether you’re a professional with consistent content needs or an individual working on a personal project, exploring these platforms will help you unlock a world of affordable and top-notch stock images for your projects.