The best stock photo sites on the internet aim to provide businesses with the authenticity only provided by professionally captured images. Renders and animated pictures don’t always provide the same touch as a curated collection of photos coming from professional photographers with years of experience in the business. Instead of either having a professional photographer on board, access the best stock photo sites online in order to provide your business with a realistic resource for unlimited images.
One problem a lot of businesses experience when trying to create campaigns is the lack of professional photos that provide the perfect representation of what they envision. Sometimes, the campaign is only as effective as the quality of photos it uses and in order to get ahead, businesses have to ensure that the photos they use are in line with their objectives.
How to Pick the Best Stock Photo Sites
We decided to take a different route for this review and took the opinions of professional photographers and businesses. We made sure to ask photographers whose photos are commonly used in marketing materials why they chose a specific platform and what makes the platform great on the photographer’s end. When it came to the business side, we asked companies that constantly engage in marketing campaigns on a weekly basis what their favorite stock photo sites are. Both parties gave us a list of 23 different sites where photographers like to share their photos and businesses like to source them.
From the 23 different stock photo sites, we decided to only list the sites that were used by both parties. We then ended up with a list of just 13 sites that are commonly used by both parties when it comes to stock photos. After that, we dug deeper and cross-referenced the sites with review aggregators like productreview.com.au in order to get a better idea of which sites are best for businesses. We were then left with just six different sites that are favored by some of the most successful businesses with the best marketing arms. We decided to narrow them down and specify how each of the sites shines in their own categories.
Best Stock Photo Site to Use
- Best for Small Businesses: Canva
- Best for Professional Photographer Collections: ShutterStock
- Best for Unique Content: Envato Elements
- Best for Premium Live Photos: Getty
- Best for Licensing Solutions: iStock
- Best for Businesses on a Budget: Pexels
Canva: Best for Small Businesses
Why we like it:
- Access to professional stock photos
- Easy-to-use templates
- Designs optimized for social media
What users say:
“I would give Canva a 10/10. I have been using this for over a year and I have no issues with it thus far. Canva is no doubt the best” – Abegail R.
Canva offers not just a way for businesses to launch marketing campaigns with professionally curated stock photos, but also a way for businesses to edit those photos in order to create professional marketing materials. The stock photo site doubles as a designing tool that allows users to create their own marketing campaign in both image and video format.
Canva provides users with the ability to add filters to photos to make them more original or text in order to create posters. The site also lets users merge photos together in order to create brochures, logos, and other types of marketing materials with the addition of texts, logos, icons, and symbols.
The stock photo resource also gives businesses unlimited folders for their design along with team functionalities to ensure that everyone within the business that knows how to edit will have access to the tool. The platform boasts over 75 million premium stock photos, videos, audios, and other types of graphics that are free to use for its subscribers.
On top of stock photos, businesses will also have access to different professionally curated templates in order to get the best results possible. Businesses that might not have enough experience when it comes to making professional campaigns can easily use templates and add their preferred stock photos in order to come up with original results.
Canva’s drag-and-drop editor makes it easier for businesses to select photos, incorporate them into designs, and adjust them accordingly. Another good thing about the tool is that businesses won’t need to download each design since they can save them online in order to easily make variations of them later on.
The reason why the tool is extremely popular is that businesses no longer need to use external editing software in order to make their professional marketing materials. Instead, everything can be done online with Canva from sourcing the stock photos to publishing them on different social media platforms.
Canva can be compared to Envato Element but when it comes to Canva, users can easily add more modifications to their stock photos instead of being stuck with the photo alone. Businesses can leverage the platform’s filters and pre-designed templates to inset any stock photo into marketing material.
If you’re looking for a source of stock photos and a platform that allows you to edit them right away, look no further! Start making professional marketing material with a website that does everything from the ground up.
ShutterStock: Best for Professional Photographer Collections
Why we like it:
- Large library of content
- Efficient image search tool
- Good editing tool
What users say:
“I mostly use Shutterstock to find featured images for blogs and photos to embed in presentation slides… Shutterstock is a great place to get high-quality photos and illustrations that enhance my clients’ brand and make them look professional.” – Bill K.
ShutterStock is a great tool for businesses that want an easy way to create marketing materials with the help of stock photos. The tool was once a stock photo first, editing software second platform which meant that for years, it first focused on curating a collection of the best photos available from esteemed photographers in all lines of industries.
The good thing about ShutterStock is its coverage since it has photos for almost every single niche imaginable. Due to its careful curation of images, businesses won’t have a hard time finding the perfect image to use no matter what niche they are in.
One important feature businesses get out of ShutterStock is that it allows users to use its wide library of images, illustrations, vectors, 3D animations, and videos. Users will get access to millions of content online all through a singular platform.
Some businesses have to go through the hassle of looking for their perfect picture from multiple sources online. The platform has a community of over a million contributors with collections of multiple photos each.
The site holds over 330 million images, 50 million editorial images, and even 18 million video clips that businesses can use through its platform. Since payment for singular photos can be expensive, the website provides access to multiple photos at a fixed price.
Businesses can also choose which plan to subscribe to whether it be images only, videos, only, or an editorial subscription that gives them access to all of the content at once. The material on the website is sold through credits and gives businesses access to original photos without the fear of copyright strikes.
ShutterStock is comparable to iStock in the sense that both platforms provide users with an editing tool they can use to transform stock photos into something truly original. Instead of using stock photos and editing them on another software, the stock photo sites allow users to do this all in one platform.
Stop using generic photos and start using high-quality images that come directly from professional photographer collections. Upgrade your business by upgrading to premium photos today.
Envato Elements: Best for Unique Content
Envato Elements allows businesses to access stock photos and designs for almost every platform needed since it even has a selection of WordPress designs to help businesses curate the perfect website. The beauty of the stock photo site is that users can easily gain access to watermark-blocked photos through a monthly subscription.
Certain stock photo sites charge their users per photo downloaded and over time, this could be very expensive since the photos add up. With Envato Elements, however, users will have access to a unique collection of photos, 3D renders, animations, graphic design templates, and even designs for their WordPress website.
Looking for unique designs can be extremely challenging for businesses often leading them to spend thousands of dollars for professional graphic designers to create a singular design. Envato Elements allow businesses to gain access to professional stock photos and other materials for any platform needed no matter how unique it is.
The good thing about Envato Elements is that it provides a cost-effective solution for its users giving them a great value for money and an option to easily unsubscribe when its services are no longer needed. The stock photo site provides access to certain designs that would otherwise cost the business a lot of money to source out.
Subscribers to the stock photo site are free to download as many designs as they want in order to use in any marketing campaign imaginable. There are, however, some legal specifications regarding how some designs cannot be offered as on-demand services (customizing t-shirts to sell) and other practices.
Envato Elements, however, is still perfect to use especially when it comes to personal branding since users can easily incorporate the designs for their websites or other materials. It offers a range of designs from web templates and CMS templates to specific fonts and presentation templates.
Envato Elements is similar to iStock in the sense that both platforms offer unique solutions for businesses in terms of creating website designs or other unique marketing materials. The difference between the two is that Envato allows users to choose while in iStock, users will have to edit the templates themselves.
Why look for a service that only caters to certain designs when you can use a service that caters to all of them? Start revamping your business and improve your personal branding with the help of an affordable stock photo site online.
Getty: Best for Premium Live Photos
Why we like it:
- Helps explain licensing
- Gives access to premium photos
- Offers editorial subscription to save costs
What users say:
“The site IS the benchmark. Intended for professional only, it has every tool you need in order to search, license and manage your acquisitions.” – Christian K.
Getty provides access to premium photos covering some of the most popular events happening all around the world. Businesses will get access to politicians, celebrities, and even business people captured at important events around the world.
If your business revolves around news and current events, Getty is a great way to gain access to all the premium content of popular figures in some of the most important events around the world. Since some of these photos can cost thousands of dollars, the stock photo site offers packages to provide businesses access to these premium photos for a monthly fee.
Capturing important events can be really difficult for some businesses especially if they are inaccessible to them geographically. Instead of outsourcing the photos from photographers themselves, the stock photo site offers access to important photos from some of the top photographers around the world all on one platform.
Reporting some of the most important news in the world can be tricky especially if the business does not have the right access to the photos of that event. Getty fills the gap by gathering millions of photos stretching over a thousand collections of different events, important people, and memorable happenings throughout the world.
Another hard thing about using professional photos coming from esteemed photographers is the licensing procedures. Getty takes care of this by offering licensing to most photos, illustrations, videos, and music clips on its platform.
Another reason why Getty is respected is that it is used by some of the largest media outlets in the world including BBC, The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter, and even Businesswire.com. When using professional images, it is important to understand its copyright limitations and the stock photo site is a great place to start understanding them.
When comparing Pexels to Getty, the latter offers a wider range of photos that are focused specifically on important people. The photos of these celebrities, politicians, and other important people can be very hard to come by but with the help of the stock photo site, businesses can access these photos legally and with the right copyright guidelines.
Gain access to professional premium photos online with the help of a platform that helps you with licensing and sourcing these photos.
iStock: Best for Licensing Solutions
Why we like it:
- Pay per photo
- No credit expiration
- Beginner-friendly website
What users say:
“I like the variety of assets they provide, you can find video, imagery, illustrations and vectors to create your own graphics. We have a subscription and we typically pay it off for the year with one client project.” – David B.
iStock is a great tool to use in order for businesses to truly own the stock photos that best represent their company. The stock photo site promises “worry-free licensing” by offering commercial-use content that is backed by industry-leading coverage.
For businesses that want to completely own the types of materials they push out, licensing can be a huge problem. Although some businesses choose a workaround and use the photos without paying for them, this could result in enormous legal fees for violating copyright terms.
iStock offers an easy solution for companies in order to use premium photos legally without the need to go through the hassle to get them. These photos can be purchased through credits to ensure companies that they are paying for exactly what they need.
Another interesting thing about iStock is that it supports Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign CC allowing users to edit photos professionally. For businesses that struggle when it comes to using complicated software, the stock photo site also offers its own editor to allow businesses to create customized images of their own.
Since iStock is a product of Getty Images, it offers a great selection of high-quality photos for businesses to use without having to worry about legal complications. Since everything is explained on the platform, businesses will be able to determine which photos to use for which materials in order to avoid any legal complications later on.
Since iStock is a product of Getty Images, they both offer good licensing solutions that are very clear regarding what businesses can or cannot do with their images. For businesses in the media industry, being able to use premium photos under the right licensing agreements is very important.
iStock also relies on an AI-powered search tool in order to help businesses get the exact visuals they are looking for. This eliminates the hassle of having to look for photos from different platforms for every single marketing material.
Pexels: Best for Businesses on a Budget
Why we like it:
- Free photos
- Straightforward licensing
- High-quality content
What users say:
“As a relatively early-stage startup with huge marketing needs but a significantly limited marketing budget, we relied on Pexels for most of the free stock videos and photos we used to develop and produce our campaigns.” – Fred A.
Pexels is the best solution for businesses that are on a budget but need a wide range of unlimited stock photos. The stock photo site offers access to both free and premium photos with images for almost every type of niche or industry.
The best thing about Pexels is that they provide businesses with copyright-free images and videos to use in any type of content needed. The stock photo site says all photos and videos on its platforms are completely free to use with attribution not required.
Businesses can choose to either give the photographer or Pexels credit for photos coming from its website or not depending on the situation. The users are also free to edit and modify the photos and videos as they see fit in order to better fit their marketing materials and personal branding.
The downside of these free photos, however, is that businesses are not free to sell altered copies of the photos and videos. Photos also cannot be sold to other stock photo platforms.
What Pexels is trying to do is to revolutionize small businesses by providing them with the stock photos needed to improve their marketing materials and the quality of their brand. By using a carefully curated selection of photos, businesses can easily promote their brand, release blog posts, print out marketing materials, or even use the photos as promotional content on their social media accounts.
Businesses are also free to use the photos on their websites or apps which could help them save a lot of money compared to having to take the photos themselves. Although free photos might be limited at times, businesses that are on a tight budget can still have the option to create quality content with the help of Pexels.
Unlike ShutterStock that can be expensive for small businesses, Pexels is absolutely free to use with no costs whatsoever. Although its selection can be limited, businesses can be creative in the use of these stock photos to create high-quality content.
Creating high-quality content doesn’t have to be costly. Start creating professional materials and designs with the help of premium photos for your business.
Stock Photo: Key Considerations
Businesses that are looking for stock photo sites in order to supply their business with photos have to make sure they are paying for what they need. A lot of businesses fall into the trap of using photos that aren’t designed for their businesses creating a lot of confusion within the design.
What we Look for When Choosing Stock Photo Sites
Since a business is usually associated with the stock photos they use, it is very important that they choose their sources carefully. Before subscribing or buying credits, make sure the stock photo site offers exactly what your business needs.
If you think you’ve seen a stock photo before, it is most likely because you have. This is why it is very important to take into account the originality of the stock photos available on a website before subscribing or buying credits. Another option is to edit the photos in order to make them more original and add the business’s personal touch. If your business really wants to improve the originality of your posts, it is important to look for one that allows users to edit the photos on the platform.
Availability of Designs
The main reason some businesses look for stock photo providers is in order to gain access to a wide range of designs for different purposes. One of the big no-nos in the marketing industry is to recycle designs or use generic designs that are also being used by other competitors. The more designs a stock photo site has, the more materials businesses can use the images for.
As a general rule, the more affordable stock photos are, the more generic they usually become. This means that in order to get access to premium images, businesses will have to pay. The good news is that if businesses move wisely, they will only have to pay for the photos that they end up using. This means that businesses can reduce their expenses by focusing their money on images that have a positive impact on their business.
Businesses should be very careful when using stock photos since some of these photos come behind copyright restrictions. Stock photo websites not only provide businesses with access to these photos but also access to means of using them without having to worry about any legal roadblocks. It is important to contact a stock photo provider and have them explain the legal use of their photos in order to ensure that the photos you use are copyright-free or can at least be negotiated in order to use the photos legally.
When using photos for professional purposes, it is important that they are all of high quality. A big mistake businesses can make is using low-quality photos for their branding. The use of low-resolution images could have a poor or potentially negative effect on the business’s branding efforts. Before subscribing to any platform or paying for credit, make sure all photos are of high quality.
Benefits of Using Stock Photo Sites
Using stock photos is a technique that can result in a lot of positive benefits for one’s business. Learn more about how these sites can potentially benefit your business in the most positive way possible:
Stock photo sites offer a cost-efficient solution to help businesses create high-quality visual materials without having to hire a professional photographer. Instead of having to fly the photographer out or outsourcing a photographer to a different location, businesses can easily purchase or use stock photos online to effectively get the material they need to grow their business.
Faster Designing Process
Since businesses can easily access photos from these resources, they will be able to make the designs instantly. Another disadvantage of hiring a photographer is waiting for the photos to arrive or be taken in order for them to be used. By choosing stock photos online, businesses will be able to create content instantly. Sometimes half of the time spent in making content is spent on finding how to get the right photos. With the help of stock photo sites, businesses can easily download photos from a singular website.
Effective Branding Resource
The better the quality of photos a business is using, the more positive it will reflect on the brand. The opposite is true when a business decides to go a different route and use low-quality images for its materials. Using high-quality images helps a business show its customers and clients that they are respectable. When putting up advertising material, it is important that a business use only professional images which hold specific features that they want to be associated with their brand.
Businesses looking to grow at a fast pace need access to a large volume of photos right away. Since businesses still need to spend a significant amount of time on the editing process, being able to come up with high-quality photos instantly is very important for businesses to be able to scale as fast as possible. The less time a business spends when it comes to sourcing photos, the more time it can spend on editing the photos for its marketing materials and releasing them.
Since images from stock photo sites are downloadable, businesses can save memory and storage by downloading only the photos that their business needs. Instead of downloading a whole collection and only selecting one or two photos, they can easily choose the photos they want to use. Some of these stock photo sites offer features that allow users to edit the photos online on the same platform.
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