As a photographer and someone who writes for two blogs, I spend a lot of time looking for and thinking about stock photography.
There are three pieces to the stock photography puzzle worth mentioning:
- Free stock photography
- Paid stock photography
- Subscription stock photography
If you want to get right into the list of stock sites, check them out here. Otherwise, I’m going to describe the difference between these models, as you read on below.
Free stock photography
There are plenty of free stock photography sites to choose from. I’ve tried to understand the motives behind why some sites can offer photos for free. In some cases, site owners monetize their traffic.
They know that they can attract people to keep visiting their site searching for free photos. In most cases, this traffic can be monetized by ads or paid partnerships.
The photographer submitting their photos can sometimes be compensated if the site owner had a budget to pay for content. The other ways photographers can be recognized is by attribution or donations.
If you use any photos from free stock photography websites, reach out to the photographer and let them know that you appreciate their photos. I’m sure they’ll like it! I always like receiving notes that people have used and enjoy my photos, especially when it’s on a really cool site or for a quickly-growing business purpose.
Paid stock photography
Paid stock photography is, well, you pay for photos. This is also more formally known as licensing photography. There are different price points in which you can license a photo.
Usually, this criteria is attached to the usage. For blog posts that are purely informational, the licensing rate is usually low. When you get into any commercial transaction, such as physical product packaging, the price per photo goes up.
When you pay for the rights to use a photo, a percentage goes to the photographer and a percentage goes to the website that you used for licensing.
Depending on the photographer’s status and agreement with the stock site, the rate that the photographer receives can vary.
If you are considering licensing a photo, I recommend reaching out to the photographer and try to work out a deal with them directly. You both can benefit from this 1:1 transaction!
Subscription stock photography
Subscription-based stock photography is commonly known as microstock photography. Because stock photography has been around for a long time, the market is wildly saturated with photos of all types and from all around the world.
The payout structure benefits the photography only in volume. Businesses that offer subscriptions benefit because they receive monthly (or sometimes yearly) recurring revenue.
For example, I am on a few different stock photography sites. For the sites that offer a subscription model to customers, I’ll receive a few cents ($0.10 - $0.30) for every photo of mine that is downloaded.
In order to receive a living wage from microstock photography, you either need a really popular photo, or a huge catalog of photos that get downloaded each month.
My top stock photography picks
Now that you have a better understanding of how the stock photography industry works, I want to share a big list of stock photography sites. Here they are:
- Startup Stock Photos
- Freerange Stock
- Foodies Feed
- Life of Pix
- Free Imaages
- Pic Jumbo
- Little Visuals
- New Old Stock
- Jay Mantri
- ISO republic
- Styled Stock
- Getty Images
- Big Stock Photo
- Adobe Stock
- Creative Market
- Death to Stock
- Stocksy United
- Can Stock Photo
- CreateHER Stock
- Haute Stock
- Styled Stock Society
- Travel Coffee Book
- Scatter Jar
- Barn Images
- Public Domain Archive
- Cavan Images
First published on December 14, 2020