Free Stock Image Sites background from Pixabay

When you can’t find the right stock image from a free photo site, sometimes using paid stock images is the way to go. It could be that you want to stand out more by using different images than everyone else out there.

If you still want to investigate free images, check out the Top 21 Free Stock Image Sites here.

Images can do wonderful things to engage website visitors and attract prospects which is why they play such a big role in marketing. When you want to create a connection the words you use are important but images help tell your story. They strengthen your message and can elicit an emotion.


Why would you use paid stock images?

I bet you are wonder why you would want to pay for stock images when you can get loads of images for free. There are a number of reasons you would want to pay.

  • Sometimes the image you are looking for is hard to find. Paid image sites offer greater selection so it’s more likely that you’ll find the image you are looking for.
  • Maybe you just want to be different by using different images than everyone else.
  • Maybe you need high quality, professional images.
  • It could be you need higher resolution images for marketing offline.
  • Maybe you want to access premium images without worrying about licensing and attribution. Purchased images give you rights to use without having to worry. (Caveat – don’t use editorial images if you are business.)
  • Maybe knowing that the images you purchased will be tracked in your account is appealing.

Whatever your reasons, sometimes you want to use paid images.


Where to get paid stock images

You always have the option of paying for your images.

The problem is that they tend to cost quite a bit.

Again, make sure to check out the licensing requirements for each site and each image BEFORE you buy. There are some images that are designated “editorial” that you are not supposed to and therefore do not want to use if you are a business. These are strictly for non-commercial use. If you can, I recommend excluding editorial images in your search.

This list of paid stock image sites is not exhaustive. There are many more. Most sites appear to have images, videos and illustrations available for purchase. Some even have audio.


Best sites to get paid stock images

Deposit Photos

This is my favourite paid site for royalty-free images for business use. It has a straightforward and simple interface, making it easy to navigate. There is a good selection and you can filter the results many different ways including orientation, colour, location, or number of people and you can exclude things as well like editorial images.

You can purchase them on demand, in a monthly or yearly subscription plan.

The way I like to buy them is through AppSumo. About twice a year, they have had a special where you could purchase 100 credits that do not expire for a very low price ($39 US last time it was held). I usually stock up! 


Shutterstock offers one of the largest collections of royalty free images. You can also download vectors, illustrations, videos, and music. You can filter your results for easier selection by photo orientation, color, photos with or without people, ethnicity, age, gender and image size. You can also exclude photos by keyword.

Shutterstock offers both on-demand packs and subscription pricing options.

Shutterstock advertises on the free stock image sites Picography, Morguefile, Picjumbo, Stockvault, Stocksnap, and Gratisography. If you happen to come from one of these sites, you can get a few free images from Shutterstock. 


BigStock has both images – photos, vectors and illustrations – and video. It is a subsidiary of Shutterstock.

Pricing options are by either image credits or a monthly subscription. There is a free trial. I personally find the pricing of 5 images/day a bit frustrating – you have to remember to come back every day to download the images you want to get the most out of your subscription. The credits seem to be a much better way to go.

You can filter by orientation, category, image type, number of people, popularity and license. There is also a SafeSearch feature so you can avoid looking at images you might not want to see. The filters are not automatically visible, you have to manually click on “Filter Results” to see the filters.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock is owned by Adobe, the software giant. They have photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and audios.

Adobe Stock has great filters (currently found to the left of the search results) including orientation, usage rights, size, colour, and price. They recently added Depth of Field, and Vivid Color as options.

Adobe Stock offers 10 free images. You can purchase credit packs or subscription plans.


Stockphoto claims to have over 130 million photos, illustrations and video.

In addition to filtering by category, orientation, gender, age, ethnicity or number of people, can also sort by best match, best sales or newest.

Stockphoto offers both subscription and credit packs, as well as multiple licensing options. Their ‘All You Can Download’ is less expensive but it does limit which photos you have access to those in the unlimited collection.


Canva is a great drag-and-drop image editing tool. You can design visual assets for websites, social media, marketing and more. What you might not know is that it is also a great source for website images.

You can either use Canva Photos (like the image above) to download images or you can select images in whatever you are creating in Canva.

Canva Pro, the paid subscription-based option, has a background remover tool that I use a lot. You also get access to a huge library of images, illustrations, icons, templates, animations, and more. Canva Pro allows unlimited downloads.


iStock is a division of Getty images and offers royalty-free photos, illustrations, video, and music.

You can sort by best match, newest or most popular. You can filter to only see those images exclusive to iStock as well as by license type, orientation, number, age and ethnicity, color and size and even upload date. You can also have the ability to exclude nudity.

There are subscription options and credit packs. They have two collections – Essentials and Signature based on exclusivity and price.

iStock advertises on the free sites Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. They offer specials such as 20% off with a code.


Dreamstime claims to have over 178 million stock photos. They offer photos, vectors, illustrations, video audio and editorial.

They have a free photos section that is worth checking out

Search for any topic and sort by most relevant, best selling or latest uploads. Filter by people, pricing, license, media properties, contributor, and even have the option to exclude by keywords.

A one-week free trial lets you download up to 15 images for free. After that, you can buy credit packages or subscriptions.  


123RF offers photos, vectors, video, and audio at surprisingly low rates. 

They have subscription plans and Download Packs. You get 10 images when start a 1 month free trial. Unlike many other stock image sites, 123RF has a 100% money-back guarantee if you aren’t happy with your purchase.

123RF gives you the ability to sort by relevance, new and georank (find images uploaded closest to your geographical location). Filter options include SafeSearch, media type (photography or vector illustration), orientation, number of people, age, ethnicity, collection (standard or editorial), when uploaded as well style (selective focus, pattern, vibrance), color and the ability to exclude keywords.


I wasn’t sure about including this one. If you watch TV you have likely seen clips from Pond5 incorporated into your shows. Pond5 is to go-to site for filmmakers. They are primarily about stock video but they also have music, sound effects, after effects, photos, and illustrations.

They have pay per item, prepaid credit packs, membership and custom solutions.

Which paid stock image site to choose?

Not surprisingly, the answer is it depends.

It depends on the number of images you need and how often you need them. How much you are willing to spend is definitely something you need to take into account.

Take advantage of the free trials but be careful as some of them automatically roll into paid subscription plans.

What’s your favourite paid stock image site?