How to tell which stock photo subscription service is for you

Gorgeous photos are an integral part of digital marketing. Statistics show people are drawn to good visuals and respond to them, 150% more on Twitter even. (HubSpot) While some companies are lucky enough to have a professional photographer on staff, many turn to stock imagery as their primary source of visual content. With so many providers, subscription levels, and copyright types, how can you tell which stock photo service is right for you?

We picked the brains of three representatives at popular stock photo vendors to compare their services and help you make the best choice for your business. Here's what the experts said:

Looking at photos

Does this subscription give us access to the highest resolution images?

ThinkStock: "With our subscriptions, access to different resolutions comes with no extra fees. Even if you access different sizes of same image, it only counts as one download."

Shutterstock: "Yes, any subscription level gives you access to our highest resolution images, which you can re-download for free as well as getting different sizes of the same image."

Adobe Stock: "Yes, by subscribing to our service, you get access to highest resolution images without any additional fees."

How many images can you download with a subscription?

ThinkStock: "At our lowest subscription level, there is a limit of 50 image downloads per month. You can choose to upgrade to higher subscription levels based on your needs, which will increase the download limit. If you have our iStock subscription, unused downloads roll over to the next month and will continue to accumulate throughout the year of the subscription."

Shutterstock: "Download limits are based on your subscription plan. On our basic plan, your subscription is sort of a la carte—you download images on demand in packages of 5 or 25 and have a full year to use the downloads. Subscribers at our professional subscription level can download up to 350 images per month, but unused downloads do not roll over."

Adobe Stock: "Our packages range from 10 photo downloads per month to 750 photo downloads per month, depending on which level you choose. Unused downloads roll over from month to month."

Do images expire after a year if you haven't published them yet?

ThinkStock: "Not with our signature plan."

Shutterstock: "No, not with subscriptions higher than the basic plan."

Adobe Stock: "Unlike other stock photo services, in Adobe Stock, you'll download and edit a watermarked photo. The watermarked photos are not considered licensed until you add them to your library. Essentially you can mock up an unlimited number of graphics with watermarks with no expiration date. On when an image is moved over to your library, does it becomes a licensed product."

Does the subscription give you access to royalty-free photos? What about an image with an editorial photo license?

ThinkStock: "All of the photos you'll have access to are royalty free so there are no conerns about editorial photo licensing."

Shutterstock: "In our image library, you'll see both royalty free and editorial use images. For editorial use images, downloads are separate from your regular subscription so you would make those purchases separately."

Adobe Stock: "Yes, all of our images are royalty free."

For marketing pros—Can you use a subscription/package as an agency to access photos for clients?

ThinkStock: "Yes, but if your clients ever need photos for projects on their own, they would need to purchase photos or their own subscription."

Shutterstock: "Yes!"

Adobe Stock: "Yes. Since our subscribers use our photo library with watermarks to create unlimited graphics, you would just need to purchase a photo twice if you had two clients who like the same photo you've edited."

What are the package and pricing options?

We asked each provider at the time of our research but since packages and pricing change over time, we didn't want to provide you with outdated information. Instead, you can visit each of these providers pricing pages to learn more about their current rates and deals. 
One bonus tip for getting the best price: Call the sales team and inquire!

While calling in doesn't guarantee a better deal, it does increase your chances of saving some cash and it will allow you to ask any lingering questions or confusing details related to stock photo plans and usage.

Not quite ready to take the plunge and purchase a photo subscription service? Check out some free resources that might help get you started:
TBH Creative is an internet strategy agency and Indianapolis web design company. We design and build websites that are high quality, results-driven, creative, and technical. Not to mention, we also deliver them on-time and on budget. See our web design portfolio and menu of website services.
Sarah

About the author | Sarah Matlock

Sarah is the marketing manager at TBH Creative, specializing in social media management and data analysis. She likes to blog about social media strategy, the latest trends in the industry, and how to engage the online community more effectively.

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