6 Stock Photography Services Compared

Searching for the right stock photo can sometimes be like looking for a needle in a haystack. As designers, we all need stock photographs from time to time, but how do you know which service to use? Which is the best?

To figure out the answer that would settle the question once and for all, I devised a test: the best search results in my quest for a brown rooster would win the shoot-out. Let’s see how six stock photo services fared.


My initial search for a rooster resulted in a massive 30,000 results. I narrowed this down to under 9,000 results by using the iStockphoto filtering interface. I found the photo above on the first page.

I quite like the filtering mechanisms offered by iStockphoto, allowing you to narrow the search based on variables such as color, file type and more.

The highest resolution of this photograph would run you 20 credits, with one credit equivalent to US$0.95.

Getty Images

My initial search for a rooster resulted in 1,200 finds. I added the term ‘brown’ to my search and found this photo on the first page. Like iStockphoto, Getty Images has other filtering methods that you can choose to narrow the search even more perhaps sharing the same codebase as iStockphoto is a Getty subsidiary.

Getty has a complicated pricing scheme, with the cost of the image dependent on your answers to a variety of questions, including the length of time you’ll need the license for not a great thing.


A friend of mine recommended this site: it’s the most popular free stock photo library on the Internet. It was acquired by Getty Images in recent history, though its library is its own.

Free photos has its price in diversity. My search turned up only three results, of which the image above was one.

There are different licensing schemes for each photo as determined by the copyright holder. Generally these fall into three categories: no restrictions, attribution, notification, or attribution and notification. The image above requires notifications so you need to let the author know if you’ve used the image in a public work.


Searching for a brown rooster resulted in almost 900 finds. This was the second image out of those. Prices are reasonably good on Shutterstock you can get five standard images for US$49. It’s also a good option if you have some sort of moral objection to using Getty Images-owned sites!

Big Stock Photo

Searching for a brown rooster resulted in 400 results, which isn’t huge, but isn’t bad for a smaller competitor in this space. You can purchase 5 credits for $17 AUD. The price will depend on the size of the photo you download.


Searching for a brown rooster resulted in 1,200 results. Flickr isn’t a stock marketplace, so you need to get in touch with authors and negotiate a price if you want to use their images. Some won’t be up for that, as Flickr is just a place for them to showcase. However, Flickr allows its users to license photos under a variety of Creative Commons licenses, and if you can find a photo that allows use in a commercial work, you won’t need to pay a thing.


There are so many stock photo sites out there; much more than I have covered here. If you do a search in Google for stock photos you will get many, many hits. Of course, the option I haven’t yet mentioned is to take a photograph yourself. You then own all the rights to the image! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any willing chickens to model for me.

So who wins the shootout? That’s for you to decide. Let us know which stock photography web site you prefer in the comments.

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James Turner is a freelance web and graphic designer from Australia listed in DesignCrowd's Logo Designer Australia directory. You can contact and hire James Turner via his DarthV2000 Portfolio or via DesignCrowd's crowdsourcing site.