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Two good istockphoto alternatives

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Horay! You've found the perfect image, and it's inexpensive! Actual image courtesy

For those of us in the web development and graphic design fields, is a common go-to source for royalty free stock photography. With millions of quality images has been around for years, and is still growing their collection. For many people needing stock images, flash assets and video, they are the first choice.

However, since being acquired by Getty Images for $50 Million in 2006, iStockphoto’s prices have slowly been increasing. In the last year or so, their prices have gone up even more, with some images in their exclusive “Vetta” collection ranging from 30 to 100 credits. At $1.13 to $1.54 a credit, that’s up to $34 for an xsmall image to $154 for an XL image. Non-exclusive content is still available, and still relatively cheap. While there’s an option to search only for the Vetta collection, I could not figure out how to exclude the higher priced Vetta images form my search results! Furthermore, on the pages of thumbnails from search results, there is no way to tell the higher priced images from the standard ones, until you click on them. This is clearly a crafty tactic to increase sales on the Vetta content. For me, it’s a waste of my time. While there certainly is a market for high end exclusive content  and I’m glad producers are able to get paid, neither I nor most of my clients are willing to pay that amount for imagery.

So what are the alternatives? Over the last few months, I’ve tried out two other stock imagery resources. Here’s what I think.


fotolia reviewI actually happened to test drive Fotolia through a promotional offer that allowed me to try the site for a limited time, with a limited amount to free promotional downloads per day. I have to say, for a site trying to get noticed in the competitive stock imaging market, that was a very good move by them. The first measure if a stock imagery site, in my opinion, is the impression of the first page of results from a keyword search. In most all cases, Fotolia fared quite well in delivering a quality selection of results for my search terms. You can tell right away that there are many professional submissions on the site, and that they have a decent level of quality control. Of course, much like one should not judge a book by it’s cover, there are many many more pages of results to browse through. A sample search for “Onion” yielded 1347 pages of results. When I clicked on page 1347, I still got images of onions, not trucks or babies or other non-related results. With over 13 million images in their library, Fotolia is obviously a major player, and is poised to deliver when you need it to.

How about the pricing?

Fotolia has a good selectionLike iStockphoto, Fotolia uses a credit system, allowing them to easy control their market by raising or lowering the cost per credit. Costs per credit range from $0.75 (Though, you’d have to buy a chunk of 6400 credits) to $1.20 a credit for a bundle of 20 credits. I think most people would end up paying $1.00 to $1.20 a credit. At the time of this writing, you could use the “Custom Bundles” system to purchase as few as 10 credits to whatever other number you need. This is a nice feature that does not force you to end up with extra money laying around in their bank, if you don’t need it there. XSmall images ranging around 300 to 450 pixels wide run 1-2 credits, or at most, $1.20 to $2.40. The most common web sizes, which range around 800px wide at the most,  seem to usually be 3 credits, or at most, $3.60 USD.

I should note that like iStockPhoto, Fololia also has an “exclusive” collection of images they call the “Infinite” collection. The Infinite collection are “composed of premium images submitted by some of the top agencies from around the world”, according to Fotolia. It’s easy to search only for the Infinite collection, or to exclude them from your search results. This is not so easy to do on iStockphoto. Also, Fotolia clearly marks the Infinite collection images in the thumbnail search result pages with a black symbol.

I can say that for my purposes, quality stock images targeted to web-use sizes, is certainly worth checking out, and I recommend adding them you your bookmarks as a top resource for stock imagery. Click here to visit now.


Bigstock reviewFounded in 2004, claims over 8 million royalty free images in their collection. The first thing you will probably notice about BigStock, is that you don’t have to use a credit based system if you don’t want to. When you find an image you like, pricing is displayed in US dollars right next to the size options. Their Small sized images, which appear to range from 600 to 900 pixels wide, cost $2.99. Medium images cost $4.99 and large, $8.99. XL sizes and vector cost $12.99. This upfront pricing is refreshing to see, and is more convenient, at least at surface value. You can also buy credits in bundles, like many other stock imagery sites. Images, from small to XL run 1, 2, 4 and 6 credits each. The smallest credit package you can buy is 25 credits for $49, or $1.96 a credit. So if you bought, for example, a medium image at 2 credits you’d be paying $3.92 instead of the non credit price of $4.99. And the margin of savings would just go up if you buy larger credit packages.

How’s the selection?

Bigstockphoto reviewThe difference between a good image and the perfect image is very small, but there is a difference. You just know when you see one of those perfect images. It jumps off the page and just screams professionalism, or is the perfect representation of the subject in the image. BigStockPhoto certainly delivers these images, but, I have the feeling, not as often as other sites. You might have to go through a few more pages, or try a few more searches to get that perfect iamge for your project. For general needs, and common themes, it’s perfectly fine. I used them for a couple projects and we found images for all of our target categories. However, I did sometimes think, “ok, this will do”, instead of “wow, perfect”.

All of that said, the pricing at BigStockPhoto is great and the selection is worthy enough to add them to your bookmarks as a legitimate resource to stock imagery. Click here to visit now.


Tobias Carrier is lead designer and owner here at Rogue EasyWeb. He has been a freelance web designer / developer for over 11 years now. If Tobias isn't behind the computer you can find him out on a mountain bike, a snowboard or out shooting pictures.

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