Whether you’re a graphic designer, a blogger, or a filmmaker, being able to access stock visual assets is a vital component of the creative process.
While Adobe Stock is one of the leading resources for stock assets online—including millions of images, videos, graphics, illustrations, and audio—its credit-based monthly subscriptions and tie-in with Adobe’s Creative Cloud may not be for everyone.
With that in mind, in this article we'll outline the top Adobe Stock alternatives including both paid options and free services. We will also explore the reasons why some services might suit you better than others, depending on your requirements and budget.
- We’ve featured the best online photo editors
For users requiring not just a bank of stock assets but also a sophisticated design suite to rival Adobe’s, CorelDraw Graphics Suite provides stiff competition. Available to try free of charge for 15 days (after which you’ll pay $249 for a single annual license), this professional design software includes CoralDraw, Corel Photo-Paint, and Corel Font Manager. It is available for both Windows and Mac, with additional web and iPad applications also on offer.
Whether wanting to use it for photo editing, graphics, illustration, or web design, users are granted access to a database of royalty-free images that can be used for any project. This includes over 7,000 clipart files, digital images, and even car wrap designs, as well as over 1,000 high-resolution digital photos. For ideas and inspiration, the suite also comes with 150 professionally designed templates.
Getty Images is a titan of the photography industry, boasting some of the world's best photographers and videographers and servicing thousands of the biggest media organizations on the planet. iStock is Getty's foray into royalty-free stock imagery, and as one would expect the service boasts millions of assets including photos, illustrations, and 4K videos.
Given its wealth of content, assets are categorized (themes include nature and landscapes, jobs and careers, and healthcare and medicine) and the search function offers in-depth filtering options to help you locate the best photo for your requirements.
The pricing structure is impressively flexible, with users given the option of monthly or annual subscription plans, or a selection of credit packs that require no commitment. For example, buying 36 credits will grant a user access to download 36 images, or six videos, or a mix of both. Given its daily-updated bank of contemporary photos from a wealth of photographers around the world, iStock is particularly useful to those needing editorial imagery for news and media.
Like iStock, Shutterstock offers two means of paying for the stock photos you wish to use. If committing to an annual subscription (paid monthly), its entry package offers 10 images per month for $29, rising to 750 images a month for $199. Alternatively, users might prefer its on-demand options, beginning at five images per month for $49, or 25 at $229.
Given that Shutterstock has over 360 million images to choose from, the curated collections are a useful tool for finding images relating to a specific theme or event. At the time of writing, collections included 38 videos on the topic of vaccination, dozens of images titled An Ode to Spring, and a collection relating to Women's Month. There are also many royalty-free musical choices, handy for podcasts or documentary soundtracks.
Support options are robust, with a swift-reply live chat channel, along with the option to call the Shutterstock team, or email for a guaranteed response within 24 hours.
Acquired by Getty Images in March 2021, Unsplash is to continue as a standalone brand, separate from the photography behemoth. This is good news for its many users who have downloaded over two billion images since the site's launch in 2013. That's because Unsplash has always been a free service, and this doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
Users are therefore free to browse and download any of its more than two million high-resolution images, freely donated by a generous community of photographers from all over the world.
Images can be used thanks to a license that grants both commercial and non-commercial use, with no permissions or attributes required. Nonetheless, it’s good practice to credit the photographer for their work if you can.
Although images tend to skew more towards the creative and spectacular rather than practical shots one might usually attribute to stock imagery, the increase in commercial contributors like Mailchimp has meant a rise in images with a business flavor.
All Pixabay images are available under its own license, which allows users to download any image for free and use it across print and digital, for both commercial and non-commercial reasons. This includes making modifications to the images. Selling unaltered copies or redistributing images on other stock platforms is, however, forbidden.
There are over two million stock images, videos, and music on Pixabay. Though, like Unsplash, you're more likely to have joy searching for creative photography rather than editorial or news-focused images. With that in mind, users looking for a picture of politicians or sports stars, for example, may find they're gently nudged towards the iStock-sponsored photos which also appear in searches.
- Also check out our roundup of the best free stock photos