iStock Provides All the Stock Images and Videos You Need at Great Value
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iStock is the premium stock website by Getty Images. It offers royalty-free images and videos, flexible pricing, and a gigantic library to choose from. Let’s see how this stock media service works.

What You’ll Find

iStock groups images into two collections.

The Signature Collection represents the very best images on iStock, offering exceptional image quality coupled with increased resolutions (often greater than 40 megapixels). You won’t find Signature Collection images on any other stock website. A team of visual experts curates this collection of millions of unique assets.

The Essential Collection offers images at a lower price. Essential images are excellent quality and come in a variety of different industry-standard styles but at a more budget-friendly price.

iStock image credits

What It Costs

Any stock photo website worth using should be competitively priced. iStock offers you the flexibility to buy a single image using credits, or pay for a monthly or annual subscription bundle.

If you don’t have a huge need for imagery, purchasing per-image is an excellent option and allows you to buy only when you need. If you’re a high-volume user, then the subscriptions offer outstanding value for money, with multiple tiers available to suit any workflow.

iStock plans

Subscriptions work on a downloads per month basis; you’ll need credits to buy images outside of your subscription. (For example, if you want a Signature Collection image but have an Essentials subscription.)

You’ll also need to use credits to purchase any video (which is not included in any subscriptions). Credits cost $11 each, but that price goes down when you buy in bulk. When purchasing video, you’ll be pleased to know that 4K video costs the same as HD.

Signature Collection images cost three credits, while Essential Collections images cost one credit each. If you’re happy with only using Essentials images, then the “Essentials only” plan is less than half the price of the “access all images” plan.

The “access all images” plan starts at $70 a month, billed annually, and allows you to download ten images per month. Unused downloads roll over into the next month, as long as you continue to purchase the plan.

If you’d like to pay monthly, with the option to cancel any time, the price increases to $99 a month. Contrast this with the essentials-only plan, which starts at $29 a month for ten images (billed annually). This increases to $40 a month for a one-month rolling contract.

If you need more images, you can choose a different monthly image plan, maxing out at $333 per month annually (access all images), or $166 a month annually (Essentials). You can always buy credits to supplement any image plan, which provides the flexibility to download additional images when needed, without having to upgrade your plan.

Regardless of your payment plan, iStock never charges a higher price for a larger-resolution image. You pay for the image and gain access to the highest-resolution version available.

iStock Image Quality and Variety

iStock Puppy Image

Seeing images on websites isn’t always a true reflection of their quality. I purchased an image of a Dachshund puppy shown above, which is part of the Essentials collection. The full resolution of this image is 6000 x 3336 pixels (or 20 megapixels).

As a photographer myself, this image is perfect. After viewing it full-screen on my computer, I determined that it’s well worth the price. Every detail from lighting, composition, framing, color, and more are excellent. This is a high-quality photo taken by a skilled photographer, and it highlights the exceptional quality available from iStock’s impressive library.

One good photo, however, is useless without a varied library. Fortunately, iStock is one of the biggest names in stock photography, and it has an enormous collection of images to choose from. With over 200,000 artists contributing from all over the world, and with nearly 80 million assets available—including more than 9 million exclusive assets in the Premium Collection—iStock’s assets are a class above the alternatives.

iStock curated albums

If you’re not sure what to look for, iStock’s curated categories group photos into themes, trends, and topics. If that’s still not enough, you can refine image searches by date, color, popularity, orientation, license type, or upload date.

Although the Essentials Collection contains enough quality and variety of assets to complete any project on a wallet-friendly budget, you should explore the Signature Collection if you need exclusive images to help your work stand out.

iStock Makes It Easy

Getting started with iStock is very simple. You can begin browsing immediately, with no registration required.

Create an iStock Account

If you want to buy an image, the simple registration process only needs your name and email address. Signing up takes less than a minute; just click the Join button in the top-right.

Here you’ll need to provide an email address and password, then confirm your country. That’s all it takes and you’re ready to start.

Finding Images

Finding suitable images is equally as easy. The home page directs you to curated categories on specific themes, or you can use the search box to find images on almost any topic. Use the dropdown box on the search bar to change what you’re searching for, such as Illustrations or Video.

When searching, you can filter images by their collection, as well as use the Refine menu on the left side of the screen. This lets you filter by image size, color, number of people, and more. If you can’t find what you’re looking for by text, iStock even lets you search with an image. Just click the camera icon at the right of the search bar.

iStock essential toggle

Selecting an image will bring up extra information, including:

  • License terms
  • Other images in the series
  • Similar images
  • Price
  • Size, date, and other metadata

Purchasing an Image From iStock

Before you buy, if you’d like to make changes to the image, click the Edit this photo button. This lets you crop the image to certain preset sizes, add text, set a filter, or upload your own graphic. This helps you visualize how the image will look before you license it.

iStock Editor

When you’re ready to buy, the large Download this image button gets the process started. The first time you do this, you’ll need to enter your billing and payment information. This is a painless process and one you don’t need to repeat for future purchases.

iStock download page

iStock accepts PayPal, which speeds up the process if you already have an account. Otherwise, you can pay with a credit or debit card. Once purchased, you gain immediate access to the image, in any size you want.

Once you’ve saved your payment details, subsequent purchases are even quicker.

Make iStock Your Go-to Image Service

If you’ve never used a stock photography service before, now is a good time to start using iStock!

In summary, iStock provides:

  1. Excellent value for money
  2. Flexibility to subscribe or pay for individual images
  3. High quality and a varied library
  4. Instant payment and download service
  5. Outstanding 4K video pricing for the same price as HD footage
  6. Simple registration process
  7. Tools and plugins to improve your productivity and workflow
  8. iStock editor, where you can edit images online

iStock clearly has a lot to offer. And with three free photos a week, it should be at the top of your list when looking for a stock photography service.

Explore more about: Photography, Stock Photos.

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