Photography and imagery both play integral parts in communicating value, product quality, and can greatly enhance the user experience.  But sometimes, a project simply doesn’t have the budget nor necessity for a professional photographer. While working with a photographer will drastically increases the quality of the content, and if you can afford it we highly encourage you to do so, stock photo sites exist to fill this gap.Below are various stock photo sites with reviews, as well as a section on free stock photo sites. 

Pay Stock Photo Resources

http://www.istockphoto.com/3 month subscription, 35 images/day: $995They’re Getty’s lower quality brand – but it’s actually quite good. The images are color corrected very well, there is a large selection, compositions are smart and considered. Istock selects the nicest quality from these already good photos to place into their “Vetta” collection. This means that when you find that amazing shot on their site hoping to only pay about $20, it turns out to be closer to $70. They have a subscription model as well as a credit system which gets annoying and makes it more difficult to calculate cost. That said, the quality is high and it is a cost effective option. 

http://www.thinkstockphotos.com/1 month subscription, 25 images/day: $299 Thinkstock is a sister site of istock. The subscription model they use is more straightforward and less expensive. The quality of the shot is good with most of their content coming from Istockphoto.

http://www.shutterstock.com/1 month subscription, 25 images/day: $249 These guys have one of the most cost effective monthly subscriptions. They have a large library of vectors and the quality of photos is rather good. I find the quality to be on par with Istockphoto’s though Shutterstock seems to have slightly lower standards with their selection.

http://www.photos.com/3 month subscription, 100 images/week: $299Another Getty site, this is also one of the lower cost options, but the quality is mixed. A lot of mediocre images need to be sorted through to get to anything good.

http://www.dreamstime.com/1 month subscription, 25 images/day: $239Dreamstime is a low cost stock photo site. The quality varies significantly – many of the photos aren’t well colored and the compositions can be awkward. If you’re willing to spend the time searching through the content you can find good shots. The pay per download option might be a better deal here than the subscription model.

http://stockfresh.com/1 month subscription, 25 images/day: $199Similar quality to Dreamstime with some of the same search results. They are low cost – a good option for a small budget project – especially if you’re willing to color correct the shots.

http://www.123rf.com/1 month subscription, 26 images/day: $229Like the other low cost options, there’s a lot to sort through before finding the nice pieces.

http://www.bigstockphoto.com/1 month subscription, 20 images/day: $169They have a lot of vector options and a good selection of photos. I’d say they are on par with Shutterstock – maybe slightly less selective

.http://www.veer.com/1 month subscription, 20 images/day: $229Decent quality and range.

http://photofolio.co.uk/Varying cost and tiny photo selection. Searching “data” provided zero results. “Cats” provided only one. Only one! Cats!

Free Stockphoto resources

A professional note on low grade photography: it is better to not use any images than use a low grade, amateur one. If you use low quality photos your product and service will seem cheap. It can be worth the money to subscribe to a good service. That said, some of the resources below have beautiful work.

  1. http://stockphotos.io/Most of the content consists of flicker posted photos under the creative commons license. The quality varies but they have some quizzical looking foxes.
  2. http://pixabay.com/Rather mediocre content, but  hey, its free! Which does not mean you should use it. Furthermore, the images do not have model releases.
  3. http://www.stockvault.net/Stockvault has some free photos, but actual free shots are surrounded on all sides by sponsored links to Shutterstock. The quality is rather mediocre and irrelevant to a business market.
  4. http://www.rgbstock.com/The quality on this site is very poor – mostly looks like private photos and not professional quality.
  5. http://unsplash.com/This is a beautiful collection of high quality photos. Unfortunately,  can’t search by type.

Additional free resources:

  1. http://www.goodfreephotos.com/http://www.flickr.com/ (Search Creative Commons for Free to Use)
  2. http://www.goodfreephotos.com/http://www.idrathergiveitaway.com/http://www.morguefile.com/http://www.adigitaldreamer.com/gallery
  3. http://www.fotosearch.com/http://freestockphotosgallery.godotmedia.com/http://www.stockfreeimages.com/http://freerangestock.com/
  4. http://pixelperfectdigital.com/http://search.creativecommons.org/http://www.jupiterimages.com/http://pickupimage.com/http://www.photober.com/http://www.sxc.hu/