iStock Review
iStock Review
April 10, 2020 / Sarah Pritzker
iStock Review
April 10, 2020 / Sarah Pritzker
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iStock is one of the most familiar names in the stock photo industry. Powered by Getty Images, iStock has built a solid reputation for offering high-quality images for reasonable prices. What's more, iStock has one of the largest libraries of stock photos available online today. All of those things combine to earn this stock photo service a place at the top of the charts. Now, let's dig a little deeper.

What Makes iStock Unique

While iStock is the grandfather of stock photos, it’s far from holding a monopoly on the industry. So, what makes iStock stand out from the competition? Here are a few features that we found very impressive:

Microstock model

Data-based photos

This isn’t exactly unique to iStock, but the brand was probably the first one to introduce the concept to the industry. So, it deserves credit points for that. For those not in the know, microstock image selling is a type of business model that lets consumers buy stock photos through an online marketplace. The images are Royalty-free and cost significantly less than what people are used to paying for these types of things.


We won't elaborate on it now because we go into greater detail later on in the What's Available section of the review, but suffice it to say that iStock has a dizzying number of photos and other options to choose from. You can pretty much find anything you could dream up. And with the convenient search functionality, iStock makes it easy to find what you're looking for.


While quantity is important for novelty and browsing purposes, quality is far more important to most people looking for stock photos. The last thing you'd want is an image that shows up blurry or doesn't load properly. iStock consistently delivers top-quality photos and other library items across the board.

iStock also highlights a different contributor each month to showcase something special about that artist. There’s a backstory and an explanation about the art. This isn’t a major influence on your decision of whether or not to use the service, but it is a fun aspect if you enjoy art.

Unique content

Finally, iStock does something really unique. It offers its customers a library of exclusive content. That means the items in the catalog are unique to iStock, and you won't find them anywhere else. In an era of individuality where businesses really need to stand out, a one-of-a-kind image might just be the thing to differentiate you from your competitors. So, iStock earns full points for this feature.

What’s Available

With a huge player like iStock, you would expect to find a tremendous array of photos within the site. And you would not be disappointed. iStock easily has one of, if not the largest, catalogs of options online. Customers can choose from stock photos, illustrations, vectors, audio files, and even video files.

We already mentioned that iStock has an impressively large library of everything that is digital. Ready for the number? Well, we can't give you an exact, but let's just say it's in the millions! That's unheard of, and none of the competition can hold a candle to that catalog size. The library is divided into two categories:

Essentials: This is where you find the regular images and files that you can use pretty much anytime, anywhere.

Signature: This category is for the exclusive files that are more unique. These are more personal and artistic but also come with a higher price tag.

What we also found impressive about iStock was the style. Frequently, you’ll see outdated or generic photos from these stock photo sites, but you’ll never find that with iStock. That’s because the company hires exclusive contributors to design their images. On top of that, iStock frequently discusses new ideas, trending topics, and design inspirations to keep its content fresh and relevant. This is an additional step that you won’t find with most other sites and shows that iStock is really willing to go the extra mile to keep customers happy.

iStock also has an extremely professional photo editor. Using the online editor, even non-graphic oriented people can edit images, vectors, and illustrations with a few clicks. There are the basic editing tools like crop, resize, add text, apply filters, and add logos to the existing element. iStock’s photo editor also lets you download the final copy, share it, and post to social media accounts. And then the real fun starts. iStock photo editing has some amazing features like smart sizing for preset web and social media image sizes, image layering, and totally modifiable positions, styles, fonts, and colors. iStock has done a really good job with this tool, and designers will find it a useful implement to have in their toolbox.

How Does iStock Work?

iStock has a very simple system. Here’s how it works:

  • Buy credits from iStock upfront.
  • Browse through the library of stock photos.
  • Select the one you'd like and purchase it using your pre-purchased credits.

You also have the option to purchase a single image or monthly or annual plans. The subscription plans make each item significantly cheaper, as will be discussed in the pricing section below.

One feature that made using iStock worlds easier than some other sites we've reviewed is the search functionality. You can search through the library by using a specific keyword, but it also has advanced filtering options to help narrow down the selection even more. Filter search results by file type, collection, color, complexity, and several more. It's very obvious that iStock has put a lot of effort into the search functionality, and we think this sets the site apart from others of its ilk.

All images come with a standard license and a $10,000 legal guarantee. You can also purchase an extended license that lets you use the images in more ways.

Pricing & Plans

iStock defined the term affordable stock photo, so it’s not surprising that the pricing structure is so reasonable. Photos cost anywhere from $8 to $33 depending on the size, quality, and type of file. Pricing will also vary based on the pricing plan you’ve chosen.

If you plan on using a lot of stock images, then the monthly or annual plans will be your best options. These give you access to the entire (colossal) iStock photo library for considerably reduced prices. With a subscription, you can pay as little as $0.49 or even $0.22 per image. Here’s an example of pricing:

Number of Credits Price Price per Credit
1 credit $12 $12
3 credits $33 $11
6 credits $60 $10
12 credits $115 $9.44
24 credits $220 $9.17
36 credits $325 $903
60 credits $520 $8.67

The list goes on, but you likely get the idea. The more credits you buy, the cheaper each one becomes. So, buying in bulk pays if you are going to use a lot of images. For a subscription, you'll pay a flat rate and have access to a certain number of images (depending on the plan you choose).

Number of Images Monthly Cost Annual Cost Essentials Only Monthly Essentials Only Annul
10 $100 $70/month $40 $29/month
25 $149 $120/month $65 $49/month
50 $230 $189/month $100 $89/month
750 $399 $319/month $199 $159/month

Unused downloads get rolled over, as well. Additionally, you can find coupons and promo codes for iStock all the time. For example, iStock gave away 20% discounts for Cyber Week in 2019.

iStock accepts most major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. You can also link your PayPal account or send a US money order or check from a Canadian or US bank.

iStock Customer Service

iStock customer service can be reached via phone or the online contact form on Sunday-Thursday from 9:00 - 18:00 IST. You can also read through the FAQ section. It's pretty extensive and has a lot of answers to commonly asked questions.

1-809-216-038 (Toll-Free)


iStock has been around for decades, and for good reason. The service offers premium quality content and a great user experience. The exclusive content also makes iStock stand apart from other such services, and the extensive search functionality makes finding what you need a breeze. We can confidently recommend iStock to anyone looking for high-quality, beautiful, royalty-free stock content online.

Get started now, visit iStock
By Sarah Pritzker
Sarah Pritzker is a professional writer who loves scouring the web looking for the coolest products and services at the best prices. Sarah writes for Sarah has lived and traveled all over the world, but has finally settled down with her family in the Middle East - and yes, she misses winter!