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microstockinsider is aimed at the microstock photographer, but I've added this feature to the site for a very important reason, if an agency is no good for buyers, has bad search, wrong price structure etc. then it won't attract new customers - it's a waste of time uploading images there.


Most of the sites operate on a credit system allowing you to purchase more credits at a discount over the basic credit rate, for these calculations we have used to basic cost of a credit (minimum purchase) and not factored any discounts which might be available. Also note that some sites offer only subscriptions so these sites may not have a fair estimate of cost for just a single image.


The Verdict for Microstock Buyers:

If you require a lot of photos (you run your own design group or do a lot of design work requiring images) then Shutterstock offer the best value subscription service. (read the shutterstock review here)

Using the data collected in our site reviews we have compiled a table costs for a reasonable size image from each of the microstock companies to help as a buyers guide.

microstock image price comparison Compare prices of each microstock agency



Free Microstock Images

First of all let's make it clear that the free images are provided as a way to entice you into buying some of their paid images... with that in mind the following microstock agencies offer either a couple of free images a day or a whole collection of free photos.


Agencies with Free collections
search lots of free stock photos uploaded by dreamstime photographers
Quite a few free images, click 'free stock photos' on the home page
lots of free images via the link on their home page


Free Daily or Weekly Microstock Image(s)
free weekly image
free weekly image
free image and vector on the home page each week



stock photo buyers tips Buyers Tips

If your search for an image reveals 1000's of results, click on the 10th page of results and look around for some great images that will not be on 1000's of other websites. Images further down the list are not always lower quality, they have just been bought less often - hence are not already used quite so widely. You should end up with a great quality image that is not already splashed across the internet!

In general it's much more expensive to buy a single image with instant payment compared to buying credits and multiple images. Credits offer huge savings over instant payments but obviously tie up your money in one agency. GOTCHA: make sure you look at how long your credits last, at many agencies they expire after a year.

Keep an eye out for discounted credit packages in December. The period in the run up to Christmas is traditionally a slow time for photo agencies and many offer savings on credit purchases at that time of year - if you are a regular buyer you can spend the credits throughout the year and take advantage of the December discounts even if you do not need images in December.

More advice and information for stock photo buyers at

Alex's picture


Alex (not verified) on Sun, 2009-10-11 11:01
I'm interested that Canstockphoto come out as your number 1 for buyers as its mostly been a slowburner site for me as a contributor. Though with its takeover by fotosearch it has got a lot more interesting there recently! Alex
Steve Gibson's picture


Steve Gibson on Wed, 2009-10-14 05:00
well, lol, much as I would be flattered if everyone started buying from canstock just because I said that they were offering excellent value I don't think it happens that way, hence your sales don't reflect what I wrote. They are building market share, and doing it by offering better value photos than most of the other sites. Importantly that value has a lot of variables, and I've taken the price of an image that is 1600x1200 pixel (or nearest larger) and paid for the minimum purchase of credits. The way all of the different credit systems work I'm sure there is probably another site that offers better value for a tiny web sized image or better value if you buy 1000 credits at once for a 50% discount etc. All the credit prices were correct at the time when I reviewed the sites and I try to keep them up to date as possible.
Bob Keenan's picture

Canstock #1

Bob Keenan (not verified) on Fri, 2011-01-07 17:50
I am surprised as well. I submit to 7 agencies. Canstock is a about 6th on my list for sales. Shutterstock sales are about 15 times greater than Canstock. I do like them though for their completely painless uploads.
Steve Gibson's picture


Steve Gibson on Sun, 2011-09-11 08:14
Yes my sales are something similar, SS, FT and the other major sites all outsell CSP. Once again this is a page intended at buyers - just this one page....the rest of the site is intended for photographers.
Peter Rose's picture

Images for re-sale

Peter Rose (not verified) on Mon, 2013-04-08 20:17
I am interested to buy some niche images which I want to download and print A3 and A2 size pictures for re-sale to the general public from my own website. Is this possible? Obviously I would give credit to the photographer on my site. I welcome your comments
Steve Gibson's picture

Extended License for Resale

Steve Gibson on Mon, 2013-04-08 22:57
You will need an extended license to resell a print of a photo that you purchased from a microstock site - most agencies offer them, but the cha be quite a but more expensive than the standard license. There should be plenty of choice in the resolutions your require for up to A2 (at a modest DPI good enough for a wall hanging canvas or a poster). Do take note that there is often a limitation on the numbers of prints you can make. There is usually no need to credit the photographer in that case - although I'm sure that the photographer would be more than pleased to be credited, but do thoroughly check the license small print on that one and all the other details.

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