Build Your Business:

How to Choose the Right Stock Photo Agency for Social Media

Answer these questions to help determine which stock photo supplier will be best for you.

By Deborah Sexton, Contributing Writer

December 1, 2021

In last month’s column, I talked about the advantages of supplementing your own photos with stock when creating content for your social media.

I discussed the pros and cons of using free vs. paid services. This month, I’m going to give you the rundown on what you need to know if you want to investigate using a premium stock image site. You’re going to find that some sites have a membership fee, and others offer payment plans at different levels depending on your needs.

Before you join, be sure to review the licensing rights and terms, because they vary. Policies also are not going to be same across the board. In some cases, you may be getting exclusive rights to a photo; in others, the price is brought down by the fact that they sell the same photo to so many people.

Here are some key questions to think about when shopping for a paid stock photo service that will help narrow down your choices.

What is your business size? Some suppliers are more geared to small business and/or have plans geared to a smaller budget.

How you are going to use the photos? If you need images for only social media that may be available at a lower cost than if you will use photos to create designs that will be printed on products that will be resold. Whichever plan you choose, make sure it includes all the types of usage you want.

What type of media do you need? In addition to photos, some companies offer videos, clip art, templates and music. If you are trying to create more videos for marketing and presentations, you may find this a valuable resource to tap.

How many team members need access to the account? Lower-priced plans limit the number of users while premium plans have unlimited users.

What niches will you be looking for most? You’ll find some websites specialize in specific niches and are more likely to have a larger number of choices within a genre. Examples include medical, historical, nature, international, wildlife and more. If you are in a specific niche, such as nautical and maritime, sports, outdoors or food, be sure to browse selections in the categories you need most.

Most stock photo agencies add new images on a regular basis. You may want to be checking some of your front runners over a period of time to see how often they are adding and if the additions are in categories of interest to you.

Below is a small sampling of popular sites:

Adobe Stock

  • Offers annual and month-to-month subscriptions, with plans starting at $29.99 per month.
  • Team and enterprise plans available.
  • Offers illustrations, vectors, videos, templates, 3D graphics, and audio files.
  • Specializes in creative, which includes abstract to artsy angles.
  • Offers access to stock images from Adobe Creative Cloud apps and community.
  • You can’t use stock photos in the products you intend to sell.


  • Offers photos, vectors, videos, music audio files, sound effects and creative design layouts.
  • Wide range of plans including a monthly fee and on-demand to download individual photos.
  • Images available in multiple sizes including large, high-resolution.
  • Standard and extended licenses available.


  • Offers royalty-free photos, vectors, illustrations, HD videos.
  • Has partnered with Epidemic Sound to provide royalty-free music, sound effects, and audio clips.
  • Photos are divided into two categories. Basic includes timeless images at low prices. Many great-quality images are available for as low as $1. The Signature collection is on-trend images exclusive to the site.
  • Plans start at $29 per month for up to 10 photos from the basic collection. Premium offers up to 750 images a month.


  • Offers photos, vectors, videos and clipart.
  • Wide range of categories including abstract, animals, people, business, travel and technology.
  • Monthly plans are based on number of photos wanted and range from $25 to $219 per month for between 20 and 750 images.


  • Focuses on authentic, award-winning photos from top photographers.
  • Offers royalty-free images and illustrations including lifestyle, beauty, wildlife, fashion, fitness, food, and family among others.
  • Photos come with global usage rights that apply to personal and commercial purposes.
  • Each photo can be used unlimited times.
  • Two sizes: 72 dpi and 300 dpi.
  • The more expensive prices, which start at $211.90 per image for small and $299.90 for large, reflects exclusive rights for one year.
  • Users purchase packs of images at the sizes they need.


  • Has one of the largest collections of stock photos available, with more than 1.7 million new pieces of content uploaded each week.
  • Offers three pricing subscription plans: individual, small business and large business. Prices range from $4.90 to $0.33 per image under these plans.
  • Has on-demand packages where you can purchase a single image. These prices will range between $14.50 and $9.60.
  • Offers photos, HD and 4K video clips and music.


  • Focuses on diverse lifestyle images.
  • Four plans are available on a monthly basis with a discount if paid annually.
  • Offers boards that allow you to save and organize the stock image into categories.
  • All stock images are approved for business use with standard, extended, and editorial licenses.
  • Photographer credit is encouraged but not required.

Deborah Sexton is the former editor of Impressions Magazine, where she worked from 1981 to 2001. She now owns her own company, Saracen Communications, doing digital media marketing, copywriting, and public relations for companies in the decorated apparel industry. You can reach her at