Years ago, before iStockphoto came along and you wanted a stock image, there were really only a couple of reputable outfits to find what you needed.
Even then, the supply of stock images wasn't all that great, with few images, images of questionable quality, and photos that just screamed of being from a stock collection.
That all has since changed, due in no small part to iStockphoto.
iStockphoto changed the game of stock photography because it made it faster and simpler to find high-quality photos. And while we're at it, iStock made it easier for photographers like you and me to sell our photos to end-users.
That improved access to stock photography came at a great time because we now live in a world in which content is king, and part of what makes content so important are the images that accompany the text.
In that regard, a good stock image is like having a nice front porch - it welcomes you, makes you feel at home, and makes a great first impression.
Every article on PhotographyTalk has a featured image just for that purpose. It's not just there to look good; it's there to grab your attention and get you interested in reading the article.
What's more, having great photos throughout an article helps the reader. Good images can illustrate a concept or make an article look more professional. Images also serve to break up large swaths of text, which readers tend to appreciate.
Given that photos have so much power, you need to find the right images for your purposes.
A lot of times, iStockphoto has what you're looking for.
But in this era of creating original content, sharing on social media, and the like, you might find that you need a few more resources for finding the photos you want. Consider this list a good place to start.
At the time of writing, 123rf has nearly 75 million photos in their library, making it an excellent alternative to iStockphoto.
Like many other stock photography sites, you can purchase credits on 123rf, which are then used to purchase the images you like.
You'll likely find that the credits and subscription plans on 123rf are a little pricier than on other stock photography sites (subscription plans start at $59/month for 150 images), but they have a wide selection of free images that helps take the sting out of your pocketbook.
Most of the free images are small sizes or low resolution, but if you need something for a quick social media post, the size and resolution of the image won't matter as much.
When it comes to inventory, it's tough to compete with Shutterstock.
With 125 million files and counting, it's got one of the largest stock libraries available today.
While most of those files are royalty-free stock images, Shutterstock also has video clips and music tracks, just like iStockphoto.
Shutterstock also has an enormous contributor list, with photographers from around the world uploading hundreds of thousands of images each week.
That means no matter how insatiable your need for images might be, Shutterstock won't be running out of fresh photos anytime soon.
With professional subscription plans that start at $29/month for 10 monthly downloads, Shutterstock is perhaps more budget-friendly than other sites on this list.
Younger than some of its competitors like iStockphoto, Dreamstime has nevertheless built a solid reputation for offering top-notch photographs for stock photo users.
That includes a library of hundreds of thousands of public domain and royalty-free images that you can immediately download and use without paying a dime. If you're in a bind and need a good photo fast, the free images on Dreamstime is a good way to do it.
At the time of writing, Dreamstime claims only about 56 million images, which pales in comparison to other sites on this list.
However, Dreamstime boasts the largest contributor community around, with a whopping 17 million members contributing to the growing collection of stock photos on the site. That includes editorial images, illustrations, audio files, and videos.
The subscription plans for Dreamstime run the gamut from one-week plans with 5 images for $0.05/per image to 12-month plans with 9,125 image downloads for $1,724.
Needless to say, Dreamstime has a package for you regardless of your stock photo needs!
Fotolia is unique in a couple of ways.
First, it's owned by Adobe, which, depending on your opinion of Adobe, that might be a good or a bad thing.
A second unique feature of Fotolia is that its collection is more equally distributed between photos and illustrations, something that iStockphoto cannot claim.
In fact, if you're in need of illustrations for a blog, article, or other content, Fotolia is probably your best bet.
Fotolia also offers an incredible variety of plans, including an on-demand service that gets you 10 image credits for $14.
A newer player in the stock photography field is Alamy, which is growing at an astonishing rate.
Just a few years ago, they had scarcely 10 million images, but now they have nearly 100 million images, videos, and illustrations in their collection with 80,000 more added each day.
When it comes to diversity of photos, Alamy actually has one of the best collections around.
What's more, Alamy doesn't require you to purchase credits or subscribe to a specific plan.
In fact, you don't even have to register to use Alamy.
Just pick a pricing plan - which start at $19.99 - and you're good to go to get high-quality images.
Now in their 20th year of business, Fotosearch has come on as a primary player for people that need stock photos, illustrations, and videos.
Fotosearch has a solid reputation like iStockphoto for having high-quality images in popular categories that everyone from work-at-home bloggers to corporate marketing specialists can use for their respective needs.
Having high-quality photos is a good thing, but that's especially true in the case of Fotosearch because they have many different pricing plans to meet various needs.
In fact, you can choose your plan based on the type of photos you need. Sign up for a plan for royalty-free images, rights-managed images, or go the more traditional credit route if you so choose.
With nearly 50 million stock photos, videos, and illustrations at the time of writing, Bigstockphoto might not have the expansive collection that iStockphoto does, but that doesn't mean that Bigstockphoto is short on quality.
In fact, this site is owned by Shutterstock, so users have access to many of the perks that Shutterstock users enjoy, including an extensive list of image categories from education to sports, business to travel, and everything in between.
Bigstockphoto also has several pricing plans to fit about any budget, from $79/month for 150 images.
Another excellent alternative to iStockphotos is Depositphotos.
This site has creative images, editorial images, videos, and illustrations that fill out its inventory of 60 million files.
One thing that Depositphotos users enjoy is news images that are updated daily for editorial purposes.
What's more, the site has an excellent categorization system that makes it easy to find photos, even those in genres that don't get much attention like signs, symbols, or tools.
Registration for Depositphotos is free, and you can choose from a variety of pricing plans. Among the most popular is the Flexible Plan, which gets you 30 high-resolution images per month for $29.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly option, Canstockphoto gives iStockphoto and the other sites listed above a run for their money.
With many images as little as $0.14 each (depending on the plan you choose), you can get tons of images for pennies on the dollar.
Canstockphoto has a good selection of photos but also has illustrations, vectors, and videos for other needs.
About 25,000 files are added to Canstockphoto each day, so their collection is up-to-date and fresh.
What's more, you don't have to subscribe or register to use the site.
As noted earlier, iStockphoto is an excellent choice for individuals and businesses that need to procure stock images, audio or video files, or illustrations.
In fact, iStockphoto is one of my favorite stock sites.
But if you can't find what you're looking for at iStock, there are plenty of other websites where you can find what you need.