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Five of the best royalty-free photography sites

Those who aren’t experts in print marketing must often look to fill gaps in their skill sets in order to get a project over the line. That might mean outsourcing copywriting services, using a print management company or sourcing royalty-free images for use in your print projects. The quality of royalty-free images varies dramatically, from the excellent to the awful, but it’s sometimes necessary to use them nevertheless. Here are five of the most popular royalty-free image sites where you can source photos for use online or in print.


Shutterstock is a stock image archive with a flexible pricing scheme. You can pay for images in batches of 2, 5, 25, 350 or 750, for small print runs or for distribution to thousands of recipients. You can also purchase monthly subscriptions if you anticipate needing images regularly. Shutterstock has expanded recently, and now offers access to video, music and editorial quality imagery, as well as photos and vector images.

Getty Images

Getty Images are a favourite source of editorial images, particularly amongst sports journalists, writers and bloggers. They also have an excellent archive of news and entertainment photos, which are as pricy as you might expect. Of all the stock photo options Getty Images tend to be considered the premium alternative – the image quality is high and the pricing tends to reflect that.


iStockphoto is a subsidiary of Getty Images, and is largely similar to Shutterstock. Their pricing schemes work in a similar way, and they both utilise a search engine-style function for locating the images you need. However, iStockphoto also offers a more affordable subscription scheme ideal for occasional users and limited print runs. Both Shutterstock and iStockphoto deliver access to excellent quality images, but be wary of stock photo clichés


Unlike the other royalty-free image sites on this list, Pixabay images are completely free. Every image on the site is available free of copyright under the Creative Commons CC0 licence, so you can use them however you please without paying a penny. The flip-side of this agreement is that Pixabay images are not professional quality. That being said, many are of a sufficiently high quality that you’d never know the difference.

Adobe Stock

The big selling point of Adobe Stock images is that they offer no-strings compatibility with Adobe Creative Cloud apps. That means you can search for stock images from Photoshop or InDesign, purchase them there and then and open them within the app for immediate editing. Pricing is flexible too, with subscription packages available as well as individual images priced as low as 16p.

All off these royalty-free image sites can help you to source high quality images for your print and digital projects without the need of a professional on-staff photographer. If you have other skills gaps in your business that need filling, however, talk to PMG. We’re print management experts, and can help you to master your relationship with print – from reducing print costs to perfecting marketing designs. Contact us today to find out more.

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