HomeBlogThe 5 Best Sources for Stock Photos for Ads

The 5 Best Sources for Stock Photos for Ads

Author: Brad Smith
Last Updated: November 24, 2021 | Display Ads

Display ads serve only one purpose: to get eyeballs.

That’s it. A blunt instrument, if you will.

Because people don’t buy the minute after seeing your ad. It’s more like a month later. After three or five or seven messages hit them over the head. (Gently.)

But that process all starts with at least one eye-popping visual interruption—and sometimes you’ll need a few of these.

neon "open" sign

A visual interruption just like a neon “Open” sign.

The challenges with creating image ads are twofold. It’s difficult (and time consuming and expensive) to create relevant imagery. If you decide to save time and money by using stock photos instead, you’re going to need to cycle through A LOT of duds before hitting on a few winners.

That’s where stock photo services come into play. The trick is separating the good from the bad. Some have a lackluster selection, while others cost you an arm and a leg and still force you to pay for more images than you actually need.

So here are five of the very best sources for advertising stock photos to create revenue-boosting ads that customers can’t help but stare at.

1. Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock seamlessly integrates with Adobe’s Creative Cloud.

Adobe Stock image

Launched in 2015 when Adobe acquired the stock photo company Fotolia, Adobe Stock was created to integrate with the rest of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, including Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and more.

That means you don’t need a separate app or service. No downloads, exports, or zips. Instead, it’s a stand-alone service that works alongside Creative Cloud so you can find and edit images in one convenient location.

One of Adobe Stock’s greatest features is its testing ability.

We’ve all been there. You think a certain photo will work perfectly with your campaign, but once you get it in Photoshop and start having your designers play around with it, you don’t really like the final product.

Adobe lets you to download watermarked photos for free in order to test them in Photoshop. So you can try before you buy.

stock photo of medical staff

And if you like it, you can look up more from this image or model. It’s a great feature for creating consistently branded ads.

So you can use an image like the one above for your print ad, then find something similar for a banner ad:

stock photo purchase page

Adobe Stock charges for a monthly image plan.

These tiers start at three images per month for just $9.99. A more expensive plans costs $29.99 per month for 10 images. All annual plans are paid monthly.

Adobe Stock has over 100 million images, which is more than enough to keep you scrolling for an entire afternoon. What’s more, all plans come with a free month, which gets you 10 free image downloads. Discounts are available for existing Creative Cloud users.

2. iStock

iStock is like the younger, hipper, Cardi B-obsessed version of iStockPhoto.

It started in 2000, making it one of the longest running stock photo services out there. iStock is owned by Getty images and is based out of Alberta, Canada.

iStock imge

As for available pricing plans, iStock will happily take your money in every shape or size.

If you’re not going to be a regular customer, you can buy credits, which can be exchanged for stock images. However, if you have need for images often, there is a subscription plan that helps you save quite a bit of money.

iStock was a pioneer in the stock photo industry. It was the first agency to invest in the “microstock” formula, where companies offer up stock photos through a searchable library under a royalty-free license. Then, with a minimum micropayment, individuals and companies could purchase these photos.

Typically, photos on-demand cost between $8 and $33 each. That’s a pretty large gap, though. To compare, the subscription-based service costs $40 per month for 10 images (which is a pretty sweet deal if you plan on split-testing creatives).

stock photo image options

iStock separates their photos into different categories, making it easier for advertisers to browse for that perfect photo.

For example, this image from their education section would be right at home in a college catalogue or print ad:

stock photo of students studying

Their photos are also separated into two main collections, the Essentials Collections and the Signature Collection.

Their Essentials Collection includes some of the more common everyday photos for casual design needs. These images are typically more affordable.

The iStock Signature Collection has images with far higher production value and are typically more artistic in nature. Signature photos are also exclusive to iStock, so you won’t find them anywhere else.

While using these photos can be pricier, it lessens the likelihood that you and a competitor are using the same exact photos on ads and landing pages.

The folks over at iStock offer free downloads every week.

What’s more, iStock isn’t just for pictures. They also feature illustrations, video clips, and audio clips. This is especially helpful for those of you looking to create YouTube ads or radio spots.

As if that wasn’t enough, iStock also has a search function with advanced filter options. That means you can use this service to look for criteria like file type, collection, shape, size, details, colors, file number, complexity, and more.

iStock is also available in a variety of languages, making it accessible to customers all over the planet. You can access iStock in English, Korean, German, Spanish Russian, French, Dutch, Japanese, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, and Brazilian Portuguese.

3. 99Club

The 99Club is owned by Stock Photo Secrets and gets its name from its price.

Clever, eh?

An annual subscription to this service costs just $99, making it one of the most affordable services on this list. It also has no hidden fees, keeping the price at a legitimate $99.

Perfect for budget-minded businesses, bloggers, agencies, and designers.

99club image

99Club features over 4 million images composed of high-resolution photos, fonts, and vectors. This is smaller than many of the other agencies out there, but it comes at a price that is unmatched.

They offer royalty-free licenses for all of their images, meaning that whatever you purchase through 99Club can be used forever. This is fairly unique, as many agencies require you to use a specific watermark with the photographer’s name in an image or impose restrictions on where and how you can use the photo.

Images like this one are perfect when it comes to a royalty-free image that can be used forever.

stock photo of lawyer

For a law firm, it’s classic and has no elements that might become outdated.

Or this one.

stock photo of man with gavel

As long as there are courts there will be suits, gavels, and Scales of Justice. No need to worry about anything looking dated.

99Club’s annual subscription plan gets you 200 XXL images per month. That’s a huge value when you consider the price, and the fact that most of the other services on our list won’t give you anywhere near that amount.

The total cost per image breaks down to only 49 cents with the annual plan. If you require more than 200, you can still purchase additional image packs. A pack of 50 images will cost $49 while an additional 100 images will run you $69. Again, this is a fantastic value.

4. Photocase

Photocase is a German company, headquartered in Berlin.

It launched in 2001 as a platform for the photography community. Since then, it has grown exponentially and has become a common favorite for companies looking to create more artsy advertisements.

Photocase image

The images found on Photocase are mostly atypical and focus on artistic and unique shots.

So probably not the best fit for your local plumbing ads or technical B2B platform.

This super tight curation also means they have a purposely reduced image library. Most of the services on this list have millions of images to sift through. Photocase, however, features images totaling in the hundreds of thousands.

While that might not be ideal for some of the larger advertising agencies out there who have a diverse clientele, it serves as an excellent niche option for those looking to create ads that feature outside-the-box imagery. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever find the same images on other photo sites, due to their nature.

Just check this image out.

stock photo of buildings

This is a great example of Photocase’s individuality at work. This artsy image is not your typical advertising fare, but it could be the perfect fit for a young travel agency looking to showcase destinations in a more interesting way.

One of Photocase’s major selling points is the authenticity of the images that they feature.

Typically, ads feature perfect models that have been photoshopped into nearly superhuman levels of perfection seldom seen outside of a Tolkien novel.

Photocase, however, offers photos of real people performing real acts in real life situations. It’s excellent if you’re looking to showcase cultural and societal diversity in your ad campaign.

Take this image, for example.

stock photo of man in goggles

It shows a regular guy underwater with a smile on his face.

But a travel agency could take that image and spin it into an ad for a tropical vacation. I want to go snorkeling just thinking about it.

All of Photocase’s images are royalty free with custom terms. Individual purchases are possible, with small photos costing $10, standard size $15, and large images $20. Photocase also sells credits, which are far more cost-effective. For 25 credits, you’ll pay $49. On the other side of the coin, you can buy 1,000 credits for $1,099.

With three credits you can get a small photo. Six credits will net you a standard image. For 10 credits you receive a large. When you actually break down the math, credited large photos come in at nearly half the price.

Because of Photocase’s humble beginnings as a hub for photographers, it still has some functions that specifically appeal to that audience. Between social forums and functions that allow photographers to comment or like one another’s photos, it still pays homage to the site’s original intent, despite its growth over the years.

5. WordStream Advisor

Yup, you read that right.

WordStream recently launched a Shutterstock integration that incorporates the full library of high-quality images in the Advisor platform.

And this library is extensive. Shutterstock currently offers more than 250 million images and continues to add more each day. The content and composition of the photographs range widely, too. Whether you’re creating an ad for a luxury resort, a software offering, or a plumbing service, you’ll be able to find an image that fits your needs. You’ll also be able to select color schemes if you’re looking to maintain brand continuity or choose different sizes so that the image ad fits the guidelines for specific platforms.

stock photo of plumber

The best part? You can create your image ad for Facebook or Display all in one place, from start to finish.

As for pricing, this feature is included in Advisor’s suite of Smart Ads tools at no extra cost for all WordStream users. Interested in taking it for a spin first? You can sign up for a free trial to test out the feature.

Now, stock up!

These services all provide great images that are perfect for ad campaigns that span many different industries. However, which one you’ll choose is entirely dependent on your individual company’s needs and budget.

No matter which service you choose, you can be sure to find high-quality images at a decent price with any of our best sources for advertising stock photos.

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Meet The Author

Brad Smith

Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, long-form content creators for SaaS companies. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, TheNextWeb, Shopify, Moz, Unbounce, HubSpot, Search Engine Journal, and more.

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