I am continuing my series on the use of stock photographs in presentations (see the article) with reviews of a few stock photo websites that I have the most experience with. Today I look at iStockPhoto.
I don’t know the history of the stock photography field well enough to state definitively that iStockPhoto was the first stock photo site for the general public rather than media professionals, but it was the first one I ever heard of. Back in 2000, every image was free (sigh… What a charmed time that was!). Then for a number of years images were very inexpensive.
In 2006, Getty Images bought iStockPhoto, beginning a series of ever steeper price increases. Now I hardly ever use the site because I can find cheaper alternatives elsewhere. But there are times I do go back to the old warhorse. Its longevity means it has an astonishing number of images. Many are exclusive to iStockPhoto. I find things there that I can’t find anywhere else. The sheer volume of choices means that you have a better chance of finding diversity in the models as well.
The only practical way to buy a small number of images from iStockPhoto is to purchase credits and then use them on each image you want to license. The smallest number of credits you can buy at one time is 6 (at a cost of $10). Note that these prices and purchase policies can and do change. They may be different by the time you read this article.
Each image costs a different number of credits depending on the size and resolution. It’s hard to find an image for less than two credits even at the smallest possible size (useful only for adding a tiny bit of detail to a slide). Professional images that look like fancy brochure covers can cost anywhere up to 100 credits or more. Obviously this is not practical for spiffing up a one-time slide presentation.
iStockPhoto also lets you buy subscriptions. A subscription gives you a certain number of credits per day to use on downloads. A subscription can remain valid for 3 months, 6 months, or a year. But unused credits expire each day. So every day you don’t buy an image, you effectively waste money you’ve already spent. And because you are limited on the number of credits you can use per day, it can take many days to download a large number of images to populate a full deck of slides.
I find the current pricing scheme unreasonable for the average business consumer. There are simply too many lower cost options out there.
Search options start with a keyword (as is true for all stock photography sites). You can narrow your search based on price range, aspect ratio (horizontal, vertical, or square), and dominant color (great for finding white backgrounds for instance). Additional options include specifying pictures including or excluding people and those that have been categorized in one of iStockPhoto’s groupings.
Response time is excellent. Searches come back very quickly.
This is only tangentially related to my main topic of stock photography, but I should note that iStockPhoto also includes licensable video clips, audio clips, and Flash animations. You can use your credits to buy those other media formats as well as pictures.
I recommend iStockPhoto for high volume enterprise users whose priority is high quality rather than budget concerns. It has the best variety and diversity in the marketplace. Search tools are good, but not the best in this field. You may want to use iStockPhoto as your failsafe when you can’t find an appropriate photo on any other site.