3 Methods of Purchasing Stock Photos – Find the Best Option for You

There are 3 standard ways to purchase stock photos: as single images, with a subscription, or in collections. Which is the right method for you?

Learn more about each option, and find out.

Single Image

The simplest method to purchase stock photos is on an image by image basis. Most stock photo agencies sell images this way. You can browse the photo galleries and make individual image purchases.

This is the recommended method for small businesses or individuals on a tight budget that only use stock images sporadically, as it allows them to purchase only what they need, when they need it, without further payment commitments.


Stock photo subscriptions allow you to pay a single monthly or annual fee, and download images as you need them. There's a limit of images you can download, commonly set per month but also available on a per-day basis. These plans reduce per-image price significantly compared to single image purchasing, letting you buy photos for as low as fractions of a dollar each.

Subscriptions range in time from 1 month to 1 year. Download limits oscilate between 10 and up to 750 images per month. Fees run from around $50 to $500 per month, depending on the quality and resolution of the images you require, and the download limit you choose.

If you require a large number and variety of images constantly, the subscription method is a good choice. It not only grants you access to the quantity, quality and variety of images you need, but it also lets you save hundreds of dollars.

Get tips to decide whether to go for Stock Photo Subscriptions or Single Image Purchasing.

Stock Photo Collections

Another convenient way to purchase stock photos is in a collection. This method is not as extended now as it once was. Online stock photo agencies have reduced the practice of buying entire photo collections, but there's still value in this method.

Photo collections contain multiple images that are often related in subject or theme. Depending on the size and resolution of the images, stock collections can contain between 10 and 1,000+ photos. They are available as Stock Photo CDs (CD_ROM or DVD formats), or via digital download. Their cost ranges from $50 and up to $1000 or more, depending on content quality and image resolution.

Stock photo collections make purchasing a group of images, and archiving them, a snap. And once you have purchased a collection, it is yours forever. Instead of going through an online photo library and licensing images one by one, you can surf and use images from a selection of content you already own.

It's a useful buying option if you need a lot of varied images within a certain category, and if your budged allows you a greater upfront investment that will ultimately save you lots of money in the long term.

Get tips for buying a stock photo library.

The Best Buying Option for You

Analyze your needs, your budget allowance and your preferences, to help decide which purchasing method is more suitable for you.

Choosing the right buying option is key, as it will save you both time and money, resources nobody would want to waste.


Amos Struck
1 Comment
  1. It’s good to know we can buy stock photos individually if we’re only using it for occasional projects. My wife and I like making our gifts by hand, and one thing we want to get for our son is a custom poster of him with his favorite things. We’ll want it to look nice, so we’ll probably look for places we can buy the individual photos we’re looking for.

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