Stock Photo Membership Sites – Are They Worth It?
Some days it feels like I seem to spend quite a lot of my time looking for stock photos, both for myself and for my clients. This is because getting the right photo is important to me as it sets the tone for the post, blog, social media post etc. Photos also say a lot about you as a brand and help to connect you with your audience.
But what happens if sometimes you simply don’t have the time to scour the sites for pics or you want something a little bit different from the usual stock photo? Maybe you want to up your social media game with some great pictures which have a consistent colour theme or subject? Or are you creating a free download or lead magnet and need some decent images?
Help is at hand!
Have you thought about using paid stock photo membership sites? And I don’t mean Getty photos or Shutterstock. Keep reading as I explain the alternatives and provide you with some examples, as well as giving you my top tips on getting the most out of these sites if you do choose to go ahead and join them. (Just to be clear, I am not being paid to promote any sites I mention!).
What are Stock Photo Membership Sites?
These sites tend to be marketed towards women, offering styled stock photography that have different membership plans and rates; some are monthly, yearly or you can pay for bulk and individual downloads. The sites usually centre around different monthly themes and will upload new photos at varying intervals, sometimes monthly and sometimes every couple of weeks. Some of the sites also have other resources available to you like editable Canva templates, quotes and various other marketing or branding templates. You can also filter the photos by colour, format and theme which can be really useful if you like to use a colour theme for your Instagram pics.
Watch the Small Print!
But... you do need to check the terms and conditions of the sites you are signing up for. Some of them are super strict about how and where you can use the photos. Some sites do NOT let you use the photos in products that you are going to sell, giveaway or would potentially want to use for client work. And some have a maximum monthly download limit. So, my advice is when you have found a couple of sites you like, check the T&C’s before you sign up.
Below is a list of some of the main sites. There are loads more, of course, but we don’t have all day, do we? Many have a newsletter, and some will even offer a free set of photos when you sign up. You can also check out their social media pages as they usually provide examples of the type of photos and templates they offer. I’m not going into their individual T&Cs as that would make this a massive blog, but they are usually easy to find on the front pages in the footer or header.
In addition to some lovely photos, Haute Stock also has customised marketing templates, "done-for-you" engagement-boosting quotes, branding elements and monthly bonuses like content calendars. Membership options are quarterly or annually, with instant access to the stock photo library and unlimited downloads. And you can get 21 free photos when you sign up to their mailing list.
They upload an impressive 200 photos a month to their existing stock library of 5000+ photos. When you become a member you get instant access to their "365+ Day, Social Media Content Calendar" as well as access to Canva templates including ebooks, Pinterest pins and engagement graphics. Their membership is different to other sites that I have come across, in that you pay for a year but either in one go or $97.00 now and then $50.00 per Month for 3 more Months.
Amazingly, you can sign up to Ivory for free and get access to 550 photos plus loads of other freebies. They upload 100 photos per month, as well offering Canva templates and social media quote graphics. You also get access to a monthly workshop and "Member's Only Rewards & Perks" when you join as a member. Membership is annually or quarterly but they also offer bundles for sales that you can purchase without being a member.
There are some genuinely cracking photos on this site. Memberships are monthly, quarterly and annual, as well as offering some photos for sale individually or in bundles. Different memberships have different perks, so for example, the monthly option limits you to 30 downloads per month (but they do upload 50 images per month so there’s lots of variety), whereas the quarterly plan offers unlimited downloads.
Great range of photos with the option for monthly membership or bundle downloads from as little as $17. Canva templates are also included. Interestingly you also have the option of joining as a manager which gives you an extended license so you can use the images for client work (see full license for details).
They offer quarterly, annual and lifetime payments. New images are added every week, with no download limits and access to 4000 stock photos. They also have a range of customizable Canva templates, Instagram caption prompts, stock video clips, content planning worksheets and lots more.
Are they Worth it?
I have joined a couple of these sites over the last few years and I have found them really useful. At the time, I needed decent stock photos that weren't available freely and they have saved me time as it's easy to find what you need. The big plus is that these sites have changed enormously over the last few years. Initially, most used to just offer stock photos but they now provide additional content that varies from editable Canva templates, graphics packs to exclusive member resources. And of course, many of the groups also have private Facebook groups which might be your thing or not.
My top tips:
Make a list of what you need the stock photos for and think about how long you may need access and what is your budget.
Have a quick look at a few sites and ask yourself whether you like the photos, themes, and layouts. Then narrow down to 3 or 4 sites as a shortlist.
Next, it's time to check the T&C's thoroughly and, of course, email them if you need clarification.
Look through each site and make note of the extras they offer such as editable Instagram quotes, ebooks, etc. They might not all offer the same things and you might have a preference
Go through the subscription rates. Do they suit your needs (ie do you need a recurring subscription, or would a bundle be sufficient)? Consider whether the cost and frequency of use meet your budget and plans.
Sign up and remember to either cancel the auto-renewal, or put the renewal date in your calendar a few days before, so you can cancel if you need to.
I do think these sites are worth it if you have a clear idea of what you need the photos for, providing you can obviously afford the fees and equally importantly, that the photography suits your branding. And remember, you can always cancel if you feel that you aren't making full use of your membership anymore (T&Cs dependent - check that too!)
The Golden Rule is to remember to thoroughly check those pesky T&Cs before you part with your hard-earned cash!