Best paid and free image bank 2021: which one to choose?

What is the best image bank in 2021? If you have a website, you probably know that the use of images on the web is subject to certain restrictions. However, to avoid having to call a professional photographer and be able to use royalty-free illustration images, there are image banks. They allow you to use quality photos and videos legally. Our comparison will allow you to make your choice and thus find the image bank in 2021 that best suits your needs.

comparative best image bank

Comparison 2021: best paid image bank

The image banks that we present to you in our comparison all represent an effective solution. The subscriptions that the various services offer, compared to the amount of the potential fine you may receive for unauthorized image use, are, as you will see, very correct.

So yes, the best image banks in 2021 are very numerous on the Internet. Among the leaders in this market are iStock by Getty Images, Dreamstime, Adobe Stock (formerly Fotolia) and the essential Shutterstock. Others exist, but they enjoy less renown than those previously mentioned. In order to help you choose the one that best meets your expectations and needs, we have reviewed them in a comparison.

Thanks to the latter, you will be able to discover and choose the best image bank of 2021 according to your use. All of them represent an excellent alternative to free image banks which offer a limited number of photos. We have also drawn up a comparison of the best free solutions in 2021 in the second part of this article.

Image bank Price per image Monthly subscription price Link
123RF 10 images = 30 €
(3 € / image)
350 images / 79 €
(€ 0.41 / image)
Adobe Stock From € 1 per image
(depending on the format)
750 images / 159.99 €
(€ 0.21 / image)
Dreamstime From € 1 per image
(depending on the format)
750 images / 162 €
(€ 0.22 / image)
iStock by Getty Image From € 1 per image
(depending on the format)
750 images / 266 €
(€ 0.35 / image)
Shutterstock 5 images = 49 €
(€ 9.8 / image)
750 images / 159 €
(€ 0.21 / image)

What are the best paid image banks?

Now that we have detailed the reasons for using an image bank, let’s get to the heart of the matter. The image banks offered by the different platforms all have their own characteristics. The main elements that differentiate them, in addition to their price list, are essentially based on the diversity of their offers in terms of the number of images, videos and other content.

To help you choose the best image bank that suits your needs, we present a summary and some essential information to know before making your choice. But also the various offers available to date. For each image bank, we detail the advantages and disadvantages they offer.

Our comparison will of course be regularly updated so that you can easily find the one that suits you best. Thanks to them, you will have access to a large number of content, legally. Whether it is images, videos or any other content, the formats are presented explicitly in the interface of all platforms. It is therefore impossible to go wrong!


123FR best comparison image bank 2021

Created in 2005 in Malaysia, the 123FR image bank offers the general public a catalog including some 180 million varied content. Among which we obviously find images, videos but also music. Even if it may seem less popular than the other image banks in our 2021 comparison, it counts among its clients the largest companies in the high-tech field such as Apple, Google, Amazon or even Microsoft. Just that.

His team has no less than 300,000 content creators and can boast of having so far 12 million customers around the world. The platform also offers contributors to monetize their creations. Thus, if you are a professional or amateur photographer, you have the possibility of submitting your work, which if in the case corresponds to what 123FR is looking for, you will be paid in return.

The interface of their very intuitive site also offers an intelligent search engine that allows you to find the perfect image to illustrate your articles, publications on social networks, advertisements … The latter uses big data and artificial intelligence in order to suggest the best search results to the user.

Adobe Stock (ex Fotolia)

Adobe Stock

If you follow the high tech news a little, you certainly know that Adobe bought Fotolia in 2014. The American subsidiary acquired this French company ten years after it was founded in 2004. Its founder Thibaut Elzière sold his business to Adobe for $ 800 million. Initially Fotolia was integrated into the Creative Cloud solution. Then in November 2019, Adobe Stock permanently replaced it.

Since that date, Fotolia users are encouraged to migrate to Adobe Stock. The image bank, although it has changed owners, is still available to the general public. The platform makes it possible to benefit from no less than 125 million various content: images, vectors, videos.

TheExcellent value that it offers to its many clients through its many services allows it to logically integrate our comparative guide to the best image banks in 2021.

The figures speak for themselves. According to Adobe Stock, on a daily basis, they are more than 7 million members who use its service in order to benefit from royalty-free images. Another element that has made the reputation of the Adobe Stock image bank: its generosity to its contributors. The company prides itself on being number 1 when it comes to paying them. It is at Adobe Stock that the best photographers and artists from around the world flock to it, since it is the platform that offers them the highest commissions on the market.

For people who use Adobe’s other artistic production tools on a daily basis, such as Premier, Photoshop, Lightroom, the Adobe Stock interface will not disappoint them. Very refined, it is from this point of view the best image bank in our comparison. A essential tool, which stands out in a remarkable way and is among the best solutions on the market.


Dreamstime Image Bank

We continue our 2021 comparison of the best image banks with Dreamstime. This American company was founded in 2000. Its base has a few 89 million images supplied by 472,000 contributors. Each month, it is enriched with 3.5 million photos. The firm prides itself on having a total of no less than 23 million members, free and paid.

Like what the other platforms we have reviewed so far offer, Dreamstime offers a fairly identical price list. It is possible for the user to take out a subscription or purchase an image pack on an ad hoc basis.

Once acquired, the user has a credit system that he can use as he sees fit. There are also qualitative videos at lower prices than those charged by its competitors. This makes Dremstime the best image bank of 2021 in terms of value for money. Even if it is somewhat lower in terms of quality and quantity than the offers offered by Adobe Stock or Shutterstock for example. Finally, you can now get 15 free images and a free trial week.

iStock by Getty Images

Image Bank iStock by Getty Images

iStock by Getty Images is an image bank mainly intended for professionals or large companies. It indeed offers superior quality images to those of its competitors and prices are also felt. Its operating principle is in all points similar to other image banks on the market.

The only difference being that users who turn to iStock by Getty Images prioritizes quality over quantity. Its image database includes, among other things, celebrity photos, but also so-called “classic” images. iStock by Getty Image is therefore, in our opinion, the best 2021 image bank for professionals and large companies.



Finally, to close our comparison of the best paid image banks in 2021, we could not miss Shutterstock. The American company that was founded in the early 2000s is also listed on Wall Street. Certainly the most famous of all the image banks in the world. Indeed, it offers no less than 315 million content. Images as well as vectors, videos …

Basically offering only a monthly subscription system, the platform now makes it possible to purchase content individually. Each week, there are a few 1.3 million new content appearing on this image bank.

In total, Shutterstock offers its users a catalog of 180 million images as well as 12 million videos including 2 million in 4K. Hundreds of thousands of audio content enrich the already very diverse and varied offer of Shutterstock. Its ease of use but also the diversity of the content offered makes Shutterstock, in our opinion, the best image bank in 2021.

In addition to its 1.8 million active members, their origin and reputation are also one of its strong points. Indeed, the Shutterstock image bank among its clients are renowned international companies, bloggers, advertising agencies or even websites. Its prices are adapted according to the needs of each one making it one of the best image banks on the internet.

Finally, to finish, the customer support is also available in French, a real plus in case of specific request. It therefore logically integrates first place in our comparison of image banks, ahead of Adobe Stock and 123FR.

Comparison 2021: best free image bank

Now that we’ve reviewed the best paid image banks in 2021, let’s take a look at our comparison of the best free image banks. Just like the paid variants, we invite you to discover 5 solutions that will allow you to enjoy royalty-free images free. Obviously, the platforms that offer this type of service are, you guessed it, limited and do not offer as much content as the paid alternatives.

🆓What are the best free image banks?

Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, FreeImages… Are among the many free image banks available in 2021. Due to the very large number of existing platforms of this type, we have selected five that we believe best meet everyone’s needs. Here is our comparison of best free image banks in 2021.



Unsplash was created in 2013. Founded by four Quebecers, the platform offers no less 800,000 royalty-free images offered by a set of 100,000 contributors. The images are of high quality and allow anyone to use them freely.

Whether as part of a personal or commercial project, on the sole condition of modifying them or adding new graphic elements. In short, this means that you cannot download an image for free in order to sell it as is.



Pixabay is one of the most popular free image banks on the market. Like Unsplash, the platform offers a catalog including more than 2.2 million images that can be used for free. It has the advantage of offering content that adapts to a greater variety of needs. Two German entrepreneurs are at the origin of this free image bank launched in 2010.

The principle is based on that of all the other image banks, with the daily personal contribution of hundreds of thousands of creatives. Unlike Unsplash, Pixabay users can dig into the image bank and use them for free, even for commercial purposes.

If you’ve used Pixabay before, you may have noticed that the image bank also displays content sponsored by the other paid image bank giant, Shutterstock, at the top of its pages. A clever way to offer its users to turn to a “professional” solution if the need arises.



FreeImages, as the name suggests, offers free images. Created in 2001, this image bank has embellished its catalog over the years and currently offers no less than 380,000 royalty-free photos cleverly classified by categories to allow people to easily find what they are looking for and offers . Like the majority of online image banks, FreeImages offers a search bar intended to enter the desired keyword. Just like on Pixabay, we find sponsored content above from another paid image bank: iStock by Getty Images this time.



Renowned for being one of the best free image banks on the market offering the most qualitative content, Pexels was created in 2014. Quite exclusive, only high quality photos are highlighted. In addition to this, Pexels also offers its users a video bank, with the same selection criteria. All for free!

Even if the catalog is a little less rich than that of the other free image banks in this comparison, the quality and variety of the content offered is very appreciable. Like unsplash, free content is subject to a very flexible license and only the resale of images in their original format is prohibited.

  • Here is a list that enumerates what is allowed on Pexels. All photos and videos are free and no attribution is required.
  • Mentioning the photographer or Pexels is not mandatory, but always appreciated.
  • You can edit photos and videos. Be as creative as you want with your edits.



In the same vein of Pexels, Skuawk offers images of exceptional quality. Without having to pay a single penny, its users can enjoy quality content for free. The interface of the site may confuse more than one, but nothing very alarming and finding the image adapted to their needs turns out to be within everyone’s reach.

Like the other free stock image, Pixabay, Skuawk users can draw from the image bank and use them for free. This, even for commercial purposes. An excellent point therefore.

✔Why and when should you use an image bank?

Image banks are very popular with webmasters, but that’s not all. Indeed, many of them know that using images that do not belong to them can cost them dearly. Photographer is a profession like any other and it is normal that they want to protect their content. For this, some of them do not hesitate to appeal to legal remedies against people who use their work without their prior authorization.

It is therefore very important to check that the images, photos or videos that you want to use on a website or any other medium are indeed free of rights. Otherwise, the fine incurred for fraudulent use without the authorization of its owner can amount to thousands of euros. An effective way to dissuade you.

🤔Where does the content of the image banks come from?

The contents of image banks, whether images, videos, vectors, music, are the fruit of the work of professionals and artists. The latter provide them to the image bank which then pays them for each download. This principle is based on the same as that found for example on music streaming platforms such as Spotify or Deezer.

The subscription price charged to their members allows them to pay a commission to the artists. This is legitimate since all work, whether manual or artistic, deserves a salary. To a lesser extent, some content is offered by individuals, photography or video enthusiasts.

They take advantage of this type of service to make ends meet. If you too have a creative talent, then you can completely monetize your creations and ask for a financial compensation in exchange for your services.

🆚 Paid or free image banks: which one to choose?

The image banks market is based on two types of offer: paid image banks, and free image banks. Logically, those that require you to checkout are more qualitative than those available for free. The diversity of content is also an important point to take into account.

If a free image bank has the advantage of not costing anything, it still has a lot more limited than the paid one. For example, the images offered in a given field of activity are also less numerous. The choice is therefore necessarily limited. Have a richer content can also make you stand out of your competitors. A free image will be downloaded a lot more and therefore less exclusive than a paid image.

If you often use illustrations, videos, logos and other types of multimedia content on your various communication media, a monthly subscription is highly recommended. The latter offers more possibilities and a relatively reduced cost per number of images.

Conversely, if you want to obtain quality royalty-free images, without having to pay or without investing a fortune, offers in the form of packs or individually but also free image banks are the ones we recommend. . It all depends on your needs, both in terms of quality and quantity, but also the budget you want to devote to it.

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