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iStockphoto.com: Quality images for "the rest of us"

NightviewIf you decide to use slideware to support your presentation, you might be asking, as one Presentation Zen reader recently put it to me, "Where can I get images that don't suck?!"

There are many options out there, but keep in mind that the best sites, such as Getty Images, are expensive with low-rez images (suitable for slides or web) often $75-$100 depending on usage. Getty has great quality and selection, no question, but what if you can not afford to make a slide presentation costing hundreds or thousands of dollars in stock image fees? In this case, low cost royalty-free images are an alternative. Photo.com has a good monthly, flat fee service that is affordable at $139 per month. But the site I recommend most is iStockphoto.com.

About a year ago I mentioned to Guy Kawasaki that I had started a new design group in Japan. Guy then told me about his buddy's new organization called istockphoto.com and thought designers here in Japan whom I know might be interested. I was impressed with the site. At that time the selection at iStock was not huge by any means, but the search engine was good and I could find some gems in there. The best thing about iStock was the price — $1.00 per low-rez image and a maximum for the highest resolution images of $2.00 or $3.00 (U.S.). A fantastic price.

iStock is incredibly easy to use and after you search you can just roll over thumbs to get a larger view without having to open another page. You can even add a color field to your search. For example, I can modify my search on the fly for "Coffee AND Drink" by clicking a black square on the spectrum at the top of the page to narrow my search further to images featuring cups of coffee with black or dark backgrounds.


I do not suggest you limit your image searches to iStockphoto.com only — I have a shelf full of Photo CDs and subscribe to other photo sites as well myself — but this is one site that you really must bookmark. They are adding images every week and just keep getting better and better. iStock has a "free image of the week" so you may want to check back from time to time to see what's new (and free).

And just in case you were wondering, no, I do not know anyone at iStock...I'm just a fan.

Read iStockphoto's interview with Guy Kawasaki. Guy offers some good advice for designers and design agencies. And in this interview with Yorkshire Media, Guy answers an important question concerning the iStockphoto business model (half way through the interview).

Read what iStock is all about here (includes a movie of how it works).

If some of you have a favorite site for getting images, I'd love to hear about them.


Carlos N Velez

I fully agree. iStockphoto has an excellent array of images at very reasonable prices. I use them regularly.

Stephen Pierzchala

Try stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu/). Free stock photos, mainly distributed under a CC license.



http://www.sxc.hu/ is free and just as good. Tho some images cannot be used for commercial reasons


I disagree about Stock Xchng. It has some good shots within it, but iStockphoto.com seems to have a higher standard. Also sxc.hu's website gets bogged down often and slows down the browsing process.

A better search engine with higher-quality photos and a speedier server = well worth a few bucks per photo. For me anway.

Thanks for the head's up Garr.

David Gammel

Creative Commons licensed images on Flickr are a great source also. Here is a write-up about how I used a CC-licensed photo from Flickr in a presentation template:

Richard Michie

Take a look at http://www.morguefile.com/. The choice is extensiveeven if some of the images are a bit hit and miss. With a bit of digging you can find some really good images. Another good site is http://www.imageafter.com/

Great site by the way, I check in every day.


I discovered istockphoto.com two weeks ago while paging through a design mag over some coffee in a bookstore. Since then I think I’ve been on istockphoto more than google and email combined. They have such a nice site and really great stuff; searching the library is so easy. I’m a huge fan of design and aesthetics but believe they are tantamount to function and usability. istockphoto, looks good, is full of great images and is easy to use and completely affordable. Glad to see them getting press here at Presentation Zen!


I have used iStockPhoto for both my freelance design and for my presentation design at Answers in Genesis. Their content is by far the best quality in its price range. The only thing that I don't like about them is expiring points.

Dougal Campbell

I've been a user and contributor on iStock for several years now. The quality of the available images constantly rises, and an email notification from the admins recently said that they are beginning a purge process which will re-evaluate older images on the system to be sure that they pass the current guidelines. I expect a few of my own images to get axed due to either size or color noise issues :)

But anytime I need an image, iStock is the first place I look. And it's not just about the images. iStock has a bustling user community, too.

Edwards Johns

Istockphoto is a very good site, I used it for vectors but for photos, I prefer http://www.fotolia.com because the quality is better and it is available in many languages

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