microstockinsider is aimed at the microstock photographer, but I've added this feature to the site for a very important reason, if an agency is no good for buyers, has bad search, wrong price structure etc. then it won't attract new customers - it's a waste of time uploading images there.
Most of the sites operate on a credit system allowing you to purchase more credits at a discount over the basic credit rate, for these calculations we have used to basic cost of a credit (minimum purchase) and not factored any discounts which might be available. Also note that some sites offer only subscriptions so these sites may not have a fair estimate of cost for just a single image.
The Verdict for Microstock Buyers:
First place goes to DollarPhotoClub, they are not an agency I have reviewed here as they are wholly owned fotolia reseller (and so not a place where photographers can upload). They offer all images at high resolution and a huge selection to choose from for $1, minimum purchase of 10 images per month with no lock in.
If you require a lot of photos (you run your own design group or do a lot of design work requiring images) then Shutterstock offer the best value subscription service. (read the shutterstock review here)
Using the data collected in our site reviews we have compiled a table costs for a reasonable size image from each of the microstock companies to help as a buyers guide.
For Higher Quality Images:
Crestock.com, the size of the crestock collection much smaller than the big 5 agencies, but the quality of all of the images is noticeably higher than any of the other microstock libraries we have seen. Less choice but better quality.
Free Microstock Images
First of all let's make it clear that the free images are provided as a way to entice you into buying some of their paid images... with that in mind the following microstock agencies offer either a couple of free images a day or a whole collection of free photos.
Agencies with Free collections
search lots of free stock photos uploaded by dreamstime photographers
click the free images link at the bottom of the home page to access several free images
Quite a few free images, click 'free stock photos' on the home page
lots of free images via the link on their home page
Free Daily or Weekly Microstock Image(s)
free image daily
free weekly image
free weekly image
free image and vector on the home page each week
If your search for an image reveals 1000's of results, click on the 10th page of results and look around for some great images that will not be on 1000's of other websites. Images further down the list are not always lower quality, they have just been bought less often - hence are not already used quite so widely. You should end up with a great quality image that is not already splashed across the internet!
In general it's much more expensive to buy a single image with instant payment compared to buying credits and multiple images. Credits offer huge savings over instant payments but obviously tie up your money in one agency. GOTCHA: make sure you look at how long your credits last, at some agencies they expire after a year or less!
Keep an eye out for discounted credit packages in December. The period in the run up to Christmas is traditionally a slow time for photo agencies and many offer savings on credit purchases at that time of year - if you are a regular buyer you can spend the credits throughout the year and take advantage of the December discounts even if you do not need images in December.