The basics

Collections and cost

Every file on iStock falls into one of two collections. Our Essentials collection gives you the everyday content you need (view sample Essentials images), while the Signature collection features millions of premium handpicked stock files that you can only get from us (view sample Signature images). The credit cost of our files is:

  • Essentials photo, vector or illustration – 1 credit
  • Signature photo, vector or illustration – 3 credits
  • Essentials video clip – 6 credits
  • Signature video clip – 18 credits

Check out our credit pack pricing to see how much you'll pay per image. View credit packs.

You can get our lowest prices on photo, vector and illustration downloads from both collections with a premium Signature subscription. If you only need Essentials images, pay even less with an Essentials subscription. View subscriptions.


Standard licenses

Every file downloaded on iStock comes with a standard license that lets you use it in a wide variety of projects including advertising, websites, blogs, presentations, publications, video productions, podcasts and more.

All of our files are licensed on a royalty-free basis, which means you only pay for the initial download of a file and don't have to pay the creator a royalty each time you use it.

Files licensed with credits can be used in as many projects you like for as long as you want. Files licensed with subscriptions must be used in an end project within 30 days of the end of the subscription term or the license for the file terminates.

No matter how you pay for it, every file comes with a Legal Guarantee that protects you for up to $10,000.

Editorial use only photos

Unlike the majority of our collection, editorial photos don't have any model or property releases, which means they can't be used for commercial, promotional, advertorial or endorsement purposes. These images often include news, sports and entertainment images that portray real-world people, places, events and things and are intended to be used only in connection with events that are newsworthy or of general interest (for example, in a blog, textbook, newspaper or magazine article).

Extended licenses

If you need to use our content in ways not covered under the standard license, you can buy extended licenses (only available with credits) that give you additional rights including:

  • Unlimited reproduction/print run
  • Multiple users can use the file
  • Create products for resale (including print on demand products and electronic templates)
  • Increased indemnification up to $250,000 with an Extended Legal Guarantee

Prohibited uses of iStock content

No matter what license you buy, you can never use iStock content for the following uses:

  • Use in any logo or trademark
  • Pornographic, obscene or libelous works
  • Stockpiling subscription downloads - subscription licenses only remain valid if you use your file in a project within 30 days of your subscription ending

For the complete list of prohibitions read the Content License Agreement. Questions? Contact us.

How iStock Works

iStock provides ready-to-use photos, illustrations and vectors, and video clips that you can put in almost any project you can think of. All of our content comes from our community of contributors and is thoroughly vetted to ensure it meets our high standards.

When you download a file on iStock, you're buying a license that lets you use the file in advertising, websites, blogs, presentations, video productions, podcasts and more. Our files are all royalty-free, which means you can use them in as many projects as you want for as long as you want, within the terms of the license. By purchasing extended licenses, you can use them in even more ways.

Learn more about licensing.

Searching for files

The easiest way to search for files on iStock is by typing keywords into the search bar at the top of the site and selecting the file type you're looking for (by default we'll only show you photos and illustrations).

Once you've entered a keyword, we'll show you search results related to the term. To get exactly what you're looking for, you can apply additional filters to your search results using our refine panel.

If your search ends up with 0 results, you're probably being a little too specific (or you're searching for something really unusual). If you've entered multiple keywords, try entering one or two that best describe what you're looking for. If you've applied filters in the refine panel, you may also want to remove them to widen your search.

All about credits

Credits are like iStock's very own currency and can be used to download any file on iStock – including photos, illustrations and video files. Files licensed with credits can be used in as many projects you like for as long as you want.

Credits are sold in preset packs – the larger the credit pack, the less you'll pay per credit. View credit pack pricing. Simply load your account with credits to download files as you go.

Credits never expire when you use your iStock account once a year. Using your account is as easy as signing into your account.

If you change your mind on a credit purchase, unused credit packs can be returned for a full refund within 14 days of purchase. If any credits from a credit pack have been used, no refunds will be offered.

Image subscriptions

An image subscription lets you enjoy our lowest prices on photos, vectors and illustrations by paying a flat rate to access a set limit of downloads every month. Depending on the subscription plan you choose, you can get access to more images in total or more downloads per month.

Video clips are not currently available with any subscription.

Our Essentials subscriptions give you the everyday content you need with every photo, vector and illustration in our Essentials collection. View examples of Essentials images.

Signature subscriptions give you access to every image on iStock, period. That includes every image in our Essentials collection as well as millions of premium handpicked Signature collection images that you can only get from us. View examples of Signature images.

To search for files available with each subscription, look for the "Collections" toggle below the search bar. Select "Essentials" to search only for images available with an Essentials subscription or leave both collections unselected to see all images available with a Signature subscription.

Files licensed with subscriptions must be used in an end project within 30 days of the end of the subscription term or the license for the file terminates.

Refunds for image subscriptions can be made within 14 days of your invoice date, provided you have not downloaded more than 5 images and have not made use of any downloaded images. No exceptions will be made.

Saving files for later

With millions of files at your fingertips, it can be tricky to keep track of your favorites. That's why we created Boards, a place to organize and save your favorite files for future reference.

The easiest way to save files to a Board is while you're searching. As soon as you have an active Board set up, you can add files to it from the search results page or by clicking through to the file's detailed information page. Simply look for the plus sign on the image or for the "Save to Board" link below your video clip to add a file to a Board.

You can create new Boards or access all of your Boards from the Boards panel that can be opened by clicking on "Your Board" in the header.

Still have questions?

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