The basics

How iStock works

iStock provides ready-to-use photos, illustrations, 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.

Collections and cost

Every file on iStock falls into one of two collections. Our Essentials collection gives you the everyday content you need, while the Signature collection features millions of premium handpicked stock files that you can only get from us. All content can be purchased with credits, or with a subscription.


The credit cost to download a file with our standard license depends on the file type and collection it belongs to:

The more credits you buy, the less they cost. View credit pack pricing.


iStock subscriptions feature our lowest prices. Each plan includes content from different collections and/or file types, to fit our members' unique needs and budgets. View plans.

  • Basic subscription: all industry standard photos, vectors, and illustrations from our budget Essentials collection.
  • Premium subscription: everything from our Basic subscription, plus images from our premium Signature collection.
  • Premium + Video subscription: everything from our Premium subscription, plus all iStock videos.


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.

There is no expiration date on your rights to use files downloaded during your subscription period. Files licensed with credits can also be used in as many projects you like for as long as you want.

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 add an extended license to any standard license purchased with credits that will 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
Each additional extended license costs 18 credits for images and 21 credits for videos, not including the cost of your standard license. For example, if you license a Signature image for 3 credits and an extended license for 18 credits, the total will be 21 credits.

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

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

Name a licensee

If you're licensing content for a client or company other than your own using credits, you can name them as the licensee (files licensed with a subscription will always belong to you as the licensee.)

When you name a licensee, you're identifying an individual or company as the holder of the license rights. This lets them use the file under the same terms it was downloaded under for use in current and future projects. It also means you are not a licensee for that asset and won't be able to use it for any other client or entity other than the one named, including yourself.

Once you've named a licensee, you'll be able to sort your download history by licensee name to see only the files assigned to them, which makes it easy to track your credit spend for each licensee.

To name a licensee for a specific file, simply go to your credit download history, click "Name a licensee" and enter their legal entity as the name.

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 as 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. Simply load your account with credits to download files as you go.

Credits never expire as long as you sign in to your iStock account once a year.

View credit pack pricing

All about subscriptions

Subscriptions let you enjoy our lowest prices on images and videos by paying a flat rate to access a set limit of downloads every month. You can subscribe for a single month, or a full year.

iStock has three subscriptions to choose from:

Basic subscriptions give you the industry standard photos, vectors, and illustrations in our budget Essentials collection.

Tip: Look for the collection toggle below the search bar on a search results page and select "Essentials" to search only for images available with a Basic subscription.

Premium subscriptions include everything from our Basic subscription, as well as any of the handpicked Signature collection images that you can only get from us.

Premium + Video subscriptions give you access to every image and video that iStock has to offer—no exceptions.

View plans and pricing

There is no expiration date on your rights to use files downloaded during your subscription period.

Requesting a refund

Credit pack refunds

We'll gladly refund credit pack purchases made within 14 days of your invoice date, provided you haven't used any credits from the credit pack.

Subscription refunds

You can request a refund for a subscription within 14 days from your initial purchase, as long as you haven't downloaded more than five files and haven't made use of any downloaded content. Submit a request in writing using our contact us email form.

Using Boards to save and organize images and video clips

A Board is the best place to organize, save and share your favorite files on iStock, letting you group images and video by project, brand or interest.

The easiest way to save to a Board is when you're signed in and searching. When you find an image you'd like to add to a Board, simply look for the '+' sign on the top right corner of the image or video to add a file to a Board. If you don't have a Board already, you'll be prompted to create a new Board. Otherwise, your image or video clip will be added to the last Board you viewed or used.

You can view the contents of all your Boards by selecting Boards from the menu and then selecting "View all Boards."

If you click on a Board from the Board menu while searching for images or viewing a detailed information page, a preview reel will appear at the top of the page. You can click 'Go to Board' to see the full contents of your Board. From there you can click 'Share' to get a link to either send to people you want to just be able to view, or 'Collaborate' for those you want to be able to edit and modify the contents.

You can remove a file from your Board by clicking the garbage can icon in the top right of the image.

Still have questions?