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This article was published on June 24, 2011

Is Fotolia the web’s best stock photography site? We find out.

Is Fotolia the web’s best stock photography site? We find out.
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Founded by Oleg Tscheltzoff, Patrick Chassany and Thibaud Elziere in 2005 in France, Fotolia is one of the top microstock photography agencies and is a great source for royalty-free images. In six years, it has expanded into a worldwide outfit headquartered in New York, with offices in Seattle and Paris.

Fotolia offers its users over 13 million images and videos, courtesy of more than 2.5 million contributors. Ranked among the top stock photography websites in the world, it sets itself apart from the rest of the competition by accepting contributions from professional and amateur photographers alike.

The website is available in English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Japanese, Turkish, Mandarin and Korean.

How to buy images from Fotolia

There are two ways you can purchase images from Fotolia – using a credit system or a subscription system. In order to determine which subscription plan is right for you, you need to consider how often you will download images and how they will be used. Before choosing your preferred method of payment, try to calculate how many images you’ll be using on a weekly or monthly basis, as the credit system could end up being more expensive.

Credit system

The credit system allows you to purchase individual images and is better suited to those who don’t need a high volume of images.

When purchasing credits, the more you buy, the lower the price. You can pay as little as $0.75 per credit, up to $1.20 per credit. You can also purchase a custom number of credits.

The number of credits you buy won’t necessarily reflect the number of images you can purchase with those credits. Depending on the size of the image, the required license, the image resolution, and the photographer’s own pricing system, one picture could cost you anywhere from 1 to 20 credits.

Subscription plans

The subscription plans are better suited to those who need a higher volume of images. There are two subscription plans, Standard and Premium, each of which are fully customizable according to your needs. The following criteria apply to both types:

  • 25 to 250 downloads per day
  • 1, 3 or an unlimited number of users
  • 1 month to 1 year subscription
  • Automatic renewal

The following criteria apply to the Standard subscription plan:

  • Download jpeg images sized between 2 and 4 MP
  • Lowest prices, for as little as 16 cents per image.

The following criteria apply to the Premium subscription plan:

  • Download images, vectors and video files in their original size
  • 1 vector = 3 downloads, 1 video = 10 downloads

Depending on your subscription, using a one month time period as an example, you could pay anywhere from $199 for 750 downloads to $2,615 for 7,500 downloads.

Payment methods

You can purchase credits or a subscription using a credit card, Paypal, Click and Buy, or you can even pay via check.

What licenses are available

When purchasing an image from Fotolia, you have to be mindful of the license you purchase it under as this will affect the file size and resolution.

Under the standard license, the smallest size image you can purchase is 400×300 px at 72dpi, with the largest size reaching 5000x3000px at 300dpi. Naturally, the larger the image, the more expensive it will be.

Under the extended license, you can purchase an image at the largest size available.

How to submit photos to Fotolia

If you’re a photographer, and are interested in submitting photos to be sold on Fotolia, you will be paid by commission, which is based on how your photos are licensed. Commissions can range anywhere from 25% to 63%. If photos are downloaded using a subscription plan, the starting price is $0.30 per photo.

Fotolia also has an interesting reward system for photographers, whereby the more your images sell, the higher your commission or rate will be.

In order to be able to submit photos to Fotolia, you have to go through a series of questions, answering them correctly. The questions are based on information you have to read before giving an answer, relating to copyright, royalties, model releases and more.

Once you’ve uploaded a file, you will have to wait until it is reviewed. The possible outcomes include having your image added to the database, to the free section or having it declined and/or deleted.

How to search for images

With Fotolia’s advanced search feature, you can narrow your search results down by category, image size, file type, and orientation.

You can also browse images by tag or view how many images have been uploaded by country.

Are the photos any good?

Like any stock photography site, you’re going to find your fair share of stereotypical images. There’s no limit to the number perfect smiles you’re going to come across on Fotolia, but that’s to be expected. What makes it a great choice when looking for images is the sheer variety you’re going to find. Whether you need to create a standard brochure or are designing an edgy website – you’ll find what you’re looking for, and at the best possible quality. Add to that a huge variety of vectors and videos, and Fotolia is an obvious choice for anyone looking for a one-site solution for stock images.

How does Fotolia set itself apart from its competitors

A nice feature we haven’t seen on any other stock photo website is the ability to download low resolution comp images without any watermarks. This makes it easy to test an image in a mock up before purchasing it so you’re absolutely sure it fits with your layout or product.

Fotolia offers a small selection of free photos for anyone to download and use, which is updated on a weekly basis.

Because Fotolia does accept images from both professional and amateur photographers, it makes it an ideal choice for both contributors and subscribers.

Fotolia’s Infinite Collection is a library of premium images that have been collected from a variety of agencies, but Fotolia guarantee that you will get the best price from them. These images are not to be confused with all of the other images available for download from the site. The advantage to searching images within the Infinite Collection is that you are guaranteed high quality, professional images, at very affordable prices.

They also offer some pretty cool plug-ins to use with your desktop apps, including an Aperture plug-in and Microsoft Powerpoint and Word plug-ins, making easy to add photos or videos to your documents without having to access the website.

Because the images available on Fotolia are royalty-free, you can use the image without any restrictions on time, number of copies or geographic location. Most other stock photo sites will put a limit, albeit a high one, but Fotolia has done away with that entirely.

You can also download their free Adobe Air desktop app which makes it easy to search Fotolia’s massive library of images, vectors and videos. It also gives you easy access to comp files, and your lightbox.


Fotolia prides itself on protecting a photographer’s intellectual rights, while also providing quality images at an affordable price. With its subscription service, Fotolia extremely competitive rates per photo, and is one of the few sites not to limit repeat usage of an image. In comparison to competitors such as iStockPhoto and 123RF, Fotolia offers a far higher variety of images, but as far as the prices are concerned, it sits comfortably in the middle. These factors alone make it an ideal source for stock photography.

That said, there are some kinks in the Fotolia system. Because the website allows photographers to set the price point for their own photos, you can sometimes find the same photograph available at a different site at a cheaper price. SpiderPic is a great resource to use if you want to be sure you’re getting the best price for a stock photo.

Try it out for yourself

Fotolia has offered The Next Web’s readers an opportunity to try the site out for themselves for free. To get your hands on one of the coupon codes, leave a comment with your email address AND a link to a personal favorite photograph that you have taken. It can be a photo from your phone, DSLR, whatever – but just pick your favorite to share with us (note: the image has to be hosted on your own website or one of your personal social profiles, no cheating! :]). We’ll select our 20 favorites and email over your coupon for a two-week premium subscription to Fotolia.