PhotoSpin Review

It’s been said time and time again that images improve engagement and can even improve (or destroy) conversions. Plus, they plain look good. But, copyright laws make it so you can’t just use any image you’d like. You need to have the rights to legally use the image commercially.

photospin logoIn years past, I was an avid iStockPhoto user – back before they lost their mind. iStock was never “cheap” but about two years ago the prices of their “credits” to buy images went through the roof.

A photo that used to cost me 60 cents started costing me about $1.43. And I was buying credits in bulk (300 at a time) and getting a “discount” on them. And that was for the smallest of the available image sizes!

Along with the price increase, many images were suddenly available only in larger sizes – meaning they’d require anywhere from three to ten credits to purchase them. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure as hell not paying five to fifteen dollars for an average blog post image.

Considering the number of websites I own, iStock was becoming a BIG expense. So I went in search of a replacement for them about 14 months ago. Around that time, I found PhotoSpin.

PhotoSpin details

There are two types of plans – Premier plans (starting at $329) which give you access to 500,000+ royalty free images and Premium plans (starting at $1188) that gave you access to over two million royalty free images. When I first took a look at the PhotoSpin Premier Plans, they basically looked too good to be true.

Basic PhotoSpin plans

So let me get this straight. I can download up to 50 images a day and up to 1500 images per month in any size they have available up to 3600 pixels (bigger than I will EVER need by far) for $329 dollars a year? Even if I only had one blog… at one image per day, five days a week that meant I’d only be paying $1.25 an image vs the $1.40 to $15 dollars per image I was having to fork over to iStock.

In actuality, my sites used an average of about 14 images a week. So my per image cost suddenly dropped to 45 cents!

There HAD to be some kind of catch.

So I called them to find out what it was. And you’ll never believe what happened next. A person answered the phone. A real, live person who wasn’t outsourced tech support. They assured me there was no catch. So I took a chance and signed up for their Premier Plus plan.

My PhotoSpin experience

I’ve been with PhotoSpin a little over a year now. The experience has been primarily positive.

:) No catches

I’ve had no problems with downloading whatever images I’d like and have found no catches as far as “oh, you want THIS image? well that will cost more” type stuff.

:) Per image costs are down

As I stated above, moving to PhotoSpin instantly dropped my per image price to 45 cents an image based on my then usage. But now that I can download all the images I want, I use a lot more of them bringing my per image cost down even further. Even more bang for my buck.

:( Occasional downtime

In the beginning of my membership, the site would go down here and there (or be so slow to respond that it might as well have been down) which was REALLY annoying when I simply needed an image to finish up a post. But I think that had a lot to do with growing pains, because I haven’t had the issue in well over six months now.

:| Limited collection

The quality of the photos is usually pretty good – and fine for my needs. But there’s no denying that selection and image quality is a better at the more expensive sites (I am speaking of the Premier Plus plan – I have no idea if the same remains true with the Premium plans.) If I was launching a HUGE piece that absolutely needed an amazing “wow factor” image, I’d likely need to purchase a few single credits with either iStock or ShutterStock to get one. But, I’ve found the quality at PhotoSpin to be perfectly fine for 99% of my needs. If you look through prior posts of mine here on the Sugarrae blog, all the images come from PhotoSpin.

:) No “evergreen” billing

One thing I appreciated is that PhotoSpin didn’t automatically renew my subscription when it came up for renewal. Instead, they sent me an initial email and a then a reminder email – both telling me that my subscription was expiring and I’d need to login to the PhotoSpin site to renew it.

IStockPhoto vs. ShutterStock vs. PhotoSpin costs

Let’s say you use ten images per week at a 500 pixel wide resolution. That would mean you use 520 photos per year. Based on getting the cheapest possible price per image from each provider based on that usage, the costs would be (cents rounded up for cost per year):

  Cost per image Cost per year
 iStockPhoto $1.33 $692
 ShutterStock $4.05 $2107
 PhotoSpin $0.63 $329

For the record (and as you may have already guessed) I absolutely renewed my PhotoSpin subscription.

Edited to Add a Discount Coupon Code

Seems PhotoSpin saw my review and sent me an email offering up a discount for Sugarrae readers! Just enter in sugarrae10 when signing up for your subscription to receive a 10% discount on our Premier Series collection!!

Now I’m off the savor my weekend, which is going to look something like this:


Why the picture? Because I can. ;-)

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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  1. Thanks for this review Rae, I’ve recently started to hate iStockphotos too. This sounds like a very good alternative.

  2. This helped me a lot. Im just starting out as an SEO. I didnt want to give my first born child and my car to istockphoto…I’d rather give $329 to photospin.


  3. Ruth Shapland says:

    Thanks Rae, insightful as always! I wanted to share my stock experience as it has been suspiciously similar experience to yours. I used to source my images from istock religiously. In my eyes they could do know wrong… then the Vetta collection came along (or more specifically the Vetta prices) and it has been downhill since then!

    In my search for alternatives I landed on ingimage – a subscription site which seems to have a very similar approach to PhotoSpin (I was similarly impressed by real people on the phone!). The only difference being ingimage has a larger collection and proportionately higher price. Also it is more geared towards high-res images users (such as graphic designers like me).

    PhotoSpin: Choice of 650,000 images / $549 per year (up to 50 XL images per day)
    Ingimage: Choice of 1,200,000 images / $899 per year (up to 50 XL images per day)

    I renewed my subscription too! But I have to say that 10% offer is tempting!

  4. Great post, buying good photos, it is very expensive, I still buy photos from istockphoto but not as before, you are right, they gone crazy!!!

    Next time visit my fan page, if you like any of my photos, they are free for you.

  5. Clearly, I’m a little late to the conversation, but I figured out why Photospin is so cheap compared to the “big guns.” I was just about to subscribe (largely on the strength of your recommendation) but then saw the legal fine print.

    The subscription fee (which has increased by $100 since this review was written) actually confers limited rights to the subscriber. If you purchase a Single Image license, you can use that image in perpetuity (provided that you don’t violate their terms of use). If you are a Subscriber, though, then you have far fewer rights to any image you download. You can’t, for example, store images on your local drive that you’re not using. There is some wiggle room for content that you used for a client project, but otherwise if you download a bunch of images to use for a project and then use only half of them, you are literally required by Photospin to delete the unused images.

    And any other images you do use? Your rights to them expire within one year after your subscription payment, unless you renew. If you used them in a client project, it looks like you can still keep them for the duration of the project, but ONLY AS LONG AS THE PROJECT DOESN’T CHANGE. If the client wants a website redesign, for example, then any Photospin image you used MUST be relicensed (unless you’re still an active subscriber).

    The full terms are listed here: (Considering that it’s legalese, it’s actually a pretty quick and easy read.)

    Shutterstock and iStockphoto, however, have much more generous licenses, allowing you, for example, the rights to use whatever image you download or purchase (whether by subscription or single-image license) in perpetuity, as long as you don’t violate the terms of use.

    That’s why they’re more expensive, I’m sure.

    I will probably still use Photospin because of how much cheaper it is, but as our company grows I will definitely move into the bigger databases.


    • Thanks for all the info Marjorie! Yeah, don’t get me wrong – especially for an agency, there’s advantages to the bigger (more expensive) companies. But, individual bloggers typically just can’t afford those rates. I definitely didn’t know about the one year thing, so thanks for the tip on that!

  6. Rolf Stalder says:

    Well, I really ask how the hell photographers should be able to make a living with such low prices. The quality should be top, but the people don’t want to pay anything – and to be honest, those prices don’t reflect and respect the work of the photographers anymore.

  7. Bari Krisinger says:

    As a photographer, I’ve found if you want to GIVE YOUR WORK AWAY, Photospin is the way to go. Just checked my running total after two years and I’ve made under 50 CENTS from 33 photos. There were several downloads over the months, but with the complicated formula they use, I got monetary credit for just a few at literally pennies a shot. What a joke! I will never submit anything more to this entity unless I just want to prove my work is acceptable enough to call myself a semi-professional.
    On the other side, I have worked with a graphic designer who swears this is the cheapest site for high quality photos. She may be right. A lot of good stuff for about $250 a year for 50 downloads a day. The old adage “buy low, sell high” is working well here. I suppose there will be a constant supply of photographers willing to submit until they eventually find out they get paid crumbs. It doesn’t seem like anyone good ever sticks around for very long on Photospin. What can you say? There is always someone making big money off an artist’s toil–managers, agents, record companies and yes, stock photo sites too.

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