Best cheap stock photo site: 123RF review

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Stock Photos from 123RF

Here I am reviewing the cheap stock photo site I’ve purchased images from there for over a year now and can attest it’s reliable, legitimate and they have a fantastic range of photos at very cheap price points.

Unlike the pricier players in the stock photo field, 123RF is geared toward literally all budgets. You can pay as you go by purchasing credits (photos are around $1 to $2 this way), or if you need a lot of images it may be cheaper for you to opt for one of their monthly subscription-based plans.

I use the site frequently. In fact, one of the things I do when I receive some income from one of my websites is to use a portion to top up my credits at 123RF.

Here is my balanced review of 123RF:


Huge range of high quality images. Whatever topic your website is about, you’ll find what you need at 123RF.

Cheap price point. At around $1 per photo, this is the cheapest high-quality stock photo site out there.

You can easily use filters to narrow down your search results.

Ability to easily separate image search results to Vector Illustration or to Photo. Sometimes you need an illustration/drawing/icon, other times you need a photo. This site makes it easy to separate out. If you want all types of images together, you can opt for that in the search too.

Besides stock photos and vector illustrations, you can also get stock video footage and stock audio. They really cover all of your website needs.

Each image can be purchased in a choice of sizes and resolutions; the larger the image, the more costly it will be. This allows you to have control over costs: if you don’t need a banner-sized image, opt for a smaller size to save money.

Awesome infographics for your site. You can purchase stunning infographic images for your website. You’ll need to use graphics software to edit the numbers and the lorem-ipsum text to reflect your text and your research on the statistics. Still, it’s great to have a source of beautifully designed infographics for almost any topic, and doesn’t have to be made from scratch. I’m showing one I purchased below at the smallest size, non-editable, just as an example.

Lightbox feature: This is where you can “favorite” images you like in a shortlist of thumbnails. If like me you’re working on multiple projects, you’ll love the ability to create and name as many lightboxes as you want.

They also offer a watermarked version of each image for free if you want to try it out and see how it looks in a sample mock-up before deciding whether to buy it. This feature has helped me try out and compare a few different pictures, especially when I’m creating something a little more complex like a website banner. You would not be allowed to use the watermarked image on your website, obviously. It’s ideal for when you’re debating between a few different pics and want to see how each would look.

“Similar image” options: This is where if you click on an image, it will also show you all the similar images on the site. And if your image is a photo with people in them, it’ll also show you all the images with the same model(s) in them. This is an incredible help in finding what you want fast. You can simply select a photo that is somewhat close to what you want, and then look at the similar images to see if you can get a closer match.


Your credits expire after a year so you should not purchase more credits than you can reasonably expect to use in a year. This 1 year limit is perfectly normal in the stock photo industry and is something you’d see at any other stock photo site. Because it’s an industry norm I don’t see this as a big negative, but if you’ve never purchased before you’d have no way of knowing that, so I wanted to give you the heads-up.

Non-obvious how to purchase an amount of credits smaller than the default of 40 credits. I figured out the solution, and here it is: on the pricing page to purchase credits, scroll down the credit list, and below the highest level of credits there is a box for custom input amount. You can type there any amount you like as long as it’s at or above their absolute minimum of 10 credits. This is ideal if you tend to want to buy about 20 credits at a time.

The default photo size for purchasing is set above the smallest and cheapest 1 credit version. Therefore, if you’re excited about an image and hit the Download button before you’ve had a chance to think about the size you need, you may have bought a larger size than you really needed. This has happened to me more than once! At least they don’t default to the absolute largest size so it’s not really a big problem. Just remember to select the size you want before buying.

Conclusion is an excellent choice if you are looking for cheap stock photos or images for your website. They are reputable, legitimate and they have an outstanding selection of high quality images.

Example of infographic from 123RF:

Infographic example

Infographic example