How I Use Adobe Stock as a Professional Photographer and Art Director

Let's chat about stock photography. I've used stock sites for nearly a decade while working as a designer and commercial photographer with great success. Most of the options I used in the past left a lot to be desired, which is why last year, I switched over to Adobe Stock. I made the change for many reasons, but the most important was their integration into Adobe Creative Cloud. 

Over the years, I have used countless stock sites and given them mixed reviews. All of the ones I used have their pros and cons, but generally, I've found they either didn't have the best quality, they were too expensive, or they just didn't have the community of creatives filling them on a daily basis. In contrast, Adobe Stock runs on a familiar subscription service and comes with a huge benefit: it connects directly to all the Adobe software I already use on a daily basis. 

Simple Integration

The biggest reason I switched to Adobe Stock is for its integration into the programs I use every day. It allows me to simplify my workflow and complete my projects at a much faster pace. For example, within Adobe Lightroom Classic, Illustrator CC, and Photoshop CC, there is an option to search in a sidebar for all types of stock photos, grab a sample image, or download it directly into your composition. The screenshots below show exactly how easy it is to search within Adobe software. For example, in Illustrator, all you need to do to find a stock image is click the Creative Cloud icon on the selection pallet.

Now, if you're a photographer who doesn't use Adobe Creative Cloud software, you still have the option of grabbing assets from Adobe Stock. Instead of easy integration into your editing program though, you simply have to open a browser to search the Adobe Stock site. 


My role as an art director constantly necessitates additional assets. For example, in many jobs, I end up having to replace skies, edit grass, bring in various landscape elements, or even edit in entire objects that we didn't have budgets for or weren't able to capture correctly due to shooting conditions. Sometimes, my clients don't have a budget to shoot any aspects of the image, and I need to create an entire composition from stock. In almost all of these cases, I have been able to find what I needed from Adobe Stock. 

The options are constantly evolving as well. Uploads seem to change constantly as I can search for the same term over the course of time and see completely different image options pop up. This has solved a problem of redundancy I found with other sites such as iStock.


I have found Adobe Stock rates to be great for my workflow, and it's easy for photographers to try out without much risk. Although they have a variety of plans, you can sign up for a 30-day trial and get 10 Adobe Stock standard assets free. You won't be charged until your second month when you sign up for one year of Adobe Stock (10 assets a month plan) at $29.99 USD per month (plus applicable taxes). If you find you don't like the service, you can cancel risk-free within the first month. 

Final Thoughts

To be totally honest, I think Adobe has the best stock platform. I can guarantee you can find a cheaper option elsewhere, but the sweet spot for stock photography is finding an offering that gives you a great selection of new and fresh images for a reasonable cost and a simple workflow. I have not found this perfect combination with cheaper options.

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Scott Weaver's picture

I've recently uploaded some of my work to Adobe Stock. I honestly didn't realize how tiny the compensation is to the photographer per image. One photo listed comp as .33 cents, and the second at .25 cents. A file would have to be licensed many hundreds of times to make this worth one's time. Adobe, along with other stock providers, seems to have lowered the bar so far for the photographers that it simply doesn't make sense. I can well understand why the users of the images like it. It's certainly a steal for them.

Anonymous's picture

Then you have a site like Unsplash, which encourages photographers to give away images for no compensation at all. :)

Deleted Account's picture

There seems to be an economic issue within our industry. The supply of images is very high with how saturated the market is for photographers. A client looking for stock images is going to have a lot to choose from and they will most likely pick a photographer or image that costs them the least while still achieving the same or similar aesthetic.

We put a lot of value into our own work but the real perception of value comes from the client. Ultimately they are the ones who need to be convinced that our work is worth the price we put on it and if they don't agree they will probably find something they can work with for much less if not free.

I'm not a fan of the current state of professional photography and congratulate anyone who is having financial success but for the average shooter, there comes the reality that there's just way too many of us.

user 65983's picture


Jeffrey McDonald's picture

Do share how you're getting these payouts. I get .27, .33, or .99 99% of the time. I got on Adobe's forum with other people and started complaining about the low payouts, on top of the fact that we have no idea where the images are getting used. For all I know, my pizza image could be on a Pizza Hut billboard all over the country, and I got paid $0.27!! Right after I posted my complaint, I received $6.00 and $3.75 for the next 2 images, and then I was right back down in the toilet!! I've sold nearly 200 files in a little over a year, and barely made $100. That's pitiful. I'll be pulling my images from Adobe Stock this week.

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Desmond Stagg's picture

$3 per image? Pull the other one, it has bells on it!

Johnny Rico's picture

Thanks for helping to rape the industry. Cheers!

Desmond Stagg's picture

Stock photography is a complete waste of time unless you have a few thousand images online. In addition, the remuneration isn't worth the time invested.

I had a number of my images rejected due to this or that by Adobe. Yet the SAME images were accepted immediately by Getty. Unfortunately Getty, like many stock platforms only pay peanuts - for example 15% on a $9 picture. NOT worth the bother.
The individuals who claim to secure a multi figure income with stock photography are very similar to politicians and the yarns they tell the general public.

However back to my beef with Adobe Stock. My research revealed the images posted to the Stock platform are NOT vetted by professional photographers, but by individuals who are not even employed by Adobe. They don't even get paid in cash but are rewarded by the use of the Adobe Software free of charge. How do I know this? After complaining about a rejection I actually had correspondence with the said person.

I refuse to have my images vetted by amateurs!