Some stock image providers make it tricky to find and understand the type of licenses you are purchasing and what you can and cannot do with the images you pay for. One of the things that makes www.123rf.com so wonderful to use is that their terms are clear, easy to understand, and, unlike with Getty Images (who is notorious for suing users who let their license lapse) worry-free.
Types of Licenses Available
123rf.com offers two basic types of licenses for using/reusing their images:
Standard Royalty-Fee License: "With the standard royalty-free license, you only need to pay once no matter how many times you use the images."
In other words, buy an image one time and use it freely. This makes purchasing images affordable if you plan to use an image more than once. It also means you do not have to worry about renewing a license every 1-5 years as you do with other services, like Getty.
Extended License: This license covers mass production for commercial use. For example, "Extended license covers use for Design Templates for resale (Web and/or Print), Prints for Resale Poster, Greeting Cards, Prints on Merchandise for Resale (mugs, stationery, t-shirts, etc), Design Elements on Software for Resale and any other Derivative Resale Objects. Each extended license is applicable for (one) image."
Images and Products Available
123rf.com has a surprising number of quality images. Browse their catalog and you will probably recognize some of the photos from other websites or media. Many of the image services that take work from amateurs (to keep prices lower) offer more junk than gold. This is not the case with 123rf.com -- the majority of their images were well designed, scalable, and appropriate for many types of websites including for professionals, nonprofits, and private blogs.
Payment Option 1: Buy Credits
This is where 123rf.com really beats out most of their competitors: price. Consumers can either purchase credits which are then redeemed for photos, or you can purchase a subscription plan to allow you to download a certain number of images each day. Choose wisely: plans cannot be upgraded or downgraded once you downloaded even a single image.
Why credits? The reason image companies sell credits is because they pay their own transaction fees for each purchase that goes through their merchant accounts. If they do not require a minimum of some sort, they will lose money. Credits also encourages repeat business.
123rf.com requires a minimum of 15 credits per purchase. Credits are not exactly like dollars. Depending upon how many you buy, you get more. For example, you can purchase the minimum 15 credits for $1.00 each ($15.00 total). But if you spend $100.00 on Credits you get 115 credits instead of only 100. All unused credits expire after one year.
Images start at 1 credit for Small, 2 credits for Medium, 3 for large, 4 for X Large, and 5 for each XX Large image (even larger sizes also available.)
Like: "small" images that sell for 1 credit are not tiny worthless thumbnails that some other companies sell, but quality images most of which are at least 267 pixels by 400 pixels.
Payment Option 2: Buy a Subscription
You can also pay for a monthly subscription. There are currently 30-day, 90-day, and annual plans to choose from.
There are also a number of good free images than can be downloaded. Free images require attribution.
The light box tool (a light box is basically a folder you can store images you want to download or save for a later decision) is easy to use, and you can have multiple light boxes and move images around with ease. However, it you select multiple images to download they go into a thumbnail cue and you have to manually hit "download" for each image individually.
Their search site feature is pretty standard (select a category or enter your own keywords) but the company boasts more than 9 million photos in their catalog with tens of thousands of new images added each week. The home page has a link to "Newest" but it is not organized and contains 10,000 new images at a time -- that is a lot to look at when you are only interested in what has been added to a particular category since your last visit.
I dislike that you cannot upgrade your plan (you can purchase multiple plans, however.) If you decide to wet your whistle with a few images and decide you love the company and want to go hog wild buying images, you have to buy more credits or a new plan. The inability to upgrade is a definite con.