10 best picture agencies

If you need to find a stunning image fast, then a picture agency is probably the way to go. John Kilpatrick shares his selection of the top 10.

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1. Reuters
One of the few agencies that says it is the largest, Reuters’ speciality is as a news agency. Worldwide they have a network of more than 600 photographers, many of whom are award winners. As you’d expect from a professional news outlet, Reuters has a stamp of authority like no other.

2. Getty Images
The most well-known and probably most dominant force in the market. Given its growth by acquiring a lot of other agencies over the years, it has a phenomenal stock of images (creative and editorial) and range of photographers on its books. For this reason you can find pretty much anything you want, but its popularity sometimes means that its images are over used. In recent years it has also started to get involved in movies.

3. Corbis
Corbis is similar to Getty in many ways, and offers a one-stop shop. It is however, slightly more selective in the stock of images it maintains, with an eye to quality more than simple quantity. It is especially strong for travel images, and has arguably the best website – clean, logical and with big image previews.

4. Eyevine
In the UK, Eyevine is best known for its celebrity coverage, including portraits and reportage. Unsurprisingly it enjoys excellent access to big-name personalities – from the Obamas to James Blunt. The agency also engage in a lot of syndication, meaning that it is the UK representative of many other agencies from around the world. For this reason it does international features, sets and reportage

5. PA
I like to think of PA as the UK’s national news agency. Its prime worth is as an archive of British history, and enjoys access like no other. When George Osborne was about to present the budget, PA was the only agency with a photographer inside number 10. In short, it’s an institution.

6. Rex Features
Rex enjoys a brilliant reputation, established by the Selby family in 1954. Its stock in trade is news-features – especially British – and it is willing to complement its already affordable prices with stock deals. It is keen to offer a personalised service, and has gained a lot of loyalty among picture editors as a result. Rex offers stock imagery, celebrity, news and complete features.

7. Alamy
When is an agency not an agency? Alamy is more of a hub for other picture agencies than one in its own right. With more than 600 or so tie ins and 30,000 contributors, it therefore covers everything from niche subjects to red carpets. It offers a 24-hour service phone service and is reasonably priced.

8. Gallery Stock
This is more of a creative library, and offers premium global syndication material that is best at still life, fashion and landscapes. Its book of high-end conrtributors mean that quality is the abiding principle, but it does come with a cost.

9. Guardian Syndication
As an adjunct of The Guardian, this library features pretty much everything the newspaper’s own photographers have covered – and those shots that didn’t make it in to the paper. It should come as no surprise that a broadsheet has good access to politicians, but it also has an impressive stock of A-list personalities – from industry icons to top chefs.

10. Action Images
Action Images is exclusively dedicated to covering sport, from F1, tennis and football to darts and motor cross. It essentially does this in reportage, but its wide range of photographic styles means that it stocks moody portraits and landscapes as well as the usual pics of goalside glory.