Good photography is hard to come by and is one of the most important components of branding. Having a strong message combined with strong photography is key for a successful marketing strategy. For a business, the cost of producing custom imagery may be too overwhelming. Luckily, there are tons of royalty-free paid and free stock photo websites on the web that provide stunning pictures.
Stock imagery can be used in various ways, such as social media posts, adverts, blogs and promotional materials. It’s almost impossible to run a successful business without engaging your customers through visually impactful imagery. People are visual creatures and while the written information is important, beautiful imagery has the power to get your client’s attention.
The benefits of using stock photo websites is undeniable:
- You don’t have to worry about copyright for free photos – the free photos are featured under the Creative Commons Zero license, which means they can be copied, modified and distributed for free without providing attribution to the photographer. This, however, varies from source to source, and it is advisable to double check the license of every library and each photo.
- You get high-resolution images that ensure consistency of the brand’s image.
- You get to choose between millions of stunning photos, which allows you to diversify the content you are posting on social media or in print.
Free stock photo websites offer a wide choice of photos that are free to use, however the only minor downfall is that thousands of businesses use them on an everyday basis, so it’s hard to stand out. Paid stock photo websites, on the other hand, store huge collections of high-quality professional photos, which can be downloaded for a small fee.
We recommend using free stock imagery for content that has a short living span, such as social media posts, email newsletters, and some of the seasonal blog posts. For website content, evergreen content, and marketing materials it’s best to stick with paid imagery sources. This strategy can, however, be adjusted depending on your business budget.
This guide is intended to give you a comprehensive overview of all the available free and paid stock photo websites. Don’t forget to bookmark it to keep handy for future projects.
FREE STOCK PHOTO WEBSITES
- Unsplash – a collection of stunning photos from creators all over the world. The photos cater to highly artistic and creative audience.
- StockSnap.io – an interesting and versatile collection of royalty free photos for every taste.
- Pexels – this is a collection of photos picked from different resources.
- Pixabay – another stock imagery platform that allows you to search through tons of free pictures to use.
- Gratisography –this one is special as all images were photographed by a single photographer – Ryan McGuire, nevertheless you can use any photo freely.
- Death of the Stock Photo – the resource delivers 10 photos every day right into your inbox. For a premium fee will get you access to every single photo in the library. Perfect for creatives in search of photos and inspiration.
- Freeimages – with over 300,000 free images and illustrations Freeimages is a popular repository for professional imagery.
- Negative Space – a simple and easy to navigate resource for free to use photography.
- Kaboompics – a great place for standard all-purpose imagery.
- Stock Up – a repository of 14,000 free stock photos from 28 websites.
- FancyCrave – a WordPress blog, that features emotionally driven photos in 10 different categories.
- Morguefile – a simple yet extensive library of free stock images for commercial use.
- FoodiesFeed – for all things related to food, drinks, and restaurants.
- Startup Stock Photos – for photos on startup environment, solo entrepreneur lifestyle and images of creative people turning their dreams into a reality.
- Travel – for photos of travel adventures and breathtaking scenery from all over the world.
- Travel Coffee Book – another travel-related resource with inspiring images from different parts of the world.
- IMCreator – Targeted at web designers, IMCreator offers not only free imagery but also website templates to incorporate chosen photos into.
- New Old Stock – for vintage photography. While these photos might not fit a software startup, you can still use them for projects, that require old style photos.
- Burst by Shopify – this stock photography site was created with ecommerce businesses in mind. The collection is wide and easy to navigate and the quality of photos is outstanding.
- Little Visuals – a very clean and inspiring collection of landscape and nature imagery. The photos are perfect for creating the right brand image for fashion, art, and lifestyle brands.
- Superfamous – even though this photo resource requires attribution, their collection of photos is one of the most unique and creative out there. And the best thing is that there hundreds of images to choose from.
- Life of Pix – this source offers high resolution photography and a very cool search interface. They also add 10 new photos weekly and run special “Photographer of the week” feed.
- MMT – if you’re looking for nature or macro stock photography, MMT is a place to be. There are also a variety of search filters available.
- Magdeleine – a source of beautiful photos, Magdeleine makes it easy for you to find the right image online with plethora of search options and filters.
- Jay Mantri – regularly updated, this tumblr blog contains free stock landscape images, that are free to download and use.
- Picography – the variety of images this source offers is truly overwhelming. Plus you get access to high quality photos with absolutely no cost involved.
- ISO Republic – this collection of 3000 images is specifically created with creative professionals in mind. Images are free and ready for download.
- Stokpic – if you occasionally need photos, try Stokpic email subscription. You’ll get 10 premium photos sent to your email every two weeks.
- Free Nature Stock – as the name of the source implies, Free Nature Stock is a go-to place for nature photography. The collection of images is small, but nevertheless stunning.
- Bucketlistly – this is the best source to find travel stock imagery. Here the website owners collected photos of adventures from all over the world so you can download them for free.
- Cupcake – this free stock imagery site features landscape and nature photography. It’s easy to use though it does take some time to find the right image.
- Foodie Factor – another food related resource, that can make life easier for restaurant and food businesses. The mouthwatering pictures are absolutely gorgeous and completely free.
- SplitShire – a tiny 900 photos collection, SplitShire boasts an amazing abstract and portrait photography and a fascinating feed of Top Best Photos.
PAID STOCK PHOTO WEBSITES
- Shutterstock – with more than 100 million content pieces Shutterstock is one of the richest image libraries on the Internet.
- Getty Images – The old time favourite. A giant archive of photos on any theme imaginable. On top of this, Getty Images has a large collection of pop culture images such as celebrity photos and events.
- Dreamstime – Tailored to print designers, Dreamstime offers a great variety of high-quality photos, easily recognisable from newspapers and magazines. They also have a limited, but nevertheless a useful free library.
- 500px – the website positions itself as a community for photographers, but all the photo buyers can benefit too when gaining access to more than 80 million photos.
- Fotolia – a stock photo library popular in Europe and commissioned by Adobe.
- Istock – a highly utilised resource for cheap quality photos. Due to the website’s insane popularity, it might be a bit hard to find a unique photo, that has not already been used.
- Twenty20 (my personal fave) – this stock photos resource initially started as a website for mobile photography. Nowadays, it’s a full-blown marketplace of stock photos. Mobile photos still comprise the largest part of the website’s collection, but don’t be discouraged – the photos’ quality is outstanding.
- Big Stock Photo – another popular stock photography website, Big Stock Photo has over 64 million images in their collection. Unlike other stock photography resources, Big Stock Photo often runs promotions – you can even up to 10 images for free!
- Fotosearch – with over 30 million images, Fotosearch brings together professional photographers and different stock agencies.
- Crestock – despite the small 2.5 million collection, Crestock is great for small businesses as the image cost starts from $1.
- Alamy – Alamy uses an on-demand payment model – you pay per image, and there is no need to subscribe. Alamy’s 125 million images collection is huge and exceeds all other paid stock sources.
- Photofolio – a UK-based neatly organised collection of photos, Photofolio helps photographers sell their work online. As a client, you get access to some rare and unique professional shots.
- Superstock – this online source offers a handy service to their clients – if you’re looking for something special, you can ask their staff to do the search for you. The collection is organised by themes, which also makes the search process easier.
- Purestock – another collection organized by themes. This source has an art gallery feel to it, as you can follow your favourite artists without having to buy photos.
- Death to Stock – featuring high-quality professional photos, Death to Stock also offers a premium subscription. If you’re after unique and rare images that tell real human stories, Death to Stock premium subscription might be just what you need.
- ThinkStockPhotos – this is a curated collection of images selected from Getty Images and iStock. The website offers lucrative payment packages and convenient search options.
- Adobe Stock – the go-to source for designers, Adobe Stock makes it easier to purchase images directly in Photoshop, Illustrator, or Indesign. There are over 50 million images and their quality is top notch.
Even though there is no shortage of paid and free photo libraries out there, the sheer abundance of resources can be overwhelming. So it’s a good idea to have a theme or style of image that you’re looking for and STICK TO IT. Stock websites are like rabbit holes, you can spend hours upon hours sourcing that perfect image and it’s easy to go off track.
ONE LAST TIP! – Small files, such as 72dpi, are perfect for online use (social media, blogs, EDM’s, websites, etc), but not for printing. When printing, make sure you download an image that is at least 300dpi (usually the largest photo option) otherwise you will see fuzzy pixels in your image, which immediately screams low-res.
And hey, if you have any stock photo websites that we can add to this list, please comment below!