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If you’re interested in using high quality stock photos, you need to know the basics, including licensing, different resources, how to use them, and where to find them for cheap (or free).

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About Stock Photos

Stock photos can help you create engaging blog posts, social media posts, websites, ebooks, and other types of media.

What are stock photos?

Stock photos are typically high quality images created by professional photographers. Some are licensed for specific uses, and others have no restrictions on use.

Why use stock photos?

Stock photos add a visual element to your work, which makes it both more enticing and more engaging to readers. They can make it easier to explain a specific concept and break up large amounts of text. Research indicates that people process visual content much faster than text, and when paired with text, their recall of the information is greater. Also, stock photos have SEO benefits. If you use alt tags and name the images appropriately, it may help your content rank higher in search. Stock photos can also help you prevent using photos without authorization. Fees for unauthorized use of photos can run as high as $150,000 per image. Best case scenario, you will get a cease and desist letter asking you to remove the photo. Or, you could risk thousands of dollars in fines. It is just not worth it. Copyright laws are complex, so it is essential to err on the side of caution to protect yourself by using stock photos with an authorized license.

The Top Cheap (and Free) Stock Photo Providers

Before we dig into all the different places you can find stock photos, these are our favorite stock photo sites:

  1. Pixabay: (Free) This photo site has a massive selection of photos and videos which are free to use and of relatively high resolution.

Pixabay sample image page

  1. Death to Stock: (Paid) This stock image site offers unique stock images and regularly adds new photos to its library. The membership includes unlimited downloads, so you always have eye-catching images to use!

death to stock photos

  1. Unsplash: (Free) This one makes the list because of the wide variety of high quality, free images. From cars to travel to kids doing homework, you can choose from a huge selection of professional quality photos for your needs.

unsplash stock photo site homepage

  1. Shutterstock: (Paid) Shutterstock is one of the most well-known companies in the stock photo niche. You can choose from a vast selection of images, photos, videos, vectors, and music, then use the built-in editor to customize images by adding text, cropping, and more. It also offers a free trial to help you understand the photo site before investing in it. The only drawback is that many other people may use the images on the platform since the stock image site is very popular.

shutterstock hp

  1. Adobe Stock: (Paid, Royalty Free) This stock site stands out for the images’ level of quality. The premium royalty-free images are perfect for powerful storytelling. As they say, you get what you pay for.


  1. Desygner: (Paid, Royalty Free) Desygner gives access to millions of royalty free stock images for commercial use. It also incorporates a powerful graphic design tool packed with helpful features that give you the freedom to create professional designs using your images. Images can easily be imported directly to the editor from all social media channels and cloud drives, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Flickr, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

Desygner stock photo

18 More Sources for Totally Free Stock Photos

If you have the budget, then paid stock photo sites are your best bet for unique photos you won’t see on every other website on the internet. However, there are still tons of fantastic free images available. Use these photos if you don’t have a budget for stock photos but still want to avoid getting slapped with a lawsuit.

  1. Pexels: Huge selection of free stock photos. Search by topic or style.
  2. Shopify Burst: Thousands of images for ecommerce sites. Smaller selection but high quality photos.
  3. Gratisography: A quirky collection of free images.
  4. Picjumbo: A solid selection of free images for personal or commercial usage + paid subscription.
  5. StockSnap: Updated regularly, so you always have fresh, new photos to use.
  6. Creative Commons:Powerful search engine where you can browse images under the public domain.
  7. KaboomPics: High-quality, aesthetically pleasing photos. Updated regularly with common color schemes for cohesive imagery.
  8. StockVault:Search images, textures, illustrations, and more. Optional paid plan.
  9. Reshot: Illustrations and icons you can use however you like.
  10. Jay Mantri: Lots of landscapes, animal photos, and architecture photos.
  11. Free Food Photos: Some stock sites simply curate ‘free’ photos from other sources, which means you will find them on thousands of other stock photo websites. All the images on Free Food Photos are taken for the site and are under creative commons, so you can stand out and use the public domain images however you like.
  12. Startup Stock Photos: Photos created for bloggers, publishers, startups, and designers.
  13. Magdeleine: Dramatic photographs across dozens of categories. Updated daily.
  14. Barnimages: Broad selection of free photos.
  15. NegativeSpace: Smaller selection, but high quality and free under Creative Commons.
  16. Skitterphoto: A place to find and share public domain photos on a wide range of topics.
  17. Travel Coffee Book: Wide selection of travel photos from all over the world. Search by country, city, or category.
  18. RBG Stock: More than 100,000 photos, textures, & backgrounds all totally free to use.

The Best Paid Stock Photo Sources

If you are looking for something a little bit different or images of famous people or historical events, you will want to choose a paid source. Many of the best free stock sites also have a paid option, but these three paid stock photos stand out.

  1. Getty Images: This is one of the largest sites for paid photos. It has a large collection of images to meet any need.The platform is also well known for pursuing copyright infringement, so be sure to read the terms for each photo you purchase. Most images are royalty-free.

getty images homepage

  1. Stock Unlimited:This site offers more than 1 million photos, plus other assets at an incredibly affordable rate. If you need access to a ton of pictures, this may be your best option.You can also choose to download packs of 10, 30, or 100 assets for a one-time fee, but the licenses are only good for one year.

stockunlimited homepage

Top Sources for Royalty-Free Images

Royalty free stock images, as mentioned above, are completely free images you can use over and over again without paying for each usage. For example, if you want to print 1,000 brochures or use the same image on every page of your website, you only have to pay once. However, keep in mind this type of license does not generally cover usage on commercial items. For example, if you want to sell t-shirts or coffee mugs with an image, then you will need an additional license.

  1. iStock
  2. Foter
  3. Life of Pix

Social Media: Where to Get Stock Photos For Your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Account

These sites make it easy to find and edit images for social media. Most have built-in editors so you can crop, add filters, add text, and more. You can even start from scratch and create unique images without getting a degree in graphic design.

  1. Placeit
  2. Adobe Spark Post
  3. Canva
  4. Snappa
  5. Pablo by Buffer

placeit Placeit makes it easy to create Twitch banners, YouTube end cards, Facebook banners and more. It provides thousands of stock images to choose from.

Frequently Asked Questions About Stock Photos

What does stock photo mean?

A stock photo is a photo taken with the intent to sell or distribute the photo to multiple sources for use online or in print. For example, you might take a picture of a sunset, upload it to Flickr, and set it to Creative Commons so other people can use it. That is a stock photo.

Where can I find free images for my website?

Creative Commons, Pixabay, and Unsplash are all excellent sources.

Where can I get images without copyright?

Images with no copyright whatsoever are usually older photos where the copyright has expired. Look for public domain images on Pexels, Wikimedia Commons, or do an advanced image search on Google. The advanced Google search will enable you to search by license. Remember, you can’t assume that an image, just because it’s on Google, is available to be used freely.

Can royalty-free images be used commercially?

Yes, in most cases they can be used commercially in websites, blog posts, or the like. They generally cannot be used on commercially sold items, such as a t-shirt. Check the license of the specific photo you want to use before creating commercial sold items with a stock photo.

Can I use a royalty-free image in my logo?

Generally, yes. However, the specific image you want to use may have restrictions on how it can be altered (e.g. cropped) or used in a logo. Check the license before you use it.
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