When you create online content, you need the perfect image to accompany it that will catch your reader’s eye and make them stop scrolling.
Images grab your attention – it’s true! Scroll through your social feeds and see what jumps out at you. Is it the text only posts? Or is it the bold, colorful images?
If you aren’t producing your own photos, there are many sites offering free and paid stock images and illustrations where you can find high-quality, topic-appropriate images.
Where to Find Free Stock Photos
There are many places that offer free stock photography online with different usage terms. Carefully read the terms of service, license information, and attribution requirements for each service before making your selections. Here are a few websites that have a strong reputation and clear terms of service.
Pixabay has nearly 2 million high quality photos, videos, and music all free for use. You can search by word or just browse the most popular images and videos or view the editor’s choice.
The content found on Pixabay can be used for commercial or non-commercial use with some limitations. See their license for content for more details: https://pixabay.com/service/terms/
With over 2 million high-resolution images in their directory, you can find the perfect photo to accompany your content. Each photo is reviewed before being added to the directory.
Unsplash is integrated with many services such as Later, Trello, and SquareSpace, making it easy to use their stock photos in these systems.
The photos listed on Unsplash are all free to use for both commercial and non-commercial use and they don’t require any attribution. Read their license details here: https://unsplash.com/license
You’ll find thousands of high-quality photos and videos covering a wide range of topics available for free download and use on Pexel. Search by keyword or browse through topic collections on the Discover page. You can even search by color!
All videos and photos on Pexel are free to use in your materials without attribution. There are some uses that are not allowed. View their license for more information: https://www.pexels.com/license/
Use of Stock Photos Built into a Service
Some of the more popular services providing social media templates or graphic design software come paired with access to stock photography.
For example, Canva, a service for designing marketing materials, presentations, social media graphics and more using pre-made layouts and a drag-and-drop interface, includes access to millions of photos, videos, and audio free for use in their pro and enterprise plans.
Users of Adobe’s Creative Suites have direct access to Adobe Stock photos which integrates perfectly into their apps. There is an additional fee for the licenses.
So, be sure to check your existing paid memberships and accounts to see if you have access to stock imagery and audio.
Paid Stock Photo Sites
Sometimes, you will need to access stock photo sites that require a paid license for use. The price you pay depends on several factors such as how you are using the image, how many times it will be used, and even the size of the image. Be sure to read the differences in the licenses to make sure you are purchasing the appropriate type for your needs.
A wide variety of layouts, templates, photos, illustrations, footage, and music are available on Shutterstock. Whether you purchase photos on-demand or need access to a certain number of images monthly, they have a package that will work for your needs. Monthly subscriptions start at $49/month for 10 images and on-demand packs start at $29 for 2 images.
Find royalty-free photos, vector images, and illustrations by searching the curated content on IstockPhoto – a service provided by Getty Images. Purchases are made by credits which are typically 1 to 3 per image but may be higher.
A basic subscription starts at $29/month for 10 images and includes access to images in the Essentials collection. A premium subscription starts at $70/month for 10 images and includes the full image library.
For exclusive images or hard-to-find images often related to current events or famous personalities, Getty Images is the go-to source. Getty offers royalty-free images, videos and editorial with prices based on size of the image or resolution of the video. Small images and low-res video start at $175 per download and large images/4K and HD vidoes start at $499 per download.
Getty also offers rights and clearance services for using famous personalities, properties, or artwork in advertising, securing viral videos for use, or using music tracks or clips from movies.
Online Image Copyright Information
People are often surprised to learn that images they find on the internet using a search engine like Google are usually copyrighted and cannot be downloaded and used without permission from the photographer.
This is true for images found on social media platforms as well. Without permission from the owner, you cannot take these images and use them for your own purposes – even if you give the photographer credit.
When in doubt – ask permission first. This can even be true when it comes to corporations and businesses sharing user-generated content about their own brands.
However, the rights and/or licenses on some photos on the internet may be listed as public domain or creative commons, which allow certain types of uses.
Even when purchasing stock photography, you need to be certain about what type of license you are granted.
Here are two resources that discuss image copyrights to help you determine what type of license or usage is appropriate for you:
- The Essential Guide to Using Images Legally Online – Search Engine Journal
- Photo Copyright 101: Is it Legal to Use Photos from the Internet? – EyeEm
Author: Kathy Jacobs
Kathy is a graphic designer, content writer, and marketer serving the needs of small businesses, nonprofits, chambers of commerce, and more for the past 14 years.