If you want a successful website, you need eye-catching images. People are far more likely to share your content if it feature great pictures. But where can you find stock photos, especially if you don't have a big budget and need royalty-free images?
More and more photographers are offering stock photos with Creative Commons licenses that allow you to use them for free. And other stock photography sites offer low-cost options.
Points to Keep in Mind Before Finding Your Photos
Before using any of these photos, do the following:
- Make sure the photos aren't infringing on anyone's copyright or you could face hefty fines. You might want to verify by asking the photographer.
- Make sure the photos' license allows for commercial use and that all the stipulations on the license apply to you.
- Follow all the license requirements. (Some may require that you repost the photo if you make changes to it, for example.)
- Include the type of license, photographer's name and links to the photo and license in the caption. This may not always be required, but it's a good practice.
Here's where you can start finding engaging images.
Flickr Creative Commons
Start your stock photo search with Flickr Creative Commons. Type what you're seeking in the search bar and then under "Any License" choose "Commercial use allowed." Now you're set to use any of the photos in your search results. Each photo's particular license is under the "Taken on" subhead beneath the photo. Some licenses require that you attribute the photo, indicate if you made changes and add your own version to Flickr if you make changes.
Another place to find photos is Wikimedia Commons (which also hosts all of Wikipedia's photos.) Read this page about reusing content before you get started. When you find a photo in your search, click on the picture you want and then click "More details" to learn about the license.
Canva and Stencil
The Canva and Stencil services are a gold mine for business owners. For a low subscription price, you can create beautiful designs for blog posts, such as header photos with text. They even provide a wide selection of stock photos and templates.
Unsplash's stock photos consist mostly of gorgeous nature and scenic backgrounds, along with some technology, business and fashion selections. All are submitted directly from photographers for your free use. Unsplash photos fall under a free use license that includes commercial use. Most photographers use Unsplash to bring exposure to their work.
Every week, Depositphotos sends a selection of royalty-free graphics to their email subscribers. The graphics are free for that week only. This means that you can use them any time you want, but they're only free to "purchase" that week. The selection includes a stock photo, vector, video and editorial photo. The website also offer a low-cost plan that includes 30 hi-res photos and vectors each month.
Creative Market offers a series of graphic assets helpful to your business, starting with low-cost plans. If you sign up for their email list, you will get a weekly email with free products offered by their creators, including fonts, web and social media templates, graphics and photos.
You can try Adobe Stock free for one month, which includes 10 free Adobe Stock images. The monthly plans are a little more expensive than some of the other services in this article, but you can also purchase credits to buy individual images.
Shutterstock isn't free, but in a crunch you can buy two images for $29 or five images for $49. The monthly plans cost about the same as Adobe Stock.
Pexels also offers free stock images, but you need to do extra due diligence here (and at similar sites.) The photos are beautiful, but require a license check on any images you want to use. Pexels sometimes curates its photos from other websites that also curate their photos from Creative Commons sites. This means some photos may slip in that shouldn't be included. To trace a Pexels photo, click on the name of the photographer or website next to the photo. This will take you to their profile page, where you can contact them and see where the picture originated.
Ask Your Customers
Finally, don't forget the tried and true method: ask your customers and other people you know. Many people would love the free marketing that comes from having their photos featured on your website.
Remember, most sites do not provide guarantees about the copyright license on their photos. So before using any image, it's always a good idea to verify the copyright status. But it's definitely worth the trouble. Visitors are far more likely to share your content if you're using beautiful, eye-catching photos.