How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog

Statistics tell us that including an image on a blog post or social media will reap rewards (1). 

To make photo research easier, here’s a list of nine free commercial-use stock sites that will speed up your workflow and give you access to fabulous photos.

Statistics tell us that including an image on a blog posts or social media reaps rewards. To make photo research easier, here’s a list of nine easy-to-use, free commercial use stock sites that will speed up your workflow. itsorganised.com | getting your small business seen online


Finding and Using the Best Photos

First and foremost, just because an image is online, it doesn’t mean you are free to use it. You always need to check the terms of use. If they're not readily available, email the website and ask permission to use the image with appropriate credit.

In terms of the ‘best’ photos, I would argue the following order of preference:

  • If your budget allows, have the photos taken by a professional photographer. This gives you a series of high-quality images that only you can use. This is ideal for company and product images, and helps your photos stand out in the crowd.
  • Take images yourself. The advantage is lower costs and you can take as many as you want, as and when you need to. You're also there ‘in the moment’, so can capture spontaneous images a professional can't. This option relies on you being able to produce not professional, but good-quality images. It’s definitely a skill worth working on.  
  • Purchase images from a paid stock library. Anything that is paid for will, usually, have fewer copies floating around. You also get access to a huge range of professional images that have gone through a selection process before being made available. The photographers are then compensated for skills that have taken many years to develop.
  • Download images from a free stock library. Yes, this article lists free sites, even though it’s last on my list of preferences. Most small businesses don’t have the budget to buy photos on the scale required for weekly posting to blogs and social sites. There's a huge market for free downloads and it helps new photographers promote their work. 

The reality is, unless you are a keen photographer or willing to practice and improve your own photos, stock sites will be the mainstay of your blog and social images.

There's nothing wrong with this. Stock sites have supplied images to the design industry for decades. If I want to illustrate my point with a picture of an iceberg, I can hardly pop over to Greenland, no matter how good a photographer I am! Sometimes stock just fits the bill.

Be selective with free sites, always check terms of use, and try and look for images that aren’t the top downloads, so are less likely to appear all over the web. Whenever you can, support a professional photographer with a paid photo shoot, the purchase of a stock image or if free, a credit or social share. 

 

FREE STOCK SITES TO EXPLORE

Here are nine great stock sites to explore. Find a couple you like and keep them bookmarked for a speedy workflow.
 

Pexels

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from pexels.com.

License: Creative Commons Zero.
Library size: Large, 30k+.

Pexels is a regular haunt for me when I'm making video tutorials. I like the reliable quality and wide range. You’d be hard pushed not to find a suitable image here. It's easy to search and they include popular categories to get you started. 

You can find out who their top photographers are on the Leaderboard. They also have a Video Library, although I haven’t tried this myself.


Pixabay

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from pixabay.com.

License: Creative Commons Zero).
Library size: Large, 600k+. 

Pixabay contains not only photos, but also video, vectors and illustrations. You’ll find a lot of abstract, composite and creative photography here.

They also have a range of plugins and add-ons to improve workflow. They have a mobile app, available for both Android and iOS. There's a WordPress plugin, a Google Docs add-on, and a Photoshop Plugin. 

You'll see Shutterstock images included in your searches. This is a paid-for stock site and they are clearly identified as such.
 

Death of the Stock Photo

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from deathtothestockphoto.com.

License: Commercial Use.
Library size: Small and select, with monthly additions.

As the title implies, you won’t find smiling business men shaking hands here. You can sign up and receive their free, monthly packs. The downloads vary, so not all will be suitable for your brand. But, they come as a set, so you have a group of photos (they call them Photopacks) that tell a story and work really well together. 

They also have a monthly subscription. The photos are selected from professional photographers, so high-quality is guaranteed. They are also starting to build a video library.
 

Unsplash

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from unsplash.com.

License: Creative Commons Zero.
Library size: Large.

You’ll find beautiful photos here. This site is easy to search, includes categories to narrow down searches quickly and allows you to create your own feed. This is a great way to find on-brand photos quickly. 

You select a range of topics you are interested in, say nature, tech and people. You can then select photographers you want to follow. Each time you go visit the site, you can scroll your feed to see what’s new. Once you find a few photographers who match your aesthetic, this can make on-brand photo research a breeze.
 

Stocksnap

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from stocksnap.io.

License: Creative Commons Zero.
Library size: Large, 30k+.

Another large collection that is easy to search. You can sign up for their newsletter and receive the best of each week’s additions to the library. You can favourite photos, which is great if you are picture researching for an article. Just click the heart on the photos you like and you can review them all together later.

Another handy feature, if you are looking for less-used images, is the sorting. After you’ve carried out a search, you can sort by downloads. Rather than go for the top images, which will have been downloaded tens of thousands of times, you can scroll down to find great images that aren’t already plastered all over the place.


Gratisography

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from gratisography.com.

License: Creative Commons Zero.
Library size: Small but original.

Looking for something a little different? Then this great site is for you. Full of quirky, eye-catching images, you are sure to find something a little different from the usual stock images. There's no following trends here. 

All the images are taken by one photographer, Ryan McGuire. You can buy him a coffee or, if you don’t find what you need, shop at Shutterstock using his promotional code. 
 

Life of Pix

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from lifeofpix.com.

License: Creative Commons Zero.
Library size: Small.

Not on the scale of the sites above, Life of Pix gives you access to beautiful images without the huge download numbers. They also have a video site, Life of Vids.

They have a Photographer of the Week feature. This is a great way to find photographers whose work you love. If you find someone you like, you can add them to your favourites and keep an eye on any new images they upload. 

Another feature I like is the ability to search by colour. If you're looking for something to work with your own brand colours, this is worth a look.
 

ISO Republic

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from isorepublic.com.

License: Commercial use (but check individual photos).
Library size: Small but grows weekly.

ISO has a small but high-quality selection of free-to-use photos. Commercial use varies, depending on whether, for example, the image contains a model or brand. Terms of use are clearly laid out on the site.

What it does have, however, is paid-for Premium Photo Packs. These are affordable and provide a collection based on a category. They're great value for money. For example, you can get 74 fruit photos or 44 city images for just $15. There’re a limited number of categories, but well worth a look if they fit your niche.
 

Stokpic

How to Find Great Free Stock Photos for your Small Business Blog - itsorganised.com - samples images from stokpic.com.

License: Stokpic's own license, including commercial use.
Library size: Large. 

Beautiful photos and great approach to supporting emerging photographers. It was set up by Ed Gregory, a professional photographer, to share thousands of his own images sitting quietly on his hard drives. He now sponsors new photographers to help them perfect their craft and broadening the Stokpic library.

These photos won’t appear on any other stock site, so one to bookmark. Sign up for the newsletter to get new photos sent directly to your inbox.

 

I hope you’ve found this useful. Explore the sites to find a few that are a good fit for you. Once you have your go-to stock sites, perhaps with a few favourite photographers, you’ll find researching photos for your website much less time consuming.


References:
1. Content Marketing Institute, 2015. Visual Content Strategy: The New ‘Black’ for Content Marketers.