Remember the old expression “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well when it comes to websites, your audience doesn’t have such a forgiving attitude. In fact, it takes just 50 milliseconds – that’s 0.05 seconds – for users to form an opinion about your site. If they don’t get a good gut feeling, they’ll leave.
It doesn’t matter how awesome your content is, or how affordable your prices are unless your images are helping make that snap, subconscious decision a positive one, you’ve lost before you even started.
Put simply, your website needs the right photos to be successful.
While authentic images of your team, premise, and customer work will always carry significant weight, the next best thing is to use professional stock images that help present a professional and trustworthy image.
And since we’re here to save you money, you can find stock photos to use without paying a cent.
What are stock photos?
Stock photos are images photographers create for businesses and individuals to use.
The image is taken by a photographer then stored in a database of similar images available for people to download and use for various purposes. This could be as part of a website, to use on social media, on a personal blog, or just as the background to a laptop.
Despite the term stock photo, this can also include illustrations, charts, and other images.
The Ultimate Website Guide For Tradies
“Do I really need stock photos?”
Stock photos are more than a vanity metric.
Engaging, relevant website images are a necessary part of a modern website.
Studies show that images make content more engaging, and quality images make your web presence and marketing stronger by attracting attention and holding it. And stock photos, well they can provide those images for you.
So yeah, you need stock photos if you don’t have the time or budget to take professional shots yourself (in most cases an iPhone and a spare weekend won’t cut it).
But don’t stress, because in this article we’ll show you 25 of the best stock photo websites and they’re 100% FREE.
We’ll break down each option, show you where to find the perfect images for you, and leave you a stock photo pro capable of making your site stand out for all the right reasons when making your crucial first impression.
Ready to save time and look great? Let’s dive right into it…
When (and where) to use stock images
Images are a crucial part of the online shopping experience, whether you sell physical products or you’re selling a service.
Studies show that articles with relevant images get 94% more views than those with no images. While most social media platforms report higher engagement with posts that include images – not that you need a stat to back that up. Think of a Facebook post with an eye-catching image and one with a wall of text. We already know which post would stand out to you more.
It’s also been shown that images increase the desire to read content by a whopping 80%, helping you focus attention on your website pages for longer, which will help drive more clicks, calls, and conversions.
Wondering how many pages your website needs? Discover the industry TRUTH.
Take a look at the images you have on your site now. Are they helping or hurting?
Maybe you see web pages filled with giant walls of text. Or, maybe you have images on your website but they’re generic, cheesy, or boring and you want to replace them with beautiful photos that drive consumers to make a purchase.
You might even have a couple of photos of projects you’ve recently done but need a few more images to fill out your site.
It doesn’t matter what reasons you have to need professional stock photos and free website images, what matters most is that you find the right type of stock photo.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of images available to you to use, but a free image isn’t necessarily a good image.
It’s true photos and images increase engagement across social media and make your ads and website pages look polished and professional, but using the same stock photos everyone else uses can make your site invisible and easy to skip over.
Read on to discover how to use stock photos the right way…
The Ultimate Website Guide For Tradies
How to Use Stock Photos
If you’re planning on using stock imagery, here are a few simple rules to follow to avoid becoming cliche, boring, offensive or confusing.
Use a specific image over a generic image to avoid being cheesy. For example, if you’re a plumber then avoid using a stock photo of a plumber with a thumbs up – this type of image is EVERYWHERE online.
Think creatively, for example, if you’re writing about financial services you could use the image of a beach to project the idea of retiring with money – you don’t have to go with the obvious choice and use an image of money.
Use well-lit photos over dark and moody photos (unless your brand is dark and moody). You want your images to be easy to see and understand.
Avoid overly complex images. Plenty of people will visit your site on their phone so images should be easy to see on a small screen.
Use smiling faces when using stock imagery of people. This will help create a sense of warmth and welcome.
Choose colors to match your brand. If your brand is blue, try and use various shades of blue to create consistency.
“Can I use any photo I want if I found it online?”
It’s easy to jump on Google and find an awesome picture, but 99 times out of 100 those images will have restricted usage rights, meaning you can get in very real financial and legal trouble for using them.
That’s why we’ve put together this definitive ‘Top 25’ list for you.
Every website included on our list offers FREE usage on their photos, which means you’ll have the rights to use them without worrying about Johnny Law.
Most stock photo websites will include a section that explains what you can, and more importantly, cannot use the photos for. Though one of the most important features to look for is a Creative Commons license.
This license allows you to share and adapt the images as you wish, including for commercial use. Commercial use is the big permission you need—it means you can use the images on business websites and other materials that make you money.
If commercial use is restricted, that means you may not be able to use the images for anything that makes money. That will include the website for your business. Some sites will request attribution or credit to the image creator/and or website source, and when someone is letting you use their pics for free, a small ‘Image Credit: under each photo is an easy trade-off.
OK, enough with the legal jargon and mumbo-jumbo, you’re here for 25 FREE stock photo websites, and we’re going to give them to you.
To make things even easier for you, you’ll be able to browse these sites based on five categories:
- Large Free Photo Sites (Encourage Attribution)
- Small Free Photo Sites (No Attribution Required)
- Single Photographer Stock Image Sites
- Freemium Stock Image Sites (Some Images May Require Payment)
- Industry-Specific Stock Image Sites (Think Foodies or Start-Ups)
Large Free Photo Sites (Encourage Attribution)
Pexels includes a huge selection of both free website images and free stock videos.
People are constantly adding new content, so there are always new ideas and inspiration to find. Most Pexels images can be used without credit to the photographer, but it’s encouraged that you include attribution and Pexels makes it easy to do. Just copy from their “say thanks” prompt when you download your new image.
Unsplash has over one million photos on the site and great ready-made categories to inspire you beyond the search term you’re using to find an image.
Unsplash also has a wide variety of collections that may speak to your niche. All the stock photos are free to use without credit to the photographer, although it is always appreciated.
Burst is run by the online sales platform Shopify, and its goal is to provide free website images to help you sell – specifically for eCommerce platforms.
The collections are organized with a sales platform in mind, and they are all free for commercial use and modification. This remains true even if you aren’t using the stock photos from their site on Shopify. They also have a section of business ideas if you are looking for inspiration.
FreePhotos.cc gathers up images in the creative commons – which means they’re free from commercial use and modification – and makes them more searchable in one place.
The site also provides a built-in photo editor so you can modify and change pics to match your needs. There’s no on-site library of photos but they do pull together resources from a wide range of other places. Credit to the photographer is encouraged but not required.
Pixabay includes free vector images and illustrations for your use in addition to photos on the site. The large collection is very searchable so it’s easy to find something in your wheelhouse. Pixabay is a major player on the stock image scene, and credit to the photographer is encouraged but not required.
Smaller Free Photo Sites (No Attribution Required)
Negative Space has very browsable categories and a built-in color filter so you can tweak pics to suit your needs. The site courts photographers for high-quality photos and all images are free to use and without restrictions. The photos are beautiful, but the selection can be limited, making it a smaller site in terms of the stock image volume.
Freestocks.org has beautiful images with no request for credit to the photographers at all. The site is easy to search and also uses tags so you can browse based on a broad topic or interest. The policy and images are well known to be eye-catching, though the overall collection is limited when it comes to the volume available.
IM Free, or I’m free, clearly conveys the message of zero-cost stock photos.
The images here are free and work for a wide variety of uses, and they also provide website templates. One caution to make note of is that some links on the site lead back to photographers’ personal Flickr pages rather than being supported through the site, but if you’re happy to dive down the rabbit hole you can find plenty of images.
Skitterphoto started as a way for the two site owners to share their photos but has since expanded to allow other people to upload images as well. The selection is limited, but all the stock photos on the site are completely free for commercial use and modification.
Picography provides a wide library of free website images, all of which are free for commercial use and modification with no credit to the photographer required. The photos are searchable and tagged, which makes them easy to look through and browse until the right image pops up.
Magdeleine adds a new photo every day, so this small collection keeps growing. The images can be filtered between ‘free without restriction images’ and ‘images that require credit to the photographer’, so it’s up to you whether you go with attribution or not. The site also offers search by dominant colors, category, and a general search by keyword.
Single Photographer Stock Image Sites
Little Visuals is run by the family of photographer Nic Jackson, who passed away in 2013. The site honors his memory by sharing high-resolution pictures on a wide variety of content. The site is not updated, so it is not the best option for shots of the latest tech or new photos, but all the images are free for your use without restriction.
Photographer Jay Mantri adds seven new photos a week across images that are free for any use, with or without credit. There are a ton of high-quality images available for download, though there is no search or tags function, making it hard to find a specific picture in a pinch.
Gratisography provides free website images focusing on the quirky and unusual. All the images are by site creator Ryan McGuire. While they are generally fine to be used for your business, be sure to check out the restrictions on this site before using the images to avoid landing in hot water.
Kaboompics has thousands of pictures without the ads that many free sites use for support. The site contains images by one photographer, Karolina, and is commonly used for interior design. Unlike many of the sites here, Kaboompics does have some restrictions. The site policy is that while you can use them for your website, the images cannot be sold or redistributed.
Moveast is the collection of photos João Pacheco took when he moved from Portugal to Dubai. All of his images are free for any use. The photos show a wide range of countries and aspects of life and are well tagged, though they are not searchable and are not currently being updated.
Freemium Stock Image Sites (Some Images May Require Payment)
PicJumbo has a “test drive” feature that lets you see how photos will look in different situations. Most, but not all, of the images on the site, are from Viktor Hanacek. New pictures are added daily, and there are tons of photos sorted into a wide variety of categories. The warning here is that some of the stock photos on the site do require payment.
The Life of Pix stock photo website has a great selection of free photos and videos. New images are added weekly, and they try to encourage quality photos on the site through weekly contests. A few restrictions apply to reselling, and they are more limited in selection.
StockSnap is searchable with tons of categories. They add hundreds of images daily. No attribution is required on this site, but there are infringement issues on some of the photos, so it’s best to double-check.
Rawpixel has a wide selection of high-resolution free photos. It also offers vectors, illustrations, logos, and more on its site. Rawpixel focuses on diverse stock photos. The images are free for your use but not to resell. A more important warning is that you only get ten downloads a day unless you pay for membership.
Death to Stock takes a unique approach by funding artists to get them to create really original free stock photos.
The site also offers free stock videos. New images are added each month. Without a paid membership, you can get 35 downloads a month, which is a lot but not unlimited, and some photos are off-limits. All the images are free for commercial use and modification without reselling or redistributing.
Industry-Specific Stock Image Sites (Think Foodies or Start-Ups)
Foodiesfeed is exactly what you would expect from the name. The site provides free food photos for all websites food-related. Foodiesfeed is great for blogs and businesses focused on food but entirely unhelpful for non-food images. Credit to the photographer is encouraged but not required on this site.
New Old Stock takes a different approach by featuring vintage photos in the public domain. The images are great for historical sites, but it is obviously not the best place to find contemporary photos. Because the images are sometimes crowdsourced, you can run into rights issues. Assuming you don’t find restrictions on us, the images should be free for all commercial use and modification.
Startup Stock Photos is aimed at providing images for startups. The photos focus on startup, office, and tech and are free for commercial use and modification. Although credit to the photographer is appreciated, it is not required on this site. The site does not have a search function, categories, or tags, so you’ll need to scroll through to find what you want.
Neosha Gardner founded CreateHER Stock in 2015 after being frustrated searching for photos of black women for her lifestyle blog.
The site provides a fresh set of free images to browse and download each year. The photos are limited in number and focus just on black women but show a wide range of personality and activities. There are also paid plans available for more images on the site.
You’ve found the perfect photo, what next?
Found a photo that sums up your business?
Time to use it!
You can search any of these sites to find the best images for your brand and needs. Make sure you have the rights to use the photos the way you plan to – whether that’s for sale, in sales materials, or to add visual interest to a service page.
Once you have the perfect images and rights, hit the ‘Download’ button and start uploading them to your website content for all the benefits of high-quality, engaging photos for free.
Turns out the best things in life really are free.
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