One of the things that I notice a lot when new bloggers hit the scene, is that they don’t realize that photos out on the internet cannot be used on their blogs. Even if you link back to the original source, it constitutes a copyright violation to have any photo on your blog that isn’t yours unless you have written permission from the photographer.
I totally made this mistake myself when I first started blogging. I was just trying to pull together images to highlight a certain home decor trend, but either didn’t link back to the original source, or if I did, I hadn’t gotten permission from them to do so. A huge No-No that I could have been fined for!
So, what do you do if you have a blog post that needs pictures but you don’t have your own original photography?
Or if you want some images to use on social media or even in some graphic artwork or digital download?
Well, that’s where stock photos come in.
Before we dive into the list, I want to make sure you know how to use those images to grow your blog traffic with Pinterest. Grab the free Pinterest workbook below.
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Paid Stock Photos:
If you are looking for something really specific or unique, you may need to go the paid route for stock photos.There are plenty of sites where you can go to search out what you’re after.
For instance, I personally need quite a lot of office/desk stock photography for this blog, so I use Haute Chocolate (affiliate), which is a subscription-based service. It means I get fresh new photos each month and have a LOT to choose from.
For my Etsy shop on the other hand, I’ll usually head on over to Creative Market (affiliate) if I’m looking for a stock photo for digital art prints or my mugs.
Creative Market is like my bad habit of choice. There are soooo many pretty things to browse!
However, if you don’t need stock photos all that often, you may just be able to get away with using free ones. Luckily, there are quite a few sites out there that offer free stock photos that you are able to use on your blog or on your social media, without permissions or often attribution required.
Let me just explain the terminology regarding copyrights for a sec.
“Creative Commons” or “Creative Commons Zero” means that you can use those photos in any way you’d like, without asking permission or linking back to the photographer. You can copy, modify and use the photos (even for commercial purposes) without asking permission.
“Creative Commons with attribution” means that you can use the photo in any way you want, BUT you have to give credit to the photographer (ie. a link under the photo).
Now on to the round up…
Top 10 sites for free stock photos:
1 / Pixabay
Pixabay is a huuuuge site. Beyond great stock photos, they also have vectors and art illustrations, if you’re looking for something to do some graphic design work.
I find the quality of the files on Pixabay to be really professional. There are so many beautiful images to choose from!
Because everything on their site is released free of Copyrights, there is absolutely no attribution you need to worry about. You can use everything royalty-free and modify however you wish. So great!
I found these lovely images on Pixabay in a matter of minutes – no digging required!
2 / Pexels
There is a pretty huge variety of photography on Pexels and I find the quality to be good. They have an easy search bar up at the top, so best if you go in there with an idea of what you’re looking for.
The other nice feature is that if you find a pic you like, they have suggested other free stock right underneath. So sometimes I’ll click on something that is “okay”, but then it leads me to the perfect one. I like having those “suggested for you” features.
3 / StockSnap.io
A lot of landscape and scenic photos are over on StockSnap. One thing I really like about this particular site is that there are a bigger variety of shapes and sizes to the photos (they aren’t all horizontal, like many stock photo sites stick to).
Seriously, I could browse through the homepage for a long, long while … so many beauties!
You could totally grab some of these to use for your instagram.
4 / UnSplash
GORGEOUS photographs over on Unsplash. It’s a very simple, streamlined site featuring super beautiful pics. Lots of landscapes. All horizontal, though.
The other downside? There isn’t a search bar. Means a lot of scrolling to find what you’re looking for.
Doesn’t this look appetizing?
5 / Death to the Stock Photo
I love love love the options on Death to the Stock Photo (“DTTSP”). They are so professional and gorgeous. They also have quite a variety of things from quotes, photoshop actions, art prints, writers’ prompts, and more. You can sign up for a monthly email from them, which delivers new stock right into your inbox.
DTTSP included this statement on their site, which is a basic guideline in terms of copyright: “Under the license, you may display a DTTSP photo as you please, reproduce it, add it to a collection, and make adaptations of it. However, you may not distribute the photo—so don’t include it in any photo packs or give it out for others to use.”
So, use their pics, but don’t claim as your own or redistribute in any way. Pretty obvious.
Check out these adventure themed art prints (from here). Fun, hey!? You could even use these for a DIY art project and then write a blog post about it!
6 / Picjumbo
PicJumbo has really beautiful photographs, but not as many as some of these other sites.
I like the way their homepage is laid out and I find it really easy to search for whatever I’m looking for. From what I can tell, all the photos are horizontal.
I kinda love this pink sneaker shot, don’t you?
7 / Morguefile
In Morguefile, there is quite a mixture of photos uploaded by the general public, meaning some definitely are NOT so great. You need to go to this site with a specific need in mind and then search for it. If you do that though, you may just find a gem (like this one I found below!).
Unlike the other sites on my list, Morguefile indicates that if you use the image exactly as-is, you need to credit the photographer underneath the photo. Of all of these sites (at this time of writing), this is the only one that requires an attribution.
Photo by: Agatha Brown
8 / Creative Commons on Flickr
On Flickr you can check on the Creative Commons area, which has a variety of free photos that fall under different categories. There are some that require attribution to the photographer, but the photos that fall into the “Public Domain Dedication” group means that they are up for grabs by you and you can alter and use those images however you please without any credit or attribution required.
If you go here, these are all images within the “Public Domain Dedication” group. Use the search bar to find what you’re looking for, and just double check before downloading it that it does indeed say “Public Domain” under the image.
I find this site to be harder to find great photos because anyone and everyone can upload to Flickr, but if you are looking for something specific then it might just be the right spot!
9 / Gratisography
All of the images on Gratisography are photographed by the same photographer (Ryan McGuire) and so they have a similar modern and artsy aesthetic, which is really nice for cohesiveness.
There are definitely some quirky shots. The photographer obviously has a sense of humour. If you are looking for something a little different, then this may be the right site for you.
From what I can tell, all the photos are horizontal.
10 / Free Images
I don’t actually love the stock photos on Free Images, but the one thing they have that most of the others don’t are textures and patterns.
These are great to be able to use as backgrounds for something you might be designing. Want to make a printable or some other kind of graphic? You’ll probably need a background pattern of some kind.
Like images, patterns you find online aren’t free to just copy – you need permission. You kinda need to look through the weeds, but if you look around you can find some cute ones (the turquoise one is here, anchor one is here).
One thing I don’t like as much about this site is that I find it has more ads than the others, and you also need to create an account to download (which you don’t with the ones above).
Alright – there you have it! My insider tips on where to snag the best stock photos and graphic design elements FOR FREE.
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