Not every business can afford to invest huge sums of money in shooting high-quality images for their website. For many, stock photos are the option that best suits their needs.
However, sites like Shutterstock that offer paid stock photos are often prohibitively expensive. For the small ecommerce business on a budget, that means taking a dive into the wide world of free or cheap stock photos.
There are hundreds of thousands of great, high resolution images out there that you can use royalty-free or with attribution. And there's plenty of sites that collect these images for use. In this article, we'll go over some of our favorite ones.
Most of the photos on the websites listed below are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, meaning you can use their images for whatever you want, commercial or otherwise. But some, like Flickr, do require attribution. Your safest bet is to double check the license of every stock photo you use, just to be safe.
With that out of the way, check out a few of our favorite websites for free stock photos:
All photos available on Pexels are licensed under the Pexels license, meaning they're completely free for any sort of commercial use. They have hundreds of thousands of high resolution images available, and add more every day. Best of all, their selection includes images from several other well-known free stock image websites, all gathered in one place.
Flickr isn't curated in the same way that others on this list are - anyone can upload their photos to the website. This means that there is a huge wealth of options to choose from, including many of obscure subjects that might come in handy. The trade-off, of course, is that many of these images aren't of the quality or resolution that you might require. Nevertheless, Flickr can be a great source for free stock images, though some of them do require attribution, so be sure to double check the licensing before use.
Pixabay is another great option for thousands of high-quality free stock photos, each with a range of resolutions to select from. All of them are under Creative Commons, so they're available for use without attribution.
Unsplash's license is such that you can use any one of their thousands of images for free without attribution, though in their FAQ they do give instructions for doing so, if you'd like.
Albumarian is unique among other free stock image websites in that it organizes its photos into themed albums. This is helpful if you don't necessarily have a precise image you're looking for, and would rather browse a collection to get ideas.
Reshot's photos are sourced from a community of independent photographers, many of them looking to gain exposure for their work. All of their photos are completely free to use for commercial purposes, and many have an appealing visual style that sets them apart from your standard stock.
While their selection is smaller than others, Skitterphoto's images are truly breathtaking. Some of their photographers even detail how the photos were taken, listing what type of camera was used, lens size, etc. All are completely free for commercial use.
Another smaller site, PolarFox more than makes up for its size with its carefully curated selection of beautiful, professional images. Creative Commons Zero is in effect - no attribution needed here.
Stockvault's robust search tools make it easy to browse their collection of beautiful, free stock photos. Stockvault describes itself as a place "where photographers, designers and students can share their photographs, graphics and vector files with each other for free". This means that not all are free for commercial use - be sure to check that license!
Gratisography is curated a little differently than the other sites on this list. They specialize in free photos that are out of the ordinary, with a quirky feel to them that escape the often "canned" feel of standard stock photos. If you're looking for a particularly unique image for your site, you have to check them out.
While Picjumbo has premium sections that require a paid subscription, they also have a generous selection of free images for commercial use. Picjumbo's 24-year-old founder originally created the website to offer his own photos that were rejected from stock photo websites. Don't let these humble origins fool you - these images are beautiful, and cover a huge range of subjects.
There you have it - our list of our all-time favorite stock photo websites. If you're seeking a killer image to use for your website without breaking the bank, you're sure to find what you're looking for on one of the sites above. Happy hunting!