Design matters today more than ever before. If your website or social media uses poor quality stock photography then you will instantly lose trust and credibility with your audience. Don’t make the mistake of associating your brand with generic stock images.
The problem is that without a large budget it can be difficult to source high-quality stock photography. Fortunately, there are some excellent free stock photo websites and some amazing repositories of creative photography like Creative Commons and Flickr Embed.
One of the biggest questions I get in my visual storytelling academy Social Creators is how can I source stock photography that aligns with the brand story that I’m telling. To instantly engage people scrolling by in social media streams, you need images that are:
Authentic: They can’t look like generic stock photos.
Sensory: Eye-catching so they capture people’s attention.
Archetypal: Symbolic of your brand values and mission.
Relevant: They need to speak directly to your audience’s life.
In a perfect world, you would be able to take all the images yourself and whenever possible, you should rely on your own photography. The rest of the time, you need to spend some time exploring free stock photo websites to find some diamonds in the rough.
I recommend writing down at least 5 major brand themes or core values that describe how you inspire and empower your audience and then creating visual collections of stock photos that you can quickly source from in the future.
Free Stock Photography:
Here are the best options that I’ve found to source royalty-free stock photography.
A huge collection of free stock photos you can use anywhere. They are free for commercial use. No attribution required.
A massive free stock photo engine. Make sure you browse their excellent editor’s choice photos. Free for commercial use.
Get a fresh pack of high-quality stock photos delivered monthly to your email inbox. A handy resource for collecting eye-catching images for blog posts and social media.
10 new free stock images posted every day. Lots of great travel photography and inspiring images of people living adventurous lives.
Save yourself a lot of time by searching 47 of the best free stock photo websites with a single click. All the photography can be used in commercial projects without attribution.
Creative Commons Photos:
The Creative Commons is a massive repository of photos you can use in your creative projects. Pay close attention to the Creative Commons license as most images require attribution and many aren’t allowed to be used in commercial projects.
6. Visual Hunt
My go-to photo search engine for sourcing Creative Commons images. Search a whopping 354,191,553 Creative Commons photos. I especially like how easy it is organize photos into visual collections for future usage.
Embed Professional Quality Photos:
If you just need to embed some photos in a blog post, you can use Flickr Embed or Getty Images to embed photography from some of the best photographers in the world.
7. Flickr Embed
Most images on the world’s largest photo specific website Flickr can be freely embedded just like YouTube videos. The image below shows where to find the embed link.
Freely embed over 50 million images from professional photographers. Getty sources images from some of the best photographers in the world.
Inexpensive Paid Stock Photography:
For social media accounts, landing pages and my online courses I usually rely on paid stock photography because the images are often of higher quality and I can more quickly find exactly what I’m looking for.
Disclaimer: These are affiliate links meaning I get a small commission if you sign up through my link (you still pay the same price). I use both of these websites on a daily basis and I recommend using them if you’re using stock photos for a business.
9. Adobe Stock
The best high-quality stock photography that I’ve found at a reasonable price. It works on a monthly subscription basis.
Pricing: You can get 10 images a month for $29.99 ($3/image) if you pay for an annual subscription. They offer a 1-month free trial where you get 10 free images to try it out.
This is the other subscription-based stock photography website that I regularly use. They have a great app for iPhone and Android that makes it easy to source stock images on-the-go for visual storytelling on Facebook and Instagram.
Pricing: Their monthly subscriptions start at $29/month for 30 images ($1/image). Overall their selection and image quality is slightly less than Adobe Stock but I end up using DepositPhotos more often because it is much cheaper.
What I recommend you do now is browse these stock photos websites and choose a few that you will frequent regularly. Then you should start the process of making photo collections so you’ll always have a storehouse of high-quality images you can use for visual storytelling on your website and on social networks like Instagram and Facebook.