A guide to the best free stock photography on the internet

Best Stock Photography Websites

One of the most important parts of any website is the visuals.

As the saying goes, "a picture says a thousand words" and this is especially true when it comes to presenting your business online. 

A good website will have gorgeous typography and compelling web copy (i.e., text) but just as importantly, it will also include high-quality photography.

For many people who are starting out on their digital journey, they understand the need to include photography and images on their website but they are totally clueless on where to get those photos.

"Do I have to hire a photographer?" and "I suck at taking photos on my iPhone and I don't have a fancy camera" are things I hear every day as a web designer.

Fear not, my friend, let me introduce you to the world of stock photography. With a simple click of a button, you have access to literally thousands (millions?) of FREE high quality, high-resolution photos that you can use on your website, no strings attached.

Related: How do your website images stack up?

Stock Photography 101

Stock photography is the supply of photographs which are licensed for specific uses.

In today's article, I'm going to focus on public domain licensed stock photography, which is just a fancy way of saying photos that anyone can use for free. These photos can be used without purchase for both personal and commercial purposes. The exclusive intellectual property rights to these photos have either expired, been forfeited or are inapplicable, which is why they are free for you and I to use.

Stock photography is wonderful because everyone has access to photographs that they can use at the drop of a hat. Sounds awesome, right? How great is it that you can have a photo of anything at anytime and you don't have to pay for it?

Wellllllll this is true but navigating the realm of stock photography can be a total nightmare if you don't know where to look.

This is because there are a ton of stock photography databases out there that have low-quality photos and watermarks all over them. Another problem with stock photography is that the same photos tend to get used over and over again meaning the beautiful images on your website could be the same ones everyone else is using. This makes them basically useless, in my humble opinion.

Lucky for you, I've compiled a list of my favourite stock photography sites! Without further ado, let's take a look at the winners:

The Best Stock Photography Sites on the Internet

Unsplash 

Unsplash is top on the list because I love how easy it is to search for photos and narrow down what I'm looking for. There are a ton of photos for almost any theme and there's enough variety that you won't see the same photos plastered all over the internet.

Death to the Stock Photo

Death to Stock Photo is another awesome collection of stock photography. Every month you'll receive a pack of free stock photos sent directly to your inbox. They also have paid & upgraded options if you want full access to their catalogue. 

Jay Mantri

Jay Mantri's collection of stock photography is honestly so beautiful that it's easy to get sucked into the site for way longer than you planned. The photos are especially strong for nature and urban scenes but not so great for photos including an actual person. This works for me but if you're looking for a stock man/lady, keep that in mind.

Creative Convex

Creative Convex offers a beautiful free starter pack that includes landscape and portrait photos that are perfect for creatives. I absolutely love Creative Convex's clean and minimalist aesthetic. There are also plenty of paid photo packs, mockups and bundles as well. 

StockSnap

StockSnap offers countless beautiful stock photographs and best of all, it's searchable! This is one of the best places on the internet to find stock photography and I love being able to filter by category and theme so effectively. New photos are added weekly so it's constantly being updated.

Gratisography

Gratisography is my go-to destination for often quirky stock photography. All photos are taken by Ryan McGuire and Gratisography is a really fun stock photography database. That being said, there are plenty of "normal" stock photos too but sometimes it's fun to have access to something a little freaky.

Final Thoughts

You know that your website needs photos and images but if you're ever at a loss of where to find them, take a look at the free options above. There's no need to filter through the horrible stock photo sites out there when databases like these exist.

Websites that include photos and high quality images perform better and help your business convey it's message in a more powerful way. You do not want to cut the corners on digital visuals for your site and these stock photography libraries can help you out when you're getting started.

While my list is by no means exhaustive, I hope it points you in the right direction on your quest for stock photography dominance.

Have any favourites that you swear by? Any other sites I didn't include but should have? Have you used these sites before to get awesome stock photography for your website? Leave me a note in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!


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Charlotte O'Hara

Vancouver