How to score free stock photos

Looking to add high-quality photos to your products without going broke?

It can be done!

While I still opt for creating vector shapes, characters, and text on my own (or using purchased ones that feel unique and fit my brand), another way to stand out on marketplaces is using high-quality photos for product covers and promotional materials. Because products can start to look similar as certain styles become popular and more sellers enter the marketplace, this is a fun way to stand out.

While stock photos can really spice up your products and promotions, the cost can add up!

Luckily, there are a lot of free stock photo resources, many of which allow you to use them commercially—meaning you are free to use them within a product, but like with clip art you purchase or get for free, you are not allowed to resell the photos themselves as products. 

Always double check stock photo sites to be sure of the exact license and to see if attribution is required (and if that has changed since the date of this posting). Although attribution may not be required for some, the photogs always appreciate credit!

Looking for a stock photo for a new product cover or blog post featured image? Be sure to use them wisely—keep in mind the three things below, then give the list of links a go!
 

(Psst! Want the site list in a clickable PDF, plus 10 bonus sites? Check out the bottom of this post.)


How to rock the stock

1. Use People
People are drawn to faces, so use photos of people if it makes sense in your design. However, avoid the stock photos that look like stock photos—very posed people and situations, or with very "computerized" clip art. Using more natural-looking pics will draw less attention to the photo itself and instead allow it to work with the content you're using it with more seamlessly. The links in the list below tend to have less "stocky" photos, but it's still good to develop a keen eye for them to avoid cheese-factor in your designs. :)

2. Don't Use Stock Photos for the Sake of Using Stock Photos
If you can't find a photo that fits your content or the tone you want, or perhaps it doesn't coincide with your brand, don't feel obligated to put something subpar in its place. Photos aren't always the solution—it's better to avoid using an ineffective, distracting, or low-quality photo than to use one and have it distract from your product as a whole.

3. Give Credit Where Credit is Due
If the photographer requests that you credit him or her, do so. Just like if you offered teacher-authors a resource to share but asked them to link back to you or credit you, you'd want that credit. The attribution doesn't need to be large or detract from the photo, but it should be easy to find on a title page or with the copyright, other credits, or wherever makes sense in your specific product.

4. Avoid Overdoing the Effects
You may decide to alter the photo slightly (e.g. changing the colors slightly by adding some sort of filter), but avoid going too crazy with your options. Just remember that any effects you add should help the photo work with your product better and not just scream "filter." Use your design power wisely! ;)

Free Stock Photos

  • Pexels  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • PicJumbo   Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • Unsplash  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • Gratisography  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • Raumrot  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Required (use "Photo: Markus Spiske / raumrot.com / CC-BY") 
  • StockSnap Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • Death to the Stock Photo  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • New Old Stock The site says these photos "are at the very least available for personal and non-commercial use." Visit a photo's Flickr link (provided on the site) to read more about its copyright.
  • IM Free – Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Required
  • Freestocks – Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • 500photos – Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • Pixabay  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • FoodiesFeed  Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Not Required
  • PhotoEverywhere – Commercial Use Allowed / Attribution Required (link to http://photoeverywhere.co.uk)

Want the list in a clickable PDF?

You'll get 10 bonus sites for finding the perfect stock photo, too.


Want to see more articles like this, but on a topic you're just itching to know about? Send me an email at meghan@glueandink.com, and I may feature it in an upcoming post or video!

 

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