Interested in how to find photography for your website that’s of high quality, affordable and/or free? That’s where stock photo sites come in.
As they say, pictures can speak 1000 words. So, they’re very important for online marketing and should be included where possible on your website. Human beings are evidently drawn to images more than they are text too. This means the right imagery really can directly influence the engagement your site receives. Did you know that a post on X (aka Twitter) is 94% more likely to be reposted if it includes images?
However, there’s now a plethora of stock photography websites out there on the internet. But, which are the best ones? Are there free photography websites, or at least cheap and affordable ones?
The expert team at KIJO have compiled a list of the 6 stock photo sites we use and trust. We’ll also explain why they’re our go-to stock imagery websites too.
On our list, you’ll find a combination of free and paid-for stock photo sites. Thankfully, free stock photography nowadays is usually of good enough quality and can compete well with its paid-for counterparts.
The only thing to take into consideration is that, on free sites, licensing may vary photo to photo. Often, the original copyright will remain with the photographer even though they’re allowing their image to be used commercially for free. That said, they may expect an on-site credit.
The perks of paid-for imagery include the exclusivity. This means your chosen images are less likely to be found on other sites, the photographers are usually renowned professionals and they’re of higher quality. There’s also far more variety, more specific ranges of shots and ultimately more choice. Most larger, established businesses subscribe to stock imagery sites that can offer this. If you have a reasonable budget, stock photo sites that offer subscriptions can be surprisingly affordable so it’s worth exploring all of the options below.
That said, the cheap and free offerings are of an incredibly high standard. So, it’s unlikely you’re going to fall behind on quality if paid-for stock imagery isn’t an option for your business right now. We use a combination of both at KIJO so we always have a large breadth of image and asset options, so we can always find that spot-on, pixel-perfect pic for our clients.
Cost: £45-70 per month
iStock (which was once known as iStockphoto) is powered by Getty Images. It offers two collections of breadth: ‘Essentials’ and ‘Signature’. The ‘Signature’ offering contains more exclusive premium imagery which is typically of higher resolution and high-end quality.
The ‘boards’ feature enables you to save a collection of favourite visuals and videos for future reference and selection which is incredibly handy.
Cost: Free or Unsplash+ is £70-120 per month
Unsplash is, in our opinion, the best free photography website in the business. As a web design agency, we use the program Figma daily and this software has the Unsplash library as an integrated PlugIn which improves workflow and efficiency ten fold. That said, even due to its Figma perk, more than three million photographs are available on Unsplash and it has an app and a Google Chrome extension too.
Its website is very easy to use. You simply type what you’re looking for into the search bar and browse the results. If you’re unsure, you can access their inspirational category tabs. Then, you can save a collection of photos if you’re undecided yourself.
The Unsplash licence means images don’t require attribution to the photographer. However, this is encouraged.
Unsplash have recently introduced a premium subscription called Unsplash+ which opens up even more content, but exclusively allows unlimited royalty free downloads, gives you an ad-free experience, priority support, and offers enhanced legal protection.
Cost: from €14.50 per month
Here at KIJO, we love stock photography website Envato Elements. It offers access to over 11 million great assets including images, videos, fonts, music, graphics, animations and templates. The search function is enhanced with smart filters. These help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Filters include how many people are visible in an image to the type of background, footage length and frame rate on videos, and more.
Of the paid-for stock photo sites, it’s arguably the most reasonably priced.
Pexels is another free stock photography website with a large variety of pictures and videos. A real perk of Pexels is that it has a partnership with Canva – an also free-to-use graphic design tool. This means you can edit your selected Pexel stock photo and/or use them as the base of a new design you’re creating. It has additional PlugIns with the software Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD, Figma and Sketch.
A neat feature of Pexels is that it lets you search photographs by colour, which is handy if you have a particular brand colour palette you need to adhere to.
From £19.99 to £119.99 per month (some imagery is free)
Of stock photo sites, Adobe Stock is one of the better known. Adobe Stock not only offers stock photography but can also address additional design needs as it’s integrated with Adobe’s design kit. This makes it popular with creators and designers.
After its recent acquisition of Fotolia, there are also now additional, top tier images and illustrations available on the platform too. Whilst most of the images and assets on Adobe Stock are typically paid-for, there are some collections that are free of charge to use too.
Pixabay is a well known, popular free stock photo site. That’s because it hosts over 4.1 million images alongside graphics, music, sound effects, video and illustrations. Royalty-free illustrations are harder to come by, which is why Pixabay is a go-to in this realm. Like Unsplash, simply type in what you’re looking for in the search bar and away you go!
Pixabay’s advanced search options are very useful too. Pixabay lets you search by image orientation, image size, colour and photographer (if you know a particular artist’s work you’re after).
When the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words, you simply cannot build a brand without pictures. Well… You can, but it may be much harder! The right images allow you to deliver a message, a feeling or a story so much faster to your audience than a sentence can.
And, with all of the options above, it’s now possible to achieve this within whatever your business’s budget is and in line with your brand’s aesthetics too.