Updated 2/29/20 with more photo sites.
One of my most popular blog posts was 8 Places to Find Free Images. I’ve intended to update it for longer than I’m going to admit.
I’m especially excited to revisit this topic for a couple of reasons. The rise of stock photography and the desire for quality images means there are more options now than there were then. There are also more options for diverse photos that go beyond the standard slim white lady doing yoga in her light filled home studio. Although there is still so much room for improvement, I’m excited to share these new free stock photo resources!
Before you jump to the list
Let’s get some common issues out of the way before we dive into the list.
First, just because a photo is on the internet, doesn’t mean it is ok for you to use. That means you can’t do a google search and save images you like to use on your own blog or website. You also can’t go to someone else’s website and take their photos.
Second, because there are so many stock photo sites, you may see the same photo on multiple sites. Let’s assume positive intent and say the photographer who owns the rights to the images uploaded the images to the different sites. But let’s also protect ourselves and make a note of which site you found which image on and when. The easiest way to do this is to make the photo site and the date as part of the image file name you save on your computer.
Third, be aware of licenses and what you can and can’t do with the photos you download. Stock image websites clearly layout the licensing and restrictions – either on the individual photos themselves or on a “Terms and Conditions” page.
You can learn a little more about different licenses here.
Fourth, when I compiled the first list of free stock photo sites, I excluded any that charged money for photos. This time, I’m including a few paid sites because the popular sites are so popular, I’m seeing the same photos used by different businesses. I’d like to encourage you to look at different sites and consider purchasing photos to reduce the risk of choosing an over-used photo, and support the image creators.
This guide is organized into sections of All Free, Some Free, and All Paid. Some sites, even the paid sites, offer free photo packs in exchange for your email address and I’ve made a note about that where applicable.
Unsplash – In addition to a standard search feature, you can also browse “Collections” of topics curated by users.
Pexels – Modify searches in both Pexels and Unsplash by adding a color or other term to your search.
Stock Up – This is a neat newer option. Instead of searching sites individually, you can search over 30 stock photo sites at once from Stock Up. All photos should be free and usable, but always check the licensing.
Allgo - Plus size stock photos can be hard to find. This is a great collection of fun photos of individuals, groups, and couples hanging out and having fun. Photos are free and credit is requested, but not required.
Nappy – Their tagline is “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people” and they deliver. The photos cover a range of topics and ages.
Public Domain Review - You won't find glossy fashion photos, but you will find thousands of images from across the centuries that are now in the public domain. Side note: 2019 is a big year for items coming into the public domain after a 20 year pause (yes, 20 years!) - read more here and here.
Foodies Feed - If food is your game, then you'll want to check out these free food photos.
Inspired by all these photo options, but stuck about what to write?
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Some Free, Some Pay to Use
Pic Jumbo – Plenty of free photos as well as a premium membership option starting at $10/month.
Every Pixel – Similar to Stock Up, Every Pixel searches multiple stock photo sites for you. Over 51 sites are searched and results are both free and paid photos (or modify the search to just free or just paid images). Image results can be streamlined by color and image orientation (vertical or horizontal) as well as by photo, vector, or graphic.
Death to the Stock Photo – There is a $12/month annual membership or a $15/month membership. You can join their email list to get occasional free photo packs via email.
Envato Elements – Offers stock photos, stock video, music, templates, and fonts. $33/month or $98/year. You can find monthly freebies on their freebie page.
Stocksy – I love the search features here. You can search by location, ages of people in the photo, number of people in the photo, gender, and ethnicity. You can also search by photo orientation. Images start at $15.
Diversity Photo – The photos feature a variety of people in different situations. Photos start around $25
Eye for Ebony – Photos are sold in very reasonable bundles focused on a single topic. Prices start at $10 for 25 images. Sign up for their email list to receive a pack of stock photos.
Representation Matters – This site offers body and ability diversity as well as ethnic diversity. Photos start at $5. You can sign up for their email to get monthly packs of photos.
Tonl – You can search by topic or browse categories. Photos start at $20 or a monthly plan of $29 for 15 images.
Create Her Stock – Focusing on women of color. Membership starts at $10 month. You can sign up for the email list to get access to previous collections of photos.
SC Stock Shop – Highly stylized flatlays and object photos. Prices start around $19/pair of photos or join the membership for $25/month. You can get a pack of free images by signing up for the email list. I love the option to shop by color or collection.
If you have a favorite place to get diverse and unique stock photos, please let me know!
And if you are looking for free stock video resources, free stock music resources, or a collection of resources to make your brand stand out - follow the links to check out those blog posts!
Do I have to blog to succeed?
No. Nope. Not at all.
End of blog post? Not quite.
No, you don’t have to have a blog on your business website. Lots of businesses don’t.
But before you leave thinking “Gwen says I don’t have to write blog posts,” I want to talk about the benefits of blogging for your business.
Communicate with Current and Future Clients
Blogging gives you a chance to speak to your audience directly AND gives you a chance to speak to an audience you haven’t met yet. I have no idea who will read this blog post. I don’t know where it will be shared or how often. Which means, I may be speaking to someone who needs my help with their marketing, even though we’ve never met and they’ve never heard of me before (if that is you, welcome!)
Write about topics that are important to you and and your clients
You get a chance to go in depth with ideas and topics your audience would find useful. Many of my blog posts are instructional. My SEO 101 series and my Periscope 101 post are great examples of this. I’m able to provide information that is useful and relevant to the people who could benefit from my expertise.
This is my blog so I could talk about my favorite cookie recipe (best cookies ever!), my obsession with Hamilton (no shame here, I adore it), or my volunteer work with a local animal shelter and other non-profits. Instead, I prefer to talk about things my clients (and potential clients) would find helpful as they navigate the world of digital marketing.
Use Keywords to Help People Find You
Including keywords and keyword phrases in your blog posts helps your potential audience find you.
When someone uses a search engine they enter a specific word or set of words. If I have a craving for dim sum and I live in Portland, I enter the phrase "dim sum Portland" - this tells Google both *what* I'm looking for and *where* I'm looking for it. In many instances, I don't need to specify Portland because Google already knows where I am via location tracking on my phone or laptop.
For local businesses, blogging can be enormously important as it can educate, inform, build trust in what you do, and focus on your specific location in a way that attracts potential searchers to your blog page.
Once upon a time, Google relied on specific keywords to tell it what was on a page, but now it looks at other words that are in the same topic family or should be associated with those words. In my dim sum example above, Google might also expect to see the phrase "Chinese food" and maybe the names of specific dishes.
If you were doing an internet search for your business, which words and phrases would you use? What questions do your customers need answered? If your business is highly technical or specific, and your client base is the general public, remember to use words that *most* people would use to search for your business.
Earn Links from Other Websites
Links are becoming increasingly important as Google and other search engines find ways to provide both value and context to their users. By providing good, useful, interesting content that someone might want to share with others you create the opportunity for linking. Quality websites sharing links to your website will affect not only your website traffic, but also your overall ranking on search engines. Thanks to social media, links can spread quickly.
Creating Your Own Content to Share
Speaking of social media, blogging allows you to create your own content to share and reference again and again. This means you are able to share your own work and connect with people, rather than sharing another persons thoughts and ideas. I'm a fan of mixing it up on social media and sharing your own posts and posts that inspire you.
Many of my blog posts are inspired by questions I'm asked frequently. Rather than rewrite the same thing over and over, and possibly missing an important detail or distinction, when I write a blog post, it is an easy to find and reference piece of information when the topic comes up.
Which means the next time someone says "Why do I have to blog?" "What is the purpose of blogging?" or "Are you really going to make me write a blog?" I can send them here where they can process and think about blogging and how it applies to their business.
If you want to learn more about best practices and how the look of your blog can help you reach more readers, you can read my Anatomy of a Blog Post. If you're stuck on what to write about or how to do it in a way that feels right to you, email me and we'll chat!
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.