Images. Everybody loves good quality and beautiful images. It is especially important if you are using them for your websites and corporate identities. It defines your business brand and helps your customer to remember you better. Hence, investing on using the right and appropriate photo images are crucial in creating the premium and high quality look and feel for your websites. In this article, I am going to help list down what are the current best sites to source for royalty free images.
Shutterstock is an old kid on the block. This image provider has been around for more than 10 years, and that it has evolved well with time. It started with providing royalty free images and vectors, but now it even extends to selling video footages and music tracks as well. This gigantic library contains over 100 million royalty-free stock images, with over 800,000 new stock images added weekly. It has a wide range of stock photos to choose from, so much so that you may be spoiled for choices. I personally have used this image site in the initial years and I found the pricing was reasonable back then. It gives me a great user experience. The user interface was well organized and intuitive to use, with a great search function that I always use to find images with keywords.
However, with time and after site revamps, Shutterstock has increased its prices. Unless you have a big budget for premium and exclusive stock photography, I would suggest that you should look for alternatives for your copyright free images elsewhere.
This site has evolved much since my earlier days of use. To me, this is the 2nd favorite site for great photo images and vectors. It has since been acquired by Getty Images. The quality of iStock images has always been great, if not better than Shutterstock. Now, it offers users with equally good choices with illustrations (drawings), audio and videos as well. Lots of selections to pick from. The key difference in pricing is that iStock offers users with either recurring monthly or yearly subscriptions or one-at-a-time credits. This is especially helpful for people with different levels of budgets. To me, its pricing is affordable on average. Of course, one can find cheaper images elsewhere. However, one should do the research carefully as there are other factors to consider, such as the quality and aesthetic side of the photos taken.
Dreamstime also has been selling images for a long time. It also has since expanded its selections from simply stock images to illustrations, audio and videos. Although I do not use Dreamstime often, I found there are certain advantages in using Dreamstime. I saw that it provides a section of free images in its menu. Even though these are not comparable in standards with the paid ones, they still provide some value-added for those of us who are looking for free stock images online. The site also sells its photos and videos through a credit system and subscription-based plan model. Hence, its pricing structure is almost identical to iStock. Do compare and contrast to get the best value out of your investment.
123RF offers reasonable rates for copyright free images. For those who have limited budgets, this may be a better alternative to others. It comes with on-demand credits and subscription plans in local currency. Again, depending on your needs, invest on a subscription if you are frequently using stock photos for your social media, websites and printed related literature. On the other hand, if you do not use photo images or infographics frequently, then adopting an on-demand credit plan may work better for you. Based on my earlier limited experiences with 123RF, it offers decent photo quality images and icons. If you want to avoid those commonly overused icons and images, then you may be better off with getting premium ones from other stock photo sites instead.
This site has offered super premium, a wide scope and very high-quality photo images for many years. The images on sale here spans across all kinds of categories and subject matters. One can find all kinds of images, video and music libraries. Although, it claims that it has the world’s deepest digital archive for the most iconic historical content, one may not be sure until one starts to explore deep into its stock libraries while searching. Incidentally, iStock and Ultrapacks (another stock image bank) images are also part of Getty Images‘ acquisition. It also offers a higher level of creative and uniquely best type of images specially catered for those looking for exclusivity in corporate identity and branding. This definitely is for those businesses with wide and deep pockets to spend!
Adobe has just introduced its own stock library not too long ago. Besides competing for the same pie in the already competitive photo sites’ market, Adobe has actually positioned its stock library facility well in that it is tightly integrated into its Adobe Creative CC family of products. Within each Adobe software, you can conveniently locate and manage your purchased Adobe stock images right inside the Libraries panels. You can first preview watermarked images as you work on the designs in Adobe software, license and utilise them directly the Libraries. This can be a huge time-saver and ease of use when comes tro managing your images under one account and one common interface in all Adobe software. In addition, Adobe also offers its own stock premium collection, whose inspiring images are curated from selective contributors. Of course, you have to be prepared to fork out premium prices for all its subscription plans. Also, Adobe stock library does not support direct purchase of images in certain countries. You should first find out by logging onto your account and test if you can purchase Adobe images directly from inside your account.
Pixastock is one of lesser known picture websites, as far as I am concerned. One can buy stock photos, vectors and footage either by single purchases or subscription plans as well. By single purchases, it means that one pays for the type of images used in different medium. For instance, you pay a certain price in local currency for image used on a website, whereas another pricing for an image used for A4 brochure. A good bonus about this site is that you can sign up a free account to download free images or footage on a selected basis. However, I found personally that its subscription plan for 25 image downloads at $288 local currency per month is a bit on the high side for my budget though. You may think likewise.
Photodune is a stock image library that is part of the larger community group called Envato Market. Envato offers a whole range of solutions ranging from images, graphics, web templates, video footages, audio, coding scripts and 3d modeling. Though Photodune does not have such extensive selections of photos to choose from, it may serve your needs in a different way. Typically, you can get a standard license of any high resolution image at between US$6 to US$10 per image, or pay more for extended license. Well, you can use Photodune as an addiitonal bonus site for your photos’ needs if case you run out of choices, which is highly unlikely.
Pond5 gives you access to reasonable membership prices that includes more than 200,000 videos, images, sound effects, music tracks, 3D and even photoshop psd files. This is also one of the sites that is well equipped with huge selections of choices from different price points, hence you can often find something that works for you. What I like about Pond5 is that it got a clean and intuitive interface that I enjoy using it. The video footages are exceptionally expansive and interesting to browse and get engrossed in. Even though I find it expensive to a certain extent to be a member, the quality of the content, be it a video or an image, is really high quality and there is a premium feel to it. I would like to give it a try once my budget allows.
Pixabay offers FREE images. Yes, free images. I think for those of us who have no budgets to invest on an online business, this is a huge bonus and great free resource to begin with! One cannot have no images on a business website. At Pixabay you may find and share images free of copyrights. Accordingly, all pictures are released under Creative Commons CC0 into the public domain. By searching, you can find photos, vector graphics, illustrations and videos readily for downloads. However, there is a trade-off. Since this site offers free stuff, the quality of these content are limited to a certain extent. One may not be able to find anything that matches your needs. Personally, I find the images are rather average in terms of photographic angle or perspective. In other words, do not expect any wows or much aesthetics from getting free stuff. Nevertheless, this is a good starting point for beginners.
Yet another pure FREE! site that offers high-resolution photos. You can simply come here and download any of these big beautiful images classified in almost all kinds of different collections. The categories are divided into lifestyle bloggers, favorite florals, shopping, coffee house, drone captures, science, landscapes, nature, blossoms bloom, street life, into the wild, facial recognition, healthy living, emotions, backgrounds, pets, people, music & sound, textures and holidays. You can explore and search to your hearts’ content.
These images are free to use under the Unsplash License. By that, it states that all photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero. This implies that you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash. I believe this is what the majority of us are looking out for when it comes to finding unique and high resolution photos to work with. You can even receive the best of Unsplash images delivered to your inbox by simply subscribing.
The disadvantage of using free images from such a site may be that they have been downloaded multiple times for use on many sites, and many times that they are no longer look unique or special. Hence, if you are really looking to use them freely on your sites, you may have to find a way to make them look fresh and interesting by either cropping the images, or use photo effects to make them look really authentic and special. However, there is no harm exploring this free source for a start. At the very least, you do not have to get bogged down by costs of paying for licensed images when trying to kick start your own online business.
theStocks is a collection of free stock photo images online. The collections of photo sites found here are some of the lesser known ones. It is a full conglomeration that richly consists of photos, colors, icons, videos, mockups and fonts. I must say this is a huge but free library of resource that one can download for use in your projects. You will come across some of the photo sites that I have already mentioned in the above list as well.
Nevertheless, you will find some fresh perspectives of photos and styles offered by the various photographers. Look around and you will observe that there are indeed a lot of lesser known photographers who are willing to offer you free photos to use on your sites. I do find some of them interesting though. Who knows that you can also get some fresh ideas about how you want to use these free resources. You can again simply subscribed to theStocks‘ newsletter to have the best royalty free stock photos are delivered to your mailbox.
So let’s start taking your picks!
Of course, this list is by no means conclusive. There are many more websites that offer either free or paid royalty-free stock images or graphics. To be able to select the right site for your photo needs takes time and research. I hope I have given you some useful insights on good quality stock image references for you to make a better informed decision. The true test comes only when you start using them over time. Only then, will you know exactly whether the stock image site has served your needs well.