Where can I get not-so-cheesy, free stock photos?
If you work in marketing, you’ve probably googled this sentence at one point. Marketing is an extremely visual practice—and it’s only getting more visual. You need pictures for your blog posts, ebooks, social media updates and everything else in between.
There’s already a lot of blog posts listing where to get free stock photos, but I thought I’d do something different: provide a ranking of the very best ones. Not all stock photos are created equal, and my intention with this list is to make it easy for you to find the best site for your marketing needs.
Just like any ranking, this one’s VERY subjective based on two main things:
a.) the quality of the photos on the site, and
b.) the user experience.
So, without further ado, here’s my ranking of the best free stock photos available for marketing pros on the interwebz.
Pexels is, bar none, the best free stock photo site right now. The site is updated regularly with an amazing collection of high quality photos. Almost every day, there’s a fresh batch of photos.
The site is easy to use. As soon as you get in, you see a large search box—the easiest way to find the right photos on the site. If browsing for the best photo is more of your thing, you can easily do that as well from the home page.
Pexels has some advertising, but it’s very subtle and doesn’t interfere with the user experience.
A nifty feature on Pexels is the “similar photos” section under each image. This is a great tool to use if you’re not completely happy with the stock photo you found and wish to find others.
Pro tips: If you’re a photographer and would like to share your photos, click the upload link at the top, right-hand side of the navigation bar to submit your work with the Pexels community. A cool way of browsing Pexels is by looking at the leaderboard—a ranking of users who have shared their work on the site based on popularity.
If you’re looking for stunning, royalty-free photos, the collection on Unsplash is unmatched—even by many paid sites. The site’s minimalist design is elegant. The search functionality on Unsplash could use some improvement, but I noticed that it has been improving significantly in the past few months.
Marketing itself as “free photos for creatives, by creatives,” Morguefile has some unique photos not found in most free stock photo sites. Because the photos are submitted by creatives, the collection here is generally high quality.
While it has a similar design to Pexels, I find Morguefile a tad slower, especially when you’re searching.
Pro tip: Check out the #Quest section for collections of similarly themed photos.
Created by designer and photographer Viktor Hanacek, PicJumbo has already seen millions of downloads. Just like many of the stock photo sites mentioned here, this one has amazing images, but I especially like the tech-related ones.
The search and tags work well on PicJumbo. There are some ads promoting PicJumbo’s premium offering, but I don’t find them too bothersome.
- Negative Space
Many of the photos on Negative Space can’t be found anywhere else and are actually high quality. All photos are released under the CCO creative commons license.
One negative thing about Negative Space is that it lacks white space. The site has too many ads, especially above the fold.
With it’s intuitive design, Pixabay is like Pexel’s older but less good looking brother. (#SorryNotSorry.) But there’s one thing Pixabay has that Pexel doesn’t: free vectors, illustrations and even video snippets.
That said, many of the photos on Pixabay are not unique or elegant. I think the collection here could be curated better. Unfortunately, there are too many cheesy images cluttering the site.
Also, in the search results page, advertising is served before the results. Annoying.
This site has some interesting features, like the “trending” section. You can also see which photos are getting the most views—a handy feature if you’re in a hurry and are wanting to download something popular.
The ads to Snappa, a graphic design tool that built this site, are subtle, which I appreciate.
That said, StockSnap.io doesn’t have the biggest database. Many of the pictures you’ll get here can also be found on other free stock photo sites.
Searching on freeimages.com is easy. (The URL is also super easy to remember.) There’s an advanced search feature that allows you to sort by relevance, date, popularity, etc.—very handy!
One big disadvantage is the number of ads on this site. Almost half of the right-hand side of the search results page is dedicated to “premium images,” which are, essentially, ads linking to paid stock photo sites.
Created by the marketing automation software company Hubspot, freestockphotos.org has some decent photos of people working or meeting in an office. (If you work in B2B, as I do, these photos can be handy for many content types.)
This new-ish site could use some improvement though. For one, search is so terrible that browsing the site through its tags is a lot easier.
Another con: the site asks for your email address before you could download the high res pic. That means you have to agree to get emails from Hubspot if you really want to use the photo.
Do you disagree with my rankings? What are your favorite free stock photo sites? Share your thoughts below—and tell me what you think!
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