The human eye is drawn to graphics. 90% of the information that gets to our brain is visual. We can process visual content 60,000 times faster than plain text, which comes as pretty convenient in a time of content overload, when each of us is being bombarded with the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data per day. Images can quicker influence our emotions, which then affect our decision-making. 40% of people respond better to visual than textual content.
The data only confirms the old known adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. But just as these thousand words, your visual content too can either be fluff or truly valuable. So how do you go about selecting attractive, compelling and high-quality imagery for your business website and blog without breaking the bank?
Below I give you a list of ten of the best image search engines where you can find Creative Commons or Royalty-Free images available for commercial business use. But first, let’s make sure that we understand the basic restrictions for using images on our site…
What does Royalty-free mean?
As you search through galleries of stock photos, it won’t take long until you come across the term “Royalty-free”. This refers to the financial term of paying a fee to the original creator for every quantity that is sold or used.
Royalty-free therefore means that you can use the media without having to pay royalties or license fees to the original owner for every use, per volume sold, or for a specific time period of using or selling. However, there are usually a one-time payment at the moment you obtain the image.
Please note that when you buy a royalty-free product, you’re not buying the image itself but simply a license to use it. The original creator of the product still keeps the copyright.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. The general Creative Commons (CC) license waives all rights of the creator in the public domain and allows free usage of the media, not restricted in any way. However, there are actually six levels of creative commons licenses with different attribution requirements that range from free public domain to allowing only specific non-commercial uses and no changes of the original work at all.
See infographic: how to attribute creative commons by foter
It’s very important that you always understand and respect the rights and restrictions of the images you are using. Search engines will penalize you for using illegal images, and in some cases you might even face legal issues. With that said, here’s a list of 15 websites that’s great for finding free (or cheap) high-quality stockphotos and feature images for your website.
If you are looking for an all- copyright and cost-free -image website, you should definitely check Pixabay. Everything is published under the Creative Commons Public Domain CC0, – which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the images as you like without contributing the original author. The images offered on Pixabay are all of great quality. Still, if professional photography is what you look for, you can also find relevant suggestions of Shutterstock images to buy, marked with the company logo.
Every Stock Photo is a license-specific photo search engine that features millions of pictures coming from many different sources like NASA and the Library of Congress. Pay attention to the license icon below and left of every listed image to make sure you are selecting the appropriate ones that can be used on your business website.
Flickr is the world’s largest web-based photo management and sharing application with over 4.25 billion photosoffered by users worldwide. In 2014, an average of 1.83 million public photos were uploaded to the site every day. You can search for images with any type of license, or select Creative Commons only with allowed commercial use or modifications. Flickr also lets you explore closer by browsing through each license type individually.
Pexels offers more than 1500 stock photos under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, and new ones are added every week. All images are free to use for personal and commercial usage and no permission or attribution is required.
Morguefile offers free high resolution digital stock photography to be used by illustrators, art directors, comic book artist, designers etc., in all types of creative pursuits. The images are free for corporate and public use, but they are intended to be altered in some kind of a creative process, and you cannot claim ownership on them. If you need to use the image unmodified, make sure to contact and credit the creator in a byline.
Picjumbo is one of the first ones to offer free stock images, and it’s probably one of the most popular. With a great variety of wonderful hi-res images in 10 different categories Picjumbo is really worth checking out.
Unsplash is a collection of free high-resolution photos all under the CC0 public domain license and there’s 10 new photos added every 10 days. Unsplash is the perfect example of a truly high quality free photo site, and offers beautiful photos that’s completely free to use for anything you want.
8. Getty Images
Getty Images is a photo service with a huge collection of over a hundred years of photography. In 2014 the company decided to remove the watermark from their images, and to offer their assortment for free in exchange for embedding all images with a link to their site. This step made high quality photography available to small-sized businesses and bloggers who now can freely access Getty’s large database of over 50 million embeddable images.
Dollar Photo Club is a members-only stock photography archive that provides users with access to over 31 million professional high quality royalty-free images and vectors. The image price is always $1 only, without any hidden costs or exceptions. The site features a great variety of quality images to choose from, and what’s more, over 100,000 new photos are added every week. This is my top recommended source of stock and feature photos.
Getrefe is a large collection of high quality royalty-free photos of people interacting with technology. The site offers $10 monthly packs of images for personal and commercial use, or sells photos for $5 each. There’s also a separate Refe gallery with free real-life natural looking and modern photos on Tumblr that you can browse and download from.
11. New Old Stock
If your website is in the need of some beautiful old retro photos, make sure to search out the New Old Stock archive. This stockphoto service is created and curated by Cole Townsend, and their gallery of vintage images are all collected from Public Archives and are free of known copyright restrictions. Perfect for when you’re in the mood for some real nostalgia.
Ryan McGuire from Belle Design runs a funny site where he shares free-to-use photos every week. Although some images can be a bit bizarre and leave you thinking “wait what?”, all images comes with a high resolution version and can be used freely for personal and commercial projects.
Another great source for finding free stock photos. Magdeleine organize their images in 8 different categories and also have an option to search photos by it’s dominant color which can be very useful if you’re looking for a specific color palette of images.
“Free stock photos to use anywhere for anything” is how Good Stock Photos market themselves, and that really explains it. You can select images from 6 main categories, and there are no fees or restrictions. Their archives aren’t the biggest, but certainly include some great images.
And last but not least, Startup Stock Photos is a curated selection of high-resolution stock photos that startups and other sorts of business websites can use freely for personal and commercial purposes. Make sure to check what the site is offering.
5 Free Tools to Help Edit or Create Your Own Images
Some of the photo-search engines listed above require you to alter the images you’ve found before using them on your website, blog or social media. Photoshop is most designers’ first-choice tool for this purpose, but if you lack the skills or need just some basic image manipulation and editing, there are tons of other free and much simpler tools that can help you. Here are five of the most popular:
Pixlr is a great alternative to Adobe Photoshop, – it has the same layout and keyboard shortcuts, and offers many of its functions, but it’s free, much easier to use, and lives within your browser, meaning you don’t have to download the software to be able to use it. The web app is perfect for some basic image adjustments and editing, adding effects, overlays, cropping and resizing, or making color corrections to transform your images in their most appealing look and style. You can upload files from your hard drive, add an URL of the image to fetch, or connect to online libraries like your personal or business Facebook page.
Canva is a free, simple, and very user-friendly platform that brings design closer to everyone, even to those who believe to not be creative or have no skills at all. You can search Canva’s own stock catalog, or upload your photos and graphics, and then use its convenient drag-and-drop tool to modify or create new custom images, web graphics, multiple-page presentations, cards and invitations, and other sorts of visual content for your business. If you need assistance, make sure to check Canva’s helpful tutorials.
GIMP is a free open-source alternative to Photoshop with similar customizable interface, large variety of amazing tools and features for photo enhancement, and ability to upload and edit different image formats (even .PSD). The tool lets you render fog or lens flare, create floating logo images, or make your photos look cartoonish. It’s almost as old as Photoshop, and it’s still very powerful, 18 years after its first release.
PicMonkey is the perfect web app for fun and simple photo editing with Instagram-like custom filters, cool fonts, lots of sticker overlays, seasonal clip arts, wrinkle-removers, and many more features. The site is free and requires no registration, but if you need more advanced and in-depth photo editing, you should look at the features offered with their Royale paid membership.
Repix is an amazing photo editor and painting app for smartphones and tablets use. The tool features for free the essential rough and fast image filters, series of brushes, frames and adjustment instruments, and if you want to you can upgrade it with additional in-app purchases.
What’s your go-to website for stock and feature photography? Do you have a favorite image-editor that wasn’t mentioned in the list above? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.