Sourcing images to use on websites or to illustrate blog posts and articles can be an expensive and time-consuming job. Sometimes a project calls for a really specific photo and the best option is to hire a professional photographer to get the shots you need. But, if you have a bit more flexibility, or just a couple of photos will do, there are some great places you can find royalty free stock images that you can download for free.
Here are five of my favourite places to look for photos that aren't your run of the mill stock image.
Death to Stock
New Old Stock
First off, I have to give a productivity warning about this site. If you like looking at old photographs, a bit of social history, you may find a morning has disappeared while you hunt for the perfect image. This site is a collection of vintage photos from the public archives, free of known copyright restrictions. They have all sorts of photos, a lot of them are black and white but they do have some colour photos too. One of the main drawbacks with the site is I’ve not figured out a way to search so you have to trawl through them. That’s where your time goes.
If there were a stock photo equivalent to a department store Pixabay is it. You can search for photos, illustrations, vector graphics and videos on the site. The site has a lot more of your standard type of stock images than the other sources I've listed. But, it has a really good set of filters to help narrow down your search. All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.
I’d say the majority of photos on Unsplash verge on the arty - big landscapes and architecture feature quite prominently. I'd say it's probably the best place to go when you are looking to illustrate concepts rather than things. Like Pixabay, Unsplash’s images are licensed under CC0 which means 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.
Stand back and prepare for an image deluge. Visual Hunt has a huge array of free images, of varying quality, pulled from lots of online sources. Most of the photos are CC0 license (do whatever you want). You can filter your results by license type, by relevance, interest and colour. The tags on the photos aren’t always the best. I’ve seen some spectacular pictures of people being sick returned in results when I was searching for something completely unrelated. Be prepared for ‘red herrings’. But, if you were writing about norovirus and wanted some graphic images to go with it then this could be the perfect place to look.
Before you download a photo
There are two things to check before you download an image - check what size you need and check the license. Most of the photos and images from these sites are free from copyright restrictions or licensed under creative commons public domain dedication. But, some photos may require attribution. Always make sure you double check.
With these five to be getting on with it means you can say no to cheesy stock photos, unless that’s what you’re after. I can promise you there are definitely some well-staged craft cheese photos just waiting to be found.
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