Put Overpriced Stock Photo Sites Out to Pasture with These Free Resources

Put Overpriced Stock Photo Sites Out to Pasture with These Free Resources

If 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text – it doesn’t matter how great a writer you are: visual content is critical to getting your audience’s attention. Numbers don’t lie.

Here in 2016, your content needs (and deserves) to be at least somewhat visually appealing. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a small fortune on stock photos to go with every article you write and every social media post, though. There are plenty of great images available for free if you know where to look.

Don’t Compromise On Quality

I’m starting with Unsplash, because you just cannot beat it for consistency and quality. Unsplash is intentionally a slowly growing site, adding only ten photos every ten days. It has a large library of highly curated photos that are of only the highest quality.

Images are tagged, categorized and searchable so finding what you’re looking for is quick and easy. Unsplash is 100% royalty free, the images are yours to use any way you like.

The only caveat, if you can call it that, is the level of curation does limit what categories are represented. Here you’ll find mostly highly produced images of buildings, people and landscapes. (Don’t worry, though, they have cats, too.)


Variety Is The Spice Of Life (and Your Blog)

The 9 Clouds blog is a colorful wall of eye catching, often entertaining photos. Here’s our dirty little secret: most of those images come from the same place. The unrivaled team favorite place to find stock photos here at 9 Clouds is Pixabay.


Pixabay is driven by user-submitted photos, like Unsplash, but without Unsplash’s picky 1-photo-per-day limitation. What Pixabay lacks in quality control it more than makes up for in quantity and variety. You might have to try a few searches and click through a few pages to find what you’re looking for, but there’s a staggering collection of great photos there for you to use in your blog, social media posts and email.

Bonus Stock Photo Sites

Sometimes you won’t find what you’re looking for on either of the above sites. Maybe you’re looking for something really specific, maybe just browsing for inspiration. Here are a couple other places we go to find stock photography:

  • RGB Stock is a great resource for stock photos, with roughly twice as many photos as Pixabay. Why isn’t it one of our featured sites, then? It’s a matter of convenience. Every single photo on Pixabay is public domain, usable without restriction or attribution. RGB Stock is a great place to find images, but the licensing varies from photo to photo, so pay attention to the license and give credit when it’s required.
  • Morgue file does not have the polish of Unsplash. Nor does it have the massive library of Pixabay. What it does have going for it is, well, a variety different photos. It’s always good to have more options, right?

Pro Tips for Finding Images Online

Still can’t find what you’re looking for? Here are some pro tips for finding images online, beyond stock photo sites.

Taming Google Image Search

Google Image Search is as broad a method as you can use to search for images. To keep it from being entirely unwieldy, Google has provided several really useful tools for honing in your search results. After searching, just click the Search Tools button.


For marketers looking to use third-party images on their own blogs and social media, the most important search tool here is Usage Rights. Choosing Labeled for reuse with modification or Labeled for reuse will show you only images that you have the rights to use. Be sure to check the usage rights on the owner’s website for attribution requirements. When in doubt, give credit to the rightful owner.

Be sure to check out the other search tools on Google, too. Being able to filter by size, color and type is a powerful way to hone in on the right images.

Flickr, a Creative Common Ground

Ah, Flickr. Home to professional and amateur photographers and owners of point and click cameras and small children. It may not be the first place you think of to search for stock photos, but it’s actually a very valuable resource.

Like Google, Flickr allows you to filter images by license. Unlike Google, the license for every image in the Flickr library is known so I don’t have to caveat this with “use your best judgment” or “when in doubt…”.


Flickr’s catalog is better sorted and organized, too, with users tagging and titling their images. It’s a slightly-more-curated wild west of stock photos.

Picture Better Content for your Business

No matter what image you’re looking for, you should be able to find it with these tools. Of course, while they’re important images aren’t everything. Head over to our resources page to learn how to take your digital marketing to the next level.