Excuse us if we start with a big fat cliche: “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The accuracy of that, when it comes to marketing, will probably depend on whether you’re asking a graphic designer or a copywriter. But either way, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll need images at some point (most areas of marketing call for great images).
In an ideal world, we’d all have an in-house Annie Leibovitz to shoot the perfect picture for every single piece of marketing. But until you reach that point, you’ll likely be using stock images. The cost of using stock images can quickly rack up though. That’s why we’ve picked out some of our favorite sources for free-to-use, royalty-free images for commercial use.
Unsplash has a great selection of high-quality images, all available to use for free under the Unsplash license. You’ll be able to find a lot of what you need for blog headers, social media posts, and any photography-heavy marketing materials, with a great range of lifestyle shots, landscapes, and even highly topical photographs if you’re looking to touch on current events. They might be tricky to use if you’re looking to edit them or overlay text, as the photographs, while good-quality, tend to be lacking in whitespace.
A great bank of high-quality images that are all free to use under their easy-to-understand license. Pexels can also be a good source of high-quality, animated gifs and royalty-free video footage if you’re looking for something a bit extra. It has a decent range of lifestyle and atmospheric shots, and if you dig deep enough, you can find images that have the whitespace you might need if you’re looking to overlay text.
While the first two were pretty general, here’s one that’s a bit more niche, but an absolute godsend to those who need it. Foodiesfeed has hundreds of high-quality photographs of food, all free to use as part of the Creative Commons license. You can search by cuisine, but the really handy feature (as anyone who has ever needed to find food pictures online will attest) is that many of the photographers will tag the images with the angle, so if you need a top-down image of a table of food, it’s pretty easy to find.
Pixabay’s big plus is that it’s not just photographs you can get for free, it also includes illustrations and vectors you can use for your designs, and yep you guessed it, they’re free too! Many of the images have plenty of whitespace, making Pixabay ideal for designers creating things like social media assets, ad images, and infographics.
Flickr is one of the biggest, most established stock image sites. However, all the images have varying licenses, meaning you need to make sure you check the license on the image that interests you. You can filter your searches to make sure you’re only browsing results that allow commercial use. But we can tell you from experience that it can be frustrating to find the exact image you need, only to realize it’s labelled for editorial use only because you forgot to change the filter (let us repeat, so dang frustrating). Still, it’s a fantastic resource for high-quality images.
Flickr also has The Commons project, where public institutions around the world share vintage and archive photos. So if you’re looking for something old school, this is a great place to start.
The majority of them are presented under the banner of “no known copyright restrictions”, which means the institution that uploaded them isn’t aware of any restrictions preventing you from using them. That said, the onus is on you to investigate whether or not you can. Maybe a little complicated, but it’s well worth it for some authentic vintage vibes.
If you’re using free images at an extremely high rate, StockSnap might be the best for you. Their model is built around getting new high-quality photographs up on the site at a rate of hundreds per week. This means you’ll be pretty hard-pressed to exhaust all the image resources available on there. Once again, it’s all free under the Creative Commons license.
Powered by Shopify, Burst was created with small businesses in mind, and the images and features are set up with that in mind. Most of the tags are based on different industries, making it easy to find an image that’s right for a particular niche. It even has a “Business Ideas” section to help inspire budding entrepreneurs. This also makes it great for B2B, as you can find images that suit the types of businesses you’re selling to, or see the types of industries Shopify thinks might be popular, all for free because that’s what the site was set up for in the first place!
There you have it, some great sources of images for commercial use, whether you’re B2B or B2C. Once you’ve got the images, maybe you’ll want to be able to do some design work with them, so why not check out our tried-and-tested list of easy-to-use design tools here.