We all know it’s better to use photos of your actual business, location, products, services and team when you can.
But sometimes you need a photo of something specific you don’t yet have or haven’t had the time to take quality photos but need them ASAP. Like when optimising your Localsearch.com.au business profile.
Stock images can be a good short-term substitute.
However, maybe you’ve heard using stock images could be illegal. Or you looked at the price of some of the stock image sites and nearly had a heart attack.
The good news is that we’re answering all your frequently asked questions about stock images, as well as having a list of where to find the best business stock images for FREE! You’ll even find some tips for choosing the best stock photos for your business.
Best FREE Stock Image Websites for Businesses
Unsplash is a website database of freely high-quality usable images, submitted by photographers from around the world. This generally means the photos on Unsplash are more natural than those on many other generic stock image websites.
Images on Unsplash can be downloaded for free for commercial and non-commercial purposes. You also do not have to attribute or credit the photographer or platform, but as Unsplash says, it’s nice to do so to give the photographer exposure.
The only things you cannot do with Unsplash photos is to sell them, use them to create a competing platform or use them for illegal services.
There are currently more than 2 million high-resolution photos on Unsplash.
Pexels is a free stock photo website with images sourced from contributing photographers and through other free image websites.
Images can be modified and used to promote your business however you need. Attribution to the platform and/or photographer is not required, but again, appreciated.
What you can’t do with images from Pexels is display any identifiable people in a bad light or in any way that may be deemed offensive, sell unaltered copies of the photos, imply a product or business is endorsed by people within the photos or reuse the photos on another stock website.
Pexels reportedly has more than 3.2 million photos and is currently owned by Canva (see below).
Burst is a high-resolution, royalty-free image site powered by Shopify.
Like the other platforms so far on this list, photos from Burst can be used for commercial purposes and while crediting the photographer or platform is encouraged, it’s not required.
Anyone can submit high-quality and high-resolution photos for consideration to the website, as long as they own the copyright of said photos. Again, you can’t use any photos for inappropriate purposes.
Pixabay is a free stock photography and royalty-free stock media website with more than 1.5 million free images.
As well as photos, Pixabay also holds tens of thousands of vectors, illustrations, videos and more.
Under Pixabay’s licence, they say you do not need to give credit to the photographer or creator of the content, nor the platform itself, for any commercial use. Content is uploaded by registered users and must be free of copyright.
The images tend to not look as natural as some of the other websites, so may not be suitable for all purposes.
Pixabay is owned by Canva, so check out more about this below.
Foodiesfeed is actually a magazine that shares free food stock images.
Users can upload photos, so each photo has a description of its size and how it can be used.
All photos can be used under creative commons and while crediting the publisher is appreciated, is not required.
This website is ideal for any food business, whether you’re a restaurant, caterer, fruit & veg shop, etc. There are photos of almost any type of food you can think of, from foods of their own to staged photos and people eating.
Canva is a design tool, which also includes a stock image portal. Some stock images are available to those with a free Canva account, while those with upgraded accounts have access to the full portfolio.
The images on Canva are sourced through other stock sites, as Canva has in fact acquired Pexels and Pixabay. It’s simply an easy place to access stock images if you’re already in need and in the middle of a design project on the platform.
Stock images on Canva are royalty-free, so you can use them as you please for appropriate marketing purposes.
NegativeSpace is an online platform designed to help photographers share their work for others to use online. Part of the agreement of doing this is the images must be uploaded with no copyright, allowing others to use the images for commercial use.
Like all the other platforms listed, NegativeSpace requests a credit to the photographer to show appreciation for the free high-resolution stock photos, but it is not mandatory.
The range of photos isn’t as wide as many other platforms, but there are still some nice basic stock imagery of people, nature, etc. For example, no results appeared for ‘plumbers’.
Hubspot is not technically a stock photo website. They’re technically a customer relationship management (CRM) business, but in working with marketers and businesses, saw a need for high-quality, free office stock images.
On Hubspot, you can download a collection of free office, computer, kitchen and miscellaneous stock images, created by Hubspot.
They promise the photos are 100% free, you don’t need to credit or attribute them and you can use them how you wish (except for those inappropriate reasons).
picjumbo is a free stock photo website with commercial-use images aplenty.
While images downloaded can be used for commercial purposes, picjumbo warns some images may contain copyrighted brands, logos, objects or personal property. They also may not have a model release. It’s always best to read the description and know when and where you can’t use another business’s branding.
While there is a range of high-quality stock images on picjumbo, there are some photos you won’t find available, such as a photo of a plumber. We did, however, find a few photos of some pipes.
Stock Photo Frequently Asked Questions
How can I use stock images?
How you can use stock images will depend on the restrictions on the photo.
The rule of thumb is if the platform labels the photo as Free for Commercial Use, Royalty-Free, Creative Commons or similar, you can use the photo for free in your marketing materials, including on your website, Localsearch.com.au business profile, newsletter, printed publications and other for-profit activities.
Before downloading a stock photo, look at the information and make sure there are no requirements, such as where it can be used or if you need to credit the photographer or platform.
One of the only conditions of using Free for Commercial Use or Royalty-Free images is that they’re not used for or in relation to illegal activity, or for morally questionable purposes. But we know you wouldn’t do that.
Can I modify stock images?
As long as the image is labelled as Free for Commercial Use (and if the photo isn’t being used in questionable content), you can alter it as you please.
You can remove the background from the stock photo, adjust the colour, use it in a collage — whatever you like to make it work.
Can I just use any image from the internet?
Unfortunately, using any old image from the internet may lead you to commit a copyright infringement. This can lead to a fine and having to remove the image.
To help avoid any copyright issues, always use royalty-free images you have the right to use (either by purchasing or by downloading a free version), using photos labelled for creative commons (CC) or photos labelled as public domain. Some stock photos may require you to credit the photographer, creator or platform, but it will say on the image information or platform if you need to do so.
The only certain way to avoid copyright issues is to buy the rights to images, create your own graphics, take your own photos or download images from trusted stock image websites.
Is it worth paying for stock images?
Yes and no. If you need a particular image and you’ve found it on a paid stock photo website, then yes, it may be worth it. However, the price of purchasing the rights to use some stock images can be quite high, to the extent it may be cheaper to take your own photos.