With such a focus on social media and content marketing in today's marketing portfolio, commercially licensed images, infographics and other visual aides have become a high-demand necessity.
There are many stock photograph sites out there like iStock Photo, Dreamstime, Fotolia, and Shutterstock. These stock photo giants have great search engines and amazing quality photographs. But purchasing photographs from these companies that are licensed for commercial use can get expensive when you are constantly generating content.
The Grass is Always Greener...
Like many small businesses, if you don't have the budget to pay hundreds of dollars each month for stock photography, there are other options. There is a balance and trade off between paid and unpaid images. If you want cheaper [or free] images, you are going to have to work harder and search more for quality content. The age old debate between time and money rings very true in stock photos.
If your budget, or natural inclination is towards the less expensive options, here is a run down of my top six resources, cultivated through years of trying every site designer bloggers mentioned.
- Canva.com - This is a new tool that launched last year and is starting to get a lot of attention. It is an online "lite" creative software - with numerous templates.For those that think Photoshop and Illustrator are too daunting to learn [or too expensive], Canva is a simple, intuitive cloud application. Most content is free and the paid options usually only cost $1.00 [USD] each. This site is great for quick promotional flyers, creating infographics, and generating blog and social media images. You can also upload your own photographs to use within the templates. I have found it very useful, fun, and easy.
- FreeImages.com - Formerly known as the Stock Exchange (sxc.hu), Free Images has one of the best category searches I have found. You can search by your key words or browse categories and drill down from there. The site does require you to create a free account to download high resolution photographs. All photographs are commercially licensed and hi-resolution. Some require attribution, others do not. Word of caution: the site does partner with iStock, so you will see paid iStock photographs above the free ones, and they blend in well. But as long as you are aware, it's easy to skip over these and get to the good content. This is my #1 site to visit for stock images.
- MorgueFile.com - No, we are not talking about where dead bodies are kept. A morgue file is a name for where archived news clippings were kept.
- StockFreeImages.com - Stock Free Images has almost one million free photographs and illustrations. The site started in 2012 and is run by Dreamstime. For those staged, have-to-be-perfect, marketing photographs, this is the site to use. The quality of photographs here is outstanding. They are sometimes a little too perfect of photographs for some items I design, but on a whole, a wonderful site. Again, a free account is required.
- PhotoPin.com - This tool I just recently came across. It searches Creative Commons licensed photographs within Flickr. The search functionality seems to be fairly spot-on, and you can filter easily to commercial use photos. Of course, you are searching Flickr, so you get the professional with the unprofessional. When other sources fail me, I can usually find something here.
- Free Sections - If you are simply try to build your library of stock photographs, most of the paid giants have free photographs, illustrations, etc. of the week. This varies site to site, but is worth perusing weekly to pick up items for your library. Here are the links to the free sections of the paid sites I use: iStock Free Images (highlighted just above the fold on the right side of the page), Fotolia Free Images, and Dreamstime Free Image Library.