Free Photo Stock Images




I reprimand clients for using (i.e. stealing) images from Google/Bing Search. I realize that their intent is simply to include quality/appropriate images on their websites – images which they may not have access to otherwise. Sometimes people just do what they have to do. That doesn't make it right. That doesn't make it smart. I'm not trying to sound judgmental. I would like to simply offer an alternative.

When I need photographs for a client's website I have three options. I can ask if they (the client) have any photographs. I can go to their place of business and do a shoot on my own. Or, I can sit at the desktop and roll through pages of available/related stock photo images.

I have depended on the "big boys" (Adobe Stock, iStock and shutterstock) for years. These services are quick, fairly-affordable and absolutely worry-free. What sets them apart is that they tend to be well cataloged and it's relatively easy to find "just what you are looking for" in a matter of minutes. The problem with stock art is there is nothing exclusive or unique about what  you are buying. The very same photographs (or graphics) are available to just about everyone in the world for their websites.

In early 2019, the Trump campaign got caught using "stock art photos" as images of Trump Supporters in their Facebook Ads! It really wasn't anything new. The point of mentioning that incident is that when you use stock art, someone will eventually figure it out. I don't know if it discredits anyone, but it seems like something I would prefer to avoid.

Anyway, if you are looking for photographs and graphics to use, you can, of course, buy a subscription to the services listed above. Normally, they offer "purchase options" – and you can simply acquire the images you need for a particular project (avoiding long-term subscriptions).

Another alternative is exploring the realm of free-stock image websites that are on the web. I have been using these more and more the last few years. Many up-and-coming photographers and graphic artists use these sites to gain some recognition and to help make their move over to the "big boys" category.

Free-stock websites are usually well maintained. Their "search" may not be as sophisticated as the pay sites, but... your are not paying for that convenience! You are paying nothing. We have no right to complain.

In most cases, it is advisable or recommended that you attribute any images you acquire from these websites to the photographer or the website where you found the them. That can be cumbersome for some. And, being totally honest about it, even with the best of intentions, I often forget to do that. But, it's not crime that will have a lawyer calling you.

In some cases, there are "clicks" available to give the photographer/artist a PayPal donation, "Buy me a coffee." I have done this often. I don't know if it really helps them at all, but it makes my conscience feel a little better.

I have emailed (back and forth) with some of the contributors – especially if I really do like their work or use their images frequently. The amazing part of it is that most are not based in the United States. Because of that, I now have correspondence with photographers and graphic artists all around the world.


As I mentioned, there are numerous royalty-free stock websites out there. Some are better than others. Some catalog their images well (for easy searching). Others demand a bit of work to explore. What I have found is that I actually prefer the choices available on these sites when compared to the fee-based alternatives. It is not a matter of economics. The images on free sites seem less-contrived, less-commercial, and less-staged. Some images are "not perfect." I am not perfect. It is a comfortable match! I sometimes wish I could change myself as easily as I change images in Photoshop. I can not.

The list of sites I use and recommend (in no specific order) are: rawpixel, pexels, pixabay, morguefile, unsplash, and stockvault.



You may find that photographers and artists have submitted the exact same work to more than one of the listed websites. Some websites also feature free stock-video. The latter is something I may write about in the future.

Beginning in 2020, all client website images will be stored in the cloud for easy access in advertising and promotion activities. If you are a current client, and would like more information about this feature, including access to your private online album, simply send an email.


If you are in a pinch – just take out your smartphone or tablet and start shooting. Todays devices produce extraordinary images. Take a good quantity of pictures. Upload them to your website album. And, we can review (and maybe Photoshop) the best that you come up with later. Quick and easy image content for your website!

FYI I primarily use my old iPhone and iPad when doing photo shoots. I backup with a 3-axis gimbal stablizer for video. I keep my old (but reliable) Kodak Z5120 on hand, just in case. There is nothing high-end about any of the equipment. But, the results are always decent and professional.