As part of traditional marketing campaigns or digital marketing efforts, you need beautiful images to complement your copy.
Whether they are free people images or free city stock photos, space stock images or design stock photos, you need them to color your copy beautiful.
But how do I get high-quality stock photos, free?
What are the best places to find free images for reuse?
Can I buy images for commercial use on my terms?
Do sites like Pexel offer free pics?
You’ve likely asked yourself all these questions in the search for free images for your digital marketing campaigns.
And we’re going to answer them in this blog post, as well as share some great resources that offer images for use by your brand.
This is what we are going to cover:
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Before we get into that though,
A picture speaks a thousand words.
Much like a lot of the commercial use images you will come across.
But there is truth in the statement – you really can’t get anywhere if you don’t use beautiful free background images for websites, complementary images and graphics for your blog, and other forms of media in your copy.
Because we live in an age of information overload.
The easier your information is to consume and comprehend, the more attention it will get.
And this isn’t restricted to a particular type of content.
Pictures allow you to tell a story without speaking, whether they are royalty-free images of people used in an Instagram post or stock photos of a city that enhance your blog content.
According to Social Media Examiner, visuals are used by 80% of marketers.
Brain Rules states that if your content is paired with an image, people remember 65% of the information three days later, as opposed to just 10% if it is only text. The image does, of course, have to be relevant and meaningful.
Blog posts that contain visuals get viewed 94% more than those which contain text only.
The bottom line:
Attention, retention, and action – all three are enhanced by the use of images.
So now we come to the real questions:
Can you use any kind of images in your content or just non-copyrighted images?
How do commercial use photos help?
Where to find copyright-free images?
Let’s find out.
We can all remember at least a dozen times when we just went to Google and found a picture to use in a presentation or an assignment.
But it doesn’t work like that when you’re creating content that will be viewed by a large audience.
It is illegal to use copyrighted images without permission or a payment. And rightly so.
Think about it – would you want someone to use beautiful images or artwork you own without recognizing your efforts or compensating you for it?
Of course not!
So what are your other options?
You could always go out and take your own pictures. But who has time for that?
Hiring a photographer is also time-consuming and can be expensive.
The only reasonable option is using relevant stock images in your content, whether free or paid. We will discuss the former in detail in this blog post.
But before that:
Stock images are used to bring your content to life.
But where exactly can you use them?
Read on and find out!
Whether you publish a quarterly company newsletter or keep your blog regularly updated, you need stock photos to enhance the content.
This is content that you do not directly make a profit from.
The array of editorial-use stock photos is wider than that of their commercial-use counterparts. If a license specifies that you can use an image for commercial purposes, you can definitely use it for editorial content.
But the opposite is not true. Editorial royalty-free images cannot be used on a commercial level without their rights being cleared first.
Royalty-free commercial-use images can be used in content that aims to make a direct profit for the company.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Marketing ventures
- Advertising campaigns
- Digital content for online platforms
- Branding efforts
- Re-sale products
While you can find millions of free images to use commercially, it is important to make sure you have the right to use them as you intend.
You can find this data in the licensing information stock image sites publish for your benefit.
Which brings us to our next point:
We will discuss four important licenses that you are likely to come across in your search for free stock photos.
A Rights Managed (RM) license is one in which the rate of the image in question varies based on a number of factors.
What do you get as a result? Exclusive rights to an image, at least for a certain period of time.
Based on the intended use of the Rights Managed Image, you can negotiate the following factors with the stock photo agency when you look into making a purchase:
- Size and resolution of the image
- The medium on which the image will be used
- What geographical area it’ll be used in (in the case of flyers, banners, etc.)
- How long you need to use the image for
- The kind of reach the image is expected to have
- Whether you want exclusive rights to the image
- Whether you need the image for commercial use or editorial
- And so on
You can purchase the image on your terms against a specific price once all of these factors have been negotiated by the parties.
As discussed, the best thing about this kind of license is that it grants exclusive access to your brand. This means you can feature the image in important campaigns where you can’t afford someone else using the same graphics.
The biggest misconception when it comes to royalty-free stock photos for business is that they are always…FREE.
They can be, in a lot of cases, but not always.
What royalty-free means is that users of the image do not have to pay any extra loyalties once they have paid for a license. The one-time license fee applies (as we said, not always).
Once you have bought the license, however, you can use the image whenever you like, wherever you like. There are no usage restrictions except for a certain viewership limit (often 500,000) that you can’t exceed.
This is precisely why royalty-free images are so popular. For a potential one-time fee, which is often quite small, you obtain the right to use the beautiful images you chose as you please.
But there is a catch – you do not get exclusive rights to an image. Other brands, including competitors can use the free pics for their campaigns too.
This isn’t too big of a deal if you’re using an image in a blog post, say.
But if you’re using free commercial images for major campaigns, such as an outdoor billboard ad or even an extensive Facebook ad campaign, and a competitor goes ahead and uses the same picture, the originality and recall value of your work goes down.
An extended license gives you greater flexibility regarding how you can use an image.
In other words, it gives you more rights over an image than a usual royalty-free license.
In particular, the license allows you to surpass the 500,000 viewership limit that comes as part of the royalty-free license. This, in turn, facilitates easier distribution.
With an extended license, you can also use the visual in merchandise and products for re-sale.
Because of these perks, however, the extended license does tend to be more expensive than the royalty-free license.
There are different types of Creative Common licenses but we will only discuss the CC0 as it is most relevant to this blog post and the stock image sites we are about to discuss.
According to the CC0 license, the owner of the work waives all their rights to the visual and gives it up to the public domain.
In other words, they allow the end user to:
- Copy the work.
- Modify and edit it as they see fit.
- Distribute the work at their discretion.
- Not give an attribution.
Now we come to the actual free stock photos to download.
There are different sites on the web where you can get the best royalty-free images of people, landscapes, objects, and anything under the sun you may need.
Here are some of the best royalty-free image sites that offer FREE visuals that don’t even require attribution – let’s dive right in!
Before we do though,
Always, ALWAYS do your homework before you use any stock images. Don’t let the terminologies fool you – there are often hidden terms that you need to know before you make such visuals a part of your content.
Back to the list:
When it comes to free images for commercial use, Unsplash is one of the top websites to choose from.
A literal goldmine of more than 1 million beautiful images from over 157,000 photographers, it caters to your needs more times than not.
There are a number of categories from which you can take your pick. From free commercial use backgrounds to free people images, business stock images, and much more, you rarely go away empty-handed.
You can search for an image from the categories provided or by inserting your own keywords into the search bar. The wide range is bound to turn up something you can use.
The Unsplash license specifies that you can:
- Download and use the images for free.
- Attribute the photographer but it isn’t needed.
- Use the images for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
- Edit and modify the images.
In other words, you have license-free photos for commercial use with no attribution required.
Pixabay is another great website for free pictures to use in your digital marketing efforts and otherwise.
A resource of more than 1.8 million stock images and videos, it caters to a wide range of businesses and needs.
But that’s not all.
The best thing about Pixabay is that it is not restricted to free images for marketing – you can also download other types of graphics you may need.
The five major categories are photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, and music.
According to the Pixabay license, you have permission to:
- Use the graphics across the print and digital mediums.
- Make use of the royalty-free graphics for commercial use as well as non-commercial use.
- Not attribute the creator of the content.
- Modify and edit the content.
Canva stock images are beautiful images that span a large number of categories to meet your every need.
You get access to millions of high-quality, commercial, free photos that you can use as you like.
But what makes Canva stand out? What does it offer that other platforms don’t?
Canva also lets you design graphics without any formal training or expertise – that too for absolutely free! You are provided with templates which you can use to easily get your desired result.
The catch: On Canva, in addition to getting free stock photos, you can also buy pictures for commercial use. But the platform lets you choose which option you would like to go for using a dropdown menu on the main page.
The Premium version, of course, gives you access to a much larger reserve of stock photos.
Canva’s free media license agreement specifies that you can:
- Make use of the images in a personal and commercial capacity.
- Use the media without attribution although, as always, it is appreciated.
- Edit the images as you like, on the Canva platform itself, and otherwise.
Beautiful images aren’t always restricted to the top two or three websites – you can also find what you are looking for on less popular sites!
Freestocks is one such site. A collection of brilliant commercial images by a group of three core photographers, this steadily growing resource is expanding every day.
On this website, you can get stock photos free for commercial use and otherwise in the following categories:
- City and Architecture
- Food and Drinks
- Objects and Technology
According to the Freestocks CC0 license, you can:
- Use the image in a personal and commercial capacity.
- Edit the photos however you like.
- Use the images without attribution.
Another great place to get free to use high-resolution images for printing and digital uses, Stocksnap gives you the freedom to browse hundreds, or even thousands, of images in each category.
And if you don’t find something one week, there is a chance you’ll find it the next. Because the stock site adds hundreds of free high-quality images for commercial use every week!
You can, again, search for what you need by sifting through the categories or using the search bar for a direct search.
StockSnap offers a Creative Commons License, which implies the following:
- You can use the images for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
- Permission to use, edit, or modify the images in any way is granted.
- You do not have to give any attributions.
A platform that encourages creativity and visual message communication, Pexels offers free images to reuse as you like.
One of the best resources for royalty-free images online, you can search for photos from the search bar, or by choosing a category to explore.
These include anything from Popular Collections to Backgrounds and Cover Photos, Photography Topics, and the option to see collections by color among tons of others.
But before you get downloading, take a look at the permissions you have.
This is what the Pexels license implies:
- You can use all the pictures and videos on the platform for free.
- You decide whether or not you want to give credit to the photographer.
- Editing the free royalty-free graphics in any way is allowed.
- The images can be used across print and digital media.
A great website that lets you choose hi-res royalty-free images from the search bar or on the basis of categories and even dominant color, you are bound to hit the jackpot once in a while.
The platform adds a free high-quality photograph to its archives every single day, which means that the collection is steadily growing.
Because we are only discussing sites that offer free stock photos with no need to attribute, here are the terms of the CC0 license:
- Commercial and non-commercial usage is permissible
- Modify as you please
- No need for attributions
This is a relatively small collection of royalty-free images and videos that you can use in content with editorial and commercial intent.
With their entire collection divided into a large number of categories, ISO Republic makes it easier for you to find what you are looking for.
This is what the CC0 license offered by the platform implies:
- You can edit the images as little or as much as you want.
- There is no need to attribute the creator of the visual.
- You can use the photos and videos for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
As soon as you land on the PxHere page, you’re met with the line “Do whatever you want.”
And you really can.
Because PxHere provides you with an archive of commercial-use stock photos, absolutely free! All without compromising on the quality of the images.
You can search for the photo you need on the basis of category, popularity, color, and more, following which you are free to use the visual wherever you want without any attribution needed.
And that, of course, is not all.
Under PxHere’s Creative Commons Zero license, you are allowed to:
- Use the images for personal, editorial, and commercial purposes.
- Edit the photos to your heart’s desire.
- Distribute as and where you need to.
Free Images is a great resource of over 300,000 royalty-free images for personal and commercial use for no cost to you.
You can, however, pay for premium options if you want greater rights.
You have the option of browsing images from the search bar or from a larger number of collections offered by the platform.
The Free Images license states that:
- You can use the work on the digital and print mediums.
- It is allowed to use the content for personal, editorial, and commercial purposes.
- You’re required to give credits when you use the content for editorial purposes, although that is not necessary when you use it for commercial needs.
- You do not have permission to use the graphics in products for resale or electronic templates.
Here are some of the best practices that will make you a pro in the royalty-free image domain:
- Always double-check the license agreement so you’re absolutely sure of what you’re allowed to do with the image in terms of modification, sharing, and general use.
- Don’t overuse royalty-free commercial use images – every picture in a blog post or a social media campaign shouldn’t be a stock image. Mix it up a little.
- Edit the images such that they don’t look like free stock photos at all – make them your own!
- Try to make sure you aren’t using images others are using, especially your competitors.
This is a very difficult question to answer.
The sites we have mentioned in this blog post are some of the best sites to download free commercial-use PNG images, videos, vectors, and music from (that can also be used for non-commercial purposes).
It is very common to find brilliant photos for one category on one site and not on another. The opposite would happen for a different category.
After all, who’s to say what exactly it is you are looking for?
City stock images.
Backgrounds free for commercial use.
Free fashion images for commercial use.
Stock photos of business people.
Royalty-free illustrations for commercial use.
Free scenery pictures.
Free fitness images for commercial use.
The list can go on.
This is why it is best to have a list of the top resources that you know have rescued you in the past.
If one doesn’t have what you’re looking for, you can always hop onto the next. And the next, until you find what you need.
Ask yourself questions about your goals to get more clarity.
Do I need non-copyrighted music too? Pixabay would be a great choice.
Do I use vectors often? Photostocks and Pexels aren’t of much use to me.
With a bit of hit and trial, you will recognize which of these goldmines hold the treasure you seek!
But wait, we’re not done yet.
It is quite possible that you actually want to invest some money to find this treasure – after all, you may want images that are less commonly used. Or you may even want exclusive rights to an image for a certain period of time.
In other words, you may need to purchase images for commercial use.
Which is a little different from just finding and downloading royalty-free cityscape images or free stock photos of money, for example, from one of the sites we discussed above.
Which brings us to the question,
Where Can I Buy Photos for Commercial Use?
The aim of this blog post was to share with you resources for graphical content, commercial or otherwise, that you could obtain at no cost.
But like we just mentioned, you may want better photos (good things come at a price, right?) or exclusive licensing rights for images you want to use in important campaigns.
And we didn’t want you to go away without this information.
So, where to buy images for commercial use?
There are a ton of websites where you can do that. Even some of the free platforms we talked about above have certain items available for download only for premium users – yes, those who have a paying account.
But we’ll make it simpler for you. Here are some of the leading sites where you can purchase stock photos for commercial use:
These sites have different plans from which you can choose, based on your requirements, as well the use for which you need the photos.
Wrapping It Up…
Whether you want to purchase photos for commercial use or find them for absolutely free, you must have a lot of clarity by this point.
Just remember: you don’t want your content to seem generic and “over-stuffed” with stock photos. Always mix it up and try to edit stock images to make them your own whenever you can.