When photographers take images to sell commercially, like every other business, they want to maximize their returns, so they adapt their ideas to meet commercial trends. As a result, stock always looks like stock, and that minor deception introduces a small amount of doubt in users.
But the rise of camera phones, and the increasing affordability of DSLRs, has led to a growth in people who aren’t monetizing every shot. What that means is if you know where to look, you can find images that are less posed, more natural, less clichéd, and far more diverse.
Here are ten places to look for engaging, and trust-building stock images, all free to use…
Pexels has a huge collection of high-quality images that would not feel out of place on a ‘premium’ site. You’ll also find a ton of free videos. Pexels’ search feature is particularly well-tuned. Pexels also runs regular challenges, with cash prizes for photographers; reviewing the past competitions is a great shortcut to finding original images.
Reshot is one of the better stock sites on the web, with a wide selection of curated images. There’s a distinctly Instagram feel to the images on Reshot; they don’t feel staged, in many cases, they don’t look like stock at all. That gives them an authentic feel that many ‘premium’ stock sites fail to deliver.
Unsplash is one of the largest collections of free images on the web. It has a good collection of standard stock and a growing collection of more creative, experimental images. Its free-forever approach is backed by product placement instead of adverts or premium sections, which means you may find the more marketable images include easily identifiable brands.
4. Life of Pix
Life of Pix highlights one photographer per week to feature ten images; that adds a competitive angle to the site as photographers submit premium shots to get noticed. Unless you’re very fortunate, the ideal shot for you isn’t going to be found in the current set, but click the ‘Gallery’ link, and you’ll have access to all the shots that have previously been uploaded.
Unlike ‘premium’ sites that are set up to turn a profit, free stock sites often set out to address a hole in the market. Nappy was set up to redress the underrepresentation of black and brown people on many stock sites. At least some of your users fall into this demographic, and it’s a great idea to show them they’re valued by using images like these.
Burst is a stock site provided by Shopify to help new entrepreneurs find stock to help them sell products. Anyone can use the shots, but there is a natural inclination towards commercial rather than editorial images. There’s a good mix that rivals many paid sites and some less obvious shots.
If quirky and offbeat isn’t right for your project — and it may very well not be — then check out Picography for a more middle-of-the-road collection of free stock images. There’s a wide selection, but they do tend to feel more stock-like than many other collections.
8. ISO Republic
ISO Republic has a broad range of images and videos to choose from. Again, the images tend to be more stock-like than some other options, and you do have to dig around to find the best. ISO Republic is a good place to search when you want to swap like-for-like with a ‘premium’ stock source.
Kaboompics specializes in lifestyle images. If you’re hoping for a woman sipping a frappuccino while making commanding business decisions, you’re in the right place. Kaboompics is a one-woman show, so the perspective is a little narrower than the ideal, but the free images are consistently high-quality.
StockSnap has a good balance of images. Many professional photographers use sites like StockSnap to upload the images they choose not post to ‘premium’ sites for one reason or another, so you’ll often find premium-quality shots for absolutely nothing.