The Designer Approved List of Free and Cheap Stock Photo Sites
What if I told you, out of the 20 stock photos I download every month, I only actually pay for a few a few of them -- and when I do, it’s almost always under $5-10? Obviously as a graphic designer, I have to use stock images all the time. I don’t however, subscribe to any stock photo sites because a $99/month membership just isn’t in my budget right now. I’m sure a lot you can relate! Although there are plenty of free stock photos online, they can usually be so freaking cheesy I just can’t. even. *cue hair flip.* So, finding quality images for the high-standard’s girl with a Ramen Noodle budget ( <- this is me), is what I’m all about.
This post does contain affiliate links (marked with *), but only for my very favorite stock photo sites.
Some of you may forgo the use of stock photos altogether because of the price. Luckily you’re here so I, the queen of visuals, can to tell you that’s a huge mistake! According to Hubspot, content with images gets 94% more views than content without relevant imagery. Images are crucial for any content you’re putting out into the world. Whether it’s you’re blog posts or your social media updates, adding images like stock photos or illustrations will entice your audience to stop and read what you’ve posted. In fact, images on social media have around an 85% engagement rate, compared to posts with just text or links which accumulate to less than 10% of an interaction rate. The point is, you need relevant imagery to stand out in the sea of online marketing.
For those of you who do accompany your post with images, you know that the price of stock photos can add up fast, especially if you post several times a week. For a lot of us entrepreneurs and bloggers, subscribing to a high-end stock photo site just isn’t a reality for us right now (though it will be someday!). In the meantime, I have compiled a list of designer-worthy stock photos for those of you with a tighter marketing budget, like myself. I have categorized these sites into free, cheap and affordable, so you too can use quality, relevant imagery on every single post you put out!
Top Free Stock Photo Sites
The Stocks.im is a compilation site with several different free stock photo sites to choose from (aside from the sites labeled “sponsored" -- those are not free). They are all worth looking into depending on your niche, but not all stock photo sites are created equal! So, I have picked out my favorites for you. These five sites actually have a search function and a larger range of images to choose from, in comparison to the other options listed on TheStocks.im. I often find most sites without search functions useless, because I don’t have the time to scroll through 100 photos before I find one I might be looking for. To save yourself the time and irritation of using sites without search capability, I would stick to these five free stock photo sites of the many they list on TheStocks.im. Note that these sites can also be accessed on their own, which I have linked below. TheStocks.im just compiles them all for you because they're super helpful like that.
This site gives you the ability to search for stock photos by color, which can come in handy if you’re trying to find images that match your brand's color palette.
Some of these stock photos can be kind of cheesy, but they have a huge selection that I would definitely look into. Just please, STEER CLEAR OF CHEESE TOWN!
I have nothing fancy to tell you about this one other than its good.
This stock photo site does have some paid “premium” stock photos, but the majority of their stock photos are free.
Top Cheap Stock Photo Sites
Sometimes you can’t find the exact image you need from these free sites. Free stock photos work really well for general posts that can have an array of imagery that can accompany the content, but sometimes you’re working on a project and have a super particular photo in mind. If that’s the case, the free stock photo sites probably won’t cut it. Instead, check out these sites with crazy cheap stock photo pricing that I use all. the. time.
You can purchase packs of 5, 10 or 25 images without purchasing a monthly or daily subscription on DepositPhotos. Depending on what size package you purchase initially, you can buy photos for around $6-$7, which in comparison to larger stock photo sites, is super cheap.
Pond5 has been one of my favorite finds so far. Not only are the photos high quality, but they make it easy to search for stock photos within your budget. In their search function, you’re able to adjust the price range you can afford for the photo you’re looking for. They also price their stock photos based on the size of the photo you’re downloading. So, if you only need the stock photo for web purposes, the price is a few dollars cheaper than if you were buying it for print production. Every stock photo I have downloaded from Pond5 has been around $5, which is AWESOME!
123RF also has such a good selection of stock photos for such a great price. Like Pond5, the price of the photo depends on the image size and resolution you're needing to download. Their prices seem to vary anywhere from $1-$10 a photo. So if you’re just needing an image for the web, it will be on the lower end of that spectrum. So basically it’s a steal.
Top Affordable Stock Photo Sites
These sites are definitely more expensive, but they have such nice photos and there are so. many. to choose from. These photos usually range anywhere from $15-$30 a photo, depending on the image. I know this isn’t cheap, but it’s also not an outrageous price for professional photography. Sometimes you just have to splurge on the perfect photo, especially if you have a super specific photo in mind. If you find yourself in this position, I definitely recommend these two site!
Have any other awesome stock photo sites that I didn't list? Let me know in the comments below!