One alternative is to find beautiful images that can be used without a fee - and that’s where the numerous online collections of free images come in.
We’ve rounded up 21 places to find free images to give your business’s marketing an edge.
But first a quick reminder: always check to make sure that the image you are downloading is available to use and whether you need to attribute the source.
If the photo is in the public domain, it is no longer under copyright and free for public use. Alternatively, if an artist has shared their photos under a Creative Commons license, there may be restrictions on how you can use the image, for what purposes and if you need to provide attribution.
Unsplash has one of the best collections of free, high-resolution images going around and 10 new photos are added every day. On Unsplash you’ll find beautiful photos of architecture, landscapes and flora and fauna.
All photos and videos on Pixabay are available under a Creative Commons licence and can be used for commercial projects. The database is searchable by category or content type.
3. Crow the Stone
At Crow the Stone, you’ll have access to beautiful images that wouldn’t be out of place in an exhibition at an art gallery. No attribution is required for these images and you can sign up to receive new images in your inbox each week.
If it’s culinary imagery you’re after, try FoodiesFeed, a database of realistic images of a wide variety of food. Paid subscriptions to premium images are available and you can sign up to receive 20 foodie photos a month.
For businesses in the professional services field, Startup Stock Photos could be worth a look. This database is made up of completely free technology and startup themed photos.
Death of the Stock Photo is a membership-based photo library that aims to be “just like coffee for the modern creative”. Once a member, you’ll have access to high-quality photos that you can do with whatever you please.
Cupcake is the creation of photographer Jonas Wimmerstrom and all the images on the site are available under a Creative Commons licence, including for commercial projects. No attribution is required, although this talented photographer says people are welcome to let him know where his images are being used.
Does your marketing project have a particular colour scheme? Negative Space is one of a number of free image databases that can be searched by colour. All images are available under a Creative Commons licence with no copyright restrictions.
9. Find A Photo
Find A Photo combines free images from a range of other photo libraries, including Unsplash and Startup Stock Photos. Similar to Negative Space, this database is also searchable by colour.
10. Freerange Stock
The images available from Freerange Stock are created by an in-house team as well as contributing photographers, who can earn income from advertising on the site. All images are free to use, however, you must sign up to the site to get access.
11. Get Refe
Get Refe’s aim is to “help organisations and individuals bring ideas to life in a memorable way” by providing high-quality, natural images of people interacting with technology. You can browse through the site’s collection of free images or pay a small fee to receive monthly packs of curated images.
A favourite in the SmartCompany office, Pexels offers more than 5000 free images under a Creative Commons Zero license – which means all images are completely free for personal and commercial use. Around 600 new images a month are added to the database, which includes high-quality images of work environments, people, animals and nature – and just about everything in between.
13. New Old Stock
Does your project need a vintage image? Try New Old Stock. This site is a collection of vintage photos that are in the public domain and therefore free of copyright restrictions.
Another great source for free historical images are public libraries. For example, the State Library of Victoria maintains a pool of around 200,000 photos, illustrations and maps that are either out of copyright or available for use.
For free colourful and quirky images, try Gratisography. All of the photos on this site were taken by photographer Ryan McGuire and are free to use. However, McGuire says he takes better photos when he is caffeinated and so will happily take PayPal donations to his Creative Coffee Fund.
ImageFinder started out as a search engine for images on Flickr that are licensed under Creative Commons, however, the site now also searches Creative Commons licensed images from other stock sites. Think of ImageFinder as directory for free images; you’ll need to download the photos from their original source and check if attribution is required.
PicJumbo is home to 15 categories of completely free images that can be used for both personal and commercial projects. Like many sites that provide free images, you can sign up to receive notifications when new images are available or pay to access premium image collections.
18. IM Creator
IM Creator not only provides a curated selection of free images – you’ll also find other free marketing tools on this site, including website templates, icons and buttons.
MMT is a collection of vibrant photos from photographer Jeffrey Betts, which are all available for commercial use under a Creative Commons Zero license.
If you’re looking for high-quality, creative images of a New York street scape or European landmarks, Picography may be for you. All photos are available under a Creative Commons Public Domain license.
As its name suggests, Public Domain Archive is a repository for public domain photos. The photos are divided into modern and vintage photos and new images are added each week.