May 04, 2014


The Fun Bits ›

Stock images that won't break the bank

Picture this

I am looking at a gorgeous photograph of a coffee plantation in South America. Luscious greenery and a wide panorama - perfect for our campaign requirements. I make the necessary enquiries to find out how much it will cost to use the shot.

As my client has an international presence in almost every corner of the globe I had to specify "worldwide use" for both website and miscellaneous printed material. The result? A whopping NZ$18,000 (US$15,600) for that one image for just ONE year of use. I politely declined to accept the photo library's quote, stating that I could hire a photographer, put them on a plane to South America and get our own coffee plantation shots to use for years to come - for a similar cost!

In my 25 years in the business, only a handful of times have my clients been able (or willing) to afford the "rather high" fees charged by the high-end photo libraries. The only problem is that their photos are so darned good that finding comparable, cheaper alternatives is sometimes next-to-impossible.

My go-to stock libraries of choice have typically been iStockphoto and Shutterstock. Both websites offer easy-access royalty free photos, videos, music clips and illustrations that are both high quality and reasonably priced. 

There is also a third alternative...and that's "free" imagery (and we all like "free" now, don't we?!). A mere few years ago free would've equated to low quality shots taken with a point-and-shoot camera. These days, through extraordinary curation and the generosity of countless photographers, we are now spoiled for choice for images we can freely use in blog posts, online and in printed material. The challenge then comes in finding the shots you want, at the quality you want, without spending a whole lot of time in the hunt for the perfect image.

While I can't help you to cut down your hunting time, I can help to make your hunting grounds just that little bit bigger. Below is a selection of websites offering free images of varying degrees of quality and quantity.

I should mention that I am not endorsing any particular website, and I would suggest that you browse through all the links and bookmark your favourites for future reference. If you know of other good sites, please let us know in the comments section below.

Happy hunting!

Free stock photo examples


1001 Free Downloads



Canva: link to more free stock photo sites


Death to the Stock Photo


Free Images





Im Free


Kave Wall

Life of Pix

Little Visuals

Morgue File

New Old Stock


Peekspace (space photography)


Photo Pin






Smart Photo Stock


Start-up Stock Photos


Superfamous Studios


The Library of Congress (historical)

UI Faces (avatar images)




Other Imagery

Free Vector Maps

Free golden and silver age comic book images

Mayang's Free Textures

The Amazing Pattern Library

Flickr: Creative Commons License

How to look for images by usage rights on Bing

How to look for freely licensed images on Google

Wikimedia Commons


A version of this article first appeared on the Design Assembly website | 5 May 2014


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Sarah Ritchie
Sarah Ritchie


Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.

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