Best Stock Image Websites & Deals For Bloggers
August 23, 2021
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then finding the right image for your blog can make all the difference in the world. But where do you find them?
There are all sorts of image sites that cater to bloggers — some free and some paid. The quality can vary from site to site, but it all boils down to a few key factors: price, availability, selection, and licenses. “Free” images can cost more than paid ones, especially if they’re copyrighted.
The list below is divided into two major sections: free (and reputable) and paid sites. It’s up to you which site you use, but the buying guide placed immediately before should provide some guidance. The trick is to find images that aren’t used by everyone else, so the more you’re willing to dig, the higher the reward in the search results.
Time is everything, so instead of siphoning through a bunch of sites to find what you may want, we tested them ourselves and listed the best ones below. Bookmark the best ones and refer back to this list if you need more ideas.
What Should I Look For in a Stock Image Website?
It may surprise you to learn that there are hundreds of stock image websites out there, all of which purportedly claimed to be the "best" at meeting your needs.
But before you dive in and start creating accounts with a dozen sites in the span of a few minutes, there are a few things you need to know first when making your selection. Keep them in mind as you scour the sites, and it'll save you a lot of time and headache in trying to find the right image for your website.
While some of the websites listed below claim to be free, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Some are only free once you sign up for an account, whereas others are free as long as you give copyright credit to the image source (photographer, website, etc.).
As can be assumed, the best images will almost always be on websites that you have to pay for, but some sites offer incredible deals at certain points in the year that make it much easier to buy the right images. We'll mention those deals within the individual sites as they are listed.
What can look promising on the outside, such as a simple search that turns up thousands of related images, can actually be pretty disappointing once you start moving through the individual selections. Some images can look exactly the same — with a minor alteration, of course — while others will not even remotely resemble the keyword that you entered in in the first place.
When looking through their respective portfolios, use the filters that are provided to see how exact you can find a related picture. If an initial search turns up a lot of possible candidates for a blog post, then you may have found a winner.
Not every picture will be suitable for every purpose. In fact, depending on your needs, you may need a smaller image for a certain part of your blog, or you’ll need a much larger image to act as the cover photo.
You would assume that most sites offer all the different versions of these pictures, or at least offer you the option to increase them, but that's not always the case. Some images that are provided may look perfect at a smaller resolution, but when you expand them to the cover photo size, they become pixely and low quality. Look for websites that offer multiple versions of the same picture so that you can find the right fit for your site.
The dirty little secret of the online stock image world is that not all of them are available for use – especially commercial usage. A lot of the images that you'll find on free websites are protected under the Creative Commons law, but you must attribute it to the individual. This can hurt if you're counting on the alt text part of your image to provide some SEO link juice.
Always, always, always check the licenses before you start downloading images and putting them on your websites. If you don't, you may be hit with a cease-and-desist letter that will, at best, cause you to spend a lot of time finding and uploading pictures that you're legally allowed to use. At worst, you could receive a huge fine.
Best Free Stock Image Websites
Before we get into the paid options, it needs to be said that there are a lot of perfectly good free image websites available. As long as you keep in mind the caveats mentioned above, you should be able to use a lot of the following websites to find the best image for your blog.
One of the largest repositories of free images on the web is Pexels.com. They provide thousands of completely free images that are protected under the Creative Commons license, which means they’re perfectly free for you to use in whatever format you like.
You’ll still have to siphon through the individual pictures to find the one that you want, but they're categorized well and allows for much quicker searching than you would on some other websites. They’re also tagged, so if you prefer to search by keyword or by genre, you can do that as well.
Another free image behemoth on the market today is UnSplash.com. While their selection usually mirrors that of Pexels and other free image sites, they also have a team that handpicks certain images to appear in their homepage. Most of their pictures are high resolution as well, so they should be good no matter what you need them for.
You may notice as you look through the pictures that Unsplash tends to focus on more artistic shots. That's because the pictures used on splash are uploaded by an individual photographer or agency. While this is nice to be able to attribute credit, you'll also be able to hire them independently if you need specialized work. Having this connection elevates Unsplash above the average stock image website.
Rounding out the "big three" of the online free-generic-stock-image-website category is Pixabay. Like Unsplash, Pixabay also utilizes the talents of freelance photographers to pack their portfolio with high resolution images. They also have illustrations and vectors, so if you're needing something will be more specialized than just stock images, look no further than Pixabay.
If the image that you're looking for doesn't necessarily require people, then Kaboom might be the resource for you. The site specializes in abstract, fashion, landscape, and city-based pictures that are perfect for background images or social media.
Like the others, they can be used for commercial purposes as long as you have the proper attribution, but they cannot be sold or redistributed under your own name whatsoever. But for the average blogger who just needs images on their site, Kaboom more than delivers.
Truthfully, one of the best things for any blogger to do is to find a stock image website that caters to their specific niche. For the food blogger, FoodiesFeed does precisely that, offering thousands of realistic food-based pictures that are both high-resolution and free to use. Just don't browse when you're hungry, or you may end up on a weird snack binge.
New Old Stock
Photography hasn't been around for very long, so it can be hard to find vintage pictures that resemble what you need. For that reason, it’s worth bookmarking New Old Stock if you need any pictures that are over 50 years old. Best of all, since these pictures are all older, you can use them without any fear of copyright reprisal, including for commercial purposes.
Best Paid Stock Image Websites
While free stock image websites are great, if you're a serious blogger, it's worth it to invest in high-quality images that you have to pay for. Having a paywall like this essentially means that the likelihood of other people using your exact image is much lower, so you can rest easier knowing that your blog will be even more unique.
The undisputed King of paid stock image websites is most likely DepositPhotos. Not only do they have several million pictures that are available for download, but they also have videos and vectors available for use as well. Their filtering system is top-notch too, so you'll have no problem finding that exact image that you want.
Unfortunately, DepositPhotos knows that they’re one of the best, and their prices reflect this. Images are expensive — starting at around a dollar apiece — and videos can be $50 or more. The good news is that every year they run a black Friday sale that allows you to purchase images in hundred unit credits, and you can redeem them whatever you want. In the past, these units have been around $20 per hundred images, so it's a good idea to stock up whenever they run their sale.
While this website is more aimed at small business owners, StockPhotoSecrets also provides an excellent resource for bloggers to use for their social media or blog posts. You can purchase via image packs or subscriptions — neither of which are very expensive — but if you want to use their images for larger commercial purposes like print runs, you have to buy the extended license, which can cost close to eight dollars per image.
The only downside to this website is that their selection is relatively small when compared to other websites. They do offer 25% off coupons from time to time, which is significant considering the annual subscription is $100 per month, so keep an eye out for the specials.
One of the longest-running stock image websites, Getty is known as a premium, high-end stock image website. They have millions upon millions of stock images, videos, illustrations, and photos available for use, which you can buy via subscription or per image. Make sure you're sitting down when you see the prices though, as a 5-pack of large images can be over $2,000.
If you have your heart set on Getty Images, but don't want to pay the outrageous price per image, inquire about purchasing "Ultrapacks," which get you royalty-free photos in bulk. It will still cost you around $100 per image though, but the good news is is that you are virtually guaranteed that nobody else on the Internet will have your exact image.
Most every blogger has heard about Canva at some point or another, as they have a very user-friendly service that allows individuals to create images of all kinds. In addition to that though, they also have an incredible free stock image database, so be sure to peruse that first.
If you don't see anything on their free database, look for images on their Pro level membership. Not only are there a lot more images at this tier, but you can also format them to create any size you want or put text on the top of them. And at $12 a month, it's a veritable steal compared a bunch of other sites.
Envato is known by web designers as a great place to pick up WordPress templates for the website, but it can also be an amazing resource for pictures as well. You’ll have to buy a subscription, which, for individuals, is less than $20 a month, but it also gives you access to educational resources and management tools in addition to the images that you can download.
There are thousands of images available on Envato, but just in case you don't find what you're looking for, an Envato subscription will also give you access to the library on their sister site Twenty20. Occasionally, you'll see discounts floating around for 20 to 30% off, but Envato also offers a team member discount where you're able to split the cost (if you work in an agency or on a team), bringing the cost down to $10 a month. If you need more robust help, they also have an enterprise option as well.
It's best to think of Shutterstock is not just a single site, but a parent company for a lot of different stock image websites, such as Bigstock, Shutterstock Custom, Offset, Premium Beat, and Shutterstock Editorial. Every one of these companies offers a different type of service, but a subscription to Shutterstock as a whole should allow you access to all of them.
They're not the cheapest option on the market, but they're far from the most expensive. A subscription of 10 images per month will cost $50, or you can buy an annual membership at $300 per year. The price goes down as the membership level goes up, so 50 images will cost $225 per month, or you can buy a simple image pack of five images, redeemable at any time, for $50.
Because they're so well known, Shutterstock has coupons all over the place, ranging from 10%-20% off. You're also able to download them directly onto your smart phone and use the online editing tools to adjust it as you see fit.
About THE AUTHOR
After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts, spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.Learn more about SparrowBoost