Disclaimer: As a heads up, there may be affiliate links below where if you click and purchase – I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. My disclaimer policy is long, boring, and located here.
You need quality stock images for your business website, blog, or social media content. You can’t take them and you can’t create an image of five business professionals in an aesthetically pleasing meeting space, out of nowhere.
It’s make or break for your business website, product listings, and content marketing to prospects, readers and customers.
You need to lift your SEO practices, help readers digest content and bring some life to your website and landing pages.
It’s important to generate quality content, right?
Or, maybe you’re here and a little more advanced in image use and are gearing to jump to the next level in terms of investing in paid stock images.
You’ve come to the right place to answer these types of questions.
I’ve received a few questions recently on sourcing content for business-oriented content and posts, and felt it was necessary to share the sources I found specifically within this business-based realm for both quality, free and paid images.
I also include a deal on the service I use (which is cheaper than most competitors) for paid stock photos. (I’m pretty frugal as a solopreneur.)
I’m going to list out a few free business stock photo resources for commercial use that you can use without attribution.
These are websites that I use in my current work with startups, as well as in articles here.
It’s ESSENTIAL for me to bring paid stock images into the conversation because they offer more options on quality content that’s best suited for your website – whether it’s in terms of message, color, number of people or size and orientation, you tend to get what you pay for.
Basically – don’t let paid images scare you.
It’s a necessary investment. (For me, my stock photo service was actually one of the first major investments I ever made in my blog, besides web hosting.)
Let’s jump right in.
Essential Notes On Finding Stock Images
There are SO many free stock image websites with free stock photos for business use. There are a lot of lists published with an overwhelming number of free stock sites up for comparison and use.
Like I mentioned earlier, you might already be implementing stock images within your business content and various websites.
If you’re getting started with stock photos or not sure where to start, here’s what I mean by sourcing free stock photos.
Even if you’re already using free photos, don’t skip these IMPORTANT points.
Mistakes to Avoid in Searching for Business Images
Free photos for YOUR business’ use (aka commercial or for-profit usage) DO NOT come from the following sources:
- The “images” tab or images from Google searches
- Other articles, blogs or websites
- Social posts without express permission from creators, accounts, websites, books, etc.
Using free photos for your business, the proper way, means using images that are available under website terms and conditions. These photos should be labeled for “commercial use” or with select permission that you’ve obtained from the previous publisher, creator, or artist.
What’s “commercial use”?
Commercial use of images is the use of an image that involves marketing where a generation of income is involved. It’s a broader definition that warrants the 30-second quick read here.
If you’re not sourcing and distributing images properly in your business or income-generating venture, you’re liable for the consequences. This pertains to copyright infringement where others can threaten or actively sue you for copying and distributing their work. The fines alone are steep and can be up to $250,000 depending on the extent.
In use for business purposes, these images do not apply for what’s called “fair use”. This is described more in-depth here, for when, how, and where you need permission to use another individual’s work.
I would highly encourage reading up on this further.
It’s also highly important to check the Terms and Conditions of the website you’re taking photos from. Then, check back for any published updates on these Terms and Conditions.
Business Image Sourcing from Social Media and Reposting
When it comes to image content or written work on other sites: reach out and ask permission before use. This is especially the case when “reposting” to social media (using another person’s content for your social posting).
Never assume content creators always want their content reshared (even with credit given).
People can change their minds about you using their content. They can also not be okay with it in the first place for various reasons.
You could also be sharing content that’s not originally sourced from the creators themselves and someone else is reposting themselves. Or content the user is taking credit for in posting with no credit to the original creator. (Not cool.)
Believe it or not, some images on “free to use” websites might not be shared correctly for proper commercial use; that can come back to haunt you.
Overall, it helps to retain links and track when and where you sourced your photos. (In the event of a dispute it’s important to show where and when you pulled the specific image, if possible).
I’ve even known some bloggers and business owners who take note of conversations relating to permission requests with creators. This is often when sharing Instagram embeds in blog post creation or reposting and sharing content from social media.
To each their own on tracking and using images.
It helps to err on the side of caution for using content that’s not your own.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer or legal professional and this information here is not fully substitute to that of a professional. If you are seeking additional information, I would encourage you to seek legal help and counseling in this area.
Where to Find Free Stock Images for Business Use
Burst is my favorite source of free stock images specifically in the e-commerce business realm. They mention right from their home page here that they’re free images for “websites and commercial use”.
The other main reason this free stock photo site is perfect is the fact that it’s an offshoot company of Shopify. If you’re not already familiar, Shopify is the leading place to construct eCommerce sites.
Burst is great because it features product-centric photos that are insanely helpful for building out a blank website with eye-catching content for shoppers. (They were a lifesaver when I built out a Shopify website last summer.)
Despite being free – there’s no sacrifice on image quality. No fear of having pixellated image quality (which is annoying on the best of days).
I started with this image platform way back in college. At the time I was building marketing materials for on-campus health centers and needed a solution for images.
This site is probably the easiest and most straightforward in terms of search options for photos in areas like searching by color, category, as well as size, and orientation.
You can also mark SafeSearch, which cuts out any potentially inappropriate search results.
Bonus: You can get free stock video clips and music tracks. (I don’t think this was something I had access to in college. I wish.)
I’m kicking myself now because I relied on photo image search so highly. At the time, I had no idea about searching specifically for vector and illustration image types.
Save yourself time and energy with graphic design. Don’t craft by hand in Canva for these image types (like I did once upon a time).
Unsplash has gorgeous, eye-catching photos that serve every purpose for every business niche.
I’ve never been at a lack for images when crafting corporate-oriented content in the rental and software-as-a-service (SAAS) space for website design and technical, business blog posts.
They make it easy to give credit to image creators by copying image credit to your clipboard, directly after download. (This is required in a place like Medium, not so much for you in your business.)
They also do an occasional newsletter that shares the latest content updates for new images. With that, you can be the first to apply to your business website, blog, or social post content.
Fun fact: If you’re paying for Canva Pro for their stock photos – don’t! I’ve heard from fellow bloggers who have invested that they’ve found most stock images can be found on Unsplash.
Where to Find Paid Stock Images for Business
What are some tried and tested paid photo sites? Here’s what I recommend after four years of using images in marketing management.
I share three options, with a coupon code for the service I’ve been using for the last 6 months on my blog specifically.
This one I found while learning about Pinterest strategies early on. (I took this Pinterest course early in blogging. It’s the seriously underpriced tips from the original expert on Pinterest, Carly Campbell.)
Depositphotos is much cheaper than some of the other stock photo sites I was originally researching. As I mentioned before, I’m frugal.
I talked with a customer service representative and settled on a custom plan. For me, that was 10 images a month (no monthly image rollover) for a year subscription at $199. This is what I use to this day.
It allowed me to save a lot of money compared to some of their other image site plans.
Depositphotos is easy to use for finding photos in specific categories, new file types, or related photos for ones you’ve searched or “favorited”.
I also like mixing it up with finding vector file types, illustrations, and photos. I choose content that either relates to my content with “Best Match”, or find new content uploads with the “Fresh” search option.
I also like the ability (as with many stock photo sites) to drill down in searches for my specific needs. This better aligns with my site design, and post topic, and otherwise better illustrates the concept I’m detailing.
This search is also helpful if you’re working with clients on design and content (like I have) where the client wants a super-specific image.
I’ve used this photo service in consulting for blog management and content creation in the past.
Shutterstock is widely known to be a reputable and quality source.
Therefore, I will include them on that count, but with the disclaimer that it’s not friendly to a startup budget.
They’re best for business websites with major news or editorial aspects.
Namely – because they include images relating to sports, fashion, royalty, and other trending entertainment avenues that you would be pressed to find elsewhere, and legally.
Shutterstock also has music tracks, (this is a subscription separate from images) and footage clips for download. (I love the slow-motion clips in their library.)
One other item that’s cool to use is their image search function.
You can upload an image you like (Google search or otherwise) and see if you can find an image you like, or one closely similar, on Shutterstock.
I’ve also used this tool to do a reverse image lookup on a stock photo. This is helpful if the original file location is unknown and you need access to edit. (This is a super-specific issue that came up, and I’m not sure how often this would ever happen, but just putting it out there.)
Overall, Shutterstock is a good option for specific use cases. Pricey, but good to know it’s out there as a quality image option.
Trust me – from my small business experience, you can pay a designer on Upwork on a per-job or retainer basis to do this, but it can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, and additional hours with the back-and-forth workshopping.
That’s time and money that you don’t have as a startup or solopreneur.
Or you can design and download images, videos, social media banners, t-shirt designs, and even your business logo from Placeit and make the ultimate decision on what the end result will be.
It’s an all-in-one solution that gives your original designs without requiring you to put in the hours to learn Adobe Suite to edit photos on your own time.
And I’m not joking when I say you can do a mockup on literally any medium.
These are just the A-F options…let that creative potential sink in.
Beyond mockups, you can select and create items like YouTube thumbnails and Twitch banners, as well as things like Instagram stories, business cards, and flyers. This is among many other options showcased on the header banner on their website.
There are so many options, so when I found this – to say I was thankful this existed was an understatement.
Your Business Stock Image Opportunities Are Endless
In any case, these are the top recommendations I have to share that are tried and tested for finding stunning stock images for your business, and other media content, whether creating your website or crafting content for social posts and blogs.
It’s never so easy to take all your own photos and source all your own media content, especially those with an online business in selling a product, or blogging and promoting content that relies on a lot of business content that can’t be created from scratch.
Find your images and media content and harness them to make your business and startup stand out.