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8 Tips for Finding the Best Photos on Stock Photo Sites

Stock photography sites can be like a black hole – or Pinterest addiction. You get sucked in, and you keep looking and looking – and suddenly an hour has flown by and you still haven’t found a photo for your blog post.

Here are 8 tips for finding the best free stock photos on a stock photo site – quickly:

Don’t download whatever you find online

This tip has nothing to do with finding great photos, but it’s the number-one thing you have to keep in mind: Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking. Any kind of content that is published online – articles, photos, illustrations, videos, etc. – is copyrighted. I know you would never steal, but it’s a good reminder.

Check licensing restrictions

The number-two thing you have to keep in mind is licensing. Double-check that you have permission to use a photo in the way you want. While most photos can be used for editorial purposes (like in a blog post), many have restrictions on commercial use (like for a brochure or ad). Always read the fine print.

Only download the size you need

This has nothing to do with theft or licensing – it’s just common sense. Images on stock photography sites can typically be downloaded in a range of sizes. Steer clear of the giant photos unless you’re a graphic designer. Download the small or medium sizes instead.

Check out the free photo sites

OK, now that we have the technical pieces out of the way, let’s talk about the best free stock photo sites. Yes, free is awesome, and the quality of the photos on the free sites can be higher than what you find on a stock photo site. There is a catch, though: if you’re looking for very specific images, you won’t find them on the free sites.

My favorite free sites are:

Subscribe to Unsplash, StockSnap, and Pexels, and they’ll send you new photos on a regular basis (quantities and timing vary).

Switch it up with free icons and illustrations

Take a break from photos and use free icons and illustrations every once in a while. Two of my favorite sources are:

  1. Iconmonstr
  2. Iconfinder (choose to view only the free ones that are licensed for your purposes.)

Find specific images on paid stock photo sites

Stock photo sites that cost money aren’t actually very expensive. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the free sites, definitely check out the paid sites like iStockPhoto, Getty, and 123rf. As I mentioned above, you’ll be able to find very specific images that are relevant to your business.

Refine your search

When searching on a paid stock photo site, always choose to view the Most Popular results over the Most Relevant. Most Relevant is what an algorithm thinks is best. Most Popular is what other users think is best.

You can also refine your search using various criteria. Do you want people? Do you want an illustration? Do you want horizontal or vertical?

Explore photographer portfolios

If you find a photo whose style you really like but the subject isn’t quite right, click on the username of the photographer. You’ll be taken to the photographer’s portfolio where you can explore their other work. You might find the right photo for your needs, as photographers tend to shoot the same subject multiple times. (Remember, though, you’ll still need to obtain the rights to that photo.)

What is your number-one favorite source for photos?


Photo by sarandy westfall on Unsplash