Some business owners and creatives may have the time and resources to snap original, highly engaging photos to go along with all of their social, blog, and website needs. But that isn’t the reality for every creator. Luckily, if you search in the right places, you can find thousands of completely free, high-quality business stock photos to enhance your brand while saving you some money.
Contrary to popular belief, pulling imagery from a Google search doesn’t make it okay to use it on any of your platforms. Unless you’re searching Google Images with Creative Commons licensing (more on that to come), chances are using those images can break copyright laws.
Consider this your crash course in understanding photo licensing. With this in mind, you can find free photos when you’re trying to save money for your small business.
Understanding the lingo
Before getting into it, here’s a quick breakdown of different photo licensing terminology and what they mean.
What are the different types of photo licenses?
Royalty-free: Individuals and businesses can license a royalty-free image once. You can use that image however you want without needing to license it every time. While it’s not free upfront, you don’t have to pay royalties to the creator after paying the initial fee.
Creative Commons: This global not-for-profit organization allows designers and photographers to label their work. This allows them to be used by others with varying levels of sharing. Others can reuse depending on the specific type of Creative Commons license.
Public domain: Copyrights on these types of images have either expired (or never existed). They can be used by the public for personal or commercial use. It’s also referred to as a Creative Commons Zero license or CC0.
Creativity on a budget: 8 free imagery sites to try
If you’ve been in the world of content, you’re probably familiar with the OG website, Flickr. Not only is Flickr an excellent source for stock imagery, but it’s also a great place to share original work.
Flickr makes it pretty clear in their guidelines that linkbacks are required for any content found on their site. This provides visibility for the original creator. When browsing Flickr, you should filter by the type of licensed image you’re looking for, so you don’t run into copyright issues later.
On this platform, millions of photographers are spreading their craft (and creativity) by uploading free business stock photo imagery that others can use.
Whether you’re working on a business strategy presentation or updating your online course, high-resolution images on Unsplash are 100% free to use. Although linkbacks aren’t required, we highly advise you to cite your source, even for imagery.
Founder Neosha Gardner created this inclusive site after struggling to find stock imagery of Black women. This grassroots site is excellent if you have trouble finding imagery of melanated women during your creative process. While the site doesn’t have thousands of images to choose from, quality beats the quantity any day.
Pexels’ mission is to empower creators by giving them access to stunning images to use for any of their creative endeavors. Another great feature about Pexels is that you have free rein to edit the photos you download—this is not always allowed.
Pro-tip: If you know a great photographer that would be interested in contributing their works to Pexels for creators to use, make sure to let them know. This can be a great way to get more exposure.
It all starts with a to-do list
Put those free imagery sources to use for your business and start your online course today. We have a free “course creator’s to-do list” to get you started on the right foot.
This platform may be known for its immaculate user-friendly templates for almost any graphic or project you can think of. However, there’s also a ton of stock imagery loaded into the site. If you’re looking to create cool graphics or social media posts that include free stock imagery, you can do both right on Canva.
If your creative projects require a bit more than just images, you’ll be happy to hear that Pixabay also offers music and videos to suit your needs. Consider this as your one-stop-shop to enhance your content for both digital and print assets.
Some people enjoy whimsical, unique content instead of business casual photos. There’s a stock imagery site that hosts a sizable collection of it. From distorted portraits to unique graphic designs, you’re sure to find something eye catching on Gratisography. If “out of the ordinary” falls in line with your brand, move this resource to the top of your list.
One great feature that Negative Space offers, besides 100% free CC0 imagery, is the ability to search free business stock photos by color scheme. If you’re a stickler for staying “on brand,” you’ll love exploring the imagery on this platform.
At the end of the day, original photography and custom designs will always be more impactful for your business. But when you’re looking to save a little on advertising and create a budget you can stick to, don’t be afraid to explore these options.