The 14 Best Stock Image Websites: An In-Depth Review

You have a few options when it comes to using images in your blog posts, eBooks, marketing materials and everything else you use to sell. Grab screenshots, take your own photos or go to one of the many stock image websites to see if you can grab an image for free or pay a small fee for usage.

It's no secret that using images increases customer engagement and helps push people to buy your products, but where are the best places to find these stock images? If you don't have your own DSLR camera and you don't plan on taking screenshots, stock images are your only option, and there are loads of sites to find what you need.

Let's have a look at the best stock image websites for bloggers, businesses and all of you geeking out online. You can also checkout Kevin's ultimate list of stock image websites for links to just about every option out there.

Best Free Stock Image Webites

Flickr Creative Commons

The Good

Numerous users upload their own photos, creating somewhat of an open-source atmosphere, instead of just settling for what a single company gives you. You can choose from different licensing options, such as non-commercial, ShareALike, No Derivative and Attribution. Most of the images you want are the ones that only require a link to the creator.

Creative Commons

The Bad

Sometimes you get fooled into thinking an image is free, but that's because after you search for one image it reverts you to the main Flickr page. Navigate back to the Creative Commons page to start your search every time.

The Bottom Line

This is by far the best way for bloggers to find images for free. A simple link at the bottom of your post is all you need to grab these photos and use them. Keep in mind that if you plan on making money with the images you probably have to buy them or ask the creator. Flickr is also nice because it's a community and you can chat with the creators and even let them know where you used their photos.

Read up on Creative Commons licensing.

FreeImages.com

The Good

The search functionality is solid, and you can even click on the categories to narrow down your search. Each image is huge, so you can download it and get the highest resolution for modification.

Free Images

The Bad

The site tries to sell you iStockPhoto stock images whenever you try to search for something. The results are also a bit meager compared to some other options.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you check the availability for all the free images. Some of the images say that you have to notify the creator or post a link to the image. Overall, the selection is a bit small, but it's a nice backup solution for your free image search.

Read the Free Images terms of use here.

StockFreeImages.com

The Good

The website provides the credit line you can include on your site for every single image. This makes it easier so you don't have to wonder if you are crediting people properly. The site has loads of images that are easy to search for, and all it takes is a quick link to use them. From my experience you don't even have to contact the creator.

StockFreeImages

The Bad

You have to create an account to download any images. The company is owned by Dreamstime so it sells you on their images throughout your search process. The previews for these images aren't all that great either.

The Bottom Line

I tend to think this is primarily a portal for Dreamstime to sell their best images, but that's OK because the selection is much better than other large companies that offer free sites. It's certainly one of the best sites for knowing that you are using the images legally.

Read the StockFreeImages terms for usage here.

MorgueFile

The Good

The images are artsier than that of other sites, and you don't have to create an account to download an image. The licensing information is clearly stated on each image, and you can even crop the images before downloading.

MorgueFile

The Bad

Once again this site tries to sell you on various paid images, but it's not as distracting as other sites. The selection is a little limited, but they make up for it with quality.

The Bottom Line

The downloads are quick, you don't have to create an account and the images are really some of the best online. You can't go wrong with this one.

Checkout the licensing terms here.

FreeRangeStock

The Good

Photographers can go on the site to share their photos, making for a wider selection for you. You can also send in a request for an image if you can't find it online.

FreeRange

The Bad

The search function isn't that great, and the selection falters compared to others. The previews are tiny, and it's not always clear as to what the terms are for an image.

The Bottom Line

This is a backup option if you can't find the perfect image elsewhere. It's not the nicest interface, but you might stumble upon something that catches your eye. You also have to register in order to get free photos.

Read the FreeRangeStock terms and conditions here.

DeviantArt

The Good

There are very obscure images on this site, so if you need something unique, this is your spot. You don't need an account to download an image, and the community is quite vocal for talking to artists and encouraging more work.

Deviant Art

The Bad

It takes one too many steps to download an image, and the terms of use are not clear at all.

The Bottom Line

The photos on this site are of high-quality, and the download function really isn't all that bad. I noticed that some of the images aren't that big when downloading, so that might affect the quality. Although the selection is limited, the search function is quick and there aren't many hoops to jump through to grab an image or two.

Checkout the copyright information here.

Pixel Perfect Digital

The Good

This stock image site is best for designers since it offers backgrounds, textures, design elements and photos. Most of the images are Creative Commons, so you only have to place a link to use them. The attribution information is clearly stated with each image.

Pixel Perfect Digital

The Bad

The selection is very limited depending on what you are searching for. The site doesn't always run properly either.

The Bottom Line

From the looks of it this site is primarily for finding different patterns and textures if you plan on designing websites. If you want to find stock photos, go somewhere else.

Checkout the attribution licensing for Pixel Perfect Digital.

Photo Rack

The Good

You don't need to include any backlink in order to use these photos. The selection is pretty darn huge.

Photo Rack

The Bad

You have to navigate through a strange forum interface, making it difficult to find the images you want. In my opinion, the images are a little old-looking or cliche in terms of stock photos.

The Bottom Line

This stock image site is nice for finding simple photos that might go well in one of your other designs. As for creative, artsy options, you might need to look elsewhere.

View the terms of use.

Free Artistic Photos

The Good

The name says it all for this stock image database. You can browse a wide range of artistic-looking photos, as opposed to some of the cornier photos you might find with other sites, with smiling people or cliched business symbols. If you are looking for a more creative look on your blog, this is the place to go.

Free Artistic Photos

The Bad

Keep in mind that none of the images can be placed on your site without asking the photographer first. Even then, you have to place a link to the site somewhere on the same page as the image. The original link I provided in the header brings you to the only photographer on the site who gives out photos for free. The only problem is each of the photos have branding for the photographer and the site.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, these photos are some of the coolest on this list, so if you have the time, reach out to the photographers and I'm sure most will let you post their images.

View the Free Artistic Photos Terms of Use

Best Stock Image WebSites for a Price

Getty Images

The Good

Probably the largest selection of photos you can find online. The search function is flawless and they even offer videos and music if you need it. Buy a single image or sign up for one of the plans.

Getty Images

The Bad

The pricing might not be the best for anyone who is just looking for a few images, and they make you walk through a lengthy pricing process regardless of which plan you want.

The Bottom Line

Getty is perfect for big companies who need to use tons of images for commercial use. The old company I worked for used this because they created websites and email templates that were in-turn used by various other companies. In short, it's ideal for commercial use.

View the licence information here.

iStockPhoto

The Good

IStockPhoto is now owned by Getty, so you receive a similar format, but they provide photos you might not stumble upon while on Getty. Buy just a few credits or subscribe with a monthly pass. The checkout process is much easier than Getty.

Istockphotos

The Bad

I've noticed that the credits go quickly on this site, since the images vary drastically in terms of how many credits you need to use.

The Bottom Line

I honestly can't think of anything terrible that comes along with IStockPhotos. The interface is cleaner than Getty and you get plenty of nice images with varying payment plans.

View the licensing information here.

Shutterstock

The Good

Shutterstock is the primary competitor to Getty, and this is a good thing, because you have more options and a company that pushes the leader to stay on its toes. The site offers plenty of images, vectors, illustrations and music. The pricing seems to be a little more reasonable than Getty.

Shutterstock

The Bad

They don't offer nearly as many filter options during your search as Getty.

The Bottom Line

Shutterstock is my go-to whenever I need to purchase an image. I like it because they don't sell you on credits, rather you see exactly how many images you get once you put down your money.

View the licensing terms here.

VectorStock

The Good

The site focuses on vector art, so the options are quite nice. They also include some free vectors if you want to browse through those to find something.

VectorStock

The Bad

You can get standard and expanded licensing, but the pricing is not all that transparent.

The Bottom Line

They also offer stock images, but this is a hub for designers in need of vector art. Instead of filtering through the huge databases in Getty and Shutterstock, choose this site if you only need vectors.

View the terms of use here.

Illustration

The Good

You receive customized illustrations for your books, websites and other products. It connects you with the artists for a more personal experience.

Illustration

The Bad

You have to contact the illustrators to get your work done.

The Bottom Line

This is more of a community, but if you need a high-quality illustration, this is the place to go.

Read the terms here.

The cool thing about stock image websites is that there are tons to choose from. Each one of these sites has unique takes on what stock images help you sell your products a little easier, so checkout each one to figure out the options that fit your budget and provide the highest quality images.

Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions about paid and free stock image sites.

Joe is a writer, marketing crash test dummy and adventure seeker. He helps people write, market their writing and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find him riding his bike around Chicago or sharing on his blog, Write With Warnimont.
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