It’s no secret that images are important in all your marketing and social media efforts, and there are lots of places to find free images across the web. Including pictures and visuals should be integral to all of your media content; these days there’s no excuse for not having GOOD images. (If you’re still unconvinced by the importance of visuals, Buffer have put together a blog full of infographics on why visuals are important and how to use them).
There are so many great resources out there that allow you to use their images free of charge and with or without accreditation. So now the problem is which ones to use!
Best free image sites
Pexels is a database with hundreds of thousands of images available with a simple search uploaded by a community of photographers and licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0), meaning the images are completely free to used for any legal purpose with no attribution required.
Life of Pix has a great range of gorgeous photos of people, landscapes and cities and also features a Photographer of the Week. A sister site called Life of Vids is also in operation, with stunning clips of drone footage, food and more. Across the two sites, everything is copyright-free.
Negative Space images also license images under CC0. Their collections are easy to browse under headings like business, typography and music. They also run PSDDD - a free web and mobile app design resource site.
If you're in need of food-related photos, FoodiesFeed is the place to go - but don’t visit on an empty stomach! There’s thousands of visually appetising images to choose from which you don’t have to attribute, but the creators will appreciate it if you’re feeling generous.
For those looking for something a bit on the wild and wacky side (see above photo), Gratisography have some really nice but often unusual images for those tired of boring stock catalogues. Uploaded weekly and then gone for good, check the website regularly and download your favourites for future use.
The most beautiful free images can be found on Unsplash - a wonderful resource for dreamy photos. It’s been upgraded in recent years with the ability to search for what you’re looking for and a Photo of the Day feature. Images are high-resolution and you don’t have to give accreditation.
All photos on StockSnap.io are available free of use to do what you please with them. As a useful tool, you can search images by date and if they’re trending as well as numbers of views, downloads and favourites. Sign up to their newsletter and they’ll send you the week’s most popular photos.
Picjumbo has both free and premium versions, with the latter giving you exclusive access to a huge collection of premium-only images. The free version is still worth a look at, though - we love that they have a specific folder for marketing-related stock photos!
The vintage photos you can find on New Old Stock are true gems. It’s a Tumblr blog rather than a fully-fledged image bank so the selection of images are on the limited side and they’re a bit harder to find, but there’s a beautiful handful of classic photos from public archives which are free of known copyright restrictions.
SplitShire has a less expansive bank of photographs, but they will take your breath away. A lot of their images would work really well as backgrounds.
One of Noisy Little Monkey’s favourite tools is Canva - a free photo editing site (with paid upgrades) that’ll not only provide you with aspect ratios for social media and other digital marketing, but also offers templates. Above you can see something we made with the programme - simple yet effective, right?!
Pablo was created by Buffer and is a really easy to create social images with text over the top. They also have a bank of over 600,000 images for you to dip into.
HubSpot often give away lots of free image groups and templates which work really well for business use.
If you search Flickr for images within a Creative Commons licence (go into advanced search on Flickr and tick the appropriate boxes below dependant on your needs, as above). You can find a broad range of pictures you can use if you're happy to give accreditation.
Sometimes you won’t find exactly what you’re looking for and will have to pay a fee - but that doesn’t mean it has to cost a fortune.
iStock are a branch of the Getty Images tree and, if you can avoid the cheesy American women eating salads, their selection is pretty good and has plenty of illustrations, vectors and videos. They also regularly release free images for commercial and editorial purposes, but you will need to create a free account to download these.
Shutterstock have one of the biggest libraries on the Internet, available to download with a subscription free. Like iStock, Shutterstock also release free images and vectors for those with a free account to download (and have plenty of cheesy images to wade through).
If you’re fan of Adobe products, you may want to invest in an Adobe Stock subscription. Beyond just images, a paid plan will give you access to videos, templates, vectors, illustrations and newsworthy photos for editorial use. They have lots of plans and credit packs on offer for a variety of needs and budgets.
123RF have the benefits of all other subscription services, plus access to their selection of audio clips and fonts.
Finding really nice, inoffensive stock photos that are not really terrible, offensive stock photos can be tough - and that’s why people love Stocksy. All images are carefully curated, so they sift out the rubbish you may find on other sites. Their search options are really unique, too: you can search by colour palette, mood, subject and aesthetic.
Death to Stock was previously a free site (sob), but is now a subscription service which gives you access to quality visuals in pre-organised media packs, as well as access to over 2,500 photos and videos already in their library. Every 30 days they release new, exclusive media that you won’t find anywhere else.
Professional and amateur photography
If you are looking for something really specific, there are some really great professional and amateur photographers out there that won't cost the earth. We've previously used Barbara from First Avenue Photography who did a good job making the monkeys look almost normal and Tim Fok is another photographer and videographer whose work we really like.