The Best Stock Photography Websites – Free and Paid

Have you ever visited a website and thought, ‘this looks unprofessional’? Maybe you can’t quite place our finger on the issue, but something seems off and not quite up to standard. In many cases, this feeling comes from a lack of high-quality imagery or video.

High-quality photography is the key to making any website feel professionally made. To put it simply, the lack of imagery, or the lack of good imagery, can make even the most experienced business owner feel like an amateur online. We as end-users value the visual experience, and put a lot of weight into how we view a company based on how attractive their web page is. In this way, it’s impossible to build a professional quality website without professional quality photography and videography.

There are multiple ways that website owners can achieve high-quality imagery for their online business or blog. One way is to simply create your own custom imagery, which typically requires the use of a professional photographer. This, of course, can be quite expensive.

Another way is to use stock imagery. Stock images allow you to purchase the right to use a copyrighted image for your own purposes. These images are usually very high quality, and can be used in a multitude of ways across industries. This is by far the most popular method for getting high-quality imagery on a webpage.

If you are in the market for high-quality stock imagery that can be achieved at a very low cost, then you are in luck. Here is a brief list of some of the best options available to you right now, most without even needing to sign-up!

Free Stock Photography Websites

For those who are just getting started in website building, building their own company website, or anything else for that matter – the budget might be a little tight. It can be hard to justify dedicating a whole lot of money to a website when you are just getting started. Luckily, there are plenty of resources for royalty-free stock imagery that you can take advantage of.

Although free stock imagery can have a reputation for being low-quality and sometimes ‘cheesy’, there are still several places to get great quality royalty-free imagery. You simply need to know where to look. Here are a few options:

1.) Unsplash

Unsplash is a completely free, and highly curated website that hosts millions of stock images for users to take advantage of. One of the most popular stock imagery resources around right now, purely because of how uniquely it operates. Unsplash is run by a team of moderators who carefully curate and filter through all of the images that are uploaded, and ensure that they are ‘up to snuff’.

All of the images on Unsplash are 100% free to use for personal or commercial websites. The images themselves are donated by hundreds of thousands of photographers both amateur and professional. Users will be able to find images ranging across various styles, subject matters, and artistic flavorings. This makes it a unique resource for anyone searching for stock imagery that is a bit ‘different’ and not quite the norm. Unsplash is an amazing resource for any budget-conscious web designer who wants to keep things looking crisp, without blowing the bank.

2.) Pixabay

Pixabay is another great–and free–stock imagery resource. Pixabay hosts over a million completely free to use stock images ranging from landscape images, animal images, and even illustrations. Pixabay is a very popular resource for those looking to have something a bit more ‘standard’, while also having the optionality for illustrations and vectors at their fingertips.

One thing to note is that Pixabay has a reputation for not being the highest quality. Not all of the images are fully curated in the way that Unsplash is. However, Pixabay is still chock-full of stunning and worthwhile imagery when you take the time to look through it. In this regard, Pixabay is still 100% worth a look when trying to find free stock imagery that you can use for your website or blog

3.) Pexels

Pexels is one of the most popular stock imagery websites purely because of the versatility and ‘freshness’ of the platform. Pexels is the perfect medium for free and paid stock imagery. Meaning, Pexels does offer a wide range of royalty-free imagery in addition to paid subscription service which is optional.

In Pexels, the imagery the website likes to host is a bit on the muted/darker side–which gives it a more ‘artistic’ flir. For some, this isn’t exactly what they are looking for. However, many find that the imagery on Pexels is great for getting across a message without being too literal. The artistic flair of the images on Pexels is hard to beat with any other free stock image service.

Another bonus with Pexels is the fact that the royalty-free images are constantly updated, with old photos being removed entirely. This means that you are more likely to get a photo that will be used far less than on other services. This can add to the appearance that the photo was taken just for your website.

Pexels is a great service for those who want the option to remain free, or to go paid. It is also a great service for those who want their stock imagery to be a bit more unique and abstract than other stock imagery.

Freemium Photography Websites

Freemium is a combination of free and premium (- or paid for) where a website offers customers both free and paid for services. Freemium photography websites are a great way of grabbing some bargains, alongside having to pay a small amount for photography that is exactly what you’re looking for. It can also serve as a way to compare the differences in quality between free stock photography, and paid stock photography.

4.) Pikwizard

Pikwizard gives you high-quality free and paid for stock photos and videos. There’s currently a library of over 1 million+ stock images and videos on the website, meaning you get plenty of value from the off! The main selling point of Pikwizard is you can take each image and edit on the in-built graphic design tool, Design Wizard. There’s no attribution required, meaning you can take each image and video and use them as you please.
Popular video categories include free green screen videos, slow-motion videos, and educational visuals.

Paid Stock Photography Websites

If you are looking for stock imagery that is more customized and personal, you will want to go with a paid service. Paid services will make it easier for you to find the exact images you are looking for without having to sift through thousands of free images. Paid services ensure that all of the imagery is of high quality, and more tailor-made to suit your needs.

If you are looking for a more consistent experience, and have the cash to afford it, here are a few options for paid stock image services:

5.) Shutterstock

Shutterstock is a household name when it comes to stock imagery. If you have ever spent any time researching stock imagery, you have likely come across Shutterstock at some point–and for good reason!

Shutterstock has a nearly unlimited number of stock images that are crisp, vibrant, and across varying stylistic flavorings. Users will be able to find breathtaking landscape shots, as well as abstract artistic imagery. Shutterstock has some of the widest range of imagery available to users.

Shutterstock is a monthly subscription-based services. There are plans that range from £19 – £119/mo., and offer anywhere from 10 – 750 photos/mo. This may seem like a massive expense, but for those who use stock imagery every day or even every month, the cost is worth it. Shutterstock is a premier service for those who anticipate using stock imagery relatively frequently on their blog or website.

6.) Getty Images

Getty Images is a slightly different approach to paid stock imagery. Getty Images is known as a ‘media licensing’ company. This means that, essentially, they purchase the rights to images and videos and then license those rights to buyers like you.

Typically the price of an image on Getty Images will boil down to the resolution and quality of the image or video. In this way, extremely high-resolution images will be worth more than lower resolution images. This process can seem tedious and expensive, but it is incredibly useful if you are in the right ‘group’.

Getty Images is typically popular among large businesses running marketing campaigns that they want very specific imagery for. In this way, they can get extremely high-quality images for their campaign that they can guarantee won’t be featured anywhere else. This is the benefit of licensing the image, but also comes with a slightly higher price tag. However, Getty Images does also come with a subscription plan for those who wish to use their services often.

7.) Adobe Stock

Adobe is one of the premier photo and imagery services around. With services ranging from Photoshop, to Acrobat, and even stock photos–Adobe is hard to beat. Adobe Stock is another stock imagery service that touts a massive lineup of high-quality images and professional quality stock videos. This guarantees that buyers are getting professional quality imagery every time.

Adobe Stock utilizes a ‘credit’ system that requires the user to purchase credits, and use credits to buy imagery. This can allow users to stock-up on credits to use at any time for their stock imagery. However, for those who don’t like the idea of credits, there are monthly subscription plans available as well. Adobe Stock is a household name for web designers because it comes backed by the prestigious name of Adobe. In addition, the quality of the imagery on Adobe Stock is hard to beat. Overall this is a great all-purpose stock imagery website for a great value on the wallet.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right stock imagery for your website is crucial to keeping up a high-quality appearance. A professionally designed website can look amateur if the imagery isn’t top-notch. No matter what your budget is, you should always aim to find and use high-quality and relevant imagery for your website or blog.

A successful website or blog will look as good as the products or services it offers. Make sure that your website looks as crisp and clean as possible with high-quality stock images.

Web Design Huddersfield by Ben Dickinson of Athena Media

Written and Edited by Ben Dickinson

Athena Media was set up by Ben Dickinson with a huge passion and ambition to provide quality digital marketing to businesses in and around West Yorkshire.

I’ve always believed the key to success online is building a great digital presence. I love amplifying how businesses are seen online. From amazing web design to outstanding search engine optimisation… a good digital brand always pays off.