As an ex-graphic designer I had to familiarise myself with many a stock photo and became quite skilled in hunting down the perfect pictures for my work. Stock photos are images that are licensed for personal and commercial uses, lots of businesses and magazines use them and I can bet you've see them but may not have realised. I'm a fan of stock images, they are great for content building when working on graphic materials, social media and websites especially when you need some nice imagery to complete a look. I mean they are a great component in your design toolkit but if I am being honest nothing ever beats original and unique photography!
When looking for imagery to use its really important to have an understanding of licensing and commercial use of the content you're going to use. It goes without saying that you should never take an image off google and use it as your own, as lazy as it is, it's also very frowned upon and preaches copyright. There are a few types of licenses that images can fall under, the sites I list below all fall under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means all the images are free to use, for example printing on t-shirts to sell is allowed, putting them on billboards and using them in social media content. Plus, no attribution is required which means you don't have to tag or credit other people when you use it. The only restrictions are the persons in the images cannot be depicted in an offensive or negative light, unless you have their permission. You should always check the website you are using for their rundown on the licensing they provide just in case you infringe on any rights.
I've put together a list of my favourite FREE stock image sites, I've used these sites many times before and I've also written what I like about them. If you have any questions please write them in the comments below or shoot me an email.
Pexels is my favourite site for free and beautiful imagery, it's got a easy website to navigate around and it even pulls images from other free to use sites for convenience meaning you dont have to search too far for the perfect image. I also love that you can choose what size image you want to download. Simply search a word or more in relation to the images you want and all the associated images will display. I like to keep it simple when searching, that way I might see an image that wouldn't have popped up in a more specific search. Check out Pexels here.
Pixabay was the first free stock image site I found, it also has a range of vector graphics and videos to choose from amongst their photos. Pixabay is easy to navigate with a simple search bar that brings up all related content. I find using the filter bar helps narrow down what I am after as you can get a mixture of graphics and videos in your search. I will be honest there are some less than ideal images to use but they have a solid assortment of wonderful images. You can check out Pixabay here.
I love unsplash for the beautiful artist images they have on there, they certainly have some talented photographers that submit their work via the site. If you're looking for great coloured and beautiful shot images Unsplash is a great choice. It has a similar easy to use site, the only difference is you cannot choose the download size so you may need to resize them. You can check out Unsplash here.