17th April 2020

The best stock photo & video sites; both free and paid

When creating anything to be used online, whether it be websites, social media posts or banner adverts, the key to creating something professional and beautiful is good imagery. Imagine a website without a single image, or an advert appearing on screen as a simple white square with some text in the middle. While the latter may be an artistic choice, both are bland and not very engaging and won’t help draw potential customers to your brand.

Many companies opt to create their own images, often arranging expensive photo shoots or employing people specifically to create the media they need. For many this isn’t an option as creating your own imagery can be prohibitively expensive, which leads people down the road to stock. Stock photos and videos are a cost effective way of giving your platform the creative edge it needs to stand out from the crowd.

While the 90’s and early 2000’s saw a meteoric rise in the popularity of stock thanks to the accessibility of the internet, these images were often cheesy and far too corporate for many people. Well in recent years this has changed, and stock photography has become an outlet for artists who put out unique media that sits outside the realm of stereotypical stock. Today we will be looking at the websites and outlets that we feel are moving stock away from its former self and helping to modernise the digital world.

Free Stock Photo & Video Sites

Cheap and cheerful? Here are the stock photo and video sites we rely upon for a supply of good quality visual content at the click of a mouse.

Pexels

pexels photo showing a road in a snowy forest

Pexels has quickly grown to being one of the most popular free stock media sites on the internet, and this is largely down to the slightly darker and more alternative theme of their photos and videos. While still totally acceptable for all audiences, their images do away with super high saturation and brightness in favour of a more muted and retro style.

The nature of the images and videos Pexels tie their success to feature more subtle subjects, allowing you to find media that resonates with your message in a much less on-the-nose way. This helps your website or social media feed to appear far more organic and trustworthy to potential customers.

slices of assorted fruits from the pexels stock website

While Pexels does feature a paid subscription, the volume of royalty free media featured on the site is overwhelming, and with new content constantly being added, and the old removed, the library of available assets is constantly being refreshed. This should provide you the user with the reassurance that any photos or videos you use are unlikely to be seen time and time again over the years to come, giving the impression that the content is bespoke to your platform.

Unsplash

Unsplash is one of the most commonly used websites for free stock photography, thanks to their array of high quality images of all types.

The high quality of Unsplash’s photo library can be put down to the fact all of the images are hand-selected and curated by the website’s team, who ensure all images meet their standards. The images are freely donated to the website by more than 150,000 photographers around the world, with the community continuously growing with more photographers, both professional and amateur.

beautiful snowy mountains seen through the leaves

In total, Unsplash has well over a million photos available for free use, all of which fit into their many useful categories. As well as your standard, useful stock-style photography, you can also find many artistic, more abstract shots that can help add style and distinction to your projects.

The Unsplash copyright license enables you to freely use their resources for all types of project, including commercial use. Searching for images is easy, with good results coming up for most reasonable search terms – for searches that give a large number of results, you can make the selection process easier by filtering results depending on their orientation or colours.

All images are easily downloadable in a variety of sizes, while you can also add images to ‘collections’ on the site, to make your browsing more efficient.

Pixabay

If a wide range of choice is what you’re looking for, or even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, then Pixabay is your answer. With over 1 million free public domain images, alongside a vast selection of illustrations, vector graphics and even some stunning videos, Pixabay has all bases covered.

fox

The quality of their photos certainly ranges and is maybe not quite as consistent as those offered by the likes of Unsplash, but make no mistake that if you filter through some of the not-so-good, you’ll stumble across some unique winning shots.

We’d highly recommend Pixabay for sourcing landscape shots, stunning scenic photography and even pixel perfect animal snaps. Or if you’re stuck for inspiration and want a varied selection, check out their Editor’s Choice category. All of the photos, vectors and illustrations you’ll find on the website are released under Creative Commons CC0.

waterfall

Top tip: To speed up the process and eliminate the Captcha form at download, simply sign up for a free account and you’ll save a good few seconds of your life.

Burst

If you’re selling a product or service then you’re naturally going to want to get eyes on it, and one of the many ways Shopify do so is through their free collection of hi-resolution imagery on the Burst website. People come for the regularly updated bank of visuals, and Shopify will no doubt hope that a percentage of them become interested in setting up an ecommerce store using their platform.

While their collection may not be as extensive as the millions you will find on the likes of Pixabay and Pexels, Burst is unique in the way that it presents the available content. Users are able to browse ‘collections’ such as ‘spring’, ‘fashion’ and ‘retail’ making it really easy to find the images you need. Here you will also find trending collections making the site even more accessible.

woman kicking from burst website

Burst goes above and beyond the realms of a simple stock image site, offering users business ideas and tips to utilise the imagery. You can read in-depth case studies that include a range of supplier information and insights. It’s really interesting content and you can subscribe to receive more.

Paid Stock Image & Video Sites

If you’re struggling to find what you need through free stock websites then you may have to use a premium service, but, you will get what you pay for in this instance if you stick to the following sites.

Adobe Stock

Adobe is one of the world’s most successful software providers, thanks to technology such as Photoshop, Acrobat and Premiere Pro, but also offers online resources such as stock photography.

Adobe Stock Photos was originally used within the creative suite family of programs, but closed down in 2008. However, Adobe acquired stock company Fotolia in 2015, and used it to launch new service Adobe Stock.

Adobe Stock offers a huge range of photos and videos for use in any project, and offers versatile pricing plans that will suit users of all situations.

adobe stock sample

As with most stock photography websites, Adobe offers a ‘credit’ based system, with prices ranging from around £4-6 per credit depending on how many you purchase at any one time. One credit will purchase you a standard high-res image, while HD videos cost eight credits, and ‘premium images’ will set you back twelve. However, you’ll usually find what you need with the standard image selection.

If credits aren’t for you, you can instead create a monthly or annual subscription, with prices starting at a monthly £19.99, which will allow you to license ten standard images each month. If you don’t meet your limit each month, any remaining downloads will continue to rollover until you have 120 remaining on the lowest cost plan, with this number increasing on the more expensive ones.

Shutterstock

shutterstock tiger

Shutterstock is one of the best known stock photography websites on the internet. Chances are if you’ve visited enough websites you will have seen imagery taken from Shutterstock. As a paid platform there is an expectation that the media they have available is of the highest quality, and they don’t disappoint.

The images on Shutterstock are generally super high resolution with rich colours and a very clean style. This makes Shutterstock an excellent candidate for modern corporate websites and other platforms. The amount of available media is staggering, and even with their highest tier paid plan (750 images/mo) you would be hard pressed to use them all. The range of images is also worth mentioning, as everything from high end urban night time photography with deep blacks and neon highlights, to tack sharp nature shots that balance beautiful colours are found within the site. Whether you need on-the-nose shots of a corporate environment or suggestive metaphors for your company ethos you can find it on Shutterstock.

shutterstock building example

As a primarily paid source getting your hands on these images will set you back, but if using stock is essential to your daily work then there will be a pricing plan for you. Shutterstock charges on a monthly basis, with prices ranging from £19 to £119 per month, all with varying allowances. The basic plan will allow you 10 photos a month (£1.90 per image), but as you spend more you get more, with the prices dropping through £1.18, £0.28 and finally to £0.16 per image as you increase your monthly allowance. While this may not be for everyone, when compared to the cost of taking the images yourself pricing plans like these are positively cheap.

Getty Images

Getty are a media licencing company, meaning they purchase the rights to images, video, music and other forms of media so that they can then make the rights available to customers for a price.

We won’t bore you with media licencing, and to be honest we’re far from experts ourselves, but the basic premise is that they own the rights to the image and if you want to use it you will have to pay them. The majority of images are tiered in price, and this range is determined by the ‘size’ of the image. Large images, which are generally the most expensive to purchase, are usually around 7360×4192 px so you know you’re getting a really high-resolution piece of imagery.

Getty images example

You may go on to the Getty website, take one look at the prices, and think ‘who on Earth would pay that much for one single image?’ However, when businesses are producing promotional material they often have a very particular idea of how they want it to look; in this case, Getty’s library would make sense.

Getty offers enterprise solutions and subscription options for regular users. Here there are now download limits and big savings to be made.

Death to Stock

Looking for something a little more ‘out there’? Thinking more ‘outside the box’? Death to Stock does exactly what it says on the tin, completely eradicating the cheesy and overused stock photos that we’re often bombarded with, in favour of original, artist curated content.

While the stock photo market has certainly upgraded and refreshed its content over time, it can still sometimes feel a little bit limited by individual creativity. Certain projects require that edge that maybe you’re struggling to find on some of the more popular stock photo sites.

The concept behind the website sees them fund talented artists to provide unique content that can’t be found anywhere else. With over 4,500 high quality images in the bank and new media added every 30 days, it provides an open book of refreshing content from artists around the globe.

Whether you’re a small business/start-up, freelancer, agency or large organization looking to create or build on your visual brand, Death to the Stock Photo has various membership options starting from as little as £10 per month.

It even offers perks for artists passionate about sharing their creativity with the world, with scholarships and discounts for nonprofits, educators and artists in need of a little financial help with creating their content.

Bonus tip: Some platforms will bundle stock media in

The internet is awash with browser-based solutions for digital marketing. Some of them are really good, some of them, well… Let’s just say we’ve had to trial a lot of platforms to be in a situation where we’re able to pass comments.

What we’ve found over the years is that the better options tend to offer media as part of their platform.

Here are three recommendations from us, to you.

Canva

We’ve mentioned Canva before. It helps users to create graphics, animations and videos as quickly as possible without jeopardizing the quality of the end product.

Without leaving the application you can insert media into your creations by accessing their wide range of stock, and it’s all clearly labelled so you know if you’re due to pay for anything. Highly recommended.

Lumen5

Looking to create video content but don’t have the budget to generate your own media to use? Lumen5 is an ample solution.

Their library of stock video is as extensive an offering as we have seen anywhere and it is handily split up into ‘free’ and ‘marketplace.’

UX Builder by Flatsome

We’ve used a variety of WordPress-compatible page builders over the years and, generally, it’s a case of horses for courses in terms of what we choose to use.

UX Builder is a front-end page builder designed to help the general public make visual, responsive websites without any understanding of code. Their templates all come complete with stock imagery ready to go, and while you may wish to replace these placeholders with your own visuals, you’ll probably find yourself debating whether to keep some of it on your site.

Any questions? We’d love to hear from you. Give us a call on 0161 713 1700 or send us a message via our enquiry form, and one of our team will be happy to chat.

Fred Burrow

By Fred Burrow

To find out how we can help you get great results, give us a ring on: 0161 713 1700

Or email us at: [email protected]