Whether you’re creating a blog, an ecommerce website, or simply a website to promote your business, you are going to need stock photos. Royalty free images are highly sought after across the web, as pictures are important to convey your brand, information, and to break up paragraphs of text on a web page.
If you’re in the market for copyright free images, there are plenty of stock photography sites out there – maybe too many, in fact. It can be hard to know which websites you should use for safe, high quality images.
We’ve done the research and found the best stock photo sites of 2021, so you can find the stock images you need with no problem. Check out premium stock image options and free stock photo sites with a reputation for quality and reliability.
- 1 Best Premium Stock Photography Sites
- 2 Best Free Stock Image Sites
- 3 What are Stock Photos?
- 4 Final Thoughts
Best Premium Stock Photography Sites
Shutterstock is one of the most reliable and well known sources for stock photos. They offer their customers a robust library of millions of images. You can find stock photography, vectors, graphics, and more on Shutterstock.
One benefit of Shutterstock is their built-in image editing software. You can resize and edit images that you purchase directly on their site before downloading it for your use. Shutterstock has images for any niche or industry, so you can find high resolution photos for anything from a food blog to a medical website.
While Shutterstock is a premium option, it’s an affordable option if you need a lot of images. Buying individual images can get expensive fast, but with a monthly package the price goes down.
- High quality photos
- Huge library of images
- Built-in photo editor
- Expensive depending on your choice of package
For the quality of the images and the ease of finding any image you need, Shutterstock is well worth the price.
Adobe is a huge multimedia company, so their stock image service is well known by many. With millions of images available through Adobe, you’ll never run out of options for your website. Their library includes all of the images from former stock image company, Fotolia, so their options are always growing.
Adobe’s stock photo website is directly linked to their Creative Cloud suite of applications, which is perfect for graphic designers. You can import Adobe images directly into your favorite Creative Cloud apps to create graphics, add text to images, and much, much more.
Adobe offers a free trial for access to their stock photography, so you can give it a chance before buying or committing to a larger subscription plan. Their photos can be expensive, but there are plenty of monthly or annual subscription options for different prices and numbers of images per month.
- Huge library of images
- High resolution photos marked for reuse
- Connects directly to Creative Cloud applications
- You can lose photos you already paid for if you don’t renew your subscription
Adobe is one of the largest stock image providers out there, so you can’t go wrong with this option.
Getty Images provides a huge library of some of the best stock images, video footage, illustrations, graphics, music, and more. They have a wide range of selection, and work with the most photographers to provide not only stock photos but images from specific events and other editorial content.
Getty is known to have some of the highest quality images out there. They can provide more unique, creative options than some other more standard stock photo websites. Since some photos have an editorial license, there are different rules about how images can be used, but these details are clearly laid out by Getty.
Getty’s images are easy to find, with intuitive search functions on their site. The only downside to Getty images is that it’s the most expensive option out there – but it comes with options you simply can’t find anywhere else.
- Highest quality images
- Large library of creative stock photos, editorial images, stock video, and music
- Editorial photos from events, news, etc.
If you’re looking for the best images and price is not an issue, Getty Images will not disappoint.
Canva is a well known graphic design tool with an impressive free plan. With Canva, you can create flyers, brochures, infographics, resumes, and more – all for free. Canva Pro is the premium version of Canva that offers even more capabilities, including their own stock image library to use in your graphic design projects.
Canva Images Pro gives users access to millions of stock images, graphics, icons, and templates. There is no limit to the number of images you can download with Canva Pro, which sets this stock photography site apart from others with limited subscription plans.
You can find stock images and edit them to fit your needs all in one place with Canva Pro. This is also the most affordable premium option on our list, with a flat rate, unlimited downloads, and an impressive editor tool included.
- Unlimited stock images
- Graphic design software
- Affordable flat cost
- Not quite as robust an image library as other premium options
If you’re looking for stock photos and a graphic design software wrapped into one, Canva is a great, affordable option with no limit on the number of images you download.
iStockPhoto is owned and run by Getty Images, so you can rest assured that you’ll get high resolution images when you sign up. This is one of the oldest stock photo sites, and with over 20 years of experience they have all the images your website could need.
iStockPhoto has a huge selection of images, videos, audio, and graphics, so you can find all the media you need for your website, regardless of your niche or goals. Their search engine is easy to use and very intuitive, so it’s easy to find photos that match your needs.
One cool feature included with iStockPhoto is their reverse search function. You can reverse search an image and see where it’s featured on the web. That way, you won’t use the same images as your competitors and you can ensure that your website has a unique look to match your brand.
- Large library of images, graphics, video, and audio files
- High quality images
- Reverse image search
- One of the most expensive premium options
- Poor customer service
iStockPhoto has a huge selection of images, but it’s also an expensive option with many complaints of poor customer service. For the money, we recommend choosing one of the other premium options on our list.
EyeEm is a stock image site that works with photographers around the world, creating a global library of high resolution stock images. They offer premium, royalty free images for blogs, websites, and more. EyeEm has created a more unique community of photographers, so you’ll find options here that aren’t necessarily on other stock photography websites.
EyeEm has creative collections organized for you to look through, or you can use their easy search bar to find exactly what you’re looking for. They make it easy for photographers to sell their work, and good reviews from their photographer partners suggests that they treat their creative providers well.
One unique feature of EyeEm is their offering to book a photoshoot specifically for your project. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can book photoshoots and video shoots to get tailor-made content for your site.
- Large library of creative stock images
- Unique image options and collections
- Photoshoot offering
- Issues with the mobile app
- Expensive pricing
EyeEm is a unique stock photo site compared to others; there are benefits and drawbacks to using this service, but you are sure to find unique, creative images.
Best Free Stock Image Sites
All of the images on Unsplash are free to use, so you can search on this site without worrying about whether or not the images are royalty free. Unsplash is powered by creators, with more than 2 million images submitted by real photographers.
All of the photos are available for commercial or non-commercial use, and while no permission is needed, attribution is generally appreciated by the photographers who contribute to this site.
Unsplash is totally free to use, making it a great choice for anyone looking for stock images. With a huge library of images, you can find most of what you need on this website. It doesn’t have quite the range of premium options, but for a free stock photography site, it’s impressive.
- Free to use and download as many images as you want
- All images pre-marked for reuse
- 2 million+ high quality images
- Lacks the wide range of images on premium, paid sites
If you’re looking for a free stock image site, Unsplash is a great option with lots of high resolution photos.
Pexels is another free stock image website with plenty of amazing photos to choose from. The Pexels creative commons License is simple, and guarantees that all of the images on their site are free to use, modify, and edit, with no attribution required.
Real photographers can upload their work to Pexels and get paid, while it remains free for users. Pexels provides photos and videos, so you can find everything you need for your website. With high quality images at no cost, Pexels is an obvious choice.
You don’t need an account to use Pexels – simply search for the photos you’re looking for and download them for free.
- All images are royalty free and 100% free to use
- High resolution images and videos
- Lacks the range of images on premium sites
Pexels is a solid choice for free stock photos. Sometimes it can be hard to find what you’re looking for, but it’s worth checking out for free images.
Pixabay boasts over 1.9 million royalty free photos, videos, music, and more. Everything on Pixabay is labelled for reuse without need for attribution, so you can rest easy knowing that anything you find on this site is free to use.
While the images are totally free to use, modify, and distribute, Pixabay does make it easy for users to donate to photographers that they enjoy. If you find an amazing photo and you want to thank the photographer, it’s easy to donate to them or tip through PayPal. This is 100% optional, however.
Pixabay has high quality images, and it’s hard to beat the free cost for everything. Their large community of contributors ensures that there are always more images to choose from.
- Royalty and attribution free stock photography, video, and music
- Option to donate to photographers
- High quality images
- More generic stock images; hard to find very specific photos if needed
Pixabay stands up well against other free stock photo options; while it doesn’t have every specific image you’ll find on premium sites, it’s a great free option.
StockSnap.io is another website offering free stock photography that you can use for your website, email newsletters, social media, and more. All of the images on StockSnap are free from copyright restrictions, so you can use them without asking for permission or worrying about giving attribution.
With a large community of contributors, StockSnap receives hundreds of new photos for their collection weekly. All of the images are high resolution and download to look high quality regardless of their size.
StockSnap is easy to search through, or you can browse their many categories. Categories are broken down by activities, location, or even moods so that you can easily sift through images.
- Royalty and attribution free stock images
- Large collection of photos
- Not as many images to choose from compared to premium or higher quality free stock photography sites
StockSnap isn’t the best free option, but it’s still free, so if you’re looking for stock images you can check this site.
Shopify is one of the largest ecommerce platforms, and they provide their users with plenty of image options for their ecommerce sites with Shopify Burst! Burst is Shopify’s own stock photography site, offering high resolution images for free commercial or personal use.
If you’re not a Shopify user, don’t worry – Shopify Burst is free for anyone to use. You don’t even have to create a free account to download photos. Simply use a keyword search to find images, or sift through Shopify’s categories like “Weddings”, “Sports”, “Dogs”, “Textures” and more.
Shopify Burst has a huge variety of images, whether you’re looking for background images, people modeling, landscapes, or anything else. Choose to download images in “high res” or “low res” to fit your needs.
- Copyright free images, no need for attribution
- Large variety of high quality photos to choose from
- Helpful resources about image sizing for different platforms
- Only two download sizes
Shopify Burst is a useful tool whether or not you use Shopify for your online business; it’s easy to find and download high quality images for free.Learn More
What are Stock Photos?
Stock photos are any images, usually of a professional grade or quality, that are sold and used for a range of purposes. Some stock photos are provided for free. Stock photography is typically generic, non-branded, and less artistic than other forms of photography.
What are stock photos used for?
Stock images can be used for a wide variety of purposes. In the world of digital marketing, stock photos are often used to populate a website with pictures, as a featured image or supplemental image in blog posts, or for a visual addition to social media posts.
Stock images can also be used for textbooks, advertisements (both online and offline), and much more. Depending on the licensing on any given stock image, it can be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
How can I legally use stock photos?
To ensure that you use stock photos legally, be sure to check the licensing information on any website that provides stock images. Be sure that you get your images from sites that are legally distributing stock photos; taking photos from a Google image search or directly from other websites puts you in danger of copyright infringement.
The websites on our list above all legally provide stock photos, and you can check out their license information to learn how you can use those photos. Most stock images can be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes, but some images with an “editorial” license may not be allowed to be used for commercial uses.
Can I use a stock photo as my logo?
It is not a good idea to use a stock photo as a part of your logo. The reason for this is that stock photos, whether you purchase them or download them for free, cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. This means that you could not legally copyright or trademark your own logo if it includes a stock image.
Most stock image sites prohibit the use of stock photos for branded logos, which means you could face legal or financial penalties.
What photos can I use for free?
Check out any of our top free stock image websites to find free photos! These images are royalty and attribution free, so you can use them for your website without buying anything.
Can I use pictures from the internet without permission?
Generally speaking, no, you cannot use photos from the internet without permission. Stealing images is illegal, and you could face legal repercussions if you grab any photo off of the internet for your own use.
There are, however, plenty of stock image sites, both free and paid, that offer photos that don’t require permission or attribution. Use these websites to safety find images for your needs.
Finding copyright free images is simple with these stock image websites. Find all of your stock photography needs! Tell us where you find stock photos in the comments.