Stock Photos and Where to Get Them

 Why You Need Stock Photos

There are a number of things you need to consider when creating a blog, and one of those is the blog’s visual look.  You can have the most important things to say, but people get bored with a page that has nothing but text on it.  For that reason, you want to spice up your pages a bit with some graphics or some photos.  Unless you take the pictures or design the graphics yourself, you’re going to have to acquire some stock photos somewhere, and that can get expensive.

stock photos technologyHow expensive?  That depends.  You can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single photo, depending on the source.  Obviously, that can add up quickly and spending $1000 per blog post for photos is something that’s well outside the budget of even the most well-heeled bloggers.  What you don’t want to do is what a lot of people do as a shortcut – simply do a search of Google Images, find something you like, and copy it and post it into your Web page.  That “free” photo could cost you a fortune.  How so?  Images are copyrighted, and in many cases, the people who own those stock photos will sue.

Stock Photos and Lawsuits

While they’re hardly the only one, Getty Images is notorious for suing people who use their stock photos without securing a license.  I once received a lawsuit threat from them over a Website designer software product that I had purchased that used an image from Getty in its output.  The creator of the software and Getty were in a dispute over the licensing and Getty responded to that by threatening to sue the users of the software.  How much?  $1250 per image, and I was using five images.  Oddly enough, at the time, Getty had those images on their Website for a license fee of about $15 each.  They were suing for larger amounts just for the exercise, I guess.  This matter was eventually sorted out with the help of an attorney, and as far as I know, the creator of that software and Getty are still bickering about this.


If you’re going to use stock photos, you can’t just grab them and use them.  Companies that sell stock photos have software that crawls the Web searching for their licensed images.  If you’re using copyrighted stock photos without a proper license, you will eventually get caught and it may cost you a fortune to settle.  You don’t want that, so you should attempt to find your stock photos legally, and that means either buying a license to use them from an agency or using one of a handful of sites that provide stock photos for free.

stock photos scienceThere are advantages and disadvantages of using paid stock photos versus using free ones.  The paid sites have the advantage of having tens of thousands of images available in a variety of sizes, meaning that they usually offer “one stop shopping.”  You can generally find exactly what you want at a paid site, which saves you a lot of time.  Find the photo, pick the size, pay for it, and you’re done.  There are also quite a few sites that sell stock photos, so you’ll never have a problem finding the picture you need.

With free stock photos, you’ll find that you have both fewer sites to choose from as well as fewer images on each site.  Some sites that offer free stock photos might have a few hundred photos to choose from, while paid sites might have a half a million or so.  With free photo sites, you’ll often end up paying for your photos with your time, as you’re going to end up spending a lot of time trying to find that exact picture you’re looking for.  Of course, if you’re on a budget, then you likely have more time than money, so free may be the best way to go.

Paid Stock Photos

While there are a number of sites for paid stock photos, the best known are probably Getty Images, iStock Photo, and Shutterstock.  All are now fairly expensive; Getty Images can cost you $200 per year per image to use on your site. Shutterstock and iStock Photo charge $12-$15 per image.  iStock Photo used to have very reasonable pricing that was based on the size of the image you wanted to use.  That was convenient, as you could often purchase images suitable for a blog for about $1.50 each.  They’ve recently gone to a a “one image, one price” model that makes their images a lot more expensive at about $12 each.

stock photos natureFree Stock Photos

There are a few good sites for free stock photos on there, but you have to be careful, as many of these sites have affiliate agreements with paid stock photo sites.  That means that you’ll often see paid photos mixed in with the free ones.

Here are a few sites that offer images that are free, though some have some restrictions, such as requiring attribution for the images.

Pixabay – My favorite.  This site offers thousands of stock photos and graphics that are free for use in both personal and commercial sites.  The site is based in Germany, so a number of their sites have a bit of a European look (if you’re looking for money, you’ll see more images of euros than of dollars, for instance).  They have a nice selection and the images are available in a variety of sizes.  All of the images shown on this page have come from Pixaby. – This site has both paid and free stock photos.  Free images sometimes require attribution; be sure to read the rules. – Free images.  Not a lot, but they’re free. – This site has stock photos that are free in the smallest size, but have a charge for larger sizes.  Typical “free” sizes are roughly 400×300 or so, making them suitable for Web use.  You are required to give attribution for the photos, which can be a problem, depending on how you want to use them.  You’d have trouble using one in a PPC ad, for instance, as you wouldn’t want to have a “photo courtesy of Bob Smith” in your banner ad.  For that sort of use, you’ll either have to pay or use another source.

The problem with most sites with free stock photos is that they don’t offer a large selection.  Here are a few more sites that offer some terrific images, but don’t offer an overly large selection: – 10 new pictures every ten days

stock photos travelOne other great resource is to do a Creative Commons search.  To do a Creative Commons search for stock photos, just visit, use their search tool, and be sure that the checkboxes that say “Use for commercial purposes” and “modify, adapt, or build upon” are checked.  The images that show up in the result are generally free to use as you see fit.  It’s worth noting that many of the images that show up in a Creative Commons search are from Pixabay, so you might as well start there.

Stock Photos Summary

Including a few stock photos in your blog pages helps make the pages more colorful and helps break up the monotony of reading the page.  I try to include three or four images on every one of my blog posts and I try to alternate them from one side of the page to the other.  It helps make the pages more readable and gives the pages a more professional look.  Stock photos are useful, but if you’re not careful, they can cost you a fortune.  If you’re on a budget, make sure you’re using stock photos that you can actually afford.

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