Want to Build Your Own Successful soap Biz?

The Best Places to Get Stock Photos that Don’t Suck

There’s a reason “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliche: it’s true. Marketing your biz means you need to catch people’s attention. And the competition to get customers’ eyes on you is stiff. So, knowing the best places to get stock photos can help.

Quality, on-brand images are a must. But, believe it or not, they don’t always have to be taken exclusively for your company. Stock photography websites can be great resources to pad your stash of marketing images.

Of course, we have a huge, in-house list of the best places to get stock photos But, we’ve never shared it up. Now it’s time to change that!

Best Stock Photo Websites Blog Image

Before I dive into the best places to get stock photos to level up your marketing game, let’s chat a bit about the proper use of stock photos. I don’t want anyone using this list to trick people into thinking their products are something they aren’t. (And I know y’all would never do such a craptastic thing.) More so, I want to make sure you know how to legally use the stock photos you find out on the web.

Of course, the big question for a lot of folks is HOW do I use stock photos when I have a product-based business? Can I even do that?! Yup, you sure can!

Successful Strategies for Using Stock Photos

First, here’s the need-to-know basics of downloading stock photos and using them in your marketing like a pro:

1. Keep it legal by following the rules for using stock photos

If you’ve been snagging images willy-nilly from the net to pop into your social media posts, pump the brakes!

The same copyright laws that protect your soapy photos from theft also protect all of those pics that pop up in Google’s image search. So, if you haven’t already, read through our post on how to legally use content from the web.

Every stock photo website that we link to in this article has its own rundown of terms of use. Therefore, make sure you read and understand those terms before you hit the download button.

And, keep records of your downloads. If someone tries to hit you up for cash, claiming you stole a photo, you want proof that you did your due diligence. A screenshot of the download page is cheap insurance.

Don’t forget to keep those screenshots organized! We have our own system. (Yay for Google Drive!) But you can do whatever you need to do to make sure you can find proof when you need it.

Takeaway: Use stock photos legally by following the terms and conditions. Screenshot download pages and keep records of your purchases.

2. Don’t cheap out on stock photos

You don’t want to see your perfect photo plastered on a dozen other sites. That’s why, even with a ton of free stock photo websites out there, we suggest ponying up cash for some of your shots. Paying for stock photos isn’t going to be as pricey as a pro photo shoot, but it ensures you don’t see the same photos that you post all over another brand’s Facebook page.

Remember that using stock photos for your marketing can save you a ton of time – time that would otherwise be spent snapping a photo yourself or hiring a pro. How much is your time worth? If it takes an hour to set up a shoot, snap a photo, and edit it in your graphics program (which is a conservative estimate!), how much is that hour worth? If you value your time at $25/hour, any photo priced at $24.99 or less is going to save you cash.

Takeaway: Smart spending on stock photos will help you stand out from the crowd and save money over trying to DIY.

3. Make using stock photography seamless

Marketing your handmade soap effectively requires speaking with one voice, no matter where you pull content from. And here are some tips to make that happen when using stock photos:

  • Customize your photos. Use your brand colors in overlays, text blocks, and borders. Because using the same design elements across the board blurs the lines between custom and stock images.
  • Don’t use stock photos when custom is a must. There are stock photos of handmade products on many stock photo websites. Yet, don’t be tempted to use them in place of custom product shots. Your customers deserve a realistic representation of what they are ordering.
  • Remember this isn’t about you. Just because you love the look of a photo doesn’t mean it’s right for your brand. So, resist the urge to shoehorn in images that just don’t work, even if they are stunning or came as part of the package you purchased. (If you haven’t defined your brand, get to work on Brand Magic now!)
  • Get more mileage with creative cropping. Use different sections of a photo for different marketing channels. As a result, you will have a slightly different look while staying on brand.
  • Create a checklist and templates to guide your color, typography, and layout decisions that will help you keep on brand.

Takeaway: Stock photos should blend seamlessly into your brand. (Check out our Pinterest-ready graphics at the beginning of each blog post for inspiration.)

4. Where to share your on-brand stock photos

Still not sure how to use the great stock photo shots you’ve scouted? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Use them in your blog posts,.
  • Announce promotions or events in your email newsletter.
  • Share on-brand quotes, tips, stories, and more on social media.
  • Dress up the 404 error page on your website. (That’s the page folks hit when a link goes belly-up!)
  • Add them to your Facebook ads or posts. (Read up on creating Facebook ads in this article.)
  • Read more suggestions in our recommendations section below!

Just be careful not to misrepresent your products in the editiorial photos you choose. (For instance, don’t use a stock photo with generic bar soaps on a counter if you make and sell handmade soap!)

Takeaway: Stock photos should support your brand story. But keep it custom for product representation.

The Best Places to Get Stock Photos

Even the best stock photo websites will never take the place of hiring a photographer to do custom shots for your brand. But, for most of us, custom photos for every blog and social media post we crank out just isn’t practical. However, stock images are one way to outsource a bit of the burden. So, here are the best places to get stock photos to fill in the gaps and make marketing a bit easier:

Burst

This site is for you if:

You want quality stock photography with a wide commercial appeal that can be popped into a last-minute marketing push or serve as placeholders for custom photography as you build your website.

Burst offers a wide variety of photos that are textually rich with appealing color pallets. Consequently, there are a LOT of options here for entrepreneurs and advertisers. While they push the idea of being a one-stop-shop, don’t be seduced into using stock photos when custom is a must (like for your product shots). And if your brand has a quirky, one-of-a-kind vibe, try a different site.

Cost: Free (But you will have to hand over your email address for high-resolution downloads.)

Unsplash

This site is for you if:

Your brand is all about adventure, travel, mystery, and romance. Also, your target customer is fit, active, and eager to experience everything the world has to offer.

Unsplash offers up a global photo collection with diverse subjects, settings, and angles.  They are a bit more modern and ‘artsy’ than other options. Snag some of these photos to add to your lifestyle blog posts. But, if you are looking for shots of serene spa scenes and folks who like to take it easy, this site is not for you.

Cost: Free

Gratisography

This site is for you if:

Your brand is silly, bizarre, playful, or whimsical. Your perfect customer sports vintage bowling shirts, Princess Leia buns, and might own a pet miniature pig.

Ryan McGuire, the photographer behind Gratisography is a “maker of silly things, art, and photographs.” Consequently, this site is a circus of color and quirkiness. But, it doesn’t have a huge library of options. So, if the style appeals to you, consider ditching the keyword search and taking time to browse.

Cost: Free

Negative Space

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer is a millennial working for a tech startup as an app designer. This moody collection of hip stock photos will totally vibe with your brand.

Negative Space is well organized and curated. The pictures, despite being shot by many different artists, could be used for the same project seamlessly. If your brand doesn’t appeal to hipsters, skip this site.

Cost: Free

PicJumbo

This site is for you if:

You like photos that blend the line between commercial and candid and break a few rules of professional photography. AND you need a few design resources to boost your brand.

PicJumbo was created by an entrepreneur with a web design background. Consequently, Viktor Hanacek shares the kind of high-resolution photos that he needed for his own website development work. In addition, he offers fonts, icons, mockups, and more. Most of the photos have a traditionally masculine feel, so if your brand is sweet or soft, search elsewhere.

Cost: Free with paid premium option

Death to the Stock

This site is for you if:

Your brand is cool, exclusive, and artsy. You need stock photography that doesn’t look like stock photography.

Death to Stock is small-batch stock photography. A new, curated collection of photos (and other creative content) is rolled out each month.

Cost: Paid, with limited freebies if you sign up to their mailing list

Kaboom Pics

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer’s favorite way to spend her day off is wrapped up in a handmade quilt with a cup of tea, a tattered novel, and a furry friend. Your brand celebrates tradition, nostalgia, and coziness. 

Kaboom Pics is the work of Karolina Grabowska. The site offers up rich color schemes and homey scenes galore. Download multiple pics from the same photo shoot and a hex color palette to make quick work of your next marketing campaign. (You can search for photos by color, too!) In contrast, if your brand is sparse and cutting edge, skip this site.

Cost: Free

Life of Pix

This site is for you if:

You aren’t quite sure what you need. You’ll find straight-up commercial stock and some shots with a bit of unique flare. If you need a photo with negative space that you can overlay with text, there are some good options here.

Life of Pix takes its cue from social media, allowing you to follow your fav photographers and create your own space on the site – a portfolio of photos that you can personalize. And, they put a fresh artist in the spotlight every week. For the relatively few photo options, Life of Pix has a diverse collection of photo styles and subjects.

Cost: Free

Jay Mantri

This site is for you if:

You need unobtrusive photo backdrops for quotes. You love peeling paint, exposed brick, tile, clouds, and hardwood floors.

Jay Mantri is all about texture, light, and largely unoccupied space. Also, there are a lot of variations on similar themes. If you love architectural and natural patterns and textures, this is your site. However, it looks like the site is no longer being updated regularly as of the time of this post.

Cost: Free

ISO Republic

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer works hard so they can enjoy travel, food, family, and friends. While balance is elusive, they are learning as they go.

ISO Republic is current, vibrant, and diverse. It’s stock photography, but it feels very up-to-date next to more staid sites. If your target customer is pushing 50 or older, this probably isn’t your playground.

Cost: Free

Freerange Stock

This site is for you if:

You need an image of a specific subject.

Freerange Stock is not about being avant-garde. Rather, it’s about being able to find the exact subject you need in a photo. This site is well categorized and keyworded. While not every photo is top caliber, if you need to find a “lavender field in France” or a “woman doing child’s pose”, you’re golden.

Cost: Free (but you will need to create an account.)

LibreShot

This site is for you if:

You need shots from around the globe – traditions, landmarks, people, objects – both big picture and macro.

Martin Vorel works as an SEO consultant and loves photography. He’s the man behind Libreshot. And a look into his catalog gives the impression that he doesn’t stay in one place for long. While you likely won’t find everything you search for at LibreShot, what you will find is unique.

Cost: Free

Fancy Crave

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer is polished, media savvy, and sophisticated. Your brand images need to stand out to compete. And they need to look sharp to do that – especially on mobile screens.

Fancy Crave claims such names as Apple, Adobe, and Facebook on their client list. (Guessing those guys sprang for premium access.) And for good reason. Fancy Crave’s vibrant and varied catalog is a visual treat. The free collections (20 to 200 photos each) are curated by subject. There’s no search feature to sort the freebies. You’ll need to download the entire collection to snag what you need.

Cost: Paid with some free options

Pixabay

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer believes in fairy tales. So, you need photos with a little bit of fantasy and magic.

Pixabay lets you sort their impressive catalog by image type (photo, vector graphic, illustration, and video), orientation (horizontal and vertical), category, size, and color. Also, they were the only free site on the list that went 10 for 10 on having usable images for keywords I pulled out of my head. Although you may have to sort through a few dated images to get what you need, it’s worth it.

Cost: Free

StockSnap

This site is for you if:

Your brand doesn’t consider “commercial” to be an insult. And nothing quirky or controversial is going to appeal to your perfect customer. 

Search it up on StockSnap with tag-based categories, a keyword search, or a look at what’s trending on the site now. This site offers a huge variety of quality images, but most shots have that “stock photo” feel. Consequently, If your brand travels off the beaten path, you might need to bypass this site.

Cost: Free

New Old Stock

This site is for you if:

Your brand embraces the memory of days gone by, hoping to provoke nostalgia, pride, and curiosity with its marketing.

New Old Stock features a stunning collection of vintage photographs from the public archive. These shots feature both notable public figures as well as everyday people. Read up on the licensing notes before use (as you should with all sites), and be prepared to sacrifice a bit of image quality for authenticity.

Cost: Free

Kate Max Stock

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer loves pastel pink. Kate Max’s photos are feminine and romantic with just enough of a modern edge to keep you from overdosing on sweetness.

Kate Max Stock offers photo bundles, individual photos, and mock-up images (pop your own graphic onto a mug, canvas, or device screen) for purchase. You will find lots of desktop flat lays and styled shots here.

Cost: Paid membership, bundles, or a la carte; or limited freebies

Haute Stock

This site is for you if:

You are a woman entrepreneur who is ready to show the world who’s boss and serve stockists, media, and retail customers a heaping helping of eye candy.

Haute Stock offers a variety of sophisticated, strategic images in a variety of themes geared towards polished, professional women. Mix and match these photos with your custom brand photography for the win. If your brand is rustic or masculine, there is nothing here for you.

Cost: Paid membership or limited freebies

Styled Stock Society

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer is twenty-something and loves to refer to herself as a “girl boss”. 

Styled Stock Society (the stock photography branch of Elle Drouin) has a lot in common with Haute Stock but has a hint more edginess and appeals to a slightly younger demographic.

Cost: Paid membership, bundles, or al la carte; or limited freebies

SC Stockshop

This site is for you if:

You want to take the guesswork out of incorporating stock photography into your marketing plan. You’ll love brand building photography bundles in the perfect styles and colorways for your company’s needs.

SC Stockshop offers up a collection of entrepreneurial images aimed to appeal to women, much like Haute Stock and Kate Max Stock. Their color pallet pushes beyond pink and you can even search by color swatch to pull together the look you need. If your brand is warm and inviting, the stark white spaces that these shots are set in may feel a bit too cold.

Cost: Paid bundles or al la carte, or limited freebies

Social Squares

This site is for you if:

Your perfect customer is all about Instagram, and you are having trouble keeping up. (If you love, SC Stock Shop, you will be glad to know that Social Squares is its more affordable offshoot.)

Social Squares will help you keep your social media feed full when you don’t have time to be snapping shots around the studio. And, it won’t break the bank, even if you are posting multiple times a day. The entire Social Squares catalog come pre-cropped into 1:1 aspect ratio, so don’t waste your time here if you need landscape and portrait shots.

Cost: Paid subscription, monthly or yearly

Stock photo from 123rf.com of young black woman with natural curls, oversize eye glasses, and red dress on yellow backdrop
Beautiful Young Black Woman

123RF

This site is for you if:

You need one-stop shopping. With a photo catalog nearing 10 million images, there is a good chance you will find what you need here.

The site offers a full bag of tricks – stock photos, vector graphics, icons, infographic builders, and even video and audio clips. And 123RF doesn’t skimp on the keywords. So, while it is rare to get no results, it is common to have to do some digging through those results for the perfect shot.

Cost: Paid membership, bundles, or al la carte (must purchase site credits)

Are you thinking about stock photography a little bit differently after reading this post? Do you plan to work some stock photos into your marking plan? Tell us about it in the comments!

Share this post

Share on pinterest
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

Remember to keep it clean (oh, so punny). We moderate comments for keyboard warriors and spam, read our comment policy for more information. If you need a little extra TLC, please reach out so we can best serve you!

3 Responses

  1. What an incredibly useful resource, thank you for pulling this together. In addition to my business, I keep up blogs for other purposes where I’m always searching for images I can use legally to illustrate my point. Wikimedia Commons is a great source when you need something very specific and often historical, but it doesn’t always have high quality photos, or most of what I need. I bookmarked almost all of what you suggested and know they will help round out the missing pieces. Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.