Free and Cheap Stock Photos

by Lynn Truong on 3 February 2010 15 comments
Photo: Grafikeray

Here at Wise Bread, we're constantly on the lookout for great, affordable images to go with our articles. And with a blog created like every second, many of you are in the need of some nice images to go with your blog posts, too!

I had been a loyal user of iStockphoto for a few years, but what used to be $1 per credit has turned into $1.52. Not only that, but the price of each image has gone up to 2 credits. That's a 300% price hike.

Then I discovered stockxpert, which was great. They were everything iStockphoto was. $1 per credit. 1 credit per image. And many of the images were exactly the same ones from iStockphoto. Except they're shutting down as of February 11! (All unused credits will be transferred to iStockphoto. I smell a buyout.)

So I began to look around for another source and happily discovered there are good alternatives.

Free

Flickr is a fan favorite, but the selection for the commercial use license is limited. However, we've used a ton of Flickr images here on Wise Bread, so it's not really that limited.

Stock.xchng is another popular one used by many bloggers. You do need to sign up for an account (this small barrier is the reason I haven't tried it).

Stockvault offers free stock photos, and you don't need to sign up for an account to download the images.

MorgueFile has a bunch of plainer looking stock photos, but completely decent and free.

Freedigitalphotos is another place to get free stock photos. Looks like a smaller selection than the others above, but hey, they're free.

$1 (or just a little more)

Dreamstime is a gem I just discovered. Credits start at $1.25 (for 8 credits) but quickly go down to $1 per credit if you buy 25.

At Fotolia, credits start at $1.14 per credit. It's a nice looking site that I'm eager to try out.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

A little pricer

Can Stock Photo offers images for $2 a piece. They do have the lowest starting price for subscriptions. $35.95 per week to download 10 images per day.

Big Stock Photo offers credits starting at $3, but quickly go down with a few more credits -- it's $1.96 each if you buy 25 credits.

iStockphoto offers credits starting at $1.52 (with small discounts at larger packages). They recently raised most of their images to 2 credits. Additionally, they have quite a few photos that cost even more. I do have to say that I've never been disappointed at their selection quality.

Crestock is a nice looking site with lovely images. Their credits start at $4.50 (you need to buy 100 of them). Or buy images one at a time for $5.

Shutterstock rounds out my "pricey" list with $9.80 per image.

Going for Bulk

If you're looking to buy images in bulk, look for subscription options. I haven't listed them here because I don't know anyone who needs 25 images per day. But Photos.com has a really good subscription package ($100 for 1 month, 25 downloads per day). That's just $0.13 per image. (Getty Images is slightly cheaper at $0.11 per image, but you have to buy a year's subscription for $1,999 for 50 downloads per day).

Where do you get your stock images?

Additional photo credits: skippyjon, bartosz108 , THEPALMER
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Sonja Stewart's picture

I will definitely be using these sites!  Yay!  I don't have to play photographer and photo resizer all the time!  I am awful at picture taking.  Seriously, such a helpful article!

Guest's picture

I don't know how long it's been there but I noticed recently that the "Advanced" Google Image search now has an option to restrict your search by image license. I've found this very helpful for finding picture across some of the avenues you mention.

Guest's picture
Karen

I have been searching for photo sources for my blog. Thank you for sharing these -- I will definitely check them out.

Guest's picture

I confess, I'm a graphic artist so I can make use of a subscription service like Shutterstock. I also contribute illustrations to that service. I usually buy images as I need them, but if I have a job that requires several photos or illustrations, I'll take the plunge and sign up for a month membership, which allows 25 downloads a day for a month (that's 750!). After I get the 15 photos I actually need, then what? I take some time every night and think of things I might need in the future, perusing the catalog for ideas: backgrounds, patterns, or odd images that might spark an idea sometime down the line. Or pages full of silhouettes that could come in handy. I've allowed clients to do the downloading; they seek graphics that pertain to their milieu, for me to use later in their materials. For non-graphic artists, you could get years worth of graphics in a month if you have a regular task, like producing a newsletter. My daughter is on the publicity committee for her performing arts school. We've saved her butt numerous times when there's a theme she needs to produce a poster for, and we see what we've got in the Photo Bin, and devise something around what we have.

Sometimes buying in bulk is best!

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dagny

I find myself wondering about the photographers. They need to sell many, many images at $1 to make the effort worthwile.

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Todd

You've definitely guessed it Dagny. It's not a business model for everyone. It's a full time job in itself, I speak from experience. Definitely not a get rich quick scheme or job for the lazy or casual photographer.

Guest's picture

This is a bit off topic and more specific to Wisebread, but have you ever considered going straight to your readers? With a blog that has such a large audience just a credit or a link to a blog might be enough to motivate many to give you a great photo for free.

I am a wee amateur photographer, but I keep all rights reserved on my photos, because my cool hairless cats kept appearing in places that I didn't authorize and the lawyer in me was getting a bit upset about it.

In a few cases, I've had folks who wanted a specific image and I've granted them the rights (typically at no charge), simply because they contacted me. I was honored to have the photos on websites and even in a book.

Quite honestly, if you had a post seeking photos or even a HARO query, I think you'd get quite a response. I can think of several in my own arsenal that would work well with PF articles with varying themes and I know many other friends with computers chock full of images. (It helps that I live in Vegas, so I am surrounded by nice images that drip money and excess.)

Like the other sites that you listed too.

Guest's picture

Thank you for all the links! I always have a hard time finding photos for my posts, and this is a great resource.

Guest's picture
finance

very helpful article and links. thanks for the post. I'm gonna be needing this one.

Guest's picture

in some of my posts, thanks a lot for this.

Guest's picture

If you still want free photos go to niffylux

http://www.niffylux.com/toute-image.html

Guest's picture
Caerol

I also wanted to try stock.xchng, but signing up always thwarted my attempt. So I looked around, and found out that people who want to use a picture must ask the owner and post a credit to the website or blog where pictures are used.

It seems sensible though. But how many credits will there be if I'm going to use pictures in each post? Thus, I try to create one with Photoshop or take the picture myself. If this isn't possible, you're long list of sites giving free goodies will surely suffice.

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martaRTW

thanks for the list, great article. I am also looking for free photos to share on my blog so this is indeed very helpful. cheers

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Bogdan

Try new site www.picdrome.com for free pictures from around Europe, funny pictures and more.

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Todd

This post is a great resource for those on a budget for RF imagery. Also, don't forget http://arenacreative.com - everything is priced from $2-$10 for the standard licenses