“They” say a picture is worth a thousand words. Now as a copywriter, I’d say “they” are overemphasizing the importance of visuals by just a little bit. Okay, maybe by a lot. But even I agree that a web page without any photos is a webpage I’m probably not going to spend a lot of time on.
Breaking up your blog posts and other online content with photos makes your copy more scannable, gives you another opportunity to optimize your page for SEO, and can further illuminate your copy’s point or resonate emotionally with readers.
But good stock photos cost money. And if you’re writing a blog post once a week or more (and you should be!), all of those stock photos — most of which look faker than the moon landing (Kidding … Not a moon truther, promise) — are going to add up.
Now I know it’s tempting to just swipe a photo from Google Image search and slap it on your page. I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past, too. What are the chances that anyone’s ever going to find out?
High enough that I’m not willing to chance it anymore. I’ve read one too many stories about folks using copyrighted images without permission or payment on their little ol’ blogs … and then getting slapped with a cease and desist letter, or outright sued. Plus, as small business owners who slave over our own content — or pay prettily to have an expert produce it — it’s our duty to support visual content creators, too. And, it’s, you know, the law.
But that doesn’t make paying for photos any more fun.
Luckily, a few kind souls across the internet are ready to help. Here are 5 of my favorite sources for free images, most of which don’t even require attribution. The best part? I think a lot of these sources produce images that feel more authentic and inspired than traditional stock photo sites.
Check it out:
Beautiful, high-resolution photos snapped by clearly talented photographers. No attribution required, and you can use them however you’d like. Most useful for travel and lifestyle content — there are a ton of gorgeous landscape and architecture photos that I think would also work well for website backgrounds or headers.
The inbound marketing gurus over at HubSpot have developed 4 sets of stock photos (totaling more that 550 pics) that you can download completely free of charge. There’s a business-themed set and a holiday set, plus a random assortment of photos that you’ll have to browse through to find something that might work for your content needs. Yes, a lot of the photos are pretty silly — but that’s what makes them so great.
Another great resource for high-quality photos that don’t have that icky “stock” feel. While not all the photos on Pexels are original — i.e. they do pull some snaps from other free image sites, like Unsplash — it’s all highly curated and they only choose the best of the best, which makes for a fun browsing experience.
This site is a solo shop, run by a Polish photographer and web designer named Karolina who offers all of her photos for free (though she requests a link back if you’re able to!). Her photos are lifestyle blogger/small business gold. Food and fashion are two popular categories, and she also has a category dedicated to abstract images that would make great backgrounds for all those cute quote pics you see floating around social media.
Your Own Pics
We’re pretty much all professional photogs these days, thanks to Instagram filters, right? Okay, not quite, but there’s no reason you can’t put your smart phone lens to use for your own blog posts … though I’d caution you against using iPhone photos on your home page or anywhere else on your site. Using your own pictures, even if they’re not perfect, adds a more personal, intimate feel to posts — so this would work especially well with solo-preneurs.
Where else do you turn for free stock photos? Share any sources below — I’m always curious to learn about what else is out there!