Did you know that some of the world's most iconic advertisements use stock images for commercial use? For example, AlamapBBDO, a Brazilian ad agency, used stock photos from Getty Images to create their Endless Possibilities campaign in 2016. The advertising campaign combined photos of random people's faces to recreate portraits of famous people such as the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis.
Most creative agencies prefer altering stock images in most of their work. This is because it allows them to create campaigns for different companies much faster at affordable costs. Keep reading to find out how to get free images for commercial use in your next project.
In this article
Part 1: Download images in loyalty-free sites
Several sites offer free images for commercial use as part of their services. In addition, you do not need to register an account to download the images. The sites typically rely on user contributions and content teams to ensure their databases are fresh and maintain consistent quality. Furthermore, all creative assets they offer fall under the creative commons zero license or a variation of it. Here are some of the sites that offer you images for commercial use for free.
Pexels.com is a free-to-use provider of high-resolution photos and videos for aspiring creators. The German-based website was started in 2014 by two brothers and has been under the Canva umbrella since 2018.
Currently, the website hosts over 3.2 million images and videos from over 250,000 active contributors. In addition, all the material you find in its library is under the Pexels license, which slightly varies from the creative commons zero license model. Some of the restrictions it enforces include:
- You can only use pexels images for commercial use after making alterations to the original image. For example, you can use part of an image to create a collage for your commercial branding.
- Furthermore, you cannot use any of the website's content to promote political ideologies and explicit content, especially if the images contain identifiable subjects.
Pexels is available through the following channels:
- Your web browser by typing the URL pexels.com.
- The Android and iOS app.
- A plugin for other content creation software such as Google Slides and MS Office.
- An extension on your Chrome browser.
- You can also access the database using the official Canva app.
Another website that offers free images for commercial use is Unsplash, a subsidiary of Getty Images since 2021. The website is a favorite among creators boasting over 16 billion photo impressions monthly. In addition, the database consists of over 3.48 million photos from more than 265,000 unique contributors, all under the Unsplash license.
The Unsplash license restricts the sale of its creative assets without incorporating new creative elements, including using them in print media and physical goods such as mugs and caps.
You can access Unsplash from your web browser or request API integration for your application from the site's owners. In addition, the site also hosts photo walks across different cities, where Unsplash guides show you the best photo locations around the city and the best camera techniques for your work. Some cities to host the event include Boston, Montreal, Tokyo, and Toronto.
Freerange Stock is an online resource for photos, illustrations, and textures you can download and use for commercial and non-commercial purposes. Since 2007, the site has continued to provide high-quality images to its community of over 800,000 registered users.
Unlike the previous examples, all content on Freerange falls under the website's Equalicense. It grants you broad commercial rights of its stock images while allowing the contributors to retain control of their copyright, image resale, and distribution. As such, you cannot use the images for bulk distribution or print-on-demand works.
Freerange Stock maintains its steady supply of images for commercial use via the following methods:
- It has an in-house team of professional photographers who upload images across the different categories on the website.
- Freerange Stock also purchases image rights or directly commissions photos from independent creators.
- You can also contribute to the website's library by voluntarily submitting your work to the platform. Kindly note that you will need a verified account to enable this function.
- The website also works directly with photographers through a licensing and distribution model, providing them extra exposure on the site.
- Finally, Freerange stock aggregates public domain images from other sources, including similar sites and government institutions. It does so by acknowledging the image owner and sometimes lists the image source when the owner is unknown.
Freerange Stock is accessible through your web browser or as an API integration on your app.
Vecteezy is an extensive online library of free stock images for commercial use. Some of the site's highlight features include the following:
- A best-in-class search engine that incorporates multiple filters to ensure your results are extremely accurate. For example, you can sort images by color, style, number of people, and age of the subjects, something other free stock websites do not provide.
- All images, videos, and vector illustrations are free for personal and commercial uses. It does so through a property sign and release model with its extensive network of contributors, which protects users from any legal liabilities.
- Finally, it employs a content team that manually reviews each photo submission to ensure consistent quality standards for its offerings.
In addition, you can also purchase design resource bundles by subscribing to its Vecteezy pro for as little as $9 monthly. Some of the resources available include the Ultimate Text Effects Layer Styles Bundle for Photoshop, which costs $39 stand-alone or $4.50 when you subscribe to pro.
Part 2: Buy from stock providers
Another way to get images for commercial use is by buying them from stock providers. Some of the benefits of buying images from stock providers include:
- You get a wide selection of unique photos from top-tier photographers. Stock providers always seek collaborations with the industry's finest to edge out the competition.
- You receive exemplary customer service with your purchase. Selecting the right image can be confusing for amateur creators. As such, stock image providers have customer support channels to help you throughout your creative process.
- Stock images reduce your delivery times significantly. Buying images from a stock provider eliminates the need to invest in photography equipment and the time you need for post-production. As such, you can deliver projects in a fast and cost-effective way.
Despite the above positive, here are some challenges that buying stock images may present:
- Not all stock image providers will have the creative assets you need.
- Image overuse is likely since every creator will rush for the most popular contributor.
Below are some of the stock image providers you should consider.
iStockphoto.com is an online database of creative resources, including royalty-free photos, videos, audio, illustrations, and clip art you can use in your creations. The website is a Getty Images subsidiary based in Calgary, Canada. In addition, contributors earn royalties depending on how often users download their content.
Alamy.com is a British-owned stock image provider with contributions from photographers and agencies in 173 countries. It compensates its contributors by offering higher than average payouts every time users download their creations. Some popular brands to use Alamy's services include M&C Saatchi, Microsoft, and The Economist.
Part 3: Shot a Photo by yourself or create one with editing tools
Alternatively, you can get images for commercial use by shooting them yourself or creating them with editing tools such as Figma and Wondershare's Filmstock. Here are some benefits of using this method:
- You get exactly what you want, provided you have the required skills and equipment. Sometimes, getting the right image for your commercial purpose can be challenging. As such, shooting an original photo may be the only option.
- You have full ownership of the image.
Unlike obtaining images from stock photography websites, you are free to use the image in whatever capacity you please without any restrictions. For example, sites such as Unsplash do not allow you to use their images in political statements, a restriction you can bypass when using your own creations.
However, you should also consider the following factors when using this method.
It requires a substantial investment.
Getting high-quality images for commercial purposes requires specialist equipment. For example, the Panasonic LUMIX GH6 camera, which has 4K resolution capability, costs $2,197 on Amazon. This makes it extremely expensive for amateur creators.
There is a steep learning curve.
Becoming a professional photographer takes time and effort. Unless you are creating as a hobby, it will be a while before you can start generating income from your creations.
Part 4: FAQs
1. Do you need a contributor account to get images for commercial use?
Not necessarily. Stock image sites like pexels.com allow you to download images from their website without creating an account. You will only need one if you want to showcase your work on the platform.
2. Can you use your smartphone to get images for commercial use?
Yes. Most stock image providers have device-specific apps that allow you to access their databases from your mobile device. For example, UnsplashPhotoPicker allows you access to the Unsplash library from your Android device.