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7 sites to get free stock images for your next Feedsy story

By Gavin Klose
(Co-founder, Feedsy)

Are you looking for an Australia-friendly free stock image to use in your Feedsy story or social media post?

Our review of these seven free sites might help:
PEXELS
unsplash
pixabay
picjumbo
stockvault
CC Search (Flickr)
CC Search (Google Images).

We also compare these against our favourite paid image site Bigstock.

We summarise our findings and recommend the best free sites for you to bookmark.

 

Staying legal

 

 

First, let’s take a step back…

You know that if you need an image for your blog post that you can’t just search Google and use the first image you find – right?

That’s because you’d most likely be infringing copyright as you’ve not got permission to use it. In fact, it probably belongs to the original photographer or is licensed through a stock image library.

And stock image libraries take this very seriously. For example, Getty Images have been known to send legal letters to people (sometimes unknowingly) using a Getty Images’ image without paying for it first.

Now, until recently, FEEDSY have been big fans (and users) of Bigstock for our paid stock images. But we have just put our (very moderate) subscription on hold because we ourselves have built our own big stock of images to re-use as part of our licensed-use agreement.

However, sometimes we still need a new image and, rather than do an adhoc image purchase, we have been looking at other free options.

 

The right fit

 

 

The kind of images you are likely to want to use are similar to the ones we look for, we thought we’d share with you some of our favourite free stock image sites.

In other words, finding images about finance, wealth, travel, retirement, paying off your home, etc

Now people say, you get what you pay for. But with paying nothing for images online does not mean you get nothing (legally).

In fact, you’ll be surprised by how easy and good it can be (for free).

 

Our stock image tests

 

 

For this review we searched all sites for these terms:

  1. mortgage
  2. retired couple
  3. family travel

We then reported on each:

  • Quality and quantity of found images
  • User experience (from searching to downloading)
  • Permitted use of images and photographer attribution (ie giving them a credit)

Pro and Cons lists and an overall score is given for each site.

 


 

PEXELS

 

pexel mortgage image search

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 2 images found
Quality: 8/10 (great quality but not very Australian)

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 2 of the 500+ images found were useful (as most other ‘retired’ couples were in their 20’s!)
Quality: 8/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 500+ images found
Quality: 7/10

 

Simple Download page (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about PEXELS:

  • Simple name is easy to remember
  • Professional looking and easy to use website
  • Consistent good quality of images
  • Most images are suitable for Australian audiences
  • Downloading is easy
  • You do not have to give them nor the photographer a mention in your story (but it is nice to do so)
  • Images are free for commercial and editorial use (and this is really clear on the download page)
  • Advertising of other paid image sites is below the free ones.

What we don’t like about PEXELS:

  • Some searches have limited results

 

Overall score for PEXELS: 7.5/10

 

 


 

unsplash

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 89 images found (house images were not that suitable for Australia though)
Quality: 9/10

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 2 of the 3,700 images found were suitable
Quality: 8/10

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 3,700 images found (many were of things seen on a holiday but no family in it)
Quality: 8/10

 

Simple Download page (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about unsplash:

  • Professional looking and easy to use website
  • Consistent good quality of images
  • Most images are suitable for Australian audiences (but many for Asian demographics also)
  • You can narrow your search results by clicking on “tags” at the top of the search page
  • Downloading is easy
  • You do not have to give them nor the photographer a mention in your story (but it is nice to do so)
  • Images are free for commercial and editorial use
  • No advertising of stock image sites (resulting in no confusion).

What we don’t like about unsplash:

  • Name is hard to remember (upsplash, upwork?)
  • License use is not clear on the download page (but is on the License page).

 

Overall score for unsplash: 8/10

 


 

pixabay

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 348 images found (including icons and conceptual imagery
Quality: 9/10

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 27 of the 35 images found were suitable
Quality: 7/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 405 images found
Quality: 8/10

 

Reasonably simple Download page (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about pixabay:

  • Simple name is sort of easy to remember (pixel + ebay?)
  • Professional looking and easy to use website
  • Consistent good quality of images
  • Most images are suitable for Australian audiences
  • It has “conceptual” photos (eg icons or symbolic imagery)
  • Downloading is easy
  • You can choose image size when downloading
  • You do not have to give them nor the photographer a mention in your story (but it is nice to do so)
  • Images are free for commercial and editorial use (and this is reasonably clear on the download page).

What we don’t like about pixabay:

  • Advertising of paid stock images are above the free ones which can be confusing (and tempting)
  • Download page is a bit cluttered.

 

Overall score for pixabay: 7.5/10

 


 

picjumbo

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 0 images found
Quality: 0/10 (although the animated GIF for the 0 result was cute)

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 0 of the 45 images found were suitable (unless the retired man re-married very young!)
Quality: 8/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 0 of the 156 images found were suitable
Quality: 8/10

 

Download page is a bit complicated with many options (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about picjumbo:

  • Name is reasonably easy to remember (pictures + jumbo)
  • Images are of good quality
  • Most images are suitable for Australian audiences (with a slight European flavour)
  • You do not have to give them nor the photographer a mention in your story (but it is nice to do so)
  • Images are free for commercial and editorial use.

What we don’t like about picjumbo:

  • When you first arrive at the site, it asks for your email address (ignore this, just scroll down to the search bar)
  • Images lack variety (the same blond model appears in many of the results)
  • Site is a bit amateur and the search can be hard to find (not that easy to use)
  • The top “depositphotos” banner ad has a search bar which is easy to confuse with the actual picjumbo search
  • Downloading has too many options which is confusing
  • Advertising is above and to the right of free images which is sometimes confusing and distracting
  • License use is not clear on the download page (you have to scroll down to find it).

 

Overall score for picjumbo: 2/10 (images are good but not suitable for our use in these tests)

 


 

stockvault

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 118 images found (including icons and conceptual imagery although many featured Euros $)
Quality: 9/10

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 0 of the 600+ images found were suitable (unless you want VERY early retirees)
Quality: 8/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 900+ images found (although you had to skip most of the first page to find good ones)
Quality: 8/10

 

Reasonably simple Download page (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about stockvault:

  • Site is neat and reasonably easy to use
  • Name is reasonably easy to remember (stock images + vault)
  • Many images are suitable for Australian audiences (but most for Euopean or Asian markets)
  • It has more “conceptual” photos (eg icons or symbolic imagery)
  • You do not have to give them nor the photographer a mention in your story (but it is nice to do so)
  • Images are free for commercial and editorial use.

What we don’t like about stockvault:

  • The top “depositphotos” banner ad has a search bar which is easy to confuse with the actual picjumbo search
  • Downloading has too many options which is confusing
  • Advertising of paid images to the right of free images is confusing and distracting
  • License use is not clear on the download page (you need to click a link to read it).

 

Overall score for stockvault: 7/10

 


 

CreativeCommons (CC Search)

 

“Creative Commons (CC) is … one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created.” Wikipedia

However, with CC images you need to check the license of each as almost all are OK for private or journalistic (eg your blog article) use not all are OK for commercial use.

You can use CC Search site to look for and filter images that are available:

  • for commercial purposes
  • to modify, adapt, or build upon.

You can also choose to only find CC images in the following image sources:

  • Flickr
  • Google Images
  • Open Clip Art Library
  • Pixabay.

We tested Flickr and Google Images below…

 


 

CC Search (Flickr)

 

We selected “for commercial purposes” and “Flickr” to search for…

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 1,007 images found (including icons and conceptual imagery)
Quality: 7/10

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 2 of the 278 images found were useful
Quality: 6/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 0 of the 22,727 images found were useful
Quality: 5/10

 

Simple (but a bit too subtle) Download page (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about CC Search (Flickr):

  • Flickr is a well known brand
  • Professional looking and easy to use website
  • Very inconsistent quality of images (there are more casual “snapshots than professional looking images)
  • Some images are suitable for Australian audiences.

What we don’t like about CC Search (Flickr):

  • Downloading is not as easy as it could be (the download icon is too subtle)
  • You are more than likely required to give the photographer a mention (attribution) in your story so you’ll need to read the photographers wishes (which can be found via the tiny “person” icon)
  • Images should be free for commercial and editorial use because you ticked the “for commercial purposes” box on the search page but you should check the photographers wishes (which can be hard to find in the tiny “person” icon)
  • Some searches have limited results
  • No advertising.

 

Overall score for CC Search (Flickr): 4/10

 


 

CC Search (Google Images)

 

We selected “for commercial purposes” and “Google Images” to search for…

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 1,000+ images found
Quality: 8/10

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 80 of the 1,000+ images found were useful
Quality: 5/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 15 of the 1,000+ images found were useful
Quality: 7/10

 

Not so simple Download page requires a visit to the website the image originated (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about CC Search (Google Images):

  • Easy to use (of a familiar) website – Google
  • Most images are suitable for Australian audiences (Google knows where you are from)
  • You can narrow your search results by clicking on “tags” at the top of the search page
  • One-stop-shop as images from other free sites are often included in Google image results
  • No advertising.

What we don’t like about CC Search (Google Images):

  • Inconsistent quality of images (but Google will rank the most popular ones first)
  • Ease of downloading varies as you need to visit the website the image is from which will be different each time
  • You may need to give the photographer a mention (attribution) in your story depending on where the image came from (you need to check each time)
  • Images should be free for commercial and editorial use because you ticked the “for commercial purposes” box on the search page but you should check the photographers wishes on the original website each time

 

Overall score for CC Search (Google Images): 7/10

 


 

Bigstock (not free)

 

Search for: mortage
Quantity: 145,268 images found
Quality: 9/10

 

Search for: retired couple
Quantity: 56,101 images found
Quality: 9/10

 

Search for: family travel
Quantity: 175,361 images found
Quality: 9/10

 

Once you set-up an account the Download page is simple with a choice of image sizes (search: friends coffee)

 

What we like about Bigstock:

  • Very professional and easy to use site
  • There are so many great images (including conceptual imagery)
  • Very high quality images
  • There is a broad range of images suitable for different demographics (but it tends to be skewed towards the US market)
  • You can shortlist your choices into a Favourites folder
  • Downloading is simple
  • You do not have to give them nor the photographer a mention in your story
  • Most images are free for commercial and editorial use (although some are only for editorial purposes)
  • No advertising.

What we don’t like about Bigstock:

  • Not free but pricing is very reasonable (as per month or per image)

 

Overall score for Bigstock: 9/10

 


 

IN CONCLUSION

You can find great free images that are legal to use from the internet.

But there is a cost for being free.

Compared to paid stock image sites (such as the Bigstock example), there is less choice and a higher chance of lower quality images on free image sites.

So the cost is your time as you’ll probably need to try a number of free sites until you find the perfect photo.

Depending on your needs you may wish to prioritise your site search in this order:

  1. unsplash – has a good range of consistently good images and is the easiest to use (with the added bonus of the top “tags” for filtering) and without the risk of upsetting any photographer
  2. PEXELS – very similar to unsplash but has more advertising to get in the way and no”tag” filtering
  3. pixabay – has a good range of images but is let down slightly by annoying advertising and user experience on the download page (although it allows selecting image size)
  4. stockvault – this is probably the last page you’ll need to bookmark if you do not want the hassle of finding out permitted use and photographer attribution
  5. CC Search (Google Images) – this is a one-stop-shop option so you could even begin here however if you are not confident in finding permitted uses or photographer attribution info then maybe skip this option
  6. CC Search (Flickr) – this option is not for the faint hearted as you need to check for permitted uses and photographer attribution each time
  7. picjumbo – even thought the site was nice to use it seems to be for a different demographic and market than Feedsy’s and probably yours also.

 


 

Was this useful?

Do you have any free image sites that you love and would like to share with us?

Let us know on Feedsy’s Facebook Page.

 


Main image courtesy of Alan O’Rouke (Flickr)

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