Discover software, apps, and services that will make work a better place.   Get recommendations now

Need A Photo? Here Are The Best Ways to Find Free and Paid Images

From infographics to animated gifs, we live in an increasingly visual culture. Consider the popularity of Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram.

Also, consider that photos can improve your business life if you’re a writer or a designer, or if you produce content of any kind. Here’s why:

  • Photos and other visual elements catch the reader’s eye and increase readability.
  • Articles with images get more views than articles without images—almost 95 percent more views, according to one agency’s calculations.
  • Business-oriented web pages with photos outperform pages without photos—over 90 percent better, according to research from Skyword.
  • Images improve SEO if tagged correctly.

So, if you want people to read, find and share your blog posts, websites, ebooks, and other content, it’s a good idea to add high-quality photos to illustrate your words.

OK, now that you got that, where can you find the photos you need?

First of all, everything on the web is not in the public domain and free to use. You can’t simply pull an image off another blog and use it on your blog. If you do this, you might get sued for a lot of money—even if you used the photo innocently or included the photographer’s name. Know this: Any image on the Internet could be copyrighted, and you should assume that it is.

That may sound scary, but you do have legal options—both free and paid.

8 Ways to find free photos:

Google Image Search

If you use this method, don’t simply type in your query in the search box. Instead, go to Google Advanced Image Search and choose an option under “usage rights”. It’s also a good idea to look for copyright notices on the websites of any photos a search turns up. This way can be time consuming, but it’s possible to find what you need. It’s also possible to search Google by image, rather than with words, which is useful for finding out what other websites or blogs are using an image.

Photo Pin

Photo Pin is a search engine for Creative Commons photos on Flickr. The site is less cluttered, faster, and easier to use than searching via Flickr. With each photo, the site also provides a box with the HTML code needed for attribution, which can be useful for bloggers.


Compfight is another faster and more-usable search engine for Flickr. With this tool, you can search all Flickr images or only CC-licensed ones. The thumbnails are smaller than Photo Pin’s, and clicking on them sends you to the Flickr site, rather than being able to download them quickly as with Photo Pin. Compfight also has a WordPress plugin, which automatically includes attribution but keeps the pictures hosted on Flickr, meaning that if the user removes the images, your images will disappear from your posts.

Screen Captures

Screenshots of online content, such as websites and Twitter posts, can improve your content, but you should be careful how you use them. They can be used without permission in the US under Fair Use, meaning they can be used for criticism, review, news reporting, teaching, and research of a copyrighted work. Also, some companies, including Google and Microsoft, have screenshot policies. (Awesome Screenshot is my go-to screen-capturing and annotating tool.)


morgueFile is a public image archive for creatives by creatives. Images on this site can be used for commercial and non-commercial use, and you can use these photos for free without attribution, although the site asks users to credit the photographer when possible.


SXC is a popular free stock photo site, with high-quality, hand-picked photos. has royalty-free photos (which means you can use them however you want) for personal and corporate use. Their business pictures are some of their most popular ones. This tool also gives you the option to purchase images if you don’t want to include attribution, or if you need high-resolution images for use in print and graphic design. For bloggers, the free, small-sized images should work fine. is a search engine for free photos with more than 10 million images. This site indexes and searches more than 10 million freely licensed photos, from many sources, and present them in an integrated search. Sources include Flickr, imageafter, NASA, photoXpress, stock.xchg, Wikipedia, freerangestock, morgueFile, Photl, RGBstock and Wikimedia Commons. This tool also has a search plugin for Firefox.

8 Ways to find paid photos:

Free photos can be useful, but sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what you need, or you can’t find the quality of image needed for your project. You also might want to consider using high-quality, paid images for things such as landing pages and posts that you expect to get a lot of views. And many graphic design projects will require paid photos.

Another thing to consider is that images used for commercial use with recognizable people and products should have a model or product release. Most of the free sites won’t provide releases.


With Shutterstock, the largest subscription-based stock photo agency in the world, you can pay as you go ($19 for one image) or you can get a subscription ($249 per month with up to 25 images per day). Everyday, The site adds thousands of photographs, illustrations and vectors to their collection of royalty-free images. Many design agencies use this site to find high-quality images.

iStock Photo

iStockphoto allows users to purchase prepaid credits (for example, you can get 12 credits for $19.99, and the more credits you buy, the better deal you get), or you can customize your own subscription.

Getty Images

Getty Images is a large stock photo agency with more than 20 million images. Some of the royalty-free images are available in a small size at 72 dpi (good for the web) for about $25, but most of the photos are expensive. This site also offers up-to-the-minute editorial coverage, including news, sports and celebrity photos. They have royalty-free images and rights-managed ones, which means that the license is based on usage, and the images have a high production value.


Dreamstime has more than six million images from more than 70 thousand photographers. You can buy high-resolution stock images for as low as 20 cents per image after you sign up for free and purchase credits.


Fotalia has about 17 million crowdsourced and professional images and pay-as-you-go plans or subscription plans. You can buy 25 credits for $32.50, as well as other options, or a daily subscription for $249 per month or a monthly subscription. If all you need is web images, this site has cheap ones.


Bigstock images can be purchased with credits. Six credits cost $13 and 25 credits cost $49, or other options are available. They offer more than 11 million royalty-free photographs and illustrations from photographers and artists around the globe.


123RF has more than 14 million photos and offers pay-as-you-go credits or subscriptions. You can get 20 credits for $20, 90 credits for $80 and other options. For $89, you can get a one month subscription with five downloads per day. Images submitted by photographers go through a filtering process before being released for sale.


PhotoXPress has more than 16 million high-quality, royalty-free stock photos and vectors. Their $9.99 monthly plan includes five downloads and, for 25 downloads per month, you pay $37.50. Their photos are large and 300 dpi.

Another useful resource is SpiderPic, which is a price-comparison search engine for stock photography. Enter the image url or a keyword, and the site will show you the prices from various website that have the photo for sale.


Which of these do you use? What other websites and tools for finding photos do you know and love? Let us know in the comments or tweet us your answer @BestVendor.