When is it O.K to use stock photography?

Stock photography gone wrong - gynecologist's thumbs up

Getting great images for your web design can be tough, especially when you’re on a budget. Hiring a professional photographer may be the ideal solution but not everybody has that luxury. Thankfully, all is not lost. Queue – Stock Photography. A good web designer will know where to find stock photography and share this with you.

There are 2 different types of stock image available online. If you’ve never looked before it can seem a little confusing. 

You have:

Royalty Free Stock Images

Free Stock Images


Royalty free images do not always mean they are free to use. You will often still have to pay to use the image, but you won’t have to pay any royalties to the photographer as they have licensed their image to the supplier/website. This is how websites like Shutterstock operate.

Free images are completely free of any charge. You can use them without paying any kind of license fee.

However, it’s important to understand that both of the above image options may well have licensing restrictions that govern how you are allowed to use that image. Sometimes you have complete permission to use however you see fit. Other times you may only be allowed to use the image for non-commercial reasons.

For example, If we’re building a website for you and you want to use a stock image for your website, that may be fine. But if you want to use that same image on your promotional flyers you might have to buy a separate licence to do so.

The site you obtain your images from will tell you the terms of the license and how you’re allowed to use them.

Many of the free sites offer complete freedom so you don’t have to worry about licensing in any way.

Here is our comprehensive list that’s been updated for 2022…

  • Free Range Stock: FreeRange is mostly utilised for pictures of Food, Landscape, Industry and People photos. You can also find a vast range of Background & Texture pictures.
  • Gratis Graphy: Graphy offers free high-resolution pictures that you can use on your personal and commercial projects. All pictures are completely free of copyright restrictions
  • Magdeleine: Magdeleine is a blog that features the best free high-quality stock photographies. On this website, you need to be sure that the image you choose is marked as “public domain” to be able to use it without attribution.
  • New Old Stock: New old stock offers a great selection of vintage photos from the public archives. It’s the perfect website if you are looking for quality vintage photos for your blog or your social media channels.
  • Open Photo: Openphoto is a collection of copyrighted photographs (approx 20,000) released under a user-friendly license. You can find beautiful original images by talented photographers on this website.
  • BucketListy Photo: On Bucktlisty you can find a collection of over 7000+ travel photos from all over the world anyone can use… it’s Pete’s travel blog, a he is a travel filmmaker, a photographer, a digital nomad and a design freelancer.
  • Pic Jumbo: On Pic Jumbo you can Search and download beautiful free stock photos for personal and commercial use. There are more than 1900 free high-resolution pictures on this website.
  • Picography: Picografy offers stunning free pictures for everyone to use, the main categories are City Cultural, General, Hospitality, Nature, People, Scenery, Street, Technology and Wildlife.
  • Pixabay: Pixabay is one of the most used websites on free stock photos. There are more than 1.4million videos and pictures here and it’s one of my favourite websites to use for finding gorgeous pictures for my websites and social media channels.
  • CreativeCommons: According to Wikipedia, “Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.[2] The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public.”
  • Unplash: Unspash has a vast range of high-quality free images and photos you can download and use for any project and no attribution are required for using these pictures. The website claims over 70,000 contributing photographers and generates more than 5 billion photo impressions per month on their growing library of over 509,000 photos.
  • MorgueFile: MorgueFile is a website database for free high-resolution digital stock photography for either corporate or public use. You can find here more than 380000 high quality, high-resolution photos, free for commercial use and with no attribution required.
  • Pexels: Pexels offers a vast range of high-resolution photos for your personal or business project. All photos are free for personal and commercial use and attribution is not required. The website is in English and German.
  • Public Domain Pictures: Public Domain Pictures is one of the best places with copyright free pictures on the internet. Pictures are organised into the following categories: Animals, Architecture, Background, Business, Flowers, Food, Holidays, Illustrations, Landscape, Light Effects, Macro, Nature, Objects, Office, Other, People, Seasons, Sports, Still, Life, Symbols.
  • Splitshire: Splitshire offers Free Stock Photos for commercial use without copyright restrictions. There are 982 astonishing pictures to choose for your business or personal use, mostly related to Animals, Nature, Landscape and Fashion.
  • Stockvault: Stockvault is a free stock photo community where “photographers & artists can share their own photos and artwork with people from all over the world” They offer thousands of pictures and illustrations of people, animals, buildings and street photography, landscapes, plant & flower photos, objects from computers & electronics to food and jewellery photos.
  • Getrefe: Getrefe helps organisations and individuals bring ideas to life in a memorable way. On this website, you’ll find high-quality imagery for all your business or personal projects. Perfect for aspiring designers, bloggers and freelancers.
  • PhotoPin: Photopin is a free tool that helps bloggers and designers find beautiful photos with Creative Commons licensing. Download the photos and get attribution links already formatted for you.
  • Startup Stock Photos: Startup Stock Photos offers Free photos for “startups, bloggers, publishers, websites, designers, developers, creators”. There are few images for now but it’s a growing website and it’s worth to keep an eye on it.
  • Every Stock Photo: Everystockphoto is a search engine for free stock photos, offering community features to the stock photography community. Free photos are listed under creative commons, public domain and other free licenses.
  • Free Digital Photos: On Free Digital Photos you can Download free and premium stock photos and illustrations for websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications and much more. All their free images are of high quality, produced by their community of professional stock photographers and digital illustrators.
  • RGB Stock: RGB Stock is a beautiful website with more than 110000 stock photos and stock images online. Rgbstock has a huge number of high-quality free stock photos and dazzling free graphics for illustrations, wallpapers and backgrounds. It’s one on the first website I check when I am looking for free stock images for my clients.

As you can see there are plenty of places online where you can get images for your website design without handing over your cash. Some of them are great but be careful. There are plenty of stock images (both free and paid) that should never have made it to the screen.

This hilarious article by BoredPanda.com illustrates this point clearly…

The hashtag #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob, originally started by scientists, has been going around and it is a perfect collection of the times when stock photographers clearly had no idea what they were doing. The fails, along with the inherent cheesiness of the weird stock photos and the indignation of those whose jobs are woefully misrepresented, combine for a perfect storm of funny photos!

Scroll down below to check out a list of Bored Panda’s favourite funny stock photos!


Stock photography gone wrong - stethoscope on soulder


Stock photography gone wrong - pharmacist praising drugs


Stock photography gone wrong - reflex hammer to face


Stock photography gone wrong - gynecologist


Stock photography gone wrong - poke in the eye


Stock photography gone wrong - coding in the dark


Stock photography gone wrong - no microscope


Stock photography gone wrong - no microscope


Stock photography gone wrong - DNA tweezers


Stock photography gone wrong - Listen to tree


In truth, there’s really nothing wrong with using stock images as long as you’re a little selective and try to steer clear of bot the boring generic stuff or the downright silly (as we’ve seen above).

Even if you find some really good images for your site, it may be worth taking a little extra time to edit them and make them unique. By giving your images their own style that matches your branding, you’ll stand out from the crowd for the right reasons.

Ready to tell us about your project?

Free Guide...
5 Steps To A Winning Website

Make sure your next website is a success!

Get free advice to grow your business...

More To Explore

Christmas holidays composition
Mind Your Business

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

As we approach the Holiday season I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank all of our wonderful clients and wish you all a


Want helpful advice to grow your business online?

Our Newsletter Subscription is Free!

Get Your Free Guide On The 5 Steps That Are Crucial For A Winning Website Project

Learn how to make your next website project a winning one, starting with this free guide.

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe. Here’s our privacy policy.