Last month, I wrote a piece on free cloud services that we can use to host our files. I mentioned that I used three different services because I use them for different tasks.
That triggered a number of questions from various folks asking if I knew of other free services that new online creatives could use while they were growing their business.
Here were the 4 main requests:
- Free stock images
- Free music
- Best free business advice (if they couldn’t afford Fizzle at $35/mo)
- Free apps I use to make my life easier and more productive.
This week, I’m going to start with discussing free stock images.
I’ll be visiting three vital things to know when you’re dealing with free stock images:
- What they actually are.
- How to know if you can use them in your project.
- And, where you can find them.
What Are Stock Images
Stock images are one of those necessary evils that many of us will have to use for our projects one time or another.
Stock images are images that are created by a photographer or illustrators in order for them to be used in commercial content.
Most of the time, they’re available in a huge libraries such as Shutterstock, 123RF, and iStockPhoto.
However, not all images that are used with commercial content are stock. Stock simply means the image is generic and people can use it for pretty much anything.
For example, Pat Flynn opts to use images that are illustrations of the topic, whereas I personally tend to use stills from real life.
In fact, most of the time I’m using images of people doing something. In my mind it makes it more relatable.
Again, don’t confuse images that were created generically with images that were made specifically for a certain purpose.
For example, even though they might look like they’re stock shots, the cover images of the Unmistakable Creative look like generic outlines, but in reality, they play a vital part to their marketing and brand.
How to Know if You Can Use a Stock Image In Your Project
There’s two things you want to consider before using an image for your next project.
- What kind of license does it have?
- Does it have a watermark on it?
Licenses for stock images are generally divided into two types:
- Royalty free
Royalty free means that once someone has purchased a license to an image, they can use the image multiple times without having to pay again to do so. If the image is free (like we’re talking about in this post), then that means that you’ll be able to use it as many times as you’d like.
Rights-managed images are generally restricted in terms of usage – limitations may include industry, geographic location or the duration for which the image can be used.
If you’re going to be paying for a license (which I’m not sure why you’d do that after today’s post) and/or you’re unsure what type of license you’ll need to purchase for a particular image, be sure to contact the company who owns it and ensure you’ll be covered.
The easiest way to identify a stock image is to look for a watermark on the image itself. This watermark will often indicate the source of the image.
Here’s a ridiculous example of watermarking vs what you’ll normally see:
Neither one you’d want to use in your work. Let me repeat that…
NEVER USE WATERMARKED IMAGES IN YOUR WORK.
It doesn’t matter how small the watermark is. If it’s showing that’s a huge no-no.
That said, it can be difficult to determine if images are stock. One way to check is to use reverse image search platforms like Google Images or TinEye.com. On their native sites, they allow you to upload the image and search it against billions of others. (If you use Chrome like me, though, there’s a plugin you can use that will allow you to check with a single click.)
If the image doesn’t turn up, chances are it’s original.
Alternatively, if it’s used everywhere, there’s a good chance that it’s royalty-free. It’s up to you to find the source of the image though.
This may sound like a lot of work, but in reality, it all boils down to just a few extra minutes of your time. And with all of the effort you put day in and day out into making your business a success, it’s certainly worth it to ensure you’ll be able to use your new design, hassle-free, for years to come.
Where Can You Find Free Stock Images
Ok, now that I got that legalese part out of the way, here’s the meat of this post.
What sites do I use to find my royalty free images?
Here are the top 3 that I use:
Pexels tends to have some of the coolest shots I’ve seen, but have somewhat of a limited selection. If I can find an image there, I’ll often use it.
If I can’t find something at Pexels, I’ll use the other two to find what I’m looking for.
And if that’s not enough sources for you, then here’s a good list provided by Entrepreneur.com:
One by Bryan Inness over at Who Is Hosting This
And another one of “Non-Stock” Photo Sources:
Make sure you give credit if it’s required!
Ok guys. So there you go. If you’re ever in need of an image again for your content and don’t want to or can’t take a good image yourself, there’s really no reason why you should have to pay for a good one.
In fact, there’s a site that’s all about killing stock photos altogether: Death to the Stock Photo (they’re not exactly 100% free, so I didn’t use them in the list above).
However, if you do find yourself paying for image that you simply must have for your work, then make sure you abide by the rules of the license. You could be slapped with a huge fine if you don’t.
Also, just for bonus – here are some good do’s and don’ts when it comes to finding good images for your next project: