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What's the Best Free Stock Photography Site?
A Guide to Finding Free Photos Online
Do you ever check out a free stock photography site or two before heading for the main royalty-free and licensed websites like iStockphoto? I think it's well worth it. If you're looking for a photo of something why not see whether you can get it for free before paying for it?
I tend to have a quick whip round the 4 best free photo sites I know as a first port of call. You obviously shouldn't expect the same consistent level of quality as the paid for stock websites. But I've certainly used loads of stock photos for free over the years.
I want to share my 4 favourite places to get free online photos - or indeed share any pics from your portfolios with the world! Plus I'll provide a brief guide to using these cool resources.
How does this guy sell so many stock photos...!?
So What's My Favourite Free Stock Photography Site?
Well, by definition the proportion of quality images on free sites is smaller than on paid for ones. So I recommend finding a handful of reliable sources for free online photos. I've whittled my preferences down to 4. Here they are:
- Stockxchange (SXC). This is the sister site of istockphoto, one of the biggest players in the world of microstock. Normally my first place to check.
- Rgbstock. This site was created by a group of breakaway contributors to SXC. They really care about the quality of the pictures.
- Stockvault. This is the sister site of Dreamstime, another big microstock photo website.
- Everystockphoto. These guys compile free online photos from a range of other sites. I'm using them more and more.
A good free stock photo site should be easy to use. It should make it clear what you are allowed to use images for and how to contact contributors/the site admin if you want to. Each of these succeeds in this regard.
They also offer tips, forums, blogs and so on, which is nice but they're not that great to be honest!
What Sort of Photos Will You Find?
What to expect? A mixed bag! The above 4 sites have decent quality control, considering you don't have to pay.
You'll find plenty of images that people have uploaded to royalty-free microstock websites that were rejected on a small technicality, so were uploaded to a free stock photography site instead. These are the best.
You will often get images that are a good starting point for what you need, and after a little editing will be up to the mark. I think this is probably the most common category.
You'll also find some throwaway snaps and some true garbage! Sadly, no shortage of these types either!
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What Can You Use Free Online Photos For?
Downloading stock photos for free from the above sites is fantastic. But you must not forget that the copyright and moral rights to the images remain with the photographers and/or websites.
You get to use the pics - 100% free of charge - but you do not own the copyright. In other words, when you download free online photos you automatically assent to a license agreement, which is provided on each site.
It's important to read this agreement. But it's boring and this is broadly what it will say:
- You have non-exclusive and non-transferable rights to use the image.
- You can use the image on all printed materials, e.g. magazines, business stationery etc., as well as on websites.
- If you want to copy the image as, say, a painting, and then sell the painting, you must first get the photographer's permission.
- You can't use an image with someone's face to promote products.
- On no account can pictures from a free stock photography site be used to endorse messages of hatred, racism or abuse.
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Can You Edit Free Online Photos?
Absolutely! To be honest, getting stock photos for free often makes a bit of editing necessary! A bit of sharpening, clone stamping, contrast increasing and so on can go a long way with many free online photos.
You can actually edit pictures from a free stock photography site in any way you want. Even incorporate them as a small part of some design, or collage.
It's quite a good idea, in fact, to get hold of stock photos for free, specifically to practice your Photoshop skills on!
Can You Upload Your Own Photos to a Free Stock Photography Site!
Definitely! In fact, if you're going to be using other people's pictures for free, why not chip in with a contribution of your own? Find some shots on your computer that you don't mind sharing and giving away, and upload them.
It's actually quite fun to see how fast they go and how the comments stack up. I've had several people email me about using my pics as a source for their artwork, which when finished they then contact me about, providing a link to an image of it. Really satisfying!
- Before you dive in and buy a stock photo, it's well worth having a quick snoop around the 4 sites I've mentioned. You might well find just what you're looking for free of charge!
- Don't expect the quality of free photos online to be anything like as consistently high as on stock photo websites. That's why it's worth scanning 3 or 4 sites for the image you're after.
- Always read the license agreement first: You don't own the copyright.
- Edit pictures from a free stock photography site in any way you want. Incorporate them into your own projects as creatively as you like.
- Return the favour! Share some of your photos with the world so that others can benefit from a few free photographs you have taken.
The picture is good or not from the moment it was caught in the camera.
- Henri Cartier-Bresson
Have Your Say and Share Your Photos
Which free stock photography site do you use the most? Share your suggestions and experiences.
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