By now, the value of including images in content should be clear to you. According to Jeff Bullas, articles with images get 94% more total views (which is why we include a photo with every blog post!). I think we can all agree that we’d much rather read content that’s broken up by images and relevant visuals than reading through pages and pages of block text.

It’s no secret that stock photos can break the bank for a small business. But times are a changin’ and you no longer have to offer up your first born child in exchange for quality visual content. There are plenty of stock photo sites with free (or almost free content) just waiting to be featured on your blog, in your whitepapers and on your social media accounts.

Just make sure you read the fine print.

Copyright Laws

It pays to be careful.

Every image you use has a license that tells you how you may use it. Breach a picture’s license terms at your peril because you could find yourself pursued by copyright lawyers for thousands of dollars.

Creative Commons

Six different creative commons licenses cover commercial and non-commercial use. All require you to credit the creator of the image with a link. The CC0 license is the only Creative Commons license that waives all copyright and attribution requirements.

Public Domain

Use of public domain images is more complicated than most people believe, but if you are confident that an image has a CC0 license or is otherwise in the public domain, you can use it without crediting the creator.

If you plan to use a picture for commercial purposes, you may still require model and property release forms to indemnify you against any expensive legal action.


If you buy royalty-free images, they can be used subject to their individual licenses without extra payments for each usage case.

1. Pixabay

Pixabay has 900,000 images, all of which have a CC0 (public domain) license. No attribution is required, and images are all high quality. Images include stock photos as well as drawings and vector images. Commercial use on physical products or print advertisements may require property and model releases.


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2. Pexels

Pexels is a favorite here at Hatchbuck. The site features free pictures for pretty much anything you could possibly think of, and they add 100 new photos (or more) to the site on a daily basis. All photos on Pexels feature a CC0 license which takes the worry out of downloading and using photos from the site. What’s not to like?


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3. Freepik

Freepik is an indispensable resource, providing millions of royalty-free images and graphic design assets such as vectors, illustrations, mockups, and countless templates for any personal and business project. As a free user, attribution is required. However, premium users can download more assets with no attribution necessary. Freepik´s powerful search engine makes finding images, and vector designs efficient, helping deliver creative projects on time.

4. FreeFoto

FreeFoto has over 100,000 images you can download free for online use. You must include an attribution link with each picture. Licenses vary, so be careful to check the details of your chosen image. You need to log in with your email address before you can download. You will need to buy a license if you intend to use an image for commercial print use.


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5. Dreamstime

Dreamstime has a free image category and many paid image categories. Free images fall into two types; public domain, and limited royalty-free images. Dreamstime’s limited royalty-free license allows you to make 10,000 physical products bearing that image without charge as well as unlimited online use. Dreamstime requires you to add a credit line but does not specify that a link is necessary. This credit line must be published with any photos you download, including public domain images.


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6. Morguefile

Morguefile has an extensive collection of 350,000 free photos. You can use any image for commercial purposes and only need to include attribution (not a link) if you use a photo without altering (or editing it) in any way.


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7. iStock

Istock photo is a paid subscription service, and all photos are top quality. You can download ten images per month for a few dollars each. If you don’t use your ten pictures in any month, the credits roll over, so you can download 120 images over your 12-month subscription.

A Standard License covers online use and up to 50,000 print copies. You will need an Extended License if you plan to use an iStock image on physical products or print more than 50,000 copies.


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8. Public Domain Pictures

PublicDomainPictures has two levels of download, with standard resolution images being free and higher resolution ones costing 10¢ or less each. Free images have a CC0 public domain license, though some pictures will require property and model release forms for commercial use.


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9. Free Digital Photos

FreeDigitalPhotos has an extensive collection of high-quality images. Attribution of the image source is needed, but a link is not necessary.

Most 400 x 400 images are free, with larger images available for a reasonable fee. Images may not be used in logos. The standard license covers many probable uses, but an extended license is required if you plan to use the image for packaging, physical products such as ties, or in marketing materials.


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A Warning About Image Licenses

You will find images on sites such as that appear to be free to use, either with or without an accreditation link. Be aware that the hosting site gives no guarantee that the license is the correct one. Anyone can take an image and post it on a photo website with a different license than the original. Lawyers for the original copyright holder will chase you, the image user, for compensation for breach of their intellectual property rights. We recommend always using credible, trustworthy stock sites and keeping tabs on licenses for any photos you’re unsure about.