Finding professional images for your website can be harder than it sounds. You want them to be high quality, relevant, and properly licensed, so you can use them totally worry-free. Images should enhance your content, but the wrong image can have the opposite effect.
We put together this guide to help you easily find professional, affordable images whenever you need them. We started by reaching out to other website owners, web designers, and photographers to discover how they source their images.
In this guide, you’ll find the best 15 places to find professional images, as well as quotes, tips, and extra advice on how to tell good images from bad ones, how much images cost, and more. We even provide a quick crash course in which image licenses are safe to use under our top 15 list, so you’ll be ready to start picking photos as soon as you’ve finished reading!
#1. Unsplash (free)
Best resource for finding free, high-quality images
- Used by 33% of the 85 respondents we spoke to
- 2 million+ photos
- License: Unsplash has its own license that lets you use its images for free – for commercial and non-commercial use
Out of the 85 respondents that we spoke to, made up of website owners, designers, and photographers, Unsplash was easily the most popular source of free images. It’s a huge resource of over 2 million free images submitted by photographers from around the world.
You don’t even need to enter an email to download images, making it a quick, easy, and free way of sourcing high-quality images.
– Aaron Haynes, CEO at Loganix
#2. Pexels (free)
Best for sourcing free videos as well as stock images
- 3 million+ free photos and videos
- Useful download history feature
- License: Pexels has its own license that lets you use all its images and videos for free, for commercial and non-commercial purposes
Pexels is a huge database of images and videos. Like Unsplash, Pexels has its own licensing, so you can download and use any of its images worry-free. Some of the photos feel a little more “stock image” than Unsplash’s collections, but there are still plenty of awesome finds. We especially like the inclusion of videos in Pexels’ library!
– Solomon Thimothy, co-founder of Clickx
#3. Pixabay (free)
Best for easily sourcing different media in one place
- 2.2 million+ free images
- Doesn’t just provide photos – you’ll also find illustrations, vectors, music, and videos
- License: Pixabay has its own license that lets you download its images for free, for both commercial and non-commercial use.
Pixabay is a large library of free of charge, royalty-free stock images. Its Pixabay License lets you download and use these images for commercial use, with no attribution needed. We like the fact you can choose your image size before downloading it. You get useful details about each image, too, such as how many times it’s been downloaded so far.
– Tomasz Mlodzki, CEO and founder of photoAiD
#4. Rawpixel (free and paid)
Best for personal websites
- Handy integration with Pinterest if you want to save images
- Free version is limited – it’s unsuitable if you need more than 10 images per day
- Licenses: Personal, Commercial, Public Domain, Editorial
You can download unlimited images from Rawpixel’s Public Domain collection, but only 10 images per day from its Free collection, which offers more choice.
If you need a large number of images, you’ll need one of Rawpixel’s paid plans. This is why we recommend it for personal websites that don’t need a lot of images. You have to pay $19 per month for unlimited commercial downloads – something Unsplash provides for free!
Rawpixel’s licensing rules aren’t as straightforward as other sites either. Download from the Public Domain collection to be safe, as these images can be used for personal or commercial use without attribution. Otherwise, you need to make sure you pick images with the right license for your needs.
There are perks, however, and some pretty neat features that make Rawpixel stand out from the crowd. For example, you can save images to ‘Creative Board’ collections, and browse other people’s collections too. And if you’re a Pinterest fan, you’ll love the fact you can Pin images to your own Pinterest boards!
#5. Flickr (free)
Best for large image collections
- Tens of billions of photos
- A higher number of “real” photos, rather than generic stock images
- Licenses: Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works, Share Alike, Public Domain Dedication (CC0), Public Domain Work
Flickr is a frankly enormous image hosting platform, with tens of billions of photos to browse through. There are multiple license types on Flickr, so be sure to select “Commercial use & mods allowed” when you search to be totally safe. And always check each individual photo’s licensing terms, as they do vary – some will require attribution, for example.
#6. Canva (free and paid)
Best for using images to create your own graphics
- 89 million+ photos (free and paid)
- Use images to create your own designs
- License: Free Media License Agreement – you can use Canva’s images for commercial and non-commercial use
Canva is a hugely popular tool for creating graphics with ease – from social media posts to presentations and infographics. It has a free image library that it offers as part of its design software. You’ll need to create a free account to use Canva – some photos are reserved for Pro users, though, so you may want to upgrade to a paid plan if you use Canva a lot.
Canva also offers a pro tier for $9.99 per month. This tier expands the stock photo and illustration library immensely. I use this tier and have never had to look elsewhere for an image to fit a blog post, ebook, or any other marketing materials. I highly recommend it!”
– Eric Brantner, Editor-in-Chief of MakeALivingWriting.com
#7. Stocksnap (free)
Best for sourcing stock images stress-free
- Stock images rather than candid shots
- New photos added every week
- License: Creative Commons CC0 – you can download images for free and use them for commercial or non-commercial use, without attributing the creator
You may guess from the name that Stocksnap is dedicated to providing stock images. You’ll find less natural photos here than with Flickr, for example, but there’s still a great range of high-quality images to choose from. We like its simple licensing approach, and how easy it is to filter and search its image library.
#8. Snappa (free and paid)
A simplified alternative to Canva
- 5 million+ photos
- Free version allows three downloads per month
- License: 100% royalty-free – you can use images for commercial and non-commercial use without attribution
You need to create a free account to use Snappa – similar to Canva, it’s a tool that helps you create graphics, and has an image library as part of its platform. You can only access Snappa’s in-editor image library, which is a big reason why we tend to favor Canva over Snappa. Still, it’s a nice, simple tool for whipping up quick graphics.
– Erik Wright, owner and CEO at New Horizon Home Buyers
#9. Same Energy (free)
Best for finding inspiration
- 19 million images
- Visual search engine
- License: Mixed – filter to only view CC-BY licensed images, which can be used for commercial and non-commercial use as long as you provide attribution
Same Energy Gallery
Same Energy is a cool visual search engine where you can browse its range of images, or upload your own photo to see tailored results. For example, if you upload a photo of a dog, the images you see will all relate to your search. This is an awesome tool for exploring styles and searching for images in a really visual way.
Because it’s a search engine, it pulls images from different sources – you can filter your search to only show results for Creative Common (specifically, CC-BY) images. It’s worth noting that CC-BY images will need attribution – right-click on any image to view its source and license.
– David Alexander, founder of MazePress
#10. Wikimedia Commons (free)
Best for hidden gems
- 71 million+ media files
- Great variety of images
- Licenses: Multiple – mostly public domain, CC-BY, and CC-BY-SA – our advice is to check each image’s license before using, as many require attribution
Wikimedia Commons Gallery
Wikimedia Commons is a collection of media files – anyone can contribute, and anyone can use these images for their own use. You can find some real niche photos in its archives, so it’s worth digging through!
Wikimedia Commons is free to use, but does come with drawbacks – it’s not as enjoyable to navigate as other image libraries, and the licensing is a little less clear cut. We strongly recommend checking the license of any images you want to use, and searching the Public Domain category for starters.
#11. Shutterstock (paid)
Best for high-quality, paid stock images
- 360+ million images
- Pricing starts at $29 per month for 10 images per month (first month free)
- Licenses: Standard (unlimited web distribution) and Enhanced (allowed in merchandise)
Shutterstock was a popular source of images amongst the respondents we spoke to. You get your first month free, after which it costs a minimum of $29 per month (billed annually). There are different pricing levels depending on how many images you want per month, and which license you need.
Check out Shutterstock’s two license options to see whether the Standard or Enhanced license is best for you. The downside to Shutterstock is how expensive it is, especially for its Enhanced license, but the upside is the sheer volume and quality of images you get to choose from.
Case Study – Lauren Juliff
“I’ve been running my travel blog for over a decade now, and in the past, I’ve always published my personal travel photos within my articles. As time has passed, however, those photos have grown outdated. The images are low resolution, low quality, and look as though they were taken a decade ago. Destinations have changed, too, and my photos no longer represent how they appear today.
Using stock images allows me to update my old articles with fresh photos – without me needing to fly around the planet to take them myself. And my readers have responded positively to these spruced-up articles. With higher-quality images, my website looks more professional, the destinations I cover look more appealing, and my audience are spending more time on my site. My affiliate commissions have increased, too, as readers have decided my recommendations are more trustworthy when surrounded by high-quality photos.
I use Shutterstock to source my travel photos. In comparison to free stock image sites, such as Pixabay and Unsplash, Shutterstock offers up higher-quality photos, a wider variety of options, and a fantastic search engine. For example, I love that I can search for a photo of a particular city and filter the results to show images with a person in them – my readers always connect more with that style of photo, as it helps them to visualise themselves on vacation in that specific scene.”
– Lauren Juliff, owner of Never Ending Footsteps
#12. Getty Images (paid)
Best for sourcing topical images
- 350+ million images
- Pricing ranges from $175 (for one image) to $4,250 (for 10 large images)
- Licenses: Multiple – royalty-free, rights-ready, and rights-managed
Getty Images Gallery
Getty Images isn’t great for personal use because of its high prices, but it is perfect for businesses – especially if you need topical, relevant images. We love the Events filter, which shows you images from recent events linked to your image search.
So, how much does Getty Images cost? You can buy a single, small image for $175, or pay up to $4,250 for a bundle pack of 10 large images. Packs don’t expire, so you can download these at any time.
You can filter your image searches by license type – out of the three main licensing types that Getty Images provides, royalty-free is the most common, and is also safest.
First choice is to have the client hire a professional photographer for a custom brand shoot that includes headshots, the client “in action” at work, and some tools or close-ups to use as backgrounds. This is the only way to ensure the images we use are fully aligned with the brand style we’re developing…
Second choice is to use paid-for, royalty-free images. I only use Getty Images. Their prices are higher, but the images in their library are often more unique or exclusive to their platform. That means the chances of the client seeing the same image used in another local business’s marketing collateral are slim… Clients prefer the accessibility and price of stock photos, but I feel the stronger investment for their “one chance at a first impression” is a custom photo shoot.”
– Nikki Takahashi, founder and CEO of Fetching Finn
#13. Adobe Stock (paid)
Best paid option for creatives
- 60 million images
- Pricing starts at $29.99 for 10 standard images per month
- License: Standard (fine for most projects) or Extended (suitable for merchandise)
Adobe Stock Gallery
Adobe Stock has some beautiful, creative stock images to break the mold of dull, boring photos. This is the upside of paying for images – if you browse Adobe Stock’s range of free photos, they’re a lot more generic.
There are different payment options for its premium images. You can choose a subscription (which starts at $29.99 per month, billed annually), credits, or a combination of both.
– Sarah Blocksidge, Marketing Manager at Sixth City Marketing
#14. Death to Stock (paid)
Best for different, authentic stock images
- 4,500+ photos
- Pricing starts at $12 per month, billed annually
- License: Multiple – Limited, Standard, Extended – all three let you use images for commercial and non-commercial purposes, but other terms vary
Death to Stock Gallery
Death to Stock has a fresh, creative take on stock images – it has a strong focus on creatives, and providing great branding tools. It adds new media every 30 days to keep its collections new and interesting – you even get to vote on which visuals get added to the library!
Pricing starts at $12 per month when billed annually, which is designed for small businesses, startups, and social media managers. Most images come with a Standard license.
Using a subscription-based model is also cheaper in the long run than buying stock-free photos individually. The membership is quite affordable, starting at $12 a month for small businesses.”
– Grant Aldrich, Founder and CEO of OnlineDegree.com
#15. Hire a Photographer (paid)
We know it’s not technically a “place” to find photos, but when we asked other website owners, hiring a photographer was one of the most common answers to our question of where they source images for their websites.
We have seen visible boosts in the conversion rate when using this method. This is due to displaying a stronger trust signal to potential customers, as it offers visual representation of the quality of both the business and what they provide.”
– Jack Story, Co-Founder and Director of Assured Marketing
Whether you take your own photos or hire someone else to do it, getting creative is one of the best ways to ensure you get original, brand-aligned images for your website. Sometimes, stock images just don’t quite cut it – here are some examples of times you may want to use a photographer instead:
- Product photos
- Team photos
- Photos of your office space
Find out more
Product photos are super important to take yourself, as it builds trust in the product and helps you provide details for potential buyers. Check out our guide on How to Take Product Photos for more information!
One of the hardest things about finding professional photos for websites is knowing whether it’s legally safe to use them. What if you use an image and get in trouble for not attributing it to the creator, for example?
There are different types of license, so we always recommend checking your images before using them.
Sites like Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay have their own license, meaning you can use any of their images for commercial or noncommercial use, without attribution. If you want a worry-free way to source professional images, they’re a great go-to.
However, it’s still good to know which licenses to look out for when you’re sourcing photos online, so here’s a quick overview of the main license types you should know about:
There are six different types of Creative Commons licenses, with different rules:
1. Attribution (CC-BY) – The most relaxed license, you can share and adapt content as long as you credit the original creator. You can use this license for commercial purposes too.
2. Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) – You can share and adapt content, even for commercial use, as long as you give credit and license your new creations under identical terms.
3. Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND) – You can reuse the images for any purpose, including commercial use, as long as you give credit to the creator. However, you can’t alter the image in any way.
4. Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) – You can adapt and build on the content as long as you give credit to the creator, but you can’t use it commercially.
5. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) – You can remix, adapt, and build upon the creator’s work, as long as you credit the creator and license your new creations under identical terms. You can’t use this license for commercial purposes.
6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND) – You can download images and share them with others as long as you credit the creator, but you can’t make any changes or use them commercially in any way.
We recommend looking for Attribution licenses on the whole, as it’s the most relaxed Creative Commons license available.
Figuring out if a random image belongs to the public domain can be difficult, so we recommend looking for the Creative Commons CC0 license. This is a “no rights reserved” license that shows the content has been dedicated to the public domain by the creator.
You can copy, share, and modify images with the CC0 license, even for commercial purposes, without asking permission or giving credit to the creator.
Royalty Free photos are called this because you only have to pay once to use the image multiple times, instead of having to pay the creator royalties every time you use their work.
Now you know the best places to find your images, it’s time to ask yourself exactly which images you should choose.
1. Use High-Quality Images
When choosing photos for your website, avoid blurry or pixelated images at all costs. Fuzzy images simply don’t look professional, and may reduce trust in your brand.
Our top tip to avoid pixelated images is to know the size you need before choosing photos. If you pick an image that you have to stretch to fit a banner, background, or featured image, it will distort the image and end up blurry!
- First check – is it blurry? If it’s in any way grainy or pixelated, your image is not high quality!
- Check your image’s dpi (dots per inch) – right-click on an image in File Explorer to go to Properties > Details, and look under the Horizontal Resolution and Vertical Resolution sections for the dpi
- 300 dpi or above is considered high resolution
- 72 dpi is low resolution
It’s vital that you optimize your images before uploading them to your website – otherwise your site speed may suffer.
Compressing your images can affect the quality, so be sure to choose lossless compression – this shrinks the file size without affecting the pixel data, so won’t affect the actual quality of the image.
Find Out More
Our Image Optimization Guide walks you through everything you need to know about optimizing images for your website.
2. Use Unique Images
The problem with stock images is that they can appear bland, generic, and pretty corny too.
Users can tell when you’ve thrown in an image as a filler, and will ignore it. Think about how images can add value to your content, instead of just using them to break up text.
Avoid fake-looking stock images – opt for more natural, candid shots instead that will engage your users.
Some of the sites we’ve listed above show you how many times an image has been downloaded already. If you find an image with a small number of downloads, that reduces the chance your visitors will have seen the same image used across other websites, keeping your content feeling fresh and unique.
3. Add Meaning
While putting this list together, we’ve enjoyed looking at hundreds of beautiful photos. But you shouldn’t choose an image just because it looks nice. Instead, ask yourself what meaning images can add to your website. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so make sure your website photos are doing the right kind of talking.
A simple example of this is to show someone using your product, instead of only showing a photo of the product on its own – images are great for adding context and answering users’ questions straight away.
4. Use Images With Faces
People are naturally drawn to faces, so images with people in hold a lot of power.
You can even direct your audience’s gaze with images – indeed, it’s been found that people will follow the gaze of people in photos. So placing a call to action or a product next to a photo can draw more attention if the person in the photo is looking towards it.
You should also keep your target audience in mind at all times. Are you showing images that relate to them? This could apply to body shape, age, race, or more – be mindful about who you’re talking to and who you may be leaving out with your choice of images.
5. Think About Your Users’ Needs
Is a photo really the best thing to use here? This is an excellent question to ask before you pick your image. Would a graphic, illustration, video, or infographic actually be more useful to your audience?
Images should always add value to your content, and sometimes photos aren’t the answer. For example, if you’re explaining a complex topic, perhaps a diagram would work better!
This article has listed 15 of the best places to find both free and paid photos for websites online. We recommend exploring a few different options to find the best fit for you – you may even want to use a few different sites for different uses. For example, Pexels may be your go-to for videos, while you might use Pixabay for sourcing illustrations.
Our go-to site for finding free professional photos is Unsplash, thanks to its huge choice of images and its straightforward, generous licensing terms.
If your chosen site doesn’t have its own license, like Unsplash has, then the safest licenses to use are CC0 (public domain) and Attribution (CC-BY) licenses. Royalty Free images are also a good choice, but you may have to pay to use these.
You should now know where to find great website images, and feel confident on how to pick the best images for your website – remember to check they’re high quality, unique, and add value to your content!