Crappy stock images are the bane of the web design world. They can make otherwise beautiful sites look cheap and amateurish, undermine the credibility of your content, and create a confusing mish-mash of styles that muddle your messaging.
But, stock images are also a necessary evil. If you're creating content for a blog or social media profile on a regular basis, there's just no way to source original images for every post. So, the goal shouldn't be to never use stock photography, but to use it better.
Fortunately, great stock images don't need to expensive or difficult to find. With the following copyright/royalty free sites, you can collect stunning images that will give your content the professional and attractive look it deserves!
One of my favorite resources, StockSnap offers a huge, and growing, catalog of beautiful images. Whether you're looking for city skylines, rustic farms, or preppy office workers, StockSnap almost certainly has what you're looking for.
Best of all, the entire StockSnap library falls under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. That means you are free to distribute, edit, and copy every image without asking for permission or paying a fee – even for commercial purposes. What more could you possibly ask for?
Need something a little offbeat? Take a look at Gratisography headed up by photographer Ryan McGuire. This CC0 site offers a variety of weird and wonderful pictures when you need something that looks good, but isn't afraid to have a little fun.
I don't know about you, but I know I'd rather look at a picture of a Yeti tussling with a cardboard robot than yet another sterile word cloud.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have New Old Stock, which rediscovers vintage photos from public archives. These mostly black & white photos include slices of life from the 1910's and beyond, perfect when you want to add a little gravitas or history to your work.
Word of caution though, the images on New Old Stock are free of known copyrights. Because the curators essentially dive through public records, they're reasonably sure there are no copyright claims on anything they post, but can never guarantee. For this reason, you'll probably want to avoid using any of these images for a major commercial application (slapping one on your blog probably won't be an issue).
With a name like that, who could argue? Death to the Stock Photo plans to slay the crappy photo beast by providing free high-quality alternatives. I think they've landed a deathblow.
Death to the Stock Photo is a bit different from other stock photo sites. Mixed in with their photo content are blogs, stories, and commentary you might not be used to if you normally just hit up a generic PictureHut site. They release their photos in themed packs (which you can have sent directly to your email if you like). While this makes the site a little cumbersome if you're trying to find a picture for a specific idea, it's a great place to check out for design ideas and inspiration.
LibreShot is my special ace in the hole when I'm not quite sure what I want but know I want something different. Headed up by photographer Martin Vorel, LibreShot's eclectic cataloge includes a little bit of everything. Food, bugs, toys, people, buildings, and just neat stuff in general, it's easy to get lost browsing LibreShot's collection.