9 Photo Resources that are Actually Awesome (and Cheap)

Cynthia Bartz • September 27, 2016

At some point you will need to use stock photography, whether it’s photos for your blog posts, a photo for an ad, or cranking up the wow-factor on your sales collateral. If you own a small business you need a list of photo resources in order to find the perfect picture every time. If you want to represent your business well, not only will you need non-cheesy photos, but you will need ones that are high resolution. I’ve rounded up my nine favorite photo resources to find huge, high resolution, quality photos for websites, ads, and marketing collateral.

What are Stock Photos?

Stock photos are photos taken by professional photographers and posted to a stock photography website to be purchased or downloaded. Sometimes photographers do this on the side to bring in extra income, and there are some photographers who’s only income is stock photography.

We all wish we had money to hire a photographer to take beautiful pictures every time we needed a new photo for our website. The reality is that most small businesses don’t have time or budget to bring in a professional photographer. Enter stock photos. Stock photos are your answer to almost every photo-need you have.

Certainly, stock photos can not replace the photos of your lovely face, the last event you attended, or that photo you took of your branded truck sitting in your brother’s driveway. But stock photos can help you fill the gap. You should be keeping a running folder of photos you (or others) have taken of your business. You should always look in your own pool of photos before reaching for stock photography. Because people want to buy from the authentic you, and everyone uses stock photos, including the big companies.

Once you start poking around on stock photography sites you will realize how much people use all the same photos. Just be conscious of that fact and use your own photos when possible. You should look at stock photography websites as photo resources, instead of the only source for photos for marketing materials.

Read More: Uncheeseball Your Website with Better Photos

9 Stock Photo Resources

1. Unsplash

Cost: FREE
Website: unsplash.com
Searchability: Searchable, categorized, endless feed
Good for:
general photos
everyone, solid mix of a wide variety of photos
nature photos

This is my go-to website for photo resources. They have thousands of photos that have an authentic quality to them. If you are looking for high quality photos this is the place to go. Most of their photos are huge. I mean monstrously huge. Which is a good thing. I’ve yet to run into a situation when their photos were not large enough for what I needed. What I like about them even more is that their photos feel like I hired a photographer. They never feel cheesy, stocky, weird, or stilted.

Unsplash has really been upping their game on their search features and collections. If you have a regular need for stock photos this is where I would go first.

2. Death to the Stock Photo

Cost: FREE
Website: deathtothestockphoto.com
Searchability: none for the free version (see below)
Good for:
bloggers
photos of people
photo sets (lots of photos from the same photoshoot)

Death to the Stock Photo’s photographs are similar in quality to Unsplash, but they do not have a searchable archive of photos. Instead DTSP sends you an email once a month with 10 photos. The photos are always in a theme, such as: flowers, city sky line, office, etc. If you have a blog and regularly post, I highly recommend signing up for their email list. DTSP is less common than Unsplash and some of the other photo resources listed here, so you’re more likely to get unique photos.

They also have a premium service, but unless you are a designer who needs to pull photos on a daily basis I don’t think it’s worth the cost.

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3. Gratisography

Cost: FREE
Website: gratisography.com
Searchability: Searchable, categorized, endless feed
Good for:
colorful photos
artsy and unique photos
editorials

The photos on Gratisography can be really goofball and tend to be super colorful, which may or may not match your branding. There are lots of photos of people with funny expressions and exaggerated emotions. Even so, all of the photos are truly beautiful and sorted into categories to make it easier to find what you are looking for.

4. Startup Stock

Cost: FREE
Website: startupstockphotos.com
Searchability: Endless feed
Good for:
office and working photos
technology photos

This website has a limited pool of photos. But all of their photos are almost exclusively of office spaces and people working, which can be hard to find good photos of. Fair warning, Startup Stock basically has no search, so you’ll need to scroll through their feed to find what you are looking for.

5. NASA (yup, that NASA)

Cost: FREE
Website: nasa.gov/multimedia
Searchability: Searchable, collections, endless feed
Good for:
space photos
science photos

The NASA photography website is just fun to poke around in. You probably won’t have much need for space photos, but it’s a great place to look anyway. NASA provides these photos of deep space and the space program for free to the public. In addition to stars, planets, and all things spacey, they also have photos of their offices and programs. If you need a photo to represent science or technology they’ve got those too.

6. Travel Coffee

Cost: FREE
Website: travelcoffeebook.tumblr.com
Searchability: Endless feed
Good for:
nature photos
travel photos

I don’t use this source that often. But Travel Coffee has some really beautiful photos of places all over the world. The biggest draw back to this site is that it is like Startup Stock and it does not have a search.

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7. Jay Mantri

Cost: FREE
Website: jaymantri.com
Searchability: Endless feed
Good for:
nature photos
travel photos
photos of objects

Jay Mantri’s website is basically a knock off of Unsplash. Lots of beautiful photos, but it can be difficult to find what you are looking for, because again: no search.

8. Big Stock

Cost: Cheap ($2 – $10 photos)
Website: bigstockphoto.com
Searchability: Searchable
Good for:
Everything

Big Stock is a traditional stock photography website. If you can’t find what you are looking for on the free sites above, or just need something really specific, Big Stock is the best place to go. They have literally millions of photos. The only draw back is that there are lots of really bad photos on Big Stock, and you will need to purchase the photos. Make sure you pay attention to whether or not the photos are labeled editorial. If it is “editorial” you can’t legally use it on sales or marketing collateral without purchasing a special (expensive) license.

There are lots of other sites that are really similar to Big Stock. In my experience, they all have more or less the same photos. I think Big Stock is on the less expensive side. But, here is a short list of other traditional stock photo resources that you can check out: Think Stock, Shutterstock, Getty Images.

9. iStock

Cost: Expensive ($25+ photos)
Website: istock.com
Searchability: Searchable
Good for:
Large Prints & Tradeshows

iStock is stupid expensive. I have only used it as a last resort. If you are doing a trade show, having a car wrapped, or printing anything that is really really big you will probably need to purchase photos from here. It can be difficult to find super large photos. iStock has a strong reputation for high quality photos that are massively large (think 8 feet tall huge).

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