With the web becoming more and more visually oriented, images are becoming a more important part of any web design. In many markets, good photos can make or break a website’s effectiveness, so any pictures you use have to be good, and they can’t be the same pictures everyone else is using, either.
But we’re designers, not photographers. So where are we supposed to get our pictures these days? The obvious answer is stock sites.
But now what? Stock sites are constantly growing and changing, and some of them are expensive. Plus, a lot of them are clunky and hard to navigate…or just aren’t designed well, which can be tough to overlook when you’re all about good design. (If that’s you, there’s judgment here!)
Just for you, I’ve combed through all the great stock photo sites we know of to make my recommendations for the best free stock images you can find on the web right now. I’m looking at things like overall quality of the images (including both file size and image definition), ease of use, and clear stipulations about image use guidelines. Here’s what I’ve got for you!
Unsplash has long been my favorite source of free images. Their stock tends to be moody and evocative, just the way I (personally) like my images to be. It’s easy to search, easy to use, and full of breathtaking views and angles. Their landscape photos are unparalleled.
One caveat for Unsplash: I’ve noticed in the past several months that some of the images being submitted aren’t quite as high-quality as I’m used to from Unsplash. If you need a super-high-def image for your design, make sure to zoom in on the photo you’re considering before committing.
I have to admit, I tried to use them a few years ago and wasn’t impressed. The pickin’s were just so slim that I eventually stopped trying with Pixabay. Recently I revisited the site during a chat with someone else, and I was really impressed by some of the search results that popped up! Their inventory of stock photos has come a long, long way since the days of 2014. As a result, this stock photo site is now back on my list of go-tos when I need a new image that hasn’t been “done” into the ground.