6 Best photo libraries with free stock photos for small business marketing
29 April 2023
graphic showing several Polaroid-style photos with typical stock images representing small business

For many small business owners, the lack of professional photos can be a big stumbling block when it comes to marketing content for their social media pages – and beyond, to their website too.
I know I felt the same before I was able to invest in a photo shoot with a professional brand photographer. (If you’re looking for someone in the Bath/ Wiltshire area, I highly recommend Nick Cole Photography for that!)

Rather than struggle on with your own selfies and limited DIY phone pics, or (worse) you just don’t show up at all on socials because of that no-photo-hurdle, here is my guide to some of the top photo sources and libraries which you can use for FREE in your business marketing posts.

You read that right, free photo libraries from which you can download: 
✅ royalty-free/ with no purchase or subscription needed
✅ for commercial usage (ie to monetise for your business)
✅ professional quality 
✅ no watermarks
✅ illustrations and graphics, as well as photos, sometimes even video too.
And many of which are usable without a mandatory credit, aka attribution, to the photographer.

Most of the 6 sources for photos I’m listing here are accessible without even registering for an account; those that do you require you to register are 100% free to do so.

A word on attribution, first.
Sometimes you may be required to add a copyright credit (also known as attribution) for the photographer when you use their photo, especially for commercial use. How to do that, what you need to put in the photo caption etc… it all is provided for you in the terms of usage. 
All the libraries I’ve featured here always list the terms of usage/ image license when you download an individual photo.

For some of the image libraries offering a premium or subscription-based service, it’s possible to use images for commercial end without the attribution, so it’s worth checking the terms of purchase.

Let’s dive in…

1. Unsplash

Here you can find lots of fantastic, professional quality photos, all free to use without attribution. I use this one a lot, using a free account I’ve registered for. The range of subjects is really great. I particularly like the functions to ‘follow’ photographers whose style I like, also to ‘favourite’ individual shots, and to create themed collections of images, so they’re easily accessible when I log in to come back to them another time.

Downsides are the lack of stock video, and stock illustrations/ icons/ vectors.

Click here to try it and register an account: www.unsplash.com

2. Freepik

This library also has a huge range, and I find this one great for illustrations, icons and graphics as well as photos. There is an increasing amount of stock video footage too, which is really useful.
The quantity of content means there’s a really large amount of options here that are free for business use. The Premium photos, which are accessible via a subscription paid account, are fantastic. This is the one photo library I do subscribe to – I find it to be great value and pay ~£15/month.
Some of the premium images are still available for free commercial use, but only if you be sure to use them with a full attribution credit to the photographer. By paying the subscriber usage, you’re allowed to use those without adding attribution, so check the usage terms carefully.

Check it out here: www.freepik.com

3. Pexels

This is another really good photo library, all free for commercial use and attributions are not required. I like that there is also great quality stock video also available.
Pexels doesn’t have any paid-for option – all of the content is good to go, so if you have a tight budget, it’s certainly a fantastic first port of call!

Visit Pexels at this link to see what’s available: www.pexels.com

4. Pixabay

Completely free, I think this is one of the best photo libraries out there. It’s free to use without registering for an account, but the advantage here if you do register is that Pixabay images are available in multiple size formats for you to select from. I’ve found that the free images are generally fine for social media use, however as a registered user, you have access to higher resolution files.

Click now to take a look: www.pixabay.com

5. Canva

It’s a hugely useful graphic design resource, and one that seen a lot of expansion in its functionailites and user growth in recent years. Ideal for non-graphic designers, it’s very user friendly for creating any kind of visuals (most frequently for social media graphics), Canva has an in-built resource of photos and stock video, too.
The library is very searchable thanks to good tagging, and has many free options. Of course, there are also a lot more which are only available to Canva Pro (premium) users. Often, lots of good options can be found here though, so I recommend a look even if you’re not a Canva Pro subscriber.

Register for your free Canva account here, if you’ve not already got one: www.canva.com

6. WikiCommons

This idea’s a bit of a lesser-talked about one…
Another fab option for the cash-strapped, this has a very high proportion of older images, more historic things and lots more academic/ text-book stuff. This site is not specifically tailored for business users who want to monetise their content, and it’s created as part of Wikipedia.

This means there are far fewer professional-quality images, but I think it can still be useful depending on what you’re looking for. In general, it means a lot more wading through less relevant stuff to be done (not least because the search tool is much less advanced).
The way to check availability for commercial use, by looking for anything labelled Creative Commons 0 – the zero is the important bit.

Take a look at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Let me know in the comments if you have experience of free or paid-for stock photo libraries, and if there are others you’d add to my list,


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