13 Free or Cheap Stock Photography Sites for Your Blog

Free & Cheap Stock Photography for Your BlogOne of the best ways to spice up any blog is with good photography. But if you’re posting, once, twice or three times a week, those blog photos can get expensive.

[Heads up! Here’s a newer edition of Free & Cheap Stock Photography Sites for Your Blog!]

If you’re looking for good, affordable, legal stock photography for your blog, you do have some options. I recently needed an image for a blog post on creating the perfect blog post (I know: pretty meta, right?) and fell down a rabbit hole, looking for a cheap photo for the post.

Here’s what I found from doing some research on a dozen or so different stock photography sites that have a blogger’s budget in mind. 

In trying to give you a fair comparison, I had to balance the following:

  • Some sites offer individual downloads, some offer subscriptions, and some offer both. I noted this as best I could below.
  • Some offer bulk pricing. I used a budget of $100 to come up with a cost per credit.
  • The smallest web-friendly versions differed from site to site.
  • The quality and desirability of the photos weren’t always equal.
  • My idea of what makes for an attractive photo will differ from yours. But mine is correct. 😉

Because of all this, although I wasn’t comparing apples to oranges, I was comparing Macintoshes to Granny Smiths.

For the purpose of this exercise I chose to do a photo search on the phrase “blueprints.”

1. Pond5 – The World’s Stock Media Marketplace

Pond5 - Stock Photography Site

9,086 stock photos, 109 vector illustrations
Size: 632 x 474
Cost: $1.95
Intangibles: Pond5 has a lot more to offer than just photos. First page had relevant results of “blue” prints, as well as related media, and super cheesy photos of models wearing hardhats who had obviously never been on a worksite in their life.

Results page offers some nice related searches, and one odd one: blueprint, blueprint interior, construction, relationships.

Decent sort features, including artist, date uploaded, duration, name, number of sales, page views and price.

2. YAY Images – Great Images at Budget Prices

YAY Images - Stock Photography Site

Yay Images
Size: 633 x 475
Cost: $1.95
Intangibles: Most of the results on Yay’s first default page were photos of rolls of blueprints, or cheesy actors…not what I was looking for. However, as I changed the default from 15 photos to 100, on the second page I found what I was looking for, an actual blueprint. (Of course, you might have been searching for what I skimmed over.)

Interestingly, it was the exact same photo as I found on Pond5. Apparently a lot of the budget stock photography sites use the same sources.

YAY also offers bulk pricing, but for some strange reason it’s only offered for large photos, so there’s no discount for bloggers.

3. iStockphoto – Royalty Free Stock Photography

iStockPhoto - Stock Photography Site

Size: 425 x 282
Cost: 10 credits/$19 (bulk credit pricing: $15.80)
Intangibles: This site offers a great library of amazing photos and videos, great search tools, great filtering tools, but it’s just become way too expensive for daily use. I go here when I need that fantastic photo for a big presentation.

I miss the old iStockPhoto.  😥

Note: I blurred the images here because a friend was sued by Getty, the owner of iStockPhoto, for a screen capture image. I’m hoping this is enough.

4. Dreamstime – Download Stock Photography and Royalty Free Images

Dreamstime - Stock Photography Site

Size: 363 x 480
Cost: 11 credits (bulk credit pricing: $10.18)
Intangibles: Dreamstime also offers time based subscriptions, which is why they can advertise images as low as $0.20/image. The lowest subscription package is one month of 25 downloads/day for $239.99 (750 images.) More expensive and longer term plans offer better discounts, but for a blogger, $239.99 – $3,739.99 may be a bit expensive.

I didn’t find the type of image I had envisioned, but there were certainly good images on the site.

5. 123RF – Royalty Free Stock Photos

123RF - Stock Photography Site

Size: 400 x 286
Cost: 1 credit (bulk credit pricing $0.89)
Intangibles: Although I didn’t see the image I had in my head, there were plenty of good photos to choose from on this site, and at $0.89/photo, you can be blogging daily and still have enough for that latte.

They also had good filtering tools for the search, including how many (if any people) you wanted in the photo, if you wanted babies, and the color of their skin.

6. Bigstock – Images for Everyone.

Bigstock - Stock Photography Site

24,356 (Wow! But I wonder how relevant the last 20K are.)
Size: 900 x 598 (I guess they don’t call it BIGstock for nothin’.)
Cost: 1 credit (bulk credit pricing $2)
Intangibles: Bigger sized images than most of the others, and still a really good price. Although I liked some of the other sites’ choices more, the photos here were still professional and it could come down to personal preference.

Site offers monthly subscriptions, too. Least expensive option is 1 month of 5 downloads a day for $69, or $0.46/image. Not a bad idea for a multi-author blog.

7. Fotolia – Royalty Free Images, Photos, Vectors and Videos

fotolia - Stock Photography Site

Size: 425 x 283
Cost: 1 credit (bulk credit pricing $1.27)
Intangibles: There were some nice photos in my search…and some really cheesy clip art. I never found the blueprint image I had in my mind, but I did find other good photos of blueprint plans and related imagery. Good pricing, too.

Fotolia also offers both monthly and daily subscriptions. The cheapest monthly plan was one month of five downloads for $20, but you could scale up to 5K downloads per month for a year for a measly $50,625. 😉

The daily subscription offer is a little confusing, because you still have to buy a month’s worth. The cheapest offer was a month of 25 downloads/day for $249, or $0.33/download.

8. Media Bakery – Millions of Curated Stock Photos

Media Bakery - Stock Photo Site

Media Bakery
4,000 (approx.)
Size: 360 x 504 (which is odd, because the image was slightly landscape)
Cost: $5
Intangibles: This site had been recommended by a friend so I checked it out. I had to dig deep to find blueprint imagery. Most of the first few hundred photos were people and architecture centric.

I was then pretty surprised when the photo was listed at $149!! However, I then found that they offer Budget Images from $1. I re-searched in that section.

I was even more disappointed with the collection here, but eventually did find an alright image that I’d consider using. However, at $5, it’s significantly more than some of the other budget sites out there.

9. Shutterstock – Over 20 Million Stock Photos, Illustrations, Vectors and Videos

Shutterstock - Stock Photography

Size: 452 x 500
Cost: $19
Intangibles: This site has a great selection of high quality photos and vector art. Search and filters were top notch.

Definitely not a “budget” site, though. However, they do offer subscriptions starting at 1 month of 25 images per day for $249, which is pretty competitive.

10. Depositphotos – Royalty-Free Stock Photos, Illustrations and Vector Art

Depositphotos - Stock Photography

23,828 (photos and vector art)
Size: 400 x 300
Cost: 0.8 credits ($0.79)
Intangibles: Depositphotos has a wide selection of photos, robust search and filter tools, and very aggressive pricing.

They also offer subscriptions, the cheapest one being 1 month of 5 images/day for $69 ($0.46/image) all the way up to 12 months of 200 images/day for $10,999 ($0.15/image).

11. Stock.xchng – The Leading FREE Stock Photo Site

stock.xchng - Free Stock Photography

2 (yes, two.)
Size: 1,200 x 1,600
Cost: nada. zip. zilch.
Intangibles: This is a free site with a very limited supply of images, but I actually found one I liked, even though it wasn’t blue.

This site was purchased by Getty at some point, and now seems to mostly be a tease for people to “upgrade” to iStockPhoto.

However, you can’t beat the price.

12. Flickr / Creative Commons Attribution License

Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

flickr / Creative Commons Attribution License
Size: 240 x 160 to 1200 x 800
Cost: nada. zip. zilch.
Intangibles: Creative Commons is a new approach to licensing work. Creators can choose one of six licenses to share and/or protect their work.

Inside Flickr, you can search for images that allow you to use them for commercial purposes (i.e., a business blog), with just a simple attribution link.

I didn’t find the exact image I was looking for here, but I did find some cool images I could work with. I recommend starting with the Relevant sort, which is default, then switch over to Interesting if you don’t see anything you like.

13. Your SmartPhone


Results: Infinite
Size: 3264 x 2,448 or so
Cost: nada. zip. zilch. (Um, after the cost of your phone, touch or tablet.)
Intangibles: My friend Dave Weinberg of cellphoneSketchpad suggested this option, since “why go stock when you have am 8MP cellphone in your pocket…”

Of course, as I pointed out to Dave, I have used this solution many times over the years, but I don’t always have a blueprint, fire hose or blue whale lying around the office for photos ops. 😉

Still, even if you’re a mediocre photographer, you can run your picture through an editor like Instragram and get fantastic results.


[Before I sign off, please check out our updated list of free and cheap royalty-free websites for all you social media needs.]

There are plenty of free and low-cost resources for bloggers looking for photos. If we forgot any of your favorites please give them a shout out in the the comments below.

If you know of any bloggers that could benefit from some free or inexpensive stock photography for their blog, please share this post with them!

And if you got something out of this post, please consider signing up for our free email updates. You can do that right here:

Rich Brooks

  • For your next post, you might want to discuss the risk you take when you use stock photos. See, e.g., http://www.webinknow.com/2009/10/who-the-hell-are-these-people.html  and http://asmp.org/articles/rights-managed-stock-vs-royalty-free-stock.html#.UR4yeqX8Gi0 You might also discuss how you can affordably hire a local professional photographer who can take photos of your actual employees in your actual business in your actual city, providing you with a library of photos you can use to populate your site. And giving your site authenticity.

  • Since you spoke specifically about Instagram, did you realize that under the new Instagram terms of service any photo that you “run” through Instagram now belongs to Instagram? And Instagram can now use? So your original SmartPhone photo you run through Instagram could conceivably now show up on someone else’s site. Something to consider before you use Instagram. (Many professional photographers I know have removed all their photos from Instagram for that very reason.)

    • Michele,

      Thanks for your comment! I remember the hullaballoo when Instagram “clarified” their TOS a little while back, but they also seemed to take a BIG step back after the initial uproar. (I even created a post on how to protect your photos from Instagram when it happened: http://www.flyteblog.com/flyte/2012/12/how-to-protect-your-instagram-photos-from-instagram.html )

      Are you *sure* that’s still the case? I know Nat’l Geographic paused their account, but then reopened it when they felt that Instagram had addressed their concerns.

  • Mike Macey

    Thanks for the list. I’ve used Fotolia for years but some are new to me. I will have to check them out. I also like using the Creative Common’s license to find images on Flickr.

    • Mike,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      I’ve found some great stuff at Flickr w/the Creative Commons license, but sometimes I don’t want to provide attribution. (I always do if I use an image, but in slideshow presentations I don’t like to muddy my slides.)

      I’ve bookmarked all these sites now, so I have a few choices.

      The only thing I realized this morning as I bought the image of the open pocketed guy, was that when you go the subscription or bulk credit route, your making a decision to use that site at the expense of some others.

      Again, thanks for stopping by!

  • Rich, I’ve used Media Bakery for years and one of the best things about them is their great customer service.  I agree it’s hard to find inexpensive images on their site but I usually call and ask for help – and, surprise, a real, live person talks to me and helps me shop for $2.00 photos.  

    • Geralin,

      Thanks for stopping by! You’re right: I didn’t take customer service into the consideration when looking at these sites. Maybe that would be a good followup post.

      Sometimes that little bit of handholding makes everything else seem more valuable.

      Take care!

  • Great article, I am tweeting it out now, one suggestion to add to the list http://www.public-domain-image.com.  Seems like a nice guy, great collection, 100% public domain.  Cheers, Casey

  • Nice article Rich. @chrisbrogan:twitter shared this on Facebook so I had to check it out. It’s always so hard to find good images for blog posts. And I think we can all admit that we use images that maybe we aren’t supposed to at times. When using the Flickr site what is the correct way to give credit to the photographer?

    • Scott,

      What…use images illegally? Who, me?!?

      OK, maybe once or twice I got lazy (or cheap.)

      For Flickr it depends on the Creative Commons license. I usually credit the photographer with his or her real name if possible, and then link back to the image on Flickr.

  • Thanks for this GREAT post Rich! I’m always on the hunt for high quality images for my blog posts and other marketing materials. It’s great to have this information in one comprehensive list. This is a post to share and bookmark for sure! 

  • Glowimages.com Micro-stock collection is a great cheap resource also!

  • Helena Alkhas

    Great list and am clipping it to Evernote for reference! I have been using MediaBakery and BigStock for some time now and am happy with them and with the low prices/good quality. Will be nice to have extra sources as I don’t like to use the same for all clients. Thank you!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Helena! 

      Both of those were new to me, so I’m going to have to give them a deeper look.

      Since a few of these sites pull from the same photographers, it’s good to have some extra places to source from.

  • Lenny

    Thanks for the list Rich ! I also use photodune and have enjoyed photography from 500px but I haven’t dig deep in their business model.

    Good stuff.

    • Lenny,

      Thanks for sharing those references. I’ll have to check out http://photodune.net and http://500px.com and maybe add them to a follow up post.

  • Jen

    Thank you, thank you for the terrific post! I use Bigstock on a regular basis for photos for my blog and have been very happy. But, it’s great to have so many other resources to go to. I found my logo photo at iStock and paid quite a bit for the large file. It was perfect so it was totally worth it. It’s all about the need at the time.

    • Jen,

      Yes, I’m certainly not saying there’s not a place for sites like iStockPhoto and Veer. We often use those sites for client website design because the photos there are often breathtaking and exactly what we need.

      But for day to day, blue collar work, these sites fill the need nicely of the average small business blogger.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Why not take a look at http://www.rgbstock.com. More then 78,000 free stock photos on line

  • jcrowe_openview

    Great list of resources, Rich. Thanks very much!

    At OpenView Labs we’ve been using the PhotoDropper (http://www.photodropper.com/) plug-in for WordPress, which actually pulls Flickr Creative Commons images along with attribution info so all you have to do is select and click “insert into post”. They have a paid option ($3 a pop for “higher quality” images), but we’ve been very happy with the free version.

    • J,

      Thanks for adding to the list…I’ll have to check that one out!

  • http://www.morguefile.com is another similar site. Getty bought Istock, so watch out. Getty has full time business having their attorneys mailing out bills for copyright violators. People actually plant photos online hoping people take the bait. I know real estate agents that have received bills from $800.00 – $1400.00 from Getty for using their photos on their blogs. Whatever sites you you, read the terms of service, or terms of use. Even many google images are copyrighted.

  • TangieDT

    Hi, I work for Dreamstime and I wanted to add links to free sections on our sites bloggers may find useful and are welcome to use. I’d start with Stockfreeimages.com, a library of 750,000 stock images you can download for free:

    There’s also a free section on Dreamstime with approximately 10,000 files bloggers can download and use for free.  

  • Here’s another I use when i just need quick pic for a blog. http://www.openclipart.org

  • CDRD

    A good alternative to sxc is http://www.rgbstock.com/,

  • Shazia Parveen

    your blog is very nice i like it.
    Click here for more Photos

  • Indira

    Hi, check also http://affordablephotograph.com. They have a section for free images that includes photos from different topics. Useful for your school projects, website, blog etc…

  • Thanks for all the great links! I am an avid photographer enthusiast and can appreciate the work these people have done.

  • Alex

    Thanks! You can also try http://www.4freephotos.com , http://www.alegriphotos.com or http://www.4freetextures.com for free stock photos.