How to Find Stock Photos That Don’t Suck


Stock photos have a terrible rep—for good reason. They're like the fast food of photography: They're mass produced and generic, and they'll send you to the bathroom more than you'd like. (Okay, not really the last one.) (But you never know.)

The majority of stereotypical stock photos are littered with plain white backgrounds, a couple cheap props and/or acting cues straight out of your seventh grade production of "Annie Get Your Gun."

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:


Exhibit C:


You get the point.

Luckily, it's 2016 and there are amazing photographers and websites that have seriously upped the stock photo game. Here are a few sites where you can find insanely beautiful stock images—some of which you can actually use for free. (Can I get a hell yeah!?)

1. Unsplash

I really love this site. The photos are gorgeous and perfect to use for social media, graphic design, or blog posts. The majority of the photos are breathtaking landscapes, animals, and stylized objects. Unsplash is unique in the stock photography world because they don't have a lot of people photos, which I really like.

Every photo is high-resolution and free to use. Although they don't have a photo for absolutely everything you might need, they do have an expansive library of high-quality photos. If you subscribe to Unsplash, they'll send you 10 new photos every 10 days, which is more than enough to keep your blog or social media on top of its game.

2. Pexels 

Pexels is another killer free stock photo site full of stunning scenes. They have a solid mix of people, places, and objects to choose from. Although the images are free, there are more licensing and copyright details you'll need to be aware of before using any of the photos. Each photo displays the usage specifics—like if you can use it for commercial purposes or if you need to credit the photographer. You can also get 40 exclusive free stock photos if you sign up for their newsletter.


Gotta love free stock photo sites with no licensing restrictions—here's another one. They have a wide range of stock photos, from basic but cool shots of people to towering cityscapes. You can even filter photos by what's trending or what's been favorited most. As a sweet bonus, they have an in-house graphic editor you can use to alter images if you sign up for an account.

4. Stocksy

I've used Stocksy for social media graphics that feature people, and they always turn out amazing. Stocksy has top-of-the-line curated lists that help you find the right images for whatever you need. This is where you'll find images that could be featured all over the hippest magazines.

The coolest part about Stocksy is their mobile image section. All the photos here were shot on cell phones and use filters from phone apps like VSCO or Afterlight to make the shots pop. Stock photos can't get much more authentic than that.

5. Gratisography

Enter the wonderfully weird world of Gratisography. They have some delightfully strange free stock photos that are off the wall yet refreshing. This is definitely the place you want to look when you need a kooky picture. Or even a great place for blog post inspiration. 7 Reasons You Should Tape Your Face at Your Birthday Party is something I would read.

Is there another site you love to use for awesome stock photos? Tweet us your favorite or just send us your favorite stock photo of all time.



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Katie Bolin

Katie is a social media & advertising strategist.

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