As with all things, finding good images to use on your website – for layout design or to illustrate pages or news items – can be a case of “you get what you pay for”. Photographers are professionals and need to be paid, and better photographers get paid more. So while there are plenty of sources of free stock imagery for your website, you will get a better selection if you have some kind of budget available.
However we’re going to show you where you can get high quality images for free, and also where cheaper paid-for images can be found.
The big hitter
The biggest name in the image library world is Getty Images. (Another popular one, Corbis, was bought out and closed down in May 2016, but much of their popular imagery is now available via Getty.) Here you can find over 80 million high quality images, including photos, illustrations, vector images and patterns – and video and music too. The library is divided into creative imagery (conceptual shots suitable for advertising or online marketing) or editorial (for illustrating news stories, especially in online and offline media).
Pricing is more expensive (maybe $50 for a single, small, royalty-free image) but the selection is probably the best you’ll find; so if you’re looking for a small number of images to give your website the maximum visual impact, and have a budget for images, then Getty is worth a look.
The Getty family
You can acquire selected images from the Getty catalogue at cheaper rates, through their spin-off websites iStockPhoto and ThinkStock. (And see also Photos.com if you want anything framed.) We often recommend ThinkStock as a good source of imagery for our client websites: the selection is good (if not as vast as the main Getty site), and pricing reasonable – starting at $10 per image, or $300 for a monthly subscription with 25 downloads allowed per day. This can be a great way of building up an archive of images to keep your site updated for a long time. iStockPhoto offers similar pricing, or even cheaper ($4 per image) if you choose from their more limited Essentials selection.
Other affordable libraries
Other image libraries that won’t break the bank include Shutterstock, Dreamstime and DepositPhotos. Dreamstime is the cheapest (not much more than a dollar a photo). Another high quality source is Adobe Stock, which only offers monthly plans, starting at $50 for 10 images per month.
Which library should you use?
The good news is you can search the libraries for free to look for images that suit your needs, and then make a decision about payment. Some of them will also let you download free, watermarked versions so you can try them out on your development site).
At Studio Matas we tend to use ThinkStock and Shutterstock most of all, for reasons of selection and pricing; but we’d certainly keep Getty in mind if you need just a few photos and want the very best.