The Best Free Stock Photo Sites for Small Businesses: Save a Fortune on Content and Marketing with These Free Sites and Apps


Every business must engage in marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a solopreneur, an SMB, a tech startup, or something else. Without marketing campaigns, you’re invisible to potential customers. Invisible businesses can’t grow.

Once, marketing was an expensive, time-consuming process. That’s not the case today, thanks to the explosion of platforms that allow you to get the word out about your business. From social media sites like Facebook to email marketing, blogging, and guest posting, there’s a wealth of opportunities today.

However, for your marketing to be effective, you need to include the right elements. Text is important – it’s what communicates with your audience. But you can’t neglect imagery. That old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is truer today than when it was first penned.

The problem is that photographs and other graphic elements cost money. For small businesses watching their bottom lines and being constrained by tight budgets, can make them seem out of reach. Thankfully, digital technology can help here, too.

What we’re talking about are stock images that you’ll access through stock photo websites and apps. Stock images can add color and life, but they can also create a much-needed emotional connection with your audience.

Do I really need to use imagery in my marketing content?

First, let’s tackle the question of whether you really need to use visuals in your content. The answer is a resounding “yes”. Here are a few examples of why it’s so critical.

  • Vennage reports that over 50% of marketers state visual content is “essential” to their strategies.
  • Hyerprise discovered that personalized imagery decreased shopping cart abandonment by 17% and conversion rates by 200%.
  • Xerox notes that users are 30% more likely to send payment when visuals are included in marketing content.
  • According to Buzzsumo, articles with images are twice as likely to be shared as those without images.

As you can see, stock images are definite must-haves for your marketing. That’s true whether you’re creating blog posts, thank-you emails, social media posts, or any other marketing collateral.

So, where do you turn to find those stock images? The answer is a stock photo website or app, but they’re not all created equal. What should you look for in a site to tell if it’s worth your time?

Choosing the best stock photo sites

When considering any of the stock photo sites below (or others you find), think about things like:

  • Royalty-free images available for legal commercial and personal use.
  • Access to thousands of high-quality stock photos across different topics, themes, and styles.
  • Unique photos that aren’t found on every other stock photo site to help make your content more unique.
  • Ease of downloading the photos and other graphics you want to use in your marketing content.
  • Cost versus other factors. Some photo sites are worth paying a little bit so you can access more or higher-quality photos.

Now that you have a bit more information about what to consider when choosing the best free stock photo site or app for your small business, let’s see which ones have made our list.

The best free stock photo sites for small businesses

Once, there were relatively few stock photo sites. Today, that’s not the case. You’ll find dozens of options out there, all of them claiming to have the largest selection, the most original photos, or some other reason that you should choose them over competitors. We’ve assembled a list of the best free stock photo sites for your small business based on specific factors.

Google Images: best for advanced and reverse image search

Everyone has heard of Google Images, and it's going on the list because it works. In addition to having the handy reverse image search option, this feature also allows you to search millions upon millions of images from all over the web. You can use the standard Google search parameters and refine your search in several different ways, finding all kinds of content and images that you can use.

Typically, you'll find a bunch of images that aren't available for commercial use with a general image search on Google. However, you can refine the parameters under Tools > Usage Rights and limit them to those that are labeled for reuse/with modification. That way, you can either just use the images, or use them and modify them, depending on your needs.

Google Images is totally free to use, but you’ll have to do a lot more work to ensure that you’ve got a license to use the images that you find. Don’t get yourself in a jam with copyright issues.

Unsplash: best for collections

Unsplash has an impressive collection of almost 700,000 images that have been captured by plenty of different photographers. It's got a simple search bar so that you can find the images that you need with ease, and you'll even be able to browse by collection, which sets this site apart. In the "Collections" area, users can create their own curations and groups to organize their favorites for later use.

Unsplash is home to over 125,000 amateur and professional photographers, and it’s totally free. The site is great for the small business that wants a place where they can create and manage their own galleries of stock photos, and it makes navigation a breeze. You’ll even be able to search tags, browse by artist or category, and more. Those who are going to be searching for several images within a single theme will enjoy this site.

Unsplash is a free stock photo site with unlimited access for all users. It’s fueled by a community of people sharing their work with the world, so there’s never any cost involved.

Flickr: the biggest range of images

Flickr is a social network for photo sharing, offering more than five billion stock images from amateur and professional photographers around the globe. One of the best features of this site is its rich metadata that lets you search for photos based on tags, geolocation info, and more. You can search using the search bar or the World Map if you want to search by location, and you'll even be able to check trending images and sort by recent additions.

There are even galleries and collections that you can explore by photographer or type, and the site makes it easy to determine which pictures are free to use and which ones you’ll need to pay for. When you’re searching for an image, you can simply click the option in the dropdown menu for "Commercial Use Allowed" -- those images are all free to use.

Flicker is free to use, although a premium version is available for $5.99 per month if you want to get rid of ads and enjoy a few extra features (like unlimited storage).

Pixabay: best for illustrations

Pixabay is another great resource for stock photos, offering a huge collection like most of the sites on this list. Where they really shine, though, is in the illustration department. There are more than 1.5 million photos, videos, illustrations, and vector graphics on the site, which are all free to use. The advanced search options make it easy to find what you need, and you can even search by camera and orientation.

Of course, you can simply search for images based on keywords, and there’s even an Editor’s Choice section that shows off the best images on the site. When you need professional illustrations and graphics, this site is the place to turn. It’s hard to find royalty-free illustrations, as many people know, but this site makes it easy.

Plus, Pixabay is totally free. There are no disclaimers, no exceptions, and no premium plans holding back the best features —you just get access to great stock photos.

StockSnap: best for new stock photo 

StockSnap is a site that keeps up-to-date better than most. If you want the freshest, most relevant content, this is the place to go. While the other sites keep up, StockSnap adds hundreds of photos every single week, which goes well above and beyond offering free stock images. The site does link to Shutterstock (a paid tool), so be careful to check the images to see whether they're locally hosted or linking out to make you pay for them.

StockSnap allows you to search for photos by those that have the most and least views, favorites, and downloads. You can also search by the add date and create an account to curate and store all of your favorite content. It’s all totally free and you’ll never have to worry about "unlocking" access to anything unless you choose to explore the options over at Shutterstock.

You can find millions of images on the site that are available for commercial use to add just the right level of marketing magic to your content every single time.

Pexels: Best for embellishments

We’ve covered a lot of great stock photo sites, but what if you want to make your images go further? That’s where Pexels comes in. You’ll find a pretty robust library of stock photos and other imagery, but you’ll also have access to basic design and editing tools through the company’s partnership with Canva.

Pexels makes it easy to customize stock photos so that you don’t have to worry that the image you use can be found on thousands of other blog posts or articles. You can search by collection or even color, create new designs based on stock photos you find, and more. It also integrates with other tools, like Figma and Adobe Photoshop to name just a couple.

Vecteezy: Best for vector art

Vecteezy offers both a free and paid option so it can grow with your business. The free tier is great for those just starting out, but if you can afford to upgrade, you’ll find many more selections. The platform also offers you the chance to license vector graphics, stock photos, video, and other visuals directly from the artists themselves. Speaking of artists, there’s a pool of over 30,000 contributors here, so you know you’ll have access to plenty of options.

The weird name comes from a combination of the company’s main differentiator (scalable vector art) and its mission to make creativity easy for everyone involved. Not sure what vector art is or why it matters? You can scale it up and down as necessary without losing any resolution.

Stock photos are great, but your customers deserve more than stock responses

Ready to create a visual and emotional impact on your audience? Any of the tools we’ve discussed above will help. And there’s something for every business, whether you’re looking for free options for life or a free platform that can transition to a paid source of graphics as your business grows.

And don’t forget about the other aspect of business growth: increased communication from leads and customers. Our virtual receptionists provide a much-needed human touch while ensuring that no call goes unanswered, and your team is able to focus on what they do best.  

We work with businesses across virtually every industry to ensure that their customers always have access to the information and guidance they need, no matter what time they call. We provide an essential 24/7 answering service, overflow answering, and so much more. We’re not just about answering and routing calls, however. Our experts can vet leads, set appointments, process payments, and more to take these tasks off your team and let them focus on more important things.

Ready to learn more about how can help your business thrive? Get in touch today by emailing us at or calling (650) 709-2975. You can also go ahead and schedule a free consultation right now

Small Business
Marketing Advice
Written by Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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