Whether you are writing a post for social media or your blog, creating ads for your brand, or redesigning your website, you’ll probably be looking for some stock photos.
The main problem content creators face is the question of whether stock photos are free to use.
Stock photo websites are places to find literally any photo possible.
How about the usage? How to avoid copyright infringement?
Let’s find out.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice.
Table of Contents
Are stock photos free to use?
Free stock photo websites offer photos that are free to use for commercial and non-commercial use. That means you can use them as your marketing materials, on your website, or for social media. However, you cannot claim ownership of these images, and reselling them or distributing them as standalone assets is generally prohibited.
While these photos are free to use, they are not free from copyright. All stock photos, whether they are available for free or through premium subscriptions, are owned by someone.
This means that no matter if you got a stock photo for free or bought it, you can’t sell it as your own or claim its rights.
Stock photos can be categorized into free and premium.
Free stock photo websites
- Unsplash: It is a popular platform for free high-quality images for personal and commercial use. You can download and use photos without cost or attribution.
- Pixabay: It is another well-known source of free stock photos, illustrations, and videos, similar to Unsplash.
- Pexels: It offers a library of free high-quality images and videos contributed by photographers and videographers. Similar to Unsplash and Pixabay, Pexels allows users to download and use its content freely for both personal and commercial projects without attribution.
All these websites offer stock photos that you can use for free. However, mentioning the photographer is always appreciated.
What are potential risks & limitations of free stock photos?
- Same content everywhere: Free stock photo platforms may lack exclusive, premium content that can make your project stand out. The same image can be downloaded and used by multiple individuals or organizations, meaning the same picture you used on your website can be on hundreds of other websites too.
- Risk when famous people or brands are in the images: The individuals or brands you’ll see in some stock photos may not have given legal permission for their images to be used for commercial purposes.
- Attribution requirements: Many free stock photo websites do not require attribution when you use their images. However, some photographers may request or appreciate attribution for their work.
- Limited commercial use: While free stock photo websites often permit commercial use, some restrictions may apply. For instance, you may not be allowed to use the images in connection with certain sensitive or controversial topics without the express permission of the creator.
Premium stock photo websites
Premium stock photos offer a wide range of benefits, including higher image quality, exclusivity, and more extensive licensing options.
- Envato Elements: This platform offers unlimited downloads for a single monthly fee. The subscription model provides excellent value for those who need a wide range of creative resources regularly.
- Shutterstock: It is a leading premium stock photo website for high-quality images. Its huge library is a preferred choice for professional creatives.
- Adobe Stock: This platform is integrated with Adobe Creative Cloud applications, making it a great choice for designers and other content creators to access assets easily. Adobe Stock is ideal for those who rely on Adobe software for their creative projects. (Related: Adobe Stock vs Envato Elements)
Premium stock photo pricing varies by platform. For example, Envato Elements offers unlimited downloads starting from $16.50 per month.
If you are looking for a larger content library, Shutterstock is among the most popular platforms that offer premium stock photos. A single image on this platform can cost from $0.25 to $10 on average. However, if you need an Enhanced license for the image, the cost could go up to more than $100 per image.
Adobe Stock’s pricing is similar to Shutterstock’s, with an average cost of $8.00-$9.99 per image.
In conclusion, the cost of premium stock photos can vary significantly based on the platform, licensing terms, and the specific images you require. Make sure to carefully evaluate your project’s needs and budget to determine whether investing in premium stock photos is the right choice for you.