April 15, 2013

Images to make your small business blog pop

Stock images

10 stock photo sites with low-cost or free images

Guest post by Megan Totka
Chief Editor, ChamberofCommerce.com

MeganTotkaThere’s something about a great image that draws attention and makes people want to find out more. Using stock photos for your small business blog will help you stand out and grab more eyeballs — not to mention keep your visitors coming back for more.

As a small business, you probably are already stretching every dollar you have. This means you don’t have hundreds of dollars a month to spend on blog photos. The good news is, you can still get great quality images, licensed for commercial use, for less than $5 each — or, in some cases, for free.

Here are the best sites for low-cost, high-quality images for your small business blog.



iStockphoto: Millions of royalty-free photos

1A stock image staple for more than 10 years, iStockphoto offers millions of royalty-free photos, illustrations, videos, and audio files. The site features easy browsing by category and a powerful search engine, and images are tagged with lots of keywords to help you find just what you’re looking for. There’s a wide range of pricing on iStockphoto, from 1 to 150 credits per image, with credits costing between 95 cents and $1.50.


Shutterstock: Discounts for bulk purchases

2 More than 20 million stock photos and illustrations can be found on Shutterstock, searchable by keyword or found by topic category like Beauty/Fashion, Food and Drink, or Healthcare/Medical. While the costs are a little on the high side, with individual images for $19 (less if you buy bulk), you can get a deal with a subscription if you use a lot of images.


Fotolia: Images as low as 19 cents

3Fotolia also features more than 20 million royalty-free images, and a better deal on price, although many aren’t quite as high quality in our view. With subscription plans and bulk discounts, images are priced as low as 19 cents each. You can get a daily or monthly subscription, or pay as you go with a credits system.


Bigstock: Highly effective search

4Photos, illustrations, backgrounds, patterns, and more are available on Bigstock. The libraries are sorted by collection and category, and there’s also a highly effective search engine. Like the other big stock image sites, you can buy either credits or subscriptions. Credits (it takes more credits to buy larger images) average out to 99 cents per image, while subscriptions drop the per-image price to 46 cents or less.


Depositphotos: Wide assortment, flexible plans

5With more than 11 million images and more added every day, Depositphotos is very likely to have just the image you’re looking for. The prices are great, too. Some of the bigger stock photo sites, like Dreamstime, Shutterstock, and iStockPhoto, advertise “pennies per image” but require expensive subscriptions to get those cheap bulk prices. With Depositphotos, you can buy as few or as many as you need, and still average from $1 to $5 per photo. Their lowest subscription plan, at $69 per month, gives you five images a day and comes out to about 49 cents per photo — more than enough for your blog.

Photos.com: Fantastic selections, versatile system

6This site contains more than 5 million high-quality images with a simplified, reasonable pricing structure. At Photos.com, you can buy single images, image packs, or a subscription. Subscriptions run for 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year, with the year subscription giving you 19-cent images. Single images and image packs start at $1.99 per image, and go down to 90 cents each when you buy 50 images for $45. It’s a much easier system than the credit-based purchasing used by most large stock image sites, and the selection is fantastic.


123RF: 20 million images at reasonable prices

7At 123RF, you’ll find almost 20 million images, including photos and vectors, with prices as low as 21 cents with subscription plans, and from around 68 cents to $2 for small or medium-size images that are suitable for blog posts. While this site does use a credit system, it’s more straightforward than most.


Stock.XCHNG: Combo image bank & social media site

8A combination image bank and social media site, Stock.XCHNG provides images completely free of charge for use on websites and blogs, in exchange for a linkback and credit to the photographer. The site features more than 350,000 high-quality photos to choose from. Just be sure to read their image license agreement before posting an image.


MorgueFile: Free use of high-res photos

9Another totally free site, MorgueFile is a photo sharing community that charges nothing to download and display high-resolution photos and images. Attribution is not required for nearly all images, but check out the uploader’s notes, because some request attribution or a link as a courtesy — and it always pays to be polite.


Wikimedia Commons: 17 million free images

10This wiki site has nearly 17 million media files, most of them images, which are free for use under the Creative Commons license. Wikimedia Commons lets you search by keyword and also has a category tree by topic on the main page for easy browsing. There are plenty of quality photos, images, and clip art to be found here.

Bonus sites

  • Flickr: Many of the images on this user-driven site are available free under a Creative Commons license. Search for free images for commercial use.
  • NASA Imagery: Yes, it’s that NASA. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has an archived library of almost 100,000 non-copyrighted images, free for personal, educational, and website use. Browse the image gallery.
  • CC Search: While this isn’t an actual stock image site, the CC Search portal makes finding just the right (free) image fast and convenient. You can use Creative Commons Search to find images that are available free for commercial purposes from 13 different sites. Be sure to check the “use for commercial purposes” under the search box at the top before running a search.

Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list, just a roundup of some of our favorites. If you’d like to explore more sites for your small business, head to rubberball, veer, Jupiterimages, or Fotosearch. And if you have a big budget, Getty Images and Corbis will almost always have something up your alley.

What about you? What are some of your favorite photo resources or catalogs?

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the Web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.


Free Photos Directory (Socialbrite)

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7 thoughts on “Images to make your small business blog pop

  1. Great list, I typically use stock photo sites like the ones you listed when I’m putting together a white paper. Whatever you do don’t buy stock photos of those 3d guys with no faces. They’ve been used to death and I immediately hit the back button when I see them. So please pick more original photos :)

    • bloghandsseo Agree. And I suggest you look at the 5th to 10th pages on these sites so you don’t pick a photo that we’ve seen a dozen times on other sites.

  2. Another one is http://www.upicm.com All images are pre-optimised for web use so they download quickly and look sharp on all devices. Lots of unusual images not found elsewhere and free for personal and commercial use.