Having good, quality text is critical to an effective content marketing strategy. After all, text is the primary language used by the search engines and the searchers that we want to find our content. But text on its own usually isn’t going to be enough to truly delight and retain an audience. That’s where photos come into play.
Humans are visual creatures. Photos, illustrations, and other graphics just catch our attention in a way that words alone can’t. And it makes sense: A photo conveys a message immediately in a way that text doesn’t. Especially in today’s world, where more information is shared on social media (and where more of the information shared is visual instead of text-based), having access to high-quality, unique, and captivating images is a tremendously important part of inbound marketing.
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Alas, buying the rights to use photos through sites like Getty or Shutterstock can be prohibitively expensive for small companies with no budget for images. What’s a content marketer with no budget for images to do? How does she find photos that her audience will love, without breaking the bank?
Luckily, there are dozens of free stock photo sites that content marketers can lean on to find the images that they need for their efforts. Here’s our list of the best free stock photo sites for content marketers!
Pexels is one of the first places I turn when I’m looking for new images for blog posts, social media, and more. Images come in a range of sizes, are all hi-res and high-quality, and can be used for either personal or commercial use. Better yet, no attribution is required!
Just like Pexels, Pixabay offers high-quality, free photos that content marketers can use in content creation. Images are free, and no attribution is required. In addition to photos, Pixabay offers free stock illustrations, vector graphics, and video clips, letting content marketers get really creative in their multimedia efforts.
Editor’s Note: I’ve noticed that Pexels and Pixabay have a lot of the same photos. This is to be expected with most stock photo sites, but it’s most prevalent on these two, at least in my experience.
You can download and use the photos from Unsplash in whatever ways you want for your content marketing needs. There is no cost and no attribution is required. Better yet, the photos offered are truly unique and high-quality compared to many other sites; dramatic lighting and other effects will help you find an image that will really catch the attention of your audience.
4. Noun Project
Sometimes, a photo just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes, when everyone else is using photos, what a content marketer really needs to help their content stand out from the crowd is a unique and relevant illustration. The Noun Project is here to help with nearly a million icons to choose from, on subjects you might not expect to find on a stock photo site. Icons can be downloaded and used for free, though they include the creator’s name.
If you’d prefer icons without attribution, you can choose to pay either a low fee of $1.99 per month, or sign up for a monthly fee which comes with some other benefits as well (such as the ability to change icon colors).
Okay, I know that Flickr is an annoying stock photo site. If you aren’t careful to select only creative commons images before your search, you may find the perfect image for your needs, only to then realize that you can’t sue it unless you spend money on the rights. Talk about a bummer.
But frankly, when it comes to variety it can be hard to beat flickr. Thanks to the crowd-sourcing format of the site, Flickr allows for variety that just can’t often be matched by other stock photo sites. I’ll often check the Flickr creative commons section when I can’t find a decent photo on other stock photo sites; other content marketers would also probably benefit.
6. Adobe Stock
Okay, so this one is kind of tricky. Adobe Stock is definitely a paid service, and for good reason: The photos in its library are both and amazing quality and are really unique, so it makes sense that people are willing to pay for them. Why, then, am I listing them here with free stock photo sites?
Because you can get 10 stock photos from them for free by signing up for a free trial! So long as you cancel within the first month, you won’t be charged anything; but if you forget to cancel the subscription, you’ll be charged the standard rate of $29.99/month (yikes!).
If you’re sure that you will remember to cancel the subscription, then it might make sense for you to sign up in order to get those 10 free, high-quality images. Maybe you can use those images to do something special, like create an e-book or some other kind of content offer! But if you’re prone to forgetting things, then skip this one; you don’t want to wind up getting charged for something that was supposed to be free.
Rawpixel is a stock photo site that bills itself as providing stock photos for the modern world. As such, they have great, high-quality photos that look surprisingly un-stock-photo-esque. Beyond photos, they also offer a range of free mock-ups, vector files, .psd files, and unique “outside the box” illustrations that can be incorporated into posters and other designs. Check out their full list of free resources!
The only downside to the site is that you need to create an account before you can download any files. But though that’s a little annoying, they’re giving you great stuff for free, so your name and email address are probably fair trade.
Other Tools for Content Marketers
We’ll be expanding this list as we find more high-quality free stock photo and illustration sites that are a good fit for content marketers who don’t have a huge budget to create their content with. If you’re looking for other great free (and almost free) tools to help you create the content that your audience wants, check out this post here.