The Best Paid and Free Stock Photo Libraries for 2021

Popular Stock Photo Libraries

Stock photos are used everywhere, every day, by millions of websites, billboards and the like. In fact, most of the articles on this website feature images from stock photo libraries as well.

Every website and blog, even social media accounts, need good photography. The images tell so much of your brand story, you’d be crazy not to spend time on them. I often see dodgy marketing online. Maybe it is the brands really inconsistent images, such as the image sizes being really different, or they are all just in very different styles, with clashing background images, making them very distracting.

However, we all know brands that appear great online. They have beautifully styled images that can be very captivating and they get their audience engaged. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I appreciate that it can be super expensive to hire a great photographer to take photographs for you. However, there’s a great middle ground and that is stock photo libraries.

So let’s go through the benefits of using stock photo libraries, and then also take a look at some of our favourite paid and free stock libraries.

So what is stock photography?

Stock photography is when stock photo libraries and photo agencies that have photos and images that are available for licensing for various projects. People pay a much smaller fee than if they had hired a photographer to take the photo, however the risk is that you will see the same photo being used in 1001 other places.

Benefits of using stock photo libraries

The main benefit is the cheaper cost, which can actually be free. Rather than hiring a model, a photographer, the fuel, the equipment, etc, you simply search and purchase the images you require.

The second main benefit of stock photo libraries, is the speed. Instead of a commission job which may take a few weeks to get the images back, with stock you can have a handful of images by the time you finish reading this article.

How to choose the right stock image libraries?

If you are like me, you have an account on a bunch of different sites. There really is no need to be exclusive when you are the customer. The more popular the library, the better chance you will see the same images you have chosen being used by others though; so it may be worth finding a smaller, boutique stock photo provider instead.

As well as the image quality and range, the other thing that matters most for me is the image search and filter options, and how easy they are to use. For example, many of these stock photography sites allow you to search by orientation, which is super important to me. For example, most of the images on Linksforce are landscape. The feature images of each article would look jarring and out of place if they were in portrait orientation.

Other stock image libraries let you also filter and search by colour, which means that you can search by your own brand colours, to ensure a better branding consistency.

So take your time and explore the stock photo libraries I have collated in the lists below, and see if you can find a site that offers the right mix of features and images for you to be able to use in your own marketing.

Stock photo library photographer

Stock photo library photographer

The best paid stock photo libraries [June 2021]

The benefits of paid stock images, is that there are less chances of finding the same image being used elsewhere. Paying for your stock images also means that you are helping to support the stock photographer or image creator.

Here are some paid stock image libraries in alphabetical order that I feel you should check out.

The best free stock photo libraries [June 2021]

The benefits of free stock images is obviously the price, however you have to be mindful that there are likely to be thousands of websites using the same images. That’s the issue with the more popular libraries, the same images appear everywhere.

Here are some free stock image libraries in alphabetical order that I feel you should check out.

Stock photo search on tablet device

Stock photo search on tablet device

Final stock photo tips

When choosing stock images, always be mindful of how you will use them in the future. Will you be overlaying text? If so, you need areas on the image that are fairly uncluttered. Will you have a specific orientation you will need them for? What about the particular sizes?

You may be better getting the larger image files, if you possibly could use it for print or something larger in application down the track.

It isn’t just photos either

Stock libraries have evolved heavily in the last few years, and a number of them now have video. One of the more recent movements though, is into vector images, illustrations, even audio files.

The near future seems to be very heavily weighted towards stock image libraries becoming the epicentre of creative collections.