I routinely use photos to illustrate stories on Living on the Cheap, but I rarely use my own. Instead, I use some subscription-based sites, or I search for royalty-free websites that offer free downloads of a photo that corresponds to my article topic. The Internet is full of stock photo sites that charge a minimal fee for use. But I can save you time and money by sharing some of my favorite sites that offer a free option:
Unprofound.com: This site is run by a guy named Jim who is also a primary photographer on the site. If you need stock photos to illustrate an info-packed article, you may not find it here. But I loved some of the images and found some of them to be, well, profound. You can search by using a color theme (the blue button brought up a not-so-blue photo of the word “compulsive”), or typing in a search word (type in “kids” and check out a fun photo titled “floater”). Try several keywords — it’s a challenge, but a fun one. Jim doesn’t give a flying pixel what you do with the photos – he likes to share.
Stock.xchange: Sign up at this site for access to free photos that are great for use as wallpaper, blog illustrations or other projects. Searches can be a bit confusing, but the choices are varied enough that you are likely to find something that will work well for your particular project. Check the licensing rules carefully before using the photos as there are several forms of permissions. Also be sure you are downloading site photos instead of the higher-priced photos from other sites that are confusingly located near the free ones.
Life of Pix: This site offers high-res photos for personal and commercial use. I found several “everyday” shots of restaurants, animals, food and people here. Give credit where it’s due, and watch for the spotlighted Photographer of the Week for some unique snaps.
Unsplash.com: This site is different than the others. It is a Tumblr blog that offers 10 free, high-quality, artistic photos every 10 days. You sign up using your email address, and search for photos individually or through catalogs of similar photos. Read about terms here.
Morguefile.com : This is a free site created by Kevin Connors, Michael Connors and Johannes Seeman. The photos are contributed by artists to be freely used for creative works such as illustrations, presentations and visual accessories. Some images are stunning works of art. Keep in mind that you do not own these images and must contact the photographer for permission if you are planning to use them as stand-alone pieces. If you have questions on copyright, consult the FAQ page on the site. Whenever possible, give credit to the photographer – it is good karma.
Pexels.com : The photos on this site are free to use without crediting the photographer, but it is most appreciated. Photos include relationships, self-expression, nature and food photography.
Pikwizard : This site is operated by Wavebreak Media Ltd. and is based in Ireland. The site offers many free downloads that are exclusive to the site – a refreshing change from scanning the same pictures from site to site. And many of the pictures give a real life feel, instead of stages faces smiling at the camera lens. The overall inventory is small but mighty, and are free to use without attribution. You can also edit the image on site with Design Wizard, the site’s online tool.