Author brand studio branding web logo design for small to medium sized businesses entrepreneurs blog where to find high-quality stock photos for all budgets

Stock photos.

We love to hate them as much as we hate to need them.

But we do need them! Photography is an excellent way to bring life, freshness, and personality into your brand, and when we don’t have the means of taking or producing our own photos, stock photos can be an easy and inexpensive option.

But where do you find these images? And where do you find images that don’t look like your stereotypical smiling people in business suits shaking hands around a generic conference room?


As business owners, we try to keep a sharp eye on the money flowing out of our bank accounts—which is a great thing. However, don’t let that prevent you from purchasing royalty-free stock images when you could “just find the same thing on Google Images.”

Google Images is NOT a photography resource. It is a photography SEARCH ENGINE.

That means that most images you find on there are not royalty-free, meaning it is illegal to use them without permission.

Yet this is the biggest mistake I see businesses make regarding their photography usage!

And it’s not just Google Images—there are countless “free” photography websites that all promise the perfect image but require attribution, a license, or worse, are simply pirated.

When obtaining stock photos, always, always, ALWAYS look for the fine print. Is this photo royalty-free (meaning you can use it for anything)? Is it royalty-free IF you attribute the original photographer who took the image?

By using a photo you do not have rights to, not only could you be doing something illegal, but it’s also not fair to the original photographer who took that image. Photography takes time, talent, and skill, and the original artist deserves to be compensated (unless they have chosen to waive that by putting their images up for free use, as on Unsplash). Just because the photo is on Google Images does not mean you are free to use it however you wish.

The $9-30 cost of a legal, royalty-free, high-quality image is worth not only avoiding legal troubles—but also saying to your audience that you are a professional business that does things the right way and doesn’t cut corners to do things on the cheap. (Trust me, your audience can tell that’s a Google Image).

Enough lecturing. :)
Here are my go-to’s for high-quality stock photography for all budgets:




Unsplash is my #1 go-to for stunning, royalty-free stock photography—because their photos don’t look like stock photos! They have a vast collection of modern, lifestyle photos that look natural and candid, making this a perfect library to suit all kinds of needs.



Pixabay is another great resource for royalty-free photos of probably anything you could imagine! I go to Pixabay immediately when I can’t find what I’m looking for on Unsplash, and I usually end up with numerous great options. Pixabay’s collection includes more “stock” photo options in addition to the lifestyle photos of Unsplash, so if I’m looking for something specific (like a baseball glove), I’ll likely be able to find it here instead.




Deposit Photos has a great collection of stock photos at an affordable cost – $1-5 per photo, depending on the plan you buy. That’s an incredible deal considering how often you’ll likely use the photo you purchase!

$$ - Shutterstock


Shutterstock is arguably one of the largest collections of stock photos. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it probably doesn’t exist! Their most popular on-demand plans range from $9-15 per photo, which again is quite a good price considering the wide selection they offer. If you’re looking for professional stock photos at a good cost, this would be a great resource to check out.

$$$ - iStock


iStock is run by Getty Images, which means it’s got the best of the best. If you are looking for photography—not just stock photos—then definitely consider shelling out for an image from iStock. When I’ve needed photos of famous skylines or landmarks, I’ve come here because those are images you just can’t find royalty-free anywhere else, at least at a Getty Image quality. Images are approx. $33 each, which requires a dig into your wallet, but as I mentioned, they have photos that just aren’t available anywhere else at this quality.

I hope this round-up has been helpful. What else would you like to see me round up as helpful resources for your business? Let me know in the comments!