Yes, I know what you are going to say. Free stock photos on Instagram? That’s not right! You need original photography!
A few years ago, I would have agreed. Instagram became the social media addiction that it is today partly because a lot of very talented people filled their feeds with beautiful, inspiring pictures.
That’s especially true in the travel niche. If you ever get the travel bug and want some ideas about where to go, check out some top Instagram travel accounts, and you’ll be booking that flight before you’ve even finished your cup of tea.
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A Boring Stock Photo? Not for Me, Thanks
Stock photos, on the other hand? Well, they don’t fill you with much excitement, do they? How many times have you seen a boring, fake picture of a group of suited business people huddled over a computer on blog posts or social media feeds? That’s not what you want on an Instagram feed.
However, times are changing. The most famous stock photography sites, like Getty Images, that used to supply those types of pictures for a fee to large businesses or agencies, are now losing ground to some exciting new photo businesses targeted towards new entrepreneurs and small businesses. These websites have a completely different model. They offer a free stock photo platform. And that means original photography and graphics from talented artists.
Nowadays, if you can find a quality image online instead of going through the time and expense of creating your own, I personally don’t see a problem with that. After all, you are trying to run a business. And whilst it might seem like a romantic notion to hop on a plane to Paris for the weekend to take some glamorous photos in front of the Eiffel Tower, you don’t need to do that if you want to use Instagram to promote your business. For commercial projects, you need to take a more pragmatic (not to mention, cost-effective) approach.
It’s Time to Revamp Your Instagram Feed and Discover Some Amazing Images
Listed in the rest of the post are 21 of my favorite free stock photo websites. They are fantastic, and I use their images on all my social media platforms – not just Instagram. I challenge you to go discover and find something in one of these 21 sites. I promise it will look perfect on Instagram and not out of place amongst the bigger, more professional accounts.
Without further ado, here are the 21 best places to find high-quality images, listed in no particular order. I’ve also included some smaller blogs and photo services in this because the big sites get enough publicity, but I really wanted to give a shout-out to some of the smaller bloggers and photo companies, too.
The Top 21 Sites for Free Stock Photos
September 2023: A brief updated. Some of the lesser-known websites on the original list are sadly no longer around. So I’ve updated this post and replaced the websites with new ones. In other words, I’ll keep this list updated so feel free to bookmark it for future reference!
1. Death to Stock
This website was one of the original sites to start offering curated collections, high resolution images and free photography. So they’ve really made a name for themselves. They offer some of the best free stock photos, and you can also purchase a premium pack featuring a bigger archive of new photos.
Similar to Death to Stock, Unsplash offers collections of high-resolution images and free photos on a theme, ideal for creative projects. Plus, you can sign up via an email address to be notified when new images become available to access fresh high-quality stock photos.
One of the reasons I included 123RF is because of their library of vector graphics, which are great to use – especially in advertising. They also offer plenty of premium (i.e., priced) images and high-resolution photos for commercial purposes and graphics.
One of the biggest sites in terms of the number and variety of royalty-free images they have, so if you are after quite a niche image, it is probably a good place to start. It’s my go-to if I need to find something quickly. They also offer stock videos and vector images. It also has a powerful search engine, so it’s easy to find what you need.
I’d say Stocksnap is definitely one of my personal favorites for popular photos and new free images. They have some gorgeous images to inspire you and plenty of variety to help discover the perfect one. I always find something that grabs my attention each time I run a search.
On Picjumbo, you’ll discover a lot of Instagram-worthy images, so you can spend hours browsing and finding something that you can use on your feed. It’s a good one to try if you are looking for background images for a promotional post. The photos here look ultra-stylish.
7. Life of Pix
I love the way Life of Pix categorizes its images. Sometimes you want to browse rather than search for a specific image. And they make their site easy to browse through for the best results or to simply find inspiration.
8. Startup Stock Photos
This one is a great option if you are a new business startup and want some business-related images without going down the posed, old-fashioned route of normal stock pictures. It’s ideal if your Instagram feed needs to be more toned-down and professional in nature.
9. New Old Stock
Wow, this site is a true hidden gem. Do you want some authentic, vintage black-and-white photography for your marketing materials on Instagram or a Facebook post? This is your place. It’s fun to browse, and you’ll find some fascinating old photographs.
10. Styled Stock
Beautiful, feminine, flat-lay images are particularly popular at the moment on Instagram. That’s certainly true for a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners. You’ll find a large variety here, and plenty to ensure your images look original, as some modern flat-lay can look a little bland.
There are some lovely, quirky colorful images on this site – it’s definitely worth a look when you are after something a little out of the ordinary. Sometimes, a unique image is all you need to grab attention and engagement on Instagram.
The website Burst are part of Shopify and were created to help their shop owners with site images, but Burst is open to everyone – not just shop owners. So whether you’re an eCommerce business or not, it’s one that’s worth adding to your bookmarks.
13. Jay Mantri
This site has lots of professional location photos. There are lots of creative images here that can make a good talking point on any Instagram feed.
14. Foodies Feed
In the food or health niche? Then this website has lots of high quality food photography to offer. It’s useful content when you’re in-between posting recipes, but still want relevant images to keep your feed fresh.
This platform has a big choice of images with plenty of relevant categories to browse, and lots of Instagram-perfect imagery.
16. ISO Republic
Next on our list is ISO Republic, which offers lots of high-quality free stock photos and videos. It’s ideal for creates looking to develop social media projects without sourcing original photography. There is lots of choice and a powerful, easy to use search facility.
The Adobe platform is, understandably, popular with designers. Here, you’ll find free photos, vectors and videos, plus a premium collection. That’s useful when you’re seeking something specific and can’t find it in the free searches. Interestingly, Adobe has also started offering AI-generated images. So there is a vast choice from this very famous brand.
18. Freepik Photo
You’ll find that Freepik has a huge collection of free stock photos, vectors and graphic designs. The library is a valuable resource for small business owners, and there is lots here for Instagram and your website. The variety means it’s simple to find one that aligns with your brand.
The website Rawpixel is a popular and trendy platform, perfect for creative entrepreneurs. The visuals are diverse and look incredibly authentic. They also sell premium images if you need something special for your feed or for an Instagram ad.
20. Travel Coffee Book
Are you in the travel niche? Even if the answer is no, perhaps you just want to feature some beautiful and interesting travel photography to liven up your Instagram feed. Either way, this is a great place to find travel-related images and a must-visit.
Another vast collection of beautiful photos, very original and interesting to browse around. It’s always worth a visit when you want something new.
Two Important Tips on Using Images
As you can see, there is plenty to discover from the best free stock photo sites on this list. But there are two caveats I would offer you before you start using stock photography on Instagram. First, never pass off an image as your own. By that, I mean don’t show a picture of a girl at the beach and claim to be that girl, or a picture of a cake and claim to have baked it. Apart from the obvious point that it’s unethical, that type of use of images lacks authenticity. And if you want a dedicated Instagram following who love you dearly, then being authentic is the most important quality of all.
Second, always check the commercial rules around using an image. Some are only free for personal use, some you need your own license, whereas others are free to use for anything – commercial or personal. If you are using these images for your business, then you need to make sure the license states that the image is cleared for commercial use.
Check for any notes on an image that it is for non-commercial use. When that’s specified, you can’t use it for commercial gain. All sites will explain what rights you have for that photo and any copyright restrictions, so always check the fine print and know the terminology.
For example, the label Creative Commons cc license label means creators can specify which rights they reserve and which rights they waive when others want to use their work. So scan images before downloading to check the creative commons licenses.
So if you are using stock images, make them personal. Perhaps post an image of a landmark and explain that the location is on your bucket list. Or add a quote or graphic or promotion to an image, so that the final look and feel is more in keeping with you and your brand.
Bonus Tip – How to Make the Most of Your Instagram Images
Once you have a fantastic Instagram feed up and running, now’s the time to start thinking about growing a high quality following and start making sales for your business. You can access our free Smart Funnel guide by entering your email address below, and discover how to create your first sales funnel for your small business.
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