Over the years I have collected  100+ of the best stock photo sites for entrepreneurs and bloggers (to be honest, it’s a bit of an obsession!) and have them stored in a file in my bookmarks bar. Some of them are free, some are paid and some are subject-specific.

Not everyone out there is a pro-quality photographer or has the time to take and edit high-quality images which is why a lot of us rely on stock photo websites

Why Use stock image websites?

Photographers spend many years honing their skills, buying expensive equipment and learning how to edit images to create high-quality photos, they should be paid for their time, skills and ability. Just like any other artist or musician. Just because it is available on the internet it does not make it free. You wouldn’t walk into a shop selling prints, pick one up and walk off without paying for it, it is the same on the internet.

The best stock photography websites for entrepreneurs and bloggers serve both the photographer and the end user, with clear information about the copyright restrictions of the images. Whether they are suitable for commercial projects or royalty-free images etc. 

I recommend checking a few of the best free stock image sites listed below, and then bookmarking the sites that fit your brand.

Image of a pair of handcuffs to match the text on how to legally use stock photos

How Can I use Images Without Getting Into Trouble?

Copyright law, like any law, is complicated so before you use images on your site, marketing campaigns, blog posts or business, take a quick minute or two to make sure you are not breaking any laws. In black and white, if you use a stolen image on your site you are liable to be sued.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice but it should keep you out of hot water, if you are in any doubt, consult with a lawyer.

NEVER google to find an image to use on your site or for a product. Google has a great image search and some images are attributed to use. But it’s not a good way to go. If you are in love with a specific image, the best thing to do is to contact the owner and ask permission to use it. Just because it is on google image search it does not mean it is free to use or that it is a public domain image.

Always check the different options when it comes to copyright rules for each image you use. Understanding creative commons cc will help you stay on the right side of the law. Some creative professionals will require credit to the photographer. Others can only be used on non-commercial sites. Social Media Examiner has a great post explaining the ins and outs of copyright.

No, you CAN NOT google and find an image then give credit and all will be right in the world, it’s not how it works. There is a chance that you have lifted a stolen image – yes, that means you are handling stolen goods! Some photographers are happy to have the credit and link back to the site, others are not. The only way to know what the photographer and the rightful owner wants is to contact them.
Don’t think that not giving credit will keep you out of trouble either, with Google reverse image search and Tinyeye, photographers have ways to find their stolen images.

If you plan to use an image to make something that you will distribute for commercial purposes, educational materials, printed onto t-shirts or mugs, book covers etc. Check the conditions of use before you do it. Often there is a clause about the number of times an image can be reproduced or for commercial reasons you need to buy an extended license. Even when using stock sites it’s a good idea to study the T&C before you charge ahead!

A photo of a woman's hand holding a camera with a teal background

Watch Out For This Scam

Recently I have seen numerous reports of some unscrupulous photographers planting images on free stock sites and then going after bloggers and suing them for illegal use. To cover yourself, ALWAYS take a screenshot when you download your image, capturing the image, site name and licence. 

ALWAYS read through the Terms and Conditions of the site you are downloading images from and pay attention to the licence agreement for each image. THIS IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AND YOURS ALONE!

The legal jargon for the creative commons licensing can get confusing, THIS POST written by the attorney Sara F Hawkins has a breakdown in plain English. This Post on EyeEm also explains it either will give you a good grasp of the rules.

The legal steps that can be taken against you for using images illegally vary from country to country and may also depend on what the photographer wants, whether that is just to have the image removed, to be given full attribution or to be paid for the time the image has been used. I can’t give you a clear idea of the process because so many different factors are in play. Your best bet is to stick to the rules!

Finally, if you looking to create a strong brand then images are important and one way you can do that is to hire a pro to take a set of branded images just for you. This way you can be sure of the ownership of the images and you can create a strong brand, which online is extremely important. Just be sure that you understand the photographer’s release and that everything is under contract.

Stock Photo Sites For Entrepreneurs Showing all photos with a blue theme, a black cat, cup of coffee, woman on the beach and blue flowers

What to do if you get a summons of payment?

I had this happen to me recently. I had an email from a company called COPYTRACK stating they were acting on behalf of a client. According to them I was using an image without permission and they wanted to charge me €389.59 in compensation and another €350.00 for a years licence. I knew that I was in the clear but they still sent severla emails demanding proof of ownership and payment for compensation. If you get an email from this company, I recommend reading this from a British solicitor (lawyer) before you reply.

Read on for more about the best stock photo sites for entrepreneurs.

Disclaimer – some of the following links are affiliate links, which means that I may get a percentage of the sale at no cost to you.

coffee cup and stack of money on red background

Free image sites vs Paid

A lot of the best free stock photo sites also have a paid version too. They know that small business owners often have a small budget and so there are many affordable options for high-quality stock photos, stock videos, music tracks, audio files, sound effects and vector images. Some places offer credits, 100 credits will give you 100 downloads for example. Others with have an image library and allow a certain number of downloads in return for a monthly subscription or annual membership. With paid stock image you are less likely to run into a copyright issue further down the line.

Where To Find The Best Stock Photo Sites For Entrepreneurs…

Once you start using a few of these you will see the same free stock photos on several of the sites, this is one of the ways photographers are able to get themselves seen. If you find a style you like, go and check out the photographer, they often have more in the same style or offer a way to work together.

I personally use Deposit Photos for my paid stock images and for many of the social media posts I make, I use Canva Pro which has a HUGE free catalogue with unlimited downloads. If you want to learn more about Canva I have a post here and here.

When you are looking at free stock images, some sites will also have links to their paid stock images so just be aware of what you are clicking. You also want to check if the free stock image website images are just for non-commercial use. 

Be sure to read the licence agreements before you download, some may have restrictions on the size of the images you can use in your website design or blog. Sometimes the free images are only available for small images or low resolution and the high-resolution images are paid for.




High quality images Specifically For Diverse/BIPOC Images

a happy black oman holding her hands in a peace sign. waeraing a black sweater with a bar of blue, yellow and red.

Premium Stock Sites – Also have free images




Hands holding up a pair of binoculars on a blue background

Sites That Search Image Sites

If you run a stock site or you know of any that are not on the list, drop me a note or leave a comment below so I can add you to the list. I am always looking to add more to my list of the best stock photo sites for entrepreneurs and bloggers.

With the amount of amazing images out there, both paid and free it shouldn’t be hard to find the right stock images for your small businesses, marketing materials and social media content. Of course, using your own content will always make your own unique but even the most creative entrepreneurs don’t always have the time to take their own beautiful stock photography. So why not buy some and support another creative soul!

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