When you’re working with a limited budget, finding quality imagery can be one the biggest design-related challenges you’ll face.
It may be your ultimate goal to hire a photographer to create unique, beautiful images for your brand, but that doesn’t come cheap, and larger stock photo marketplaces like Getty can also be restrictively expensive. This is not to say that those resources aren’t worth their costs—in most cases they absolutely are—but when you’re a young business with lots of needs to weigh and balance, making room for that kind of expense can be quite the challenge.
If this sounds like you, you’re in luck. Today I’m sharing with you three resources I consistently turn to for high-quality imagery that is very affordable (sometimes even free) for a young business on a budget.
The first resource I want to share with you is Unsplash, my absolute favorite online space to find beautiful stock images for almost anything you can think of. As of today, the site hosts almost 420,000 high-res photos that are all completely free for personal and commercial use with no attribution required.
You can search the site by using a keyword for the particular image you need, browse creatively themed collections like International Women’s Day or Foggy Days (just as an example) or explore popular categories like technology images or food pictures.
Amazingly, the Unsplash library continues to grow based on the generosity of an international community of photographers who want to share their work with the world. So, though it’s not required, I always like to give credit to the original artist where possible. It can be done super simply by listing the artist with a link to the original photo—like this: Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash.
Creative Market is one of my go-to resources for all sorts of design assets. They offer a more broad product selection, including type, templates and graphics of all kinds, so they are not solely focused on photography; but their library is vast. As of today, the main search for photography yields results that amount to over 1.3 million images.
On Creative Market, you have the ability to search stock using keywords, by browsing through one of their categories, such as architecture or nature, or you can browse through their ever-changing collection of popular photos. And from there you have the ability to filter your results by price and various properties.
The stock on Creative Market is not free, but it is definitely affordably priced. The specific price per photo is left up to the shop owner so there aren’t really any standard costs, though the base image costs range from $2 to $500 with a significant portion falling under $10. Also, most images offer both a standard license and an extended license option, which give you different usage rights for the image you purchase. You can read more about Creative Market’s licensing guidelines on their website.
You Work for Them
I’ve been a loyal supporter of You Work for Them for years. They are similar to Creative Market in that they provide a selection of all sorts of design assets, one of which is stock photography. Their library is relatively small in comparison (though not tiny—it still amounts to over 80,000 images) but they offer images I generally don’t see anywhere else.
Many of the images in their library are unique and artistic in a way that you might not see on other stock photography sites. They offer everything from shots of people that are modern and creative to abstract compositions that you’ve probably never seen before. Their images range in price from artist to artist, and some images provide multiple purchase options, each of which have price variations attached to them.
There are a few different ways to search in addition to by keyword, such as by exploring some of the category selections that are provided. Or if you’re not necessarily looking for something super specific, you can check out what they have to offer through their handpicked, new releases or sale section.
Each of these resources offer their own unique library of images, which are constantly changing, so between these three sites you will never have a shortage of options.
Of course, that can be both a blessing and a curse. Having so many images to choose from ensures you will definitely able to pull together a selection that can work for your brand, but it also means that it’s easy to get lost in decision paralysis. So here’s a few tips to get you started:
- Take a quick look through each site to get a feel for what they offer. You may find you’re drawn to the images on one site in particular, which will immediately limit the decisions you have to make.
- Get organized before you start searching. A bit of legwork beforehand will go a long way. Do some brainstorming and come up with a list of images that you know you need so that you have a checklist to work from.
- Map out your aesthetic. Before you search, make a list of visual attributes you want to see in your images. Should they be light and airy or warm and cozy? Relaxing or high energy? Cool tones or warm tones? The more specific you can get prior to starting your search, the easier the process will go.
The visuals you choose will go a long way towards communicating your brand’s values, vision and voice to the world, so you want to make sure you’re choosing wisely. By doing some homework before you start, you will make this process—and your life—so much easier. And then, with a little bit of time and effort, you will be well on your way to a library of images that suits both your brand and your budget.
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