Visual content is no longer an option – it’s a must-have for any marketing effort, from social media and email campaigns to billboards and paid ads. The only exception is audio-only platforms and even there you still need to create an image in the listener’s mind to be effective.
So, where do you go for great visual content?
There are thousands of places and options that fall into some broad categories:
- Google image search (strongly not recommended)
- Taking your own pictures
- Professional brand photography
- Paid stock image libraries
- Free stock image libraries
“Nothing beats free,” is a common expression, and the word “free” has been used in every marketing context in living memory and beyond.
“You get what you pay for,” is also a common expression. When it comes to getting free stock images, this is probably more true than the first expression.
When it comes to free images, whether from a Google image search or a free library, there will always be the thorny issue of licensing.
The first rule is to never use a Google image search to find a picture to use in your own visual content marketing. There is no way to tell if those photos or videos are protected by copyright or not. Using them could open you up to possible litigation.
This can also apply to free stock image libraries. While many of them operate under a creative commons license, it can still be a grey area. Unless the image submitted by the actual owner of the photo, with all the relevant releases, you could end up with legal issues.
What does that leave you? In order to avoid any potential (and expensive) risks, you have the option to buy a stock image from a reputable site, or get your own pictures taken. Since stock images can often be bland, irrelevant, or over-used, having your own library of visual content made specifically for your brand is ideal.
Hiring a professional doesn’t have to be financially crippling, and when viewed in the longterm, your own professionally captured content will do more for your bottom line than you’d expect. Making an impact on your audience and getting them to remember your brand is your goal, and your own visual content plays a huge role in achieving that goal.
22 Free Sites for Beautiful Photos for Your Visual Content Marketing
Still, bootstrapping is how the scrappy entrepreneur starts out, and there are some truly wonderful sites that provide free images for commercial use. We’ve put together a list of our free stock image favorites.
Just remember that if you use an image from one of these sites, you are running a risk if the image was submitted by someone other than the owner. If you must use one, plan to replace it in the future with your own visuals as soon as you’re able to do so.
Honorable Mention Free Stock Image Sites
These sites don’t have a search function, so they aren’t the most user-friendly, but the images are wonderful, so we wanted to include them for your browsing pleasure.
When it comes to your visual content marketing efforts, getting the right photo or video is critical. Whatever method you use to get the right image, be sure to carefully consider not only the licensing but also whether the image is the right fit for your content. You can also check out these 5 Visual Content Marketing Tips to Use Now.