Share Button

Saturday, February 15, 2014

8 Best Free Stock Photosites for Writers & Bloggers and When You Should Pay For Images

The hardest part of being a writer isn't writing the book. It's getting people to read the finished product. How do you do that? There's no magic solution but the best thing you can do is to stand out from the crowd.

How do you get people to notice you? That part is easy. You have to do something that other people are not doing. A great place to begin is to start incorporating high-quality photos with your Twitter, Facebook and blog posts.

Six months ago, I started teaching myself Photoshop. That meant I needed pictures to play with. An internet search will show you there are dozens of sites offering "free" stock photos. However, "free" doesn't always mean what you think it does. Besides, who has time to search through dozens of sites.

Luckily for you, I have so you won't have to. Here are the 8 best websites I've found for free stock photos.


Price: Free. To download, all you have to do is upload a few photos you have taken to add to the pool of available stock art. I added some vacation pictures from Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.
Login via facebook, twitter, or email
What You Can Use it For: Anything, including commercial use. They recommend you get model release forms is you use recognizable people for commercial usage (e.g. book covers) but this is not required for editorial use (e.g. blog posts). Full rules and limitations are on their blog here:
Pros: Lots of high-quality free images. It’s the first place I go to look for stock images for background images or locations.
Cons: Limited photos of people.  Search feature takes some time to get use to. No adult photos and very limited sexual imagery. This will limit usefulness for romance/erotica writers


Price: Varies. Majority are free
Login: Create a free account to allow download
What You Can Use It For: Varies based on provider of stock images. Check the terms of each picture you use. It is normally stated right below the picture what you can use it for.
Pros: Lots of high-quality free images. Has an adult filter you can turn on or off. If you want pictures showing lots of skin, you can find them here. If you don’t want to see that, you can turn it off. Also has 3D graphic artist that allow material to be used for commercial use. Very useful for scifi/fantasy writers. If you want pictures of spaceships or fairies, you can find them here.
Suggestion:  Favorite any picture you intent to use. This will help find the picture again in the future and gives you easy access to usage rights.


The following have more limited stock photos but are completely free. They images are high quality and can be used for commercial or non-commercial use. If you can’t find the image you’re looking for at the other sites, try these. Many of them have links to commercial sites as well. They earn revenue by trying to get you to visit/subscribe to these pay sites. That doesn’t mean you have to follow the links.

3. OpenPhoto.Net
4. FreeRange
5. Imagebase: 
6. MorgueFile:
7. Pixel Perfect Digital
8.Public Domain Pictures:


So why pay when there is so much for free?

Simple: like most things in life, if you want the best, you’re going to have to pay for it. Paid site like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, and Fotolia have the best, highest quality pictures available. Some images just aren’t available for free.

I found the cheapest option is Fotolia.

Your best bet is a monthly subscription. I usually go with the $40 option. It allows you to download 10 superlarge photos or 20 large photos per month. Superlarge (what they call XXL) is only required if you intend on doing lots of photo manipulation or want them on billboards. I use the regular size (or M) photos in all my photomanipulations for book covers. They work fine.

Shutterstock is the most expensive. Their lowest monthly subscription rate is $249 but gives you 25 pictures a day. Dreamstime isn’t much cheaper. You’ll pay $245 per month, also giving you 25 pidtures a day. For most writers, that’s complete overkill. This would only be useful if you make your living using photos.

Don’t be fooled by the lower prices for “credits”. On Fotolia, you can get 10 credits for only $14. However, a normal M-sized photo costs 5 credits and a XXL costs 20+. The best bet is a monthly subscription. I sign up for a month when I know I need lots of images, then I suspend my membership until I want to download more.

Shutterstock does one thing better than Fotolia: search feature. It is significantly easier to search for photos on Shutterstock than Fotolia. So here’s what I do. I search for images on Shutterstock. This will tell you the name of the artist/photographer. Then search the photographer on Fotolia. Almost always, you’ll find the same photo on Fotolia for less than half price.


Creative Commons Summary: 
Under terms of use, you will often find the image is subject to Creative Commons Usage. That means you are free to copy, redistribute, or adapt the image for any purpose including commercial usage. The only restriction is that you must attribute the original image to the original creator.

Public Domain Summary:
Free, unrestricted usage. It often means copyright on the image has expired or the creator has waived their copyright protection.



Price: Free
Login: Not required to download fonts
What You Can Use It For: Varies. Most, but not all, are open to commercial use. Check the license on each font
Pros: Thousands of fonts. Useful for adding text to webgraphics or cover art
Cons: I haven’t found any yet. My only warning is don’t use fancy fonts just because you can. Normally, simple fonts work better.

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo


  1. Staff, the site has free and without registration images for low them.

  2. Hi,
    Nice informative Article, Please also check out for thousands of unique public domain photos, especially travel photos. Appreciate it if you
    could add it to your list. Thanks.


Share Button