August 12, 2010

Top 10 sites for free or low-cost photos

stock photo thumbnail images

Quality, affordable choices for your nonprofit include Fotolia, morgueFile, Bigstock

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, educators, foundations, businesses, individuals. This is part of Creating Media, our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and make media.

By Kim Bale
Socialbrite staff

We live in a visual age. Top-tier sites like Mashable and TechCrunch discovered long ago that blog posts accompanied by an image attract many more readers than posts without a photo. So nonprofits and cause organizations should always be on the lookout for rights-cleared photos that can be used on your website, blog, in your whitepapers or reports, in your multimedia slide show — anywhere you make media.

Searching for the perfect image to accompany a project or blog post can prove time-consuming and exhausting even before you factor in the costs, rights and licensing issues. While the emergence of royalty-free stock photography websites has alleviated the stress of licensing concerns, the millions upon millions of images available can often be overwhelming, given the difficulty of choosing which site to use and whether to purchase a single image, join a service or opt for free photos. (Royalty free means you need to pay only once to use the file multiple times.)

Relax! We’ve compiled this list of royalty-free websites to help you make an easy, informed choice. You may want to begin with our Free Photos Directory, a pretty fantastic standing resource at Socialbrite. Sometimes, though, a small fee will deliver big rewards. Regardless of the nature of the project — or the budget — these stock photo sites are sure to deliver. Some are free, others cost just a few dollars.

Which photo services do you like? Let us know in the comments below.

Free stock photo sites

Freerange Stock: A free community service

1Freerange Stock is a completely free stock photo community, supported by advertising revenue and showcasing photographs from talented photographers. Community members can browse the site, download photos for personal and commercial use and sign up to contribute their own work for a share of ad revenue. Create a free account and you can take advantage of their photo tutorials section, browse thousands of royalty-free images and download high-quality photos immediately. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Email their support team and they’ll search for the image in their offline archives!


morgueFile: Comb through free 200,000 images

2The morgueFile is home to a very user-friendly stock photography database of more than 200,000 images spanning a wide variety of subjects. Anyone can visit the site, browse and instantly download photos and participate in community bulletin boards, all for free. The morgueFile license lets you download and adapt photos for personal or commercial use without attribution, and all contributors to morgueFile agree to this license. Register with morgueFile to upload your own work and take advantage of their Portfolio and Organize features.


Stock Exchange: A free service from Getty Images

3Sign up for a free account at stock.xchng and begin browsing more than 350,000 free photos provided by more than 30,000 photographers. These numbers are constantly growing, making SXC one of the leading sites for free stock photography. Community members take part in frequent discussions to tackle site problems and collectively improve the website. Owned by Getty Images, SXC is tied to prominent names in photography and strives to remain ahead of the pack for royalty-free images.


Flickr/Creative Commons: Share the creativity

4This is where we always start: Arguably one of the most valuable resources for a nonprofit, Flickr: Creative Commons boasts more than 100 million Creative Commons licensed images. These images are divided into different CC licenses (explained here) — we recommend nonprofits use the Attribution, Attribution-NoDerivs or Attribution-ShareAlike license. Once you’ve picked your images, you can optionally return the favor by adding a Creative Commons license to your own works.

stockvault No registration needed

5Easily search more than 18,000 high-quality stock photos at The website’s design is appealing and its image library is easily searchable, bringing you one step closer to finding the perfect photo for your project. No registration is necessary to download these free images and to use their section of helpful Adobe Photoshop tutorials, though creating a free account will unlock special features like organizational lightboxes, photo comments and emailing options.

Low-cost stock photo sites

Angry protest - Fotolia


Fotolia: Nearly 2 million professionals

6Joining Fotolia’s community of more than 1.9 million professionals affords access to more than 9 million images and illustrations for sale as single downloads or part of a subscription package. Registration is free, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for in Fotolia’s free downloads, you can buy single images for as little as 75 cents each or 14 cents each with a subscription. Customize your purchase by selecting from image sizes and resolutions suitable for the Web or larger print projects, or take advantage of Fotolia’s selection of high-def videos and other works. Socialbrite’s John Haydon uses Fotolia on his blog. Continue reading

July 1, 2009

Video tutorial: How do I Twitter my Flickr photos?

John HaydonI caught a post on Twitter from Ian Wilker about feeding your Twitter stream with your Flickr activity. This is a great approach for businesses or non-profits that communicate their impact with images, but have limited time for social media marketing.

This process seemed so easy, I decided to screencast (above) while I connect my own Flickr and Twitter accounts.

Continue reading