Whether you’re building your own website from scratch or using a template, adding royalty-free stock photos or illustrations is a great way to dress up your web site … or blog. But what about the cost? You can buy beautiful, high-resolution photos and other images at Comstock, Ablestock, Digital Vision and other big stock photography houses, but these will cost you a minimum of around $50 apiece!
Happily, there are other legitimate options for web designers on a budget to obtain royalty-free stock photos!
Morguefile.com has an enormous selection of stock photos (along with some artwork) which you can download for free. While you can find some good-quality images here, there are also a lot that look like snapshots taken by your Aunt Harriet. Some of these may be salvagable if you have decent Photoshop skills and don’t mind spending some time knocking out backgrounds or dodging and burning to fix lighting problems – whether it’s worth the trouble is up to you.
I find searching this site very time-consuming – the search itself is adequate but the results are returned as tiny thumbnails that it’s hard to rule a photo in or out without clicking on it to display the full sized image.
Cons: Can be difficult to search. Photo quality is hit or miss.
Features: Lightboxes, forum, basic and advanced search.
One of the first sources of royalty-free stock photos, and still the best. Images at iStockPhoto aren’t free but they are cheap, with nearly all web-sized (approx. 800×600) photos costing just $1 apiece. Higher resolutions are available for similarly modest fees, with extra large (approx. 4200×2800) images costing only $10! Despite the price, there is some real quality work to be found here – their guidelines for photo submissions are very strict and it shows! The site is well organized with useful search/preview features. In addition to photos, you’ll also find vector illustrations and Flash.
Be sure to pay attention to the license terms – there are some uses (such as use of photos in templates for resale or mass-produced items like t-shirts) which are forbidden under the standard license. However, a more liberal, extended license is available for most images for just a few dollars more.
Pros: High quality work, huge selection of images including photos, vector illustrations and Flash, slick, full-featured site.
Cons: Images are not free. Other than that, no complaints.
Features: Free image of the week, lightboxes, articles and forum, “buy request” (request a certain type of image from the contributing members),
Another free source of royalty-free stock photos. While there are some “clunkers” here, the overall image quality at Stock.Xchng is higher than most other free image sources and you can search or browse photos by rating or number of downloads – a big time-saver for finding the best photos!
Pros: Large selection of free images in all resolutions. Overall quality is quite good.
Features: Forum, advanced search or browse by category.
Also by the owners StockXchng is StockXpert – a fairly new site that is similar in concept to iStockPhoto (modest download fees, higher quality images). StockXpert site feels rather “half-baked”, with a missing customer FAQ among other flaws, I personally prefer the selection and site features at iStockPhoto, it’s still worth a look (Rating: B-).
Whatever image source you use, always pay attention to the license terms and please never “borrow” an image from someone else’s site without their permission.
[tags]web design, graphic design, stock-photos, images, webdesign, blog[/tags]