Stock images: what if I don’t want to pay?

“Free stock images” is a strangely common request. There are valid reasons – sometimes as generic photos to create an atmosphere, or temporary fill-in photos (especially since COVID kept halting commercial photo shoots because of lockdowns).

But free stock images aren’t just “go and use as you please”. They also don’t come from a Google image search (we beg you: please don’t use images you find from Google – you need permission from the original website they were posted on).

If you are one of our clients, we share a range of stock image libraries with you which match your needs – some of these can have paid licenses attached, while some offer free licenses. If you are looking for stock images on your own, we recommend you read the license that comes with the image, as this will explain how you can use it (and usage varies greatly, depending on the library/image source).

Standard types of licenses (at a basic overview) include:

  • Commercial: can be used for businesses and organisations. This is always what to look for first.
  • Personal: for personal use only. Cannot be used to generate an income. Avoid these as you will be in breach of the license if you use them for a business in any form.
  • Public Domain: no restrictions, no copyright claim. This usually applies to very old images which are out of copyright age limits, however you cannot claim them as your own.
  • Creative Commons: the images may be used but in compliance with the stated restrictions. These restrictions vary but usually include the need to attribute/credit the original photographer.
  • Royalty Free: you do not need to pay ongoing royalties for using the image, but there may be limitations imposed on how you use the image (eg. only on the internet, or a certain amount of print runs before you are required to pay). Some royalty free image libraries charge a nominal one-off per image licensing fee, but many are completely free to use.

If you ever get stuck being unsure about the license connected to an image you want to use, feel free to contact us and we’ll help you with checking if you can use a particular image for your needs.