Images can make or break a website. This article provides a well researched list of the best free and cheap stock image sites on the internet.

When photos and illustrations are well chosen and relevant to the content, they greatly improve your customer’s experience and enjoyment. Irrelevant eye-candy serves no purpose and is an unnecessary distraction. So chose thoughtfully.

Using the sites listed below you should have no problem finding free and cheap images that bring your pages alive. 

Free Images

Stock.Xchng  – 350k photos contributed by 25k+ photographers. The site is clean, professional and easy to use. They cleverly have ‘premium photos’ which link you to StockXpert, but there are plenty of excellent free images within this site. This tends to be my first port of call for free photos and illustrations. Take a look at their most popular images – Only 2,200 images, mostly focused on places and landscapes. Poor looking site, but there are some very professional photos. Take a look at their most popular images .  – This site has been around since 1996. It has a limited number of photos, but many of them are very high quality. The site is difficult to search and navigate, but if you put in the effort you can be rewarded with some great free images. Have a look at their image archive  – The site is a genuine community for photographers and designers so they take pride in their work. Just under 10k images provided by just over 2k photographers. Free for personal and non-commercial use. One of the best free image resources on the web. Their ‘Premium Images’ divert you to paid sites. Take a look at their most downloaded images


FreeDigitalPhotos.Net  – Photos for use on the web are free. Print quality photos are $10. A few gems amongst some amateur stock. .  – 114k images in 148 categories that are free for online use. About 10% are very good, so worth taking a look. Not a pretty site, but works OK. Take a look at their most popular images 


Other Free Sites

Fotogenika  – Limited categories and choice. A handful of good images. Slow site.  – 2,500 free images. Most are pretty ordinary, but you just might find some that meet your needs. – Some good texture photos. Other images amateur, which is a shame because the site is much more professional than many of the free photo sites.

Note: If you use free images please credit the photographer and link back to their site. This will encourage them to provide more free photos.  


$1-$10 Royalty Free Images


StockXpert  – Late to the game, but has caught up quickly. Claims to be adding 10,000 new photos a week across its 150 categories. From $1 a photo. Many semi-professional images. 

Fotolia – Over 3.5m photos starting at $1 each. Minimum credits $20. Very good search capability. Photographers can set a price to sell exclusive rights to a photo of between $100 and $2000. Great site with excellent images. 

iStockPhoto  – Bought by Getty Images, who are the biggest stock photo company in the world. They have 2.8m images (March 2008) They were the market leader, but have lost ground to Fotolia and StockXpert. US customers pay $1 for a credit, UK customers pay £1.


BigStockPhoto – 1.8m images. Prices start at $2.50 for 1 credit and go down to $1 if you buy 300 credits. Nice clean, easy-to-use site. 


Dreamstime – 2.5m images. Some are free, whilst most can be purchased from as little as $0.26. The pricing page is ridiculously (and unnecessarily) complicated. Some very professional photos. Worth keeping an eye on. Take look at the most popular photos of the day  – if you are specifically looking for vector images, rather than photos, this site is worth a look. You will find a lot of royalty free vector illustrations that are not available elsewhere. Prices range from $1 - $3. Most popular VectoStock images

123RF – 1.6m images, many of which are exclusive to this site. They have a reasonable selection of free images which photographer’s offer to promote their paid-for portfolios. Credits start at a $1 each and can go down to around $0.65 if you buy 300 credits. They also have subscription plans for heavy users. Take a look at their most downloaded images


Bit More Expensive, But Great Quality – Owned by Corbis, the second biggest stock photo company in the world. Around 150k photos. The quality shines through, but expect to pay more. Images start at $1 and go up to $50. The photographer picks the price and believe me price is not necessarily a reflection of quality. There are some fantastic images for between $1 and $10, and some very ordinary shots at $50. If you are planning on downloading a lot of photos go for the $199/month subscription. The site is easy to navigate and search. Take a look at a selection of their most viewed images  


More Expensive, But Very Professional

Getty Images  - Getty is the biggest stock photo company in the world by some way. However they have been used to licensing images on an expensive per use basis. They are just coming to terms with the new online world of microstock sites. They now offer 25k low resolution, web-only images for $49 each. If you want an image on your home page that really knocks your visitor’s socks off, it could be worth investing in a Getty image. Search the Getty site



Now you have no excuse for not having a great looking website with an exciting range of photos that complement your articles.

Please let us know on Facebook or Twitter about any good image sites that you have used and we will keep this list updated.