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How to source images for your website

free stock images for website

How to source images

So you are ready for a beautiful new website, but have no idea where to find high quality images that won’t break the bank? Fret not; I have done some research and have put together this comprehensive guide to help you out, no matter what your budget.


If you are on a tight budget, taking your own shots and using free images where you can makes sense.

1. DIY

Some shots are so straightforward that with a little practise you could get some good shots with just your digital camera and maybe some lighting aids. If you are shooting for print, just remember to set your camera to its highest resolution and preferably Camera Raw format or TIFF (best to avoid JPEGs as they reduce the quality to make the file size smaller). This will give your designer more options when editing the photos.

I RECOMMEND: has put together this handy guide on DIY product photography, and Web Designer Depot have shared their tips on how to take awesome portrait photos here.
GOOD FOR: Simple product shots, and head and shoulder portrait shots.

2. Free Stock Images

If you have a clear idea of what you need, and don’t mind not having a unique image, this can be a quick way to find some great images. To my great delight, a lot of very cool FREE stock photography sites have been popping up recently, offering awesome, high quality images to use however you like, without attribution! It’s almost too good to be true, but long may it last! This is a great way to source images if you are working with a limited budget, and can do a bit of creative image editing.

I RECOMMEND: unsplash, Pixabay, Gratisography, death to the stock photo, SplitShire
GOOD FOR: Images that are less prominent and where you can get away with a generic or mood shot.

3. Creative Commons

Creative Commons images are generally free, but they all have different rules about how they can be used, and they often require attribution (in the form of a link or credit line next to where you are using the image). When using these sites, make sure you check each image to determine if it’s available under Creative Commons and check this infographic about how to correctly attribute images.

I RECOMMEND:, Foter, Flickr,
GOOD FOR: Smaller, secondary or blog images, and when you need a more generic shot that conveys a general idea more than say, a specific product.

  • Putting your budget towards your main images and using free images where you can makes business sense
  • Allows you to use a temporary solution while growing your marketing budget
  • It can be very time-consuming to search for the right image (that is also the right size and quality)
  • To make the image suitable for your purposes, it may need a bit of Photoshopping
  • When you source images online, you run the risk of someone else having the exact same image
  • Online images tend to be a bit generic in order to appeal to as many customers as possible
  • When you do finally find the right image, it may not necessarily be at the size or resolution you need


1. Commercial Stock Images

Stock images are shot by professional photographers, and are sold or licensed for use to the buyer or licensee. Different pricing options are available, depending on the size and resolution you want (low resolution for web, and high resolution for print), and the intended use of the image. Most stock image sites will let you try before you buy – by downloading a low resolution, watermarked sample or “comp”, that you can use in your design to make absolutely sure this is the image you want. In order to buy the license you will have to create an account and supply your company details, and therefore it is generally best to buy the photo yourself, and then send it to your designer to use. (This way you could also claim it as a business expense in your tax return).

I RECOMMEND: Veer, iStockphoto, Stocksy, The Picture Pantry, and StockFood.
GOOD FOR: Big, main images, specific one-off shots too difficult to shoot yourself. These are especially good for web projects as web quality images (low resolution, 72dpi) are generally a lot cheaper than print quality (high resolution, 300dpi).


Professional photographers have the skills and experience to understand your creative direction. They also know how to achieve the latest photographic trends, and how different photographic styles can enhance your brand. Furthermore, they have lots of fancy equipment and cool tricks up their sleeves (like light shaping tools) to make your work, products or people look amazing. As if that weren’t enough, most photographers will also offer advanced image editing to further enhance and finish your images. There’s no two ways about it – getting beautifully styled shots taken can really take your design to the next level, and the value added to your business will far outweigh the cost of the shoot in the long run.

I RECOMMEND: The Pretty Blog has this great directory of creative lifestyle photographers across South Africa.
GOOD FOR: Unique and creative shots with interesting lighting and composition.

  • It will make you look super professional, and help you outshine your competition
  • You know your images will be unique
  • You can use authentic settings and props giving your images, and your brand, more credibility
  • You get the size and resolution you want
  • You own the copyright, so you can use as them as often and across as many of your media and materials as you like
  • You save time searching through online image libraries
  • It is a one-off initial investment that can be expensive, and it can be time-consuming to plan and style multiple shots
  • There is a fair bit of pressure to get the shots right (you will be stuck with them!)

TIP: To make sure your photographer understands what look you are going for, why not create a Pinterest board with your ideas on composition, angles etc? Also, use any time left once your shoot is done to take a few extra, generic shots that can be used for blog posts or background images. The photographer is all yours for those few hours, so make the most of it!

I’m sure there are more ways to source great images for your website, and it really all depends on the kind of website you are building and the industry you’re in, but this should help get you started. Once you have all your website’s images and content together, you are ready to brief your designer and create a stunning new website!

For tips on briefing your designer for your next design project, check out my post called What is a Creative Brief?

Got any questions, or anything to add? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

Happy hunting!


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