When it comes to marketing your business online, because of the sheer volume of competition in today's marketplace, every single touch-point your business has with prospective customers is important to how your brand will be perceived. As a result, the graphics, the logo, the copy, the videos and other pieces of content your company publishes all play a critical role to that overall perception. As a result, posting lackluster content means you run the risk of coming across as out of touch, cheap and even unprofessional

One of the most significant components of content marketing is images, which oftentimes comes in the form of stock photography. Yet, the problem many entrepreneurs run into is most stock photos are either overpriced, corny, or both. Lucky for everyone, there are solutions out there today.

Here's where you can find high quality stock photos for free, why it matters and how to select the best option.

Why It Matters

Today, consumers are so overwhelmed with options on where to spend their money that many are trying to find a reason not to buy your product or service, whether consciously or subconsciously. That's is exactly why imagery has more impact today than ever before.

If your photography is low-quality, then consumers will naturally question whether or not other aspects of your business are also low-quality. After all, if a boutique clothing company can't differentiate between great imagery and poor imagery, how do they expect customers to believe they will spend the time necessary to create high-quality designs or stellar customer service? 

Additionally, according to Hubspot (an industry-leading platform and community for sales inbound marketing professionals), posts with images drive 2.3 times more engagement on Facebook and 1.5 times more retweets on Twitter relative to posts without images, illustrating their significance and effectiveness.

Where to Find High-quality Stock Photos for Free

Here are six sites where you can discover and download high-quality, watermark-free stock photography at no cost. 

  1. Unsplash
  2. Pexels
  3. Pixabay
  4. PicJumbo
  5. Burst
  6. Gratisography

I've ranked these in the order of the services I use most frequently. Given the selection and the wide variety of images available on Unsplash and Pexels, I usually sift through those websites first when searching for images for blog posts, social posts and more.

How to Select the Right Image

When trying to decide which stock photos to use, there are a few things to consider. 

Is the image both relevant and captivating? It's crucial that the image you select is related to what your piece of content is covering, but also that it's alluring enough to catch the eyes of your target audience and cause them to stop scrolling down their news feeds to learn more.

Oftentimes, people will settle on the first relevant stock photo to come up in their search out of convenience. Yet, in many cases the gold is buried deep, so take some time to find the perfect image for your content. Look through a variety of photos and different platforms before making your decision.

Have a lot of people or businesses used that photo? Because stock photos technically aren't original or unique by their very definition, it's important for you to try your very best to at least give the illusion of originality. One of the easiest ways to do this is by making sure the stock photo you're planning on using hasn't been passed around the internet like a hot potato.

If every brand and their dog has used a certain image and you use it for your own content, you will potentially come across as out of touch, cheap and inauthentic. To combat this, do some digging before settling on an image.

Is it corny? My rule of thumb when it comes to selecting stock photography is simple: if it looks like it could've been featured in an eighth grade textbook, it's too cheesy to use. Some red flags for stock photos include overly expressive actors and actresses playing out the concept of the image, graphics that look straight out of 1998 Microsoft Paint, unrealistic situations being depicted in the photo and other similar characteristics.

Selecting high-quality images to be used in your content is critical to making sure your brand appears polished and professional in the eyes of both current customers and prospective customers. While most of the best images available will cost you money, there are some free options available to help you get by, and my personal favorites are listed above. Best of luck.