More often than not I find myself meeting with a prospective client and telling them one of the biggest keys to designing a stunning website are the images that you use. You can have the most elaborate interface, with parallax scrolling, fluid and responsive resizing capabilities, and the best color pallet possible. But if your images were taken on a disposable camera and then scanned, your website is going to look more like a web-fright.
If you’re dealing with a start-up, or a smaller client who may be on somewhat of a tight budget, the funds just aren’t there to hire a professional photographer to come in and take standard photos for you to use on the site. There are tons of places and printing services these days for finding good, high resolution, professionally edited photos for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lens man.
Not only does iStock Photo have an image for just about everything you can think of, you can also get free images. Sure, it may be a shot in the dark that it’s one that will work with your design. But hey, I’m a sucker for free stuff! They don’t just offer images, you can also use them as a source for illustrations, audio files, videos, and Flash videos.
You may have seen the name Getty Images watermarked, or in the caption of, some news stories you’ve read on various news sites. Like iStock, Getty Images don’t stop at just images, they offer music and audio files as well. Unlike iStock, Getty has a pricing scale depending on what the image is going to be used for.
The name says it all with Free Digital Photos. The selection may not be as vast as some of the other sites, but for the price you really can’t complain. Free Digital Photos offers both pictures and Illustrations and browsing the selection is extremely easy with the navigation on the left side. There’s also a search feature, in case you know just what you’re looking for.
Offering over 17 million royalty-free stock photos, I think it’s safe to say you’ll be able to find the image you’re looking for on Shutterstock. There are a couple pricing options, you can buy a membership and have a monthly limit of 750 images, or you can buy on demand by the photo or by five photos. Shutterstock also offers a free photo and vector image each week.
123RF offers over 12 million royalty free stock photos, and counting. You can purchase credits and download by the image, or buy a subscription and download like crazy. The site is incredibly easy to navigate and once you find the image you want the pricing and size options are right there, no need to click through a bunch of other links to figure out the cost.
Free Pixels is, well, exactly that, free stock images. The site navigates a lot more like a discussion forum, but for the cost of the product you really can’t complain. If you can’t find the photo you need on their site, they have a search box that automatically searches the Shutterstock site for you.
Deposit Photos offers the pay per image or subscription plan, and even has a free trial subscription. You can search for vectors and images if you know exactly what you came there to find, or using the hovering slide bar to browse by category.
Fotolia is a site cut from the same stone as Shutterstock, as they look nearly identical. Along with images you can also get vectors and videos. They also feature images of the day and seasonal searches that will help you to get your creative juices flowing.
Pixmac Pixmac makes it clear what they do, they sell pictures. And with low price pay per image options as well as some very affordable subscriptions options, I’d be willing to bet they sell quite a few of them. You can search for the image you’re looking for, or browse by one of the twelve categories they’ve broken their selection down to.
One thing that I really enjoyed about the Dreamstime website was that it had an abundance of images on the homepage, laid out to give the page some design elements. You can click on the thumbnail images behind the search bar to jump directly to that image, or you can search for what you’re looking for. It’s that simple.
Stock photo sites are a great resource for the freelance developer. Being able to download affordable, top-quality, professionally edited photos to use in a design will help save you all sorts of time and money. The other nice thing about stock photo sites is that you can use comp versions of the images in your design comps. That way your client will have a better idea of how you intend for their site to look, rather than showing them a layout with a black square and the word “picture” written on it.
About the author: with over ten years in the freelance web design and writing fields, Scott Stanton has had his finger on the beating pulse of the industry’s hottest design trends and bends for the past decade. Scott regularly writes for Wix.com the free website builder. Follow him on Twitter @TheScottStanton.