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As a designer, you’re not always going to work with clients who are able to supply you with everything you need. Sometimes you might land that dream job, where you’re provided with hundreds of high-res images, others you might be told to ‘add photo of young girl’, with zero budget for stock imagery.

There’s nothing worse than cheesy photos – in my opinion, they make brands/organisations lose credibility and they just don’t feel as human. You want to feel a personality behind the brand, and slotting the same photos that your client’s competitors are using definitely isn’t ideal (another reason why the research phase is so important!).

On the flip side, there are some really incredible images on paid stock photography sites. And some incredibly weird ones you can’t imagine anyone finding a use for, let alone paying for (cue Buzzfeed’s Top 50 Unexplainable Stock Photos). But if your client doesn’t have the budget, unless you want the images coming out of pocket, you’re going to have to source some that are free from copyright restrictions.


It can be a pain – some of these sites lack search functionality, so you might need to scroll through a few pages before you find some gems! And you might have to go through a few different sites before you find what you’re looking for, but unless you’re well versed in magic, you don’t have much choice. In saying that though, what kind of animal doesn’t like browsing beautiful images?

So! Here are some favourites:

Most of the websites listed above are full of images that are free for commercial and personal use – some may require you to give credit, so always remember to check the site (and double check) the image you want to use. You can learn more about the different licenses and what they mean over at Creative Commons.