woman searching for images

Images can portray a feeling and get a message across in just a few seconds. You may need images for your website, social media posts, printed brochures, or packaging.

Most small businesses and startups don’t have a huge budget to hire a photographer or pay for expensive stock images. We’ve put together a list of a few places where you can find free or low-cost images to get you started. 

Do not assume that any image you find on the web is free for you to use. It’s most likely off-limits for you to take an image from another website or Google search and use it as your own because the copyright belongs to someone else. 

Here are low-cost (yet completely legal) ways to find suitable images for your brand.

Free images for your website or marketing

Public Domain

Images in the public domain don’t hold a copyright, either because they never had one or expired. Many free and stock sites have public domain images available for search. Almost anyone can use these images for free.

Openverse for Creative Commons images

With over 6,000-million images available to search, this can be a good resource. These images are free, but you must be careful to use approved images for commercial use. Also, some require that you credit the creator, and some limit how you can edit or display the image.

Free stock image sites

Many of these free sites have ads for paid stock photos built into them, so you may have to filter your searches if you only want free images. And be prepared to spend some more time pouring over images that are cheesy or low quality.


This site has decent-quality images with a search and filter function that makes finding images that match your brand style easier than digging through loads of pages of images. You can filter by photo or vector, color, and orientation.


The quality of the images on this site is quite good. They also have a lot of images of current events and world images. 


Extensive range of images and is pretty simple to navigate. Expect to have ads pop up after each download, though. They also have a selection of videos too.


You may have to dig to find higher-quality images on this site, but there are some gems. Additionally, they have sound and music available for use too. 

Low-cost royalty-free stock image sites

Paying for photos can be pricey but maybe worth it if you only need to buy a few images. 

Overall, the quality of images is higher on paid stock photo sites, and there are no questions about licensing and ownership. They typically have extensive collections to choose from and have features such as artboards or lightboxes that allow you to save groups of images. 

The most popular and well known that have lower prices are iStockphoto.com and Shutterstock.com. Both have low-cost stock imagery for sale. They both have their own “search by image” tool that allows you to upload an image to find a similar image in their collection. You can purchase them one at a time or as a subscription plan which is helpful if you need a lot of images to get you started.


iStock offers photos, vector illustrations, and video. The search function on the site is easy to use and filter by type and has categories and trending searches. They have two purchasing options: subscription-based with a set number of downloads per month or buying credit packs and then using the credits to purchase your images. Images range from 1 to 3 credits for signature images.


Shutterstock also offers photos, vector illustrations, video, music, 3d objects, and pre-built templates. Shutterstock offers a “Usage score” to let you know how popular the image is. Shutterstock focuses on monthly subscriptions for ongoing image needs and has a limited set of on-demand packs when you only need a few images. Their subscription model ranges from as few as 10 to 750 downloads per month.

Images from your current subscriptions

You may already have access to photos with the tools you are using.


Canva has a mix of stock photos for free or available for purchase. If you are trying to create social media graphics or printed brochures working in Canva, using their images may be an excellent way to work.

Squarespace and Wix

If you use a website building tool, you may already have access to stock photos with your subscription or hosting. 

Squarespace users can search for free images from Unsplash or licensed images for purchase from Getty right in their tools. Wix has an image library that is free to use. However, the images can only be used on your Wix site. 

Other marketing tools

Many of the tools you might use to create your e-newsletter or print a brochure or postcard have imagery. Just remember that you usually cannot use that image for other purposes. 

Create your photos for your small business

Sometimes it’s best to take your own photos. You can’t use pre-made stock photos if you need a picture of your store, your employees, or your products.

Most people are capable of taking high-resolution images with their cellphone these days. Make sure you get good lighting and think carefully about the backdrop for your photos. If you need help, there are many online courses, from basics to advanced digital photography. 

This DIY approach means you can take photos whenever and wherever you like. You’ll always be ready to add an image to a blog or a social media post without outside expense.