Visuals are incredibly important in digital media. They have an unbeatable level of impact and immediacy, and we can only read so many tiny words on glowing screens before our eyes start to become very irritated indeed.
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to spend a lot of time rummaging around the depths of the internet in an effort to drag up the perfect photo, drawing or diagram for your online store or marketing campaign.
Luckily, we know our way around pretty well, and we’d like to pass some tips onto you.
Let’s take a trip around the online world and stop at some of the best places for grabbing high-quality images, no matter what you’re looking for. We’ll keep the cost down, too, with plenty of cheap or completely free options.
Recommended reading: How To Market With Images
Whether you’re looking to spruce up your staff’s desktop aesthetics or find a great backdrop for some copy or a piece of content, backgrounds are the best. Here are the sites we like to use:
For many years now, we’ve taken desktop backgrounds from InterfaceLift’s wallpaper section. The images are free, almost exclusively of tremendous quality, and provided in plenty of sizes and aspect ratios to suit various platforms. Perfect for jazzing up your online store’s landing pages.
It’s updated pretty regularly and the archive dates back pretty far, so you’re unlikely to run out of shots to try out. Sure, the search is limited, and there aren’t tags for things like color or topic, but the imagery is fantastic, so why complain?
The interface on Desktop Nexus isn’t the slickest, but the assortment of vivid backgrounds is formidable.
You have all the categories and tags you could feasibly want to help you sort through the full range, plus it automatically detects your screen resolution and can size your selected files accordingly. Scaling up an old low-resolution image won’t look all that great, of course, but it’s really handy to have that feature available.
They’re everywhere, but they’re not all created equal. Stock photos fill the gaps in our content that we lack the resources or commitment to fill ourselves. We tend to get ours from these sites:
Whichever particular industry or niche your business fits into, it’s great to have a range of high-quality photos to use as header images on blog posts, visual aids for social posts, or to spice up email campaigns.
Burst’s category pages give solid selections of free photos in neat segments that make it easy to fill specific slots in your copy. The clear tagging and attribution is another perk that makes your job of hunting for suitable photos that much easier. Oh, and you won’t find any sponsored images from other sites, so every image you see is free.
StockSnap has a great selection of stock images to scroll through and is a strong choice if you’re looking for eye-catching visuals for your business’s site. Particularly useful is its page of trending images, as it gives some neat insight into what people are probably writing about (and makes it a little easier to avoid using the very same stock image that is cropping up on hundreds of blogs worldwide).
You’ve probably used an image from Wikipedia at some point, so why not go directly to the media source?
Wikimedia Commons is a gigantic resource for freely usable media that you can peruse at your leisure. It isn’t great for anything abstract or broad, but if you’re looking for something on a particular product, niche, animal, or similarly-targeted topic, you’ll likely find a smattering of relevant images here.
Great web design relies heavily on using top-notch icons that look good and communicate meaning efficiently. If you’re looking for something in particular for your e-commerce store, try these sites:
Attribution may be a necessary evil in most cases, but it’s still fiddly and something we’d all rather not have to think about if possible.
Thankfully, iconmonstr doesn’t require any attribution for its tasteful monochromatic icons. The search is great, the range is extensive, everything looks solid, and you can download your selection as a vector or bitmap or just grab the embed code.
Google’s Material Design philosophy has been extremely influential, both in Google projects (most notably Android) and throughout the design world.
Handily, you can grab their minimal icons for free from their Material.io site. You can use them through an icon font, or download them in your preferred format— and while attribution is preferred, it isn’t required!
For clean, crisp images, vector files are often the best; they take up relatively little space, but they’ll scale to any resolution without getting blurry. Take a look at these sites:
Vectorportal retains the Shutterstock suggestions but uses an admittedly-odd “every image file contains promotional text that you can delete upon opening” tactic instead of offering premium items. However, it does have some great segmentation for its selection of vector images and layouts.
It may lean heavily on the paid Shutterstock suggestions and premium items, but Vecteezy at least provides a solid filter for showing only the files with standard or Creative Commons licensing.
With the decent tagging and the varied selection, it’s a great place to check.
Sometimes you need an image to pattern something or provide fill, and that’s when Subtle Patterns is a great destination. It’s essentially what the name suggests: subtle vector patterns, free to download and use.
If you need high-quality stock images for your company’s website or online store, these resources are the first places you should head.
However, you may not always find what you’re looking for. There’s the option of paying to license images through sites like Shutterstock, but when it’s entirely possible to get high-quality free resources, why settle? Instead, you can narrow your search where you’re already looking.
By getting more specific with your search strings on these sites and in Google, you can often hit upon the perfect images that just weren’t tagged exactly as you expected them to be. So don’t be afraid to experiment and keep searching!