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The eight best stock photo collections for your brand

Resources vary by quality and ideal business use


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As I reflect on the stock image collections I frequent, my mind's eye drifts to an image of the small, innocent child, mid-laugh as he gazes paradoxically at the single flowering sprout of broccoli stabbed between the tongs of his fork, against an immaculate white kitchen.

Out of curiosity, when would this image benefit, let alone fit, you or your business, whatsoever? Also, would someone please fill me in on what is so damn funny about a stalk of broccoli?

The answer, you ask? NEVER.

There's nothing natural (besides maybe the veggie in question) or moving about this photograph. It's cheesy and generic, at best. It doesn't make you think or feel anything, like so many stock images that have come before it.

Stock photography is too often uninspired, lazy or careless. On top of the mediocre quality, they usually take time and money to track down.

Photographs are often the first impression your business makes to hopeful clients and customers, and marketing is about communicating your value to a customer. Look for style and brand alignment, relevance and authenticity for images that accompany your brand. 

Stock photography doesn't have to dissolve your identity. It can reflect your company's work ethic, time investment and attention to detail. My motto is: quality of work reflects quality of life.

To help your business improve your images and experience, I've scoured the web and curated what I consider to be the eight highest quality free photo resources to have at the tips of your fingers. *Drum roll, please*

1. RAWPIXEL

Offering free design resources with new content added daily, RAWPixel has realistic imagery that isn't impractically utopian. The searchable, inspirational images provoke emotion and come with filters ranging from soft to rugged. 

2. GRATISOGRAPHY

This high-resolution collection was built by an artist and web designer and captures powerful images, requiring no attribution. Perfect for commercial projects, photos are added weekly and broken into easy-to-navigate categories.

3. UPSPLASH

Breathtaking landscapes are a brilliant tool to leave viewers daydreaming. For tourism or lifestyle companies, perhaps a winding mountain road or stargazing night scene will strike your fancy. Every 10 days, 10 new, royalty-free photos appear on the site, ripe for the taking. Though they may not be searchable, it seems unlikely you will be able to pick just one.

4. IM FREE

Sebastiaan ter Burg

This small but substantial library of premium images is also a website builder with templates, icons and images of people, technology, sports and fitness, food and beverage. Come here to build a web presence holistically, rather than just a marketing strategy. Check the licensing per photo.

5. PEXELS

This site is great for brands who want to convey a more personal look and feel. Though the subject matter covered is varied, the photography manages to avoid the ambiguity so often associated with stock images. 

6. PUBLIC DOMAIN ARCHIVE

This site has the tagline: "Everything you need for your creative projects," and I tend to believe it. Crisp and diverse, the photographs are primarily of modern life scenes, in fast-paced settings and mother nature, alike.

7. PICJUMBO

For local restaurants or natural food companies (here's looking at you, Boulder) this site is most certainly worth a browse. Easy to navigate and high resolution images of food and consumer products are plentiful here, along with other product shots and candid scenes.

8. PIXABAY

You can download, modify and distribute Pixabay's collection freely and for commercial applications. With an easy-to-use search feature to find photos of business and finance to education and emotions, these images range from brilliant to cartoon-like.

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Richard Dixon

Richard Dixon is the art director of ColoradoBiz magazine. A North Carolina native with a degree from the University of Mississippi Oxford and a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He balances his career with a love for fly fishing, skiing and travel. Contact him at rdixon@cobizmag.com.

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