How to get Free, Quality Royalty Free Images

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As a writer, at some point you will need a cover. As a designer, you need a lot of images for your work. There are many “free” sources for images. Unfortunately, many (not all) are at a lower quality required for a digital ebook or print book. No matter your image choice, remember you run the risk of someone else using the same image for their book.

In most cases, sign up for a photo service is free, and this allows access to the free images offered as well as other tips and resources.

Quality is Key

I use several image companies for my design needs. They range from low to high on their costs per image. However, all are royalty-free, and high quality. And (almost all) offer a free image each month or week. Pretty cool, huh?

Here are just few of the stock places I use:

Shutterstock.com
They offer a larger selection of high quality images and hundreds of new imaes are added every day. The perk is the free weekly image. At an average cost of $20/image, that is really nice.

They have a pay-as-you go service or several subscription levels. For the cost, Subscriptions are best but it can be exhausting trying to obtain the daily limit. I chose the one month for $249US, which allowed me 25 images per day. That’s 750 images, which equates to $3US per image – no matter the size.

I recommend you order your Subscription in the middle of the day, like 1 pm. Your subscription starts immediately and runs for 30 days. By choosing the middle of the day, this allows you to download part of your images in the afternoon and the rest in the morning.

In the afternoon, I usually add images in I am interested in into a Lightbox. Then decide to download the next morning. This also works well if I have a client meeting in the AM, which then allows me to search and download images for projects immediately.

  • “Free Photo of the Week” – Free image lower right of screen under “New and Noteworthy”
  • The cost per images is almost $20 if you choose one at a time.
  • They offer subscriptions or pay as you go service.
  • They are high quality and you can download comp (or watermarked, lower resolution images) to test in design mockups.
  • You can save images into lightboxes for purchase later
  • They offer subscriptions or pay as you go service.

Canstockphoto.com – this is almost identical to Bigstockphoto.com. In fact, many contributors submit the same images to both locations.

  • Free Image download on the main page when you are logged in.
  • The cost per images is minimal ranging from about $ 1US to $10 US depending on the format you purchase.
  • They are high quality and you can download comp (or watermarked, lower resolution images) to test in design mockups.
  • You can save images into lightboxes for purchase later
  • They offer subscriptions or pay as you go service.

Bigstockphoto.com – Same as above as well as:

  • Big Stock offers a free image under Browse > Free Image of the Week. (Part of their 52 card Pick-up game to reveal a % discount on purchases.)
  • Big Stock Image credits EXPIRE.

Other Sources

Free Sources

  • FreeDigitalPhotos.net – To use the images for free you must attribute FreeDigitalPhotos.net where the photo is used. Otherwise pay $3 for a small version and up to $10 for a large version for usage.
  • Clker.com – royalty free public domain clipart.
  • StockPhotosForFree.com

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Comments

  1. says

    Great info,, Suzanne. Have you ever used the Dreamstime photo service? They seem to have excellent selection, non-expiring credits, a subscription service, and good prices. Not saying they are better or worse than the others — but my wife and I have used them in cover design work, and we were happy with the results.

    • says

      Gary,

      I have used Dreamstime occasionally. Right now my focus has been Shutterstock, but I seem to have numerous photo places I utilize, so that my images are fresh and unique.

      Thanks for the recommendation!

      Suz

  2. says

    Great article! I am always on the look out for good sources for Kindle cover images. Another source I recommend (and use extensively) is Fotopedia creative commons search feature.

    For instance here is a search for the term “beauty”:
    http://www.fotopedia.com/search?q=beauty&human_license=reuse_commercial_modify

    Most of these are OK to use commercially, but it’s always a good practice to credit the author with a link back to his blog.

    Hope this helps,
    Bertrand

    • says

      Bertrand, I have not personally used Fotopia. The key to remember is creating a file that can be sued for both print and digital should the client request it sometime own the road. Most authors opt for digital only, but print can offer more opportunities for sales and should not be overlooked. (Print means a higher resolution (at least 300 dpi) for the image.)

      I design expecting the client may eventually want a print book, even if they only request an ebook cover — that way I am prepared if/when they want it.

      Thanks — Suz