Free & Paid Stock Photo Sites for Epic Online Ads

Stock Photo Sites: If you had to hire a professional photographer, a big old bag of lights, some pretty models, and a fancy camera every time you wanted to run an ad online, you’d never make your money back, let alone build any form of lasting income.  

But, like all good things in life, there’s a quick digital fix ready and waiting to be unlocked. If you’re new to the world of Stock Photos and looking for a Royalty Free Site, then keep reading. We’ll take a little time to uncover and rate our pick for the best Stock Photo Sites moving into 2022. Some are entirely free, and some come with licensing. Still, every single one of these options will help you craft killer ad campaigns or stunning websites faster than you can say “Photographic Happiness!”

Best Practices when using Stock Photos in Ads 

Stock photos get a bad rap in certain circles. There’s always a fresh stream of purists shouting from the rooftops that all images need to be ORIGINAL! Not true! And besides,, who has time for that.  There are millions of royalty-free photos ready to be used on landing pages, websites, and campaigns. The trick is finding them. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when pulling photos from stock sites.

Site Credibility: 

Check the credibility of the site before downloading your images. Research the site owners and founders and make sure that the photos have a licensing agreement attached to them and no hidden fees or usage restrictions. Also, check where the images come from. Make sure the site always owns the rights to the photos they’re curating. Spend a little time researching the copyright consent and any restrictions that may come with using images that aren’t fully vetted. 

Check Your Licensing 

Depending on what you’re looking for, you can either opt to use stock images that are public domain (i.e., free to use) or royalty-free, where you’ll pay once-off to use the image with no further costs. These are the most common licensing models, but sites can impose other restrictions on usage in some cases.

Avoid Noticeable Images 

This one is a universal law. Avoid famous faces, brands, logos, landmarks, or trademarks if you’re running a campaign with stock images. More often than not, these images carry additional usage rights, where best-case scenario, they come at a higher cost, and worst, they might carry legal restrictions. 

Drive Home Your Offer

These may seem like givens, but always use well-lit photos that drive home your brand and complement the offer you’re running. Always use relevant, up-to-date, and high-resolution images that don’t have too much going on in the frame. When it comes to online ads, less is more, and you dont want your image to ever distract from the offer itself. 

Best practices covered, here’s our pick for the best Stock Photo Sites moving into 2022. Try them out and let us know what you think? Did we miss any? 

Free Stock Photo Sites

Free Stock Photo sites are all the rage. They comb through daily submissions and curate all the best photo archives on one simple platform. What’s in it for them? Well, they make a fair share of their margins hosting online ads and affiliating themselves with other sites. If you’re looking to craft killer landing pages, onsite campaigns, or social drives, then check out these FREE stock photo sites. 



This German-born stock image empire has been running at full speed since 2010. Home to over 2.4 million high res stock images, video, and music clips, Pixabay vets thousands of crowd-sourced photos per day and curates them on one visually appealing, easy-to-use platform. Pixabay’s images fall under the Creative Commons Zero license, which waives all red tape and allows the free distribution of otherwise copyrighted images. All they ask is that you give a shout-out to the picture taker on social media. 

The site has a prominent search bar at the top of the screen where you can type in keywords and browse an endless array of sub-categories. But it doesnt stop there. Hit the scroll down menu, and you’ll find a few additional categories split across video, vector, graphics, illustrations, music, sound effects, and more. 


pexels image

Home to around 1 million royalty-free images and 200 000 video files, Pexels is widely regarded as one of the leading Stock image sites in the world, free or otherwise. They curate and house a wide variety of crowd-sourced stock photos across every topic imaginable. Like Pixabay, their platform is regulated under the Creative Commons Zero license, meaning all images that belong to Pexles are entirely free to use. 

However, the company does monetize the site by hosting sponsored images from other sites, which will redirect you off the page if you click on them. So keep this in mind and read the fine print when selecting your stock images. 

What sets Pexels apart from the competition has to be their intuitive search function and social settings. Each image has an option to share with your community or donate to the photographer. The site itself suggests localized search topics based on the region you’re logging in from, and there is also the option to narrow your search into sub-topics and themed collections.


unsplash image

Last but not least, Unsplash is a massive free-to-download stock image site and every online advertiser, blogger, or website owner’s best friend. What started as a Tumblr blog meant to connect clients with creative professionals has morphed into a massive community with two million+ images. Same monetization method as Pexels, where specific images are entirely free, and others will direct you to paywalls. Without fail, Unsplash’s photo archive is modern, quirky, and sophisticated, with an excellent emphasis on people and landscapes. 

The dev team behind Unsplash has made navigation a breeze, where related subtopics are generated for every keyword entered into the search bar. You can also select filters at the top of the screen to find your ideal topic. At its heart, Unsplash is still a networking platform where you can reach out to the photographer directly or help boost their brand on social media. 

Paid Stock Image Sites

Why would you pay for a stock photo service if you can download images for free? Well, if you’re looking to establish consistent branding across the board for both agency, onsite, and anything in between, you’ll do well to get a license for any of the below three options. You’ll never need to worry about copyright infringement, you’ll have more options at your disposal, and your searches will yield better results. Here’s our pick for three paid stock photo sites that always deliver. 


istock image

 iStock is the ultimate home of microstock images, videos, photos, vectors, music, and more. The site has over 88 million different Royalty Free images that can be downloaded at affordable rates, with no cap on licensing. iStock also has a premium selection of ultra high-res, billboard-ready images that agencies and websites worldwide turn to when rolling out their next campaign. Depending on your requirements, you can get an iStock subscription that lets you download 10, 25, 50, or 750 images per month. Mon the subscriptions start at $29 per month (for ten downloads), up to $265 per month (including all videos and premium archives). The site is intuitive, easy to use, and robust, with every topic, theme, and category under the sun accessible with the right keyword or filter. 


shutterstock image

Arguably one of the most well-known and longest-standing stock photo sites, Shutterstock takes the cake in terms of sheer volume and navigation capacity. The site is home to a staggering 190 million different creatives, subcategorized across videos, vectors, social, 3D models, editorials, and more. The drop-down menu next to the search bar curates the most frequently searched for categories, trends, and promoted posts, and their range of add-on tools, like photo editors, mobile integrators, and more, make the subscription well worth it. As with iStock, you can buy a subscription that will let you download anywhere from 10, all the way up to 750 photos and media files a month, with subscriptions starting at $29 and moving up to $229, averaging out at around $9 per royalty-free photo. If you’re still on the fence, you can also get a 30-day free trial which comes with ten photos. 

Adobe Stock

adobe stock image

Adobe Stock is a powerhouse platform in its own right. Home to around 60 million curated images and multimedia files, all subcategorized for easy reference into photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, audio files, templates,  glossy editorials, and more. The platform itself is fully integrated with the Creative Cloud platform, allowing you to sync and move between all the Adobe signature design apps saving you time and allowing you to edit and perfect your visuals on the fly. An Adobe subscription starts at $29 (for a batch of 10 images) and goes up to $249 (for 750 assets). All Adobe Stock images are unique, enticing, and taken by some of the world’s leading photographers. You can also get a free 30-day subscription for ten photos. 

We hope the above Stock Photo site list helps steer you in the right direction. Please feel free to reach out to us anytime right here, and our team of online advertising gurus will guide you through the different tools you can use to make your campaigns all the more potent. Find out how you can use CPA Target Bidding on the Adcash Platform to drive your campaign costs down and maximize your conversions.

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1 comment

Profile picture of ahmed yaseen

ahmed yaseen on Nov 30, 2021 at 8:33 am

Hello, I am Ahmed Yassin. I am an Arab. from Yemen. I like to learn new things and discover myself. I hope to be supported in this field. I read all of your instructions and was very amused at this. My joy is in this.

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