Every week I get many messages asking where I get my stock images from. But before I answer that question, I am going to throw my two pence (an English saying for any international readers) in to the stock image debate.
There is nothing, let me repeat that. NOTHING wrong with using stock images in your work. It is part of the circle of life (cue to raise any nearby Lion cubs in the air). But seriously it has been part and parcel of the photography industry for a loooooong time. Your favourite photographer will have used stock in their images at some point in their career, and their favourite photographer too, and so on, and so on. When I create an image, I try to use all my own images, but if I don’t have a certain element I need, I have no qualms about turning to stock. I wouldn’t let one missing piece of the jigsaw keep me from creating my art. Now I hear all sorts of outcries on social media, for example “If it isn’t all your own images, you are not a real artist” This was an actual real statement form someone on Facebook. I also heard this little gem of advice, “you shouldn’t use stock, you should go out and take the images yourself!” Well I’m sorry but if I’m creating an image of a polar bear in its environment, there is no chance I am paying for a flight to the Artic to get a background shot (also you would probably have to drug my milk to get me on a plane, fool). Our goal is to create art, or to create a specific image for a client. As long as we follow the correct rules for using the stock, be it attribution and all that jazz, then the world will not stop, the end of days will not rear its ugly head. We can all sleep safe and sound in our beds. Anyway, that is my humble opinion on the whole debate, my two pence is thrown, now lets get on with the article.
When I use stock, I have four main go to stock sites. Three free stock sites and one paid. Lets start with the free sites.
Pixabay is usually my first port of call. It is a good all rounder, with 1000s of hi-res images to choose from, a little bit of every subject can be found . All the images are attribution free, meaning you can use them to your hearts content and you don’t even have to credit the photographer. Although if you are feeling generous you can pay for a coffee ( a small amount of money) for the photographer of the image. Every image is available in small, medium, large, and extra large. And the search function on Pixabay is great, very simple and easy to use.
My next recommendation is Unsplash. Unspalsh has more of a fine art feel than Pixabay, and instead of having a search engine it puts images into collections which you can browse through. The main reason I use Unsplash is for when I am in need of a good landscape photo…and boy does it deliver. The quality of landscape stock on this site is outstanding, from misty forest scenes to desolate country roads. If you cannot find yourself a good location image on this site I will slap you across the face with my grandfathers atlas! The stock photos on Unsplash require attribution to be used, which means in layman’s terms you have to credit the photographer.
My third and final free stock recommendation is Deviantart. Deviantart has been around for years, its main purpose is an art community for all creatives to share their work, and browse others. But what you might not know is that Deviantart is also a great place to find free stock. You can use the search option to browse stock images, and also free brushes and PNG’s. With it being a creative community, the stock tends to lean more towards stock you wouldn’t find on the last two sites. Sci-fi, horror and various other genres are popular. One good aspect is the model stock, with some members having a vast array of poses in various outfits. A couple of down points about Deviantart is the quality. You have to search for the hi-res images, and sometimes you will have to settle for somewhere in between (quality wise). And also each stock supplier has their own set of rules for usage. Some suppliers let you use the images attribution free, some want credit and links back, and some want paying. Be careful to read the rules beforehand or you could end up in trouble. Overall though, Deviantart is definitely a good place to look.
And now on to the one paid site I use……
RAWexchange hasn’t been around as long as the other stock sites on this list, and it isn’t free, but you what you get is quality crafted stock by professional creatives. It hires photographers specifically to go to cool locations like Chernobyl, with a medium format camera to get amazing hi-res location stock. It has an array of cool textures and special FX, that will save any creative a serious amount of time, by easily adding them in to an image. Also when you purchase the stock, you purchase a pack, so you are not getting just one image, but a whole array of images. The site has easy navigation between the stock packs, and now has a Knowledge base section where you can watch tutorials and learn cool tricks. I highly recommend it.
So, these are my stock recommendations. Before I go, remember to always follow the rules of the stock sites, I wouldn’t want you getting into any trouble. Also, I know many people tend to pinch images from a Google search…..this is very unadvisable, seriously don’t do it. Play safe ;) If you have any of your own stock site recommendations that you feel need mentioning, drop a link in the comments and I will check them out. Thanks guys.