Custom photography is great for your website and blog. It’s unique and you get exactly what you want, rather than hunting for a stock photo that’s almost what you’re looking for. But most firms aren’t interested in making room in their marketing budget to keep a professional photographer on staff or retainer.

That’s where stock photography comes in handy. The right stock photo can still feel personal, engaging and unique – even if other people use it, too.

A lot of advisors don’t realize it, but there are a ton of royalty-free stock photography sites out there. (To be clear: Royalty-free = no cost and no permission required. Just download and post.) While most of these sites exist to try to upsell you to use their paid images, the free stuff is often quite good.

So without further ado, we present our six favorite royalty-free stock image sites.

1. Pexels

pexels download menuThis is my favorite stock site because you can download images in any custom size you want. That saves you the time of resizing the photo after you download it. Plus their images are pretty great, too.

Pro tip: Most of the images on these sites are 1 MB or larger. Make sure that most of the images you add to your site are smaller than 100 KB. Once those larger images start to pile up, they can slow your site down considerably.

You could do this using the photo app on your computer, but for our money, you can’t beat ImageOptim. It optimizes photos for the web quickly, and it’s free.

Pro tip No. 2: Please don’t use any photos of this guy. I see him everywhere.

dont use this guy

2. Pixabay

Pixabay ResizeThis one has another great collection of images and allows you to choose certain download sizes. The only thing it lacks is the “Custom Size” option that Pexels offers. There’s a lot of overlap between the images on Pexels and Pixabay, but there are still plenty of originals here.

3. StockSnap

Another one of my go-to’s, StockSnap offers clean, professional photos that work great for website and blog images. StockSnap is arguably the easiest to navigate of the royalty-free image sites. You can sort by Trending, Number of Downloads, Views, and more, not to mention their running collection of the most popular searches.

waterfall photo

Pro tip: When you download these images, they will typically be named something like “IMG00021” or the photographer’s name. Change the name to the keyword you’re using for your article. It will help with organization, and it can even help with SEO.

4. Unsplash

Here you’ll find the most beautiful, professional photographs of all of the royalty-free sites out there. One note: most of the pictures on Unsplash are of young people and/or have a very hip vibe to them. If you’re looking for an image to go with your blog on retirement planning, maybe look to one of the other sites on this list. But if you’re looking for jaw-dropping nature photos, this is the place.

5. KaboomPics

You know those Instagram profiles where people only share the most perfect, beautiful photos of their lives – always straddling the uncanny valley between real life and stock photography, and making everyone else feel “less than” along the way? That’s how I would describe KaboomPics, and I mean that in the best way.


Kaboom offers a vast collection of bright, professional-grade photos that still maintain a level of relatability. Highly recommended for blog images.

6. MorgueFile

Despite its morbid name, MorgueFile offers a unique collection of lively images. This one offers a blend of professional and amateur grade photography, so watch out. Many of them are great, but there are plenty of downright weird ones mixed in there.

brain in forest photo

The Big Picture

Of course, if none of these sites have what you want, there’s always paid photography sites. They’re not nearly as expensive as they used to be (although it can depend on what you’re looking for). We like Stocksy, Getty Images, and iStock.

There’s a lot of bad photography out there, and a few sites claim to be royalty free but require attribution that could put your firm at risk if you don’t comply. Stick to our six favorites, and you’ll be sure to keep your firm’s image crisp and clean, and avoid royalty costs.

Looking for ideas to help build your firm’s marketing plan? Register for our upcoming webinar, “A Banner Year: Building an Advisor Marketing Plan for Real Growth in 2019.”

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