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How Can Free Stock Photos Help Photographers (and Where to Find Them)?

August 12, 2016

When people put the words ‘photographers’ and ‘stock photography’ in the same sentence, they probably only think of the ways in which photographers can make money from selling their work as stock images online.

Thankfully, we’re here to present a different side to this idea, whilst concentrating on the increasing availability of free stock images and how photographers can actually benefit from these, just as much as any blogger or business owner would.

We’ll also be revealing our favorite sources of free stock photos (that don’t suck) at the end of this article, so be sure to keep reading!

Firstly, what are stock photos?

A stock photo is a digital photograph which is available to use for either personal use, commercial use, or both. Usually, the photographer is offering the image without the need to credit its source, so users are able to manipulate it or work with it in any way that the guidelines see fit.

How can photographers use free stock photos?

The last year alone has seen a huge rise in platforms offering free, high-quality, and often quite stunning stock images. Although there are numerous articles published online discussing how these images can benefit bloggers, freelance writers, and business owners, very little (if any) have discussed how they actually provide photographers with some huge advantages!

Using free stock photos in editing tutorials:

How many YouTube videos are there showcasing a photographer’s editing routine to teach other photographers how they can achieve a certain effect in Photoshop? We’d forgive you for losing count of them!

If you like to produce these handy how-to videos too, then why not utilize a free stock image to edit for your audience, whilst providing them with the same image so that they can follow along too? Not only is it a great way to market your own photography services, but it also helps you attract a larger following of fans while keeping the peace of mind that your own photo(s) won’t be plagiarized.

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Using elements of free stock photos in your own work:

This one is purely for the free stock photos which are available for all types of usage and which do not require attribution (although, you’re welcome to credit the original source of a stock image if you wish!). Creatives are always encouraged to collaborate with one another to produce unique masterpieces, and this is certainly where stock photos can come into play.

I’ve seen many works from photographers where they’ve used a stock photograph as the background of their image and edited elements of their own image (such as objects or the model) onto that image to produce something quite spectacular. Alternatively some photographers might edit the model or object of a stock photo into their own image to take that particular image to a whole new level. This is a common collaborative method on platforms such as DeviantArt and it is also a great way to produce works of a more surrealist nature (such as those amazing levitation images which have proved to be popular!).


Using free stock photos as inspiration:

Photographers are a highly visual bunch, so they need constant inspiration in the form of images. When it comes to creating moodboards or using other photographs as your sources of stimulus though, do you ever feel a little bit worried about referencing another photographer’s work? Everyone wants their own work to be unique, so understandably, some photographers may worry that certain elements of other photographers’ work might visibly (and often, not deliberately) shine through in their own images. Using attribution-free stock images that are available for both commercial or personal use may be the answer, as you can create moodboards and inspiration guides for your own photoshoots without worrying that you’re offending anyone. Better to be safe than sorry!

Using free stock photos for editing experimentation:

When beginners are just starting to explore the medium of photography, they lack in both experience, and often, a portfolio of their own. That shouldn’t stop them from building up their editing skills in programs like Photoshop, however, as free stock photos can provide them with the half-finished masterpiece that they can try to improve. We’re not saying that they can then claim these images as their own (in fact, they really shouldn’t do that at all!), but rather, that they can edit these already-made images and test out different techniques to better understand the role that post-processing will play in their own work. It’s all about experimentation as a photographer, and stock images can provide beginners with the canvas they need to try out different editing effects.


Where can stunning, high-quality, and FREE stock images be found?

If you would like to reap the benefits that stock photography can bring to your work as a photographer, then you’ll be pleased to know that you can gain free access to a library of over 350 of these stock images here. This library only includes free stock photos that have a dreamy, ethereal, or whimsical aesthetic, so it’s definitely more suited to photographers with work of that nature. You’ll also find all of the images from this blog post within the library too!

Our other favorite free stock photo resources include:



There you have it! Although stock photos are largely marketed towards professions such as blogging and online businesses, they also provide huge benefits for those working in the photography industry, whether it be through using them in editing tutorials and experimentation, inspiration boards, or even as elements in their own work.

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