A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. That’s so true in marketing, where the visual you create to go with whatever message you are trying to promote is often the first thing a potential cardholder will see. The quality of that visual determines whether that cardholder engages with your content–or moves on. Visuals count.

Many marketing experts, including my friends at Content Marketing World, contend stock photos are to be avoided because they don’t create authentic branding for your library. I agree. But most libraries, mine included, don’t have a budget to hire a photographer for every campaign or content marketing initiative. So we have to rely on free stock photos.

But libraries must navigate the tricky legal maze of copyright issues associated with free stock images. This website has a great FAQ on copyright issues surrounding stock photos. It’s mandatory reading for every library marketer. Do not use Google Images, because of copyright infringement danger. Your library can’t afford a lawsuit or fine.

You can combine free stock photos and authentic photography. If your library has, you have a ton of free options for photography classes! Buy a good DSLR camera and practice, practice, practice! There will be instances when you’ll need a photo that’s specific to your library so this skill will come in handy.

But sometimes you just need a stock photo. So I’ve created a small but powerful list of websites where you can find high quality, free stock photos.

Unsplash: An amazing site with a huge selection of high-resolution photos. They’re licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash. You don’t need to create an account to download.

Pexels: Before I discovered Unsplash, this was my favorite site. I use it for marketing for my church and presentations at library conferences. It contains some amazing high-quality work. There is no attribution needed and you don’t need an account to download the photos. These photos are also licensed under CC0.

Free Images: This site contains nearly 400,000 images in dozens of categories. You can easily check the usage rights for each image to learn how you can use it and whether you’ll need to attribute it with a photo credit.

Pixabay: All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required and there are hundreds of thousands of photos and videos to choose from.

Freepik: Freepik helps you to find free vector art, illustrations, icons, PSD, and photos for using in websites, banners, presentations, and magazines. The majority of the resources offered at Freepik can be used for free; you just have to credit the author of the illustration to Freepik. This is a great resource for libraries with limited graphic design resources but who need to build infographics or other designs that are non-photo related.

Freerange: Another source for thousands of free stock photos and images. You’ll need to create an account to download anything but the quality is high. The images may be used in commercial projects like websites, advertising, books, videos, and other commercial presentations. You don’t have to credit the photographer. You cannot put the images on anything you plan to resell-like T-shirts, mugs, or other library swag.

Canva: Finally, if you haven’t discovered the amazing world of Canva, allow me to introduce you. I use this site to build all my social media graphics for my church marketing, my presentations, and some for the library when we’re in a pinch. The site does include free photos which you can incorporate into your graphics–you just need to select the type of graphic you wish to create first. All the graphics you see on this blog were created using Canva. Use of the graphics and photos on the website is mostly free… some graphics and photos cost $1 each.

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