stock photography

Tips for keeping it real with stock photography

Stock images are everywhere online. There’s the creative professional staring at a blank computer screen, the jaunty telemarketer flashing her brightest, whitest smile, and, who could forget, the women laughing alone with salad?

It’s no secret that a lot of stock photos look incredibly generic and fake, but there are times when they might be your only option for adding visual interest to your site. The good news is that beautiful, uncontrived stock images do exist, and by the time you get to the end of this post, you’ll know how and where to find them.

We’ll get to a roundup of our favourite stock photography sites in a minute, but before you add any stock images to your site, you should ask yourself these four questions:

1. Do I have the rights to these images?
No one wants to upload an image only to be slapped with a hefty fee and threatening letter from a stock agency a few weeks later. To avoid this scenario, take some time to familiarize yourself with the different types of images and license types. Word to the wise: royalty-free does not, in fact, mean the image can be used for free.

2. Are these images relevant?
Studies show that while users pay close attention to photos and other images that are relevant to the information they accompany, decorative “fluff” is largely ignored online. No matter how stunning a photo may be, if it doesn’t enhance the content around it, it will undoubtedly detract from it.

3. Have my readers seen these images before?
One of the biggest disadvantages of using stock photos is that you have no control over them, meaning the photo you choose to accompany a blog post about growing your small business could also appear on the side of a bus or in the collateral of your closest competitor. If a face looks familiar, or if you’ve seen the image used elsewhere, pick a different photo.

4. Do I have my own images?
In 2015, when just about everyone has a great camera built into their phone, there’s no reason to rely solely on stock photos for your site. If you have an original image, use it.

Where to find high-quality, eye-catching stock images

The internet has no shortage of stock photography sites, and everyone has their favourite. Here’s a small selection of resources we know and love here at Themezilla. If you think we’ve missed any gems, let us know in the comments!

With thousands of awesome images and top-notch search capabilities, Stocksy delivers pixel-perfect, distinctive images every time. Throw in the fact that it’s a small business that supports local photographers, and you can see why it’s number-one on our list.

Life of Pix
Created by the fabulous folks at LEEROY Creative in Montreal, Life of Pix is home to some of the web’s most stunning stock imagery. Want to get fancy and add some video to your site? Check out Life of Vid, which serves up fresh video content sans-copyright restrictions several times a month.

Death to Stock
Founded by “rogue photographers” Allie and David, Death to Stock sets a new standard for stock photography. Subscribe via email and you’ll receive 10 free stock images of the category of your choosing every month. DTSP also offers a premium membership with unlimited access to more than 400 images, plus an exclusive members-only pack, for just $15/month.

Looking for breathtakingly beautiful landscape images? Unsplash is your answer. With hundreds of “free (do whatever you want) high resolution photos,” you’re bound to find something you love, whether it’s an insanely detailed macro image of a succulent or a kilometre-spanning aerial photograph.

New Old Stock
We’re suckers for heirloom black-and-white photography, and New Old Stock is all about “Recapturing history.” It features an extensive collection of of antique photos, many from government archives or recovered from estate sales. It’s also a great procrastination tool.

Final thoughts

Stock images are a great resource for adding visuals to your site, but don’t overdo it. Choose carefully and remember that even the best images become meaningless if they don’t work within the context of your site’s content and design. Use sparingly, choose wisely, and you should be well on your way to stock image success.


  1. Math December 10, 2015 Reply


    I recently started publishing my photos under CC0 license on my site ( Have a look around and if you like it, feel free to add it to your list :)

  2. Bharat January 1, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for your tips and resources.. :D

PSA: As of Sept. 29, 2017, you can no longer purchase themes from this website. We will continue to provide limited support, including bug fixes and security updates, until March 31, 2018. Thank you for everything. We'll miss you dearly.