Royalty-Free Stock Images 2023: Pros and Cons, Top websites

Visuals and graphics play a vital role in capturing audience attention and conveying messages effectively. Whether you’re a designer, blogger, marketer, or content creator, using high-quality images is essential to enhance the visual appeal of your work. Fortunately, the availability of royalty-free image stock websites has made it easier than ever to access a vast collection of professional images. In this article, we’ll explore the top royalty-free image stock websites of 2023, highlighting their pros and cons.

Pros of Using Royalty-Free Stock Images


One of the most significant advantages of royalty-free stock images is their affordability. These images are typically available at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional photographer or commissioning custom artwork. This accessibility makes them an attractive option, especially for individuals and small businesses with limited budgets.

Wide Variety

Royalty-free stock image libraries provide an extensive range of visuals catering to diverse topics, themes, and genres. Whether you need images for blog posts, websites, presentations, or marketing campaigns, you can easily find relevant and high-quality options to suit your specific needs. The vast selection ensures you can find images that align with your brand and message.

Convenience and Time-Saving

With royalty-free stock images, you can quickly access a vast collection of visuals without the need for extensive research or a dedicated photo shoot. This saves both time and effort, allowing you to focus on other critical aspects of your project.

Legal Protection

By using royalty-free stock images, you gain legal protection against copyright infringement. These images are licensed for specific usage, granting you the right to incorporate them into your work without worrying about potential legal repercussions.

Professional Quality

Many royalty-free stock image providers work with talented photographers and artists, ensuring the availability of high-quality visuals. These images often undergo professional editing and meet industry standards, making them a reliable option for projects that require visually appealing and polished content.

Cons of Using Royalty-Free Stock Images

Lack of Originality

Due to their widespread availability, royalty-free stock images are susceptible to being overused, resulting in a lack of uniqueness and originality. If your goal is to set your project apart and establish a distinctive visual identity, it may be challenging to achieve that with stock images that have been used by numerous other individuals or businesses.

Limited Exclusivity

While royalty-free stock images provide legal protection, they do not offer exclusivity. This means that other individuals or businesses can use the same image for their projects, potentially diluting your brand or message. If maintaining a unique visual identity is essential to your project, consider custom-created visuals or exclusive licensing options.

Generic Aesthetic

Some critics argue that royalty-free stock images can sometimes have a generic or clichéd aesthetic. This is because stock image libraries try to cater to a wide audience, resulting in visuals that may lack uniqueness or fail to capture specific nuances or cultural references. It is essential to carefully select images that align with your project’s style and target audience to avoid conveying an inauthentic message.


It is crucial to exercise caution when selecting stock images to ensure they accurately represent the subject matter or concepts you aim to convey. Using images that misrepresent your brand or message can lead to confusion or miscommunication with your audience.

Top 10 Royalty Free Stock Images Websites 2023

1. Unsplash

Unsplash has become a household name among creators seeking high-quality, royalty-free images. It boasts an extensive library of over two million photos contributed by a community of talented photographers worldwide. The key advantage of Unsplash is its user-friendly interface and the ability to download and use images for free, even for commercial purposes. However, the downside is that the collection lacks certain niche-specific images and may have limited search filtering options.

2. Shutterstock

Shutterstock is a prominent name in the stock photography industry. With over 400 million images, videos, and music tracks in its library, it offers a vast selection of premium content. The advantage of using Shutterstock is its comprehensive search functionality, which includes advanced filters for size, color, orientation, and more. However, Shutterstock requires a paid subscription for accessing its high-resolution images, making it less ideal for those on a tight budget.

3. Pixabay

Royalty-Free Stock Images  - Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Pixabay is a popular platform known for its wide range of free stock photos, vectors, and illustrations. With over 2.2 million images, it provides a diverse collection suitable for various purposes. One significant advantage of Pixabay is its generous licensing terms, allowing users to modify and use the images without attribution. Nonetheless, while Pixabay offers high-quality images, it might lack the depth and uniqueness found on other platforms.

4. Pexels

Pexels is another royalty-free image stock website that has gained significant traction in recent years. Its collection of over one million free stock photos is carefully curated and offers a wide range of subject matter. Pexels’ strength lies in its easy-to-use search interface and the quality of its images, which are suitable for both personal and commercial use. However, due to its popularity, you may find some images being overused across the internet.

5. Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock stands out for its integration with Adobe Creative Cloud applications, making it a go-to choice for creative professionals. It offers a vast library of high-quality images, videos, illustrations, and templates. Subscribers to Adobe Creative Cloud enjoy seamless access to Adobe Stock’s collection, making it convenient for designers and artists. However, Adobe Stock comes with a price tag, and its premium offerings may not be affordable for everyone.

6. Getty Images

Getty Images is a well-established and reputable platform known for its premium stock photography. It features an extensive collection of high-quality images, illustrations, and videos contributed by professional photographers from around the world. While Getty Images offers exceptional content, it tends to be on the pricier side, making it more suitable for large-scale commercial projects with higher budgets.

7. iStock

iStock, owned by Getty Images, provides a wide range of royalty-free images, videos, illustrations, and audio clips. It offers both premium and budget-friendly options, allowing users to choose the pricing model that suits their needs. iStock’s strength lies in its vast collection of exclusive content, including unique and niche-specific images. However, the cost of premium content may be prohibitive for some users.

8. Freepik

Freepik is a versatile platform that offers not only images but also vectors, illustrations, PSD files, and icons. It caters to a wide range of design needs, making it popular among graphic designers and web developers. Freepik provides both free and premium content, with the option to download and use resources for personal and commercial purposes. However, keep in mind that attribution is required for the free resources.

9. Canva

While primarily known as a graphic design tool, Canva also offers a vast library of royalty-free images. Canva’s image collection is easily accessible within its design interface, allowing users to create stunning visuals without the need to switch between platforms. It offers a combination of free and paid elements, with the option to purchase premium images individually or through a subscription plan. Canva’s integration with its design features makes it an attractive choice for those seeking convenience.

10. Burst by Shopify

Burst by Shopify is a free stock photo platform aimed at entrepreneurs, marketers, and online store owners. It offers a range of high-resolution images related to various industries and topics. Burst is particularly useful for those seeking visuals to accompany their e-commerce ventures or blog posts. The platform is user-friendly, and images are free to use without attribution. However, as it is curated primarily for the Shopify community, the collection may be relatively smaller compared to other platforms.


The availability of numerous royalty-free image stock websites empowers creators to find the perfect visuals for their projects while respecting copyright and licensing requirements. The platforms mentioned in this article, including Getty Images, iStock, Freepik, Canva, and Burst by Shopify, offer a wide range of options suitable for different purposes and budgets. Whether you’re a professional designer, marketer, or content creator, exploring these platforms will provide you with a wealth of resources to enhance the visual impact of your work. Remember to consider factors such as image quality, licensing terms, pricing models, and search functionalities when choosing the most suitable platform for your specific needs.

Also Read: Impact of AI on SEO for Digital Marketing Professionals

Leave a Comment