Good or Bad: Free Stock Photo Websites

Free-to-use stock photo websites are becoming more and more popular with both photographers and businesses looking for copyright-free photos for their social media pages and websites.


Sites like Pexels and Pixabay allow anyone to download high quality photos for free, and no requirement to credit the photographer.


There are photographers out there that will think giving away your photos for free without credit is a bad idea and not for them but free stock photo websites aren't all that bad for photographers.


Pixabay user, Jill Wellington, says that she loves seeing her photos being used despite not being credited all the time.

Credit: Jill Wellington

"My photos have been on numerous book covers, magazine covers, album covers, in music videos, advertising, website design, on billboards, artists paint them, they’ve been made into needlepoint, puzzles, clothing...on and on and on!"


As a retired journalist, Jill received her first DSLR at age 52 and decided to learn photography through taking her camera out every day.

Credit: Jill Wellington

After winning several photo contests and selling photos on sites such as Etsy, Jill decided selling her work wasn't for her and set up her Pixabay account in 2014.


"I felt like photography was gifted to me in my later years and I wanted to gift it back to the world. Since I was taking so many photos every day, I did not want them to be hidden away on my computer only to be thrown away when I die.


"I finally decided to give them away for free hoping they would feel like beautiful gifts to those who found them and could use them. That’s when my photography exploded all over the world! I want it to be my legacy."

Credit: Jill Wellington

Now with over 18 million downloads, Jill has also managed to make tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the site.

"It’s absolutely unbelievable what has happened with my photography!"


Another photo stock user, Brett Sayles, has been using Pexels to share his photos with the world since 2018.

Credit: Brett Sayles

Brett holds the number 14 spot on the all-time download leader board.


After a 24-year hiatus from photography, Brett bought a DSLR in 2017 and began using Pexels as a way to share his photos with his friends.


"The next thing I know, I've got a few hundred thousand views and my photos were showing up in hundreds of web pages," Brett recalls.

Credit: Brett Sayles

"The real benefit for me is that I get to share my stuff with people all over the world. It's so much fun seeing my stuff in websites like NatGeo and the New York Times.


"It's even more fun to get contacted by someone that used a photo in one of their projects."


Similar to Jill, Brett receives monthly donations from people using the popular site.


However, Brett admits their is a downside to using the free platform, saying that it's only the big websites that tend to post without credit.


"But those are the rules," Brett says.

Credit: Brett Sayles

"People don't have to give credit, it's in the license. The bigger issue that can get me a little hot, is people downloading them and selling them on sites like Shutterstock, claiming they took them."


Another Pexels photographer, Roberto Nickson, says that if he uploaded the image to Pexels, he doesn't mind seeing his work online as that's what Pexels was made for.

Credit: Roberto Nickson

However, Roberto realises the possible negative effects Pexels can have on photographers.


"For someone who relies on photography as a career, there are limited income streams," Roberto says.


"Stock photography used to be a reliable one, that because of these sites I'm sure has become less reliable."

Credit: Roberto Nickson

Roberto also admits that he almost wants to remove his Pexels photos in solidarity with other photographers struggling to get paid for their work.


Unfortunately for Roberto, he's not seen a noticeable benefit from using Pexels and thinks the site has the power to 'cheapen you as a photographer'.


On the bright side, Pexels has given Roberto the chance to share his photos that would otherwise just sit on a hard drive.

Credit: Roberto Nickson

"I decided that I would like to contribute to help out the community with photos that would otherwise never be used in any meaningful way," he says about joining the platform.


Even with the downsides, photographers like Brett, Roberto, and Jill love using the free photo stock websites to share their photos with the world.


Follow Jill Wellington on Instagram here

Donate to Jill today

Follow Brett Sayles on Instagram here

Donate to Brett today

Follow Roberto Nickson on Instagram here

Donate to Roberto today

Join Pexels

Join Pixabay



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