The Internet offers plenty of free things—free knowledge, free advice, free images. However, just because something is free doesn’t mean that it is the best option. For a professional designer, free does not always translate into the best results. Using free stock photos will save you money, but you could lose the confidence of your clients if the photos cause your design to look cheap.

Is it OK to Use Free Stock Images?

(Pixabay / rawpixel)

Here are just a few of the drawbacks when using free stock images:

  • Restrictions – Non-custom images come with license restrictions that the user must follow. You need to read and understand these limitations before you opt to use the images. Some may require you to credit the original artist while others may be licensed for editorial use only (not for advertising or commercial purposes).
  • Lack of exclusivity – The problem with stock images is that you never know who else is using them, and it could be your competition. Furthermore, your reputation as a designer could be tarnished when potential clients see you using the same images across different projects.
  • Predictability – Getting your images from the same free source will confine the range of your design. Your work may begin to appear repetitive and unimaginative.
  • Lack of spontaneity – Free stock photography tends to look highly staged, with smiling people posed in predictable settings. If you want a more natural look, plan to spend a little money on higher-grade images, or even hire a photographer to take your own exclusive images.

We’re not saying to abandon free stock images altogether, but it’s important to strike a good balance. If you opt for free images, make sure to complement them with original images or high-quality pictures from other sources.

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