ADVICE: How to find and use stock photos

Pictures are great. They make our leaflets come alive, and are as important to telling a story and building a candidate brand as the text that goes with them.

Before we go any further it’s important that we make two things clear about stock photos:

  1. They are never as good as local pictures. Find out how to build your local photo library.
  2. You can’t just do a Google image search and use what comes up – that’s a great way to get an invoice sent that blows your election expenses out of the water! Instead you need to find free images to use or understand royalty licencing.

Image licencing

It’s important that you understand the different licences you might want to look for so you can make the right choices and stay on the right side of the law. Here are three types of image licence you need to know about:

  1. Royalty free images: These aren’t necessarily free. They just mean you pay a one off fee to use a picture as many times as you like, with no need to add an attribution. Why? There is more image choice in this category, and these pictures are often better quality. Sometimes it might be worth paying a few pounds to have a better photo on your leaflet, especially if you can keep it and use it over and over again.
  2. Creative commons: These are free to use. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily free to use for everything. You also need to check that the images are okay to use for commercial use and whether they require attribution on your leaflet. To find those that are free for commercial use without attribution you want to look for a ‘CC0’ licence.
  3. Public domain images: These are free to use, require no attribution and can be used for commercial purposes. For your purposes these images are the same as images with a CC0 licence.

Most of the websites we recommend lower down this blog will clearly say what type of image you’re viewing. As a rule of thumb if you can’t find or don’t understand the licencing you shouldn’t use it.

So where should I look?

The good news is that there’s an ever growing online library of great images. There’s a huge variety in quality and some have complicated licences. The websites below are the ones we use and can personally vouch for their quality and ease of use.

Creative Commons and public domain images

These websites have the best completely free (CC0 licence) images we’ve found. They’re easy to search, but be aware these websites will often advertise premium photos too so make sure you look for the licence for any photos you want to download.


Pixabay is great and it’s massive. It’s the website I use more often than any other and it contains vector images too! The quality of free photos can be a little bit random, so make sure you have a bit of time to search a few terms to find the real gems. Licences are found to the right of each picture (when viewed on a PC) and the labelling is clear and simple.


Pexels is much smaller than Pixabay but that’s partly why it is so good. The free photos are great quality and the licencing is clear and to the right of each picture when selected.

Royalty free images

Not free – but cheap. If you’ve not found what you need on Pixabay or Pexels have a look here to find some pictures with a relatively cheap one off price. Be aware of catches and clauses and make sure you check out the standard vs extended license.


If you use a lot of photos in your professional career as well then Bigstock might be for you. You can buy image credits and download images for this one off cost or set up a subscription that gives you monthly credits. You’re looking at spending £5-£10 for good photos on a standard licence, but if you download a lot the subscription can be a bargain. Bigstock is huge too with over 68 million photos, videos and vectors.

Adobe Stock

Straight forward with good quality images. At £50 for an extended licence Adobe is a good website to use worry free.

iStock by Getty

Good quality but enormously expensive pictures are available from iStock. Their standard licence typically runs to less than £10 but their extended licence is often hundreds. We recommend you use them only as a last resort, because the standard licence is limited in the number of reproductions and does not allow you to share the image with colleagues.

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