Where To Find The Best Royalty-Free Images & Videos
For the past five years or so, I have started and finished many different kinds of creative projects. I have been very busy working on graphic design, web design, video production, and even software development projects. With each project I have completed from start to finish, I have had an insatiable need for royalty-free stock media such as images and videos. Over the years, I have discovered a few different website sources for royalty-free media. So today, to save you all time, I’m going to share my top 3 royalty-free stock media websites that I have discovered and used over the years. But before I do, let’s first define what royalty-free stock media is.
What Is Royalty-Free Stock Media?
Royalty-Free Stock media is often a single downloadable media file, such as an image or video, that comes with a special license giving you the ability to use, adapt or modify that content in any way you want. You can use the media for personal or commercial use without limitation and also have the ability to modify or adapt the original file, say in Photoshop, to fit your project. The term royalty-free means that you are not required to pay a fee or give the original artist or photographer credit every time you use their media in a finished project. That being said, depending on your source for your royalty-free media, you may sometimes be required to pay a one-time licensing fee for the media file. However, by using royalty-free stock media in your projects, you will not have to pay the original artist or photographer in perpetuity to use their media which saves you money in the long run. Either way, the websites on my list do not have any fees or require you to give credit or attribution to the original artist or photographer.
An Important Note On Using Royalty-Free Stock Media & Copyright Law
There is one other thing you should be aware of when using royalty-free stock media if you plan to protect your final project using copyright law. Because royalty-free stock media is accessible to everyone, the media is non-exclusive, and anyone can use it in their projects. However, by using royalty-free stock media, you may run into issues regarding copyright law if you did not modify the original media enough or use it as a piece of a larger project. For example, suppose you download a royalty-free image and immediately try to copyright it as your own work without modifying the original file. In that case, you may run it to issues in the copyright process. But if you take the same image and redraw it by hand, modify it in Photoshop, for example, and then incorporate it into your project, you may be able to copyright the end result as your own original exclusive work.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed copyright attorney, so do not consider any information from this article regarding copyright law as legal advice. The information in the previous paragraphs is from personal experience. That said, I would advise you to seek a licensed copyright attorney if you have questions regarding copyright law.
Unsplash is an incredible source for royalty-free stock images and one of the best sites I recently discovered. Though, unlike some of the other websites on this list, they only have images and do not have other media formats such as videos. They do have a significantly larger selection of images than the other two websites on this list. The only con with Unsplash that I can think of is that I have occasionally run into an issue where my industry or topic didn’t have that many images available for it. Therefore, there may be some gaps in their offering for specific niches. So depending on your industry or topic, your results may vary. That being said, they are now the first place I look for royalty-free images because, more often than not, I find exactly what I am looking for within a few searches and clicks.
Pexels was my primary source for royalty-free stock images before finding Unsplash. If you are searching for more stylized images, then Pexels is the best place to be since most of the images on Pexels are often very colorful and vibrant. And if you are not sure what you are looking for, I would check out the “Discover” section on their home page. That section contains different collections of images that all have the same style, theme, subject, etc., and is, therefore, a great way to find something you didn’t know you needed. Unlike Unsplash, Pexels also has videos too. While I can’t necessarily review their video selection, since I haven’t used it much myself, it may be worth checking out if you are looking for royalty-free stock video footage. The only issue I have ever had with Pexels is that many of the images are often taken in portrait orientation, and I am often looking for landscape-oriented images. But that being said, depending on your particular use case or industry, Pexels may be precisely the kind of source you need, especially if you are looking for colorful and vibrant, portrait-oriented images or specifically royalty-free stock videos.
Pixabay was my original source for royalty-free stock images and videos before the other two websites on this list. I’ve used images from this website in a few t-shirt designs, videos, websites, and other projects. Unlike the other two, and in addition to images and videos, Pixabay offers illustrations, vector graphics, and even music now. While I can’t specifically review their music selection, since I have yet to use it, it may be worth checking out. Because of the large variety of media formats, Pixabay is still an excellent source for royalty-free images, vector graphics, illustrations, videos, and more. That being said, I have occasionally had issues with Pixabay where it often took a while to find the media I was looking for, or I found the results to be of lower quality standards than what I was looking for. As with the other sites on this list, your results may vary depending on your topic or industry. While I don’t use Pixabay as much as I used to, I still find the occasional gem that I could not find using the other two, making Pixabay still worth it, especially when you have exhausted all other options.
So, those are the top 3 websites that I use to find royalty-free stock media for my creative projects. I hope that you all found this article helpful and that it has saved you time in your quest to find royalty-free media for your creative endeavors. If you have any further questions or have additional sources you would like to share, please reach out in the comments below, via direct message on my social media pages, or via email or the contact form on this website. Best of luck to you all!