Fuck Shutterstock. Here are A Bunch of Free Alternatives (and a few that aren’t free, but are better than Shutterstock)

ww1 photo

Ok, so, before I go on, why do I dislike Shutterstock? And what’s with that photo of those army guys?

Well, first of all, they’re from some old propaganda art from World War 1. I got it from the Library of Congress’s website, as they have a HUGE amount of photos, and they’re just one site of many with free images. Anyway, before I get to that, I want to explain good ol’ Shutterstock…

It all started when I used to search for images on Google, and when I’d find a good one, it’d often see that annoying ‘Shutterstock’ logo/typing in the background. I can’t use that for anything! I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has encountered this pitfall…  In fact, I bet TONS of people have been stopped dead in their tracks by this… The thing is, I understand they don’t want people stealing their digital property, and it’s fine that they put the logo on there (no, really, I understand) – so I thought that perhaps I’ll buy a subscription to their site or something… But that’s when I figured out that I fucking hate Shutterstock… and I’ll tell you why right after this photo:

shutterstock sucks

Despite the woman in the above photo who apparently  looks as though she’s cheering or worshiping the Shutterstock Gods above, you’ll never catch me worshiping… But why is that?? Why? Why, oh why?

Well, here’s why:

Shutterstock pricing page sucks

If you take one look at Shutterstock’s pricing, it’s just terrible. Two photos for $29? We’re not all big banks who can just throw money around like we just got bailouts or something…

shutter pig

I can’t imagine very many photos being worth that price. Perhaps their photos were physically framed, then, hell, it might be a real bargain. But these aren’t framed, they’re fucking high resolution images, not actual pictures on my wall.

It just annoys me that they seem to take up a huge amount of market share, and yet, if you want almost any photos at all, you have to pay hundreds of dollars. It just seems so ridiculous. That’s begging for competition. (Hint, hint… Niche, niche…)


Just look at that dream-team of finance, wouldn’t you love to be hanging out with them? Goddamn, they must have the most interesting fucking lives in the history of financial dream-teams!

They always get their business taken care of, and you can tell from the photographs! Look at this awesome photo below of cross-continental -business partnership and- dare i say it – friendship?? YES!


shutter more business

So, I suggest NOT letting yourself get ripped off – don’t shake the Shutterstock hand while a team of judgmental and creepy financial-cuckolding-strangers in the background (apparently on the set where they filmed Tron) witnesses the whole thing with arms folded:


Ok. I’ve had enough fun posting really shitty Shutterstock photos. The main point of this article was SUPPOSED to be that there are different things your can do to get free photos. And they don’t HAVE to be FREE all the time, I understand people want to get paid, and I’ve definitely listed some of the pay sites (some of them DO have better photos, and more modern ones, at that) but since there are a bunch of sites that offer free photos, free trial memberships, or the ol’, “free-but-with-ads,” format, I figured it’d be stupid not to post about some of them. You gotta have alternatives, because Shutterstock just annoys the hell outta me.

Ok, first things first… There’s the library of Congress’s photo archive, which has a hefty amount of material: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/. Yes, it’s all free. As I posted at the top of the page, that World War 1 propaganda art is just one of MANY images of it’s kind that you can get there. You can get non-war-art, too. But, old propaganda from the early 20th century is some of my favorite art. Especially the old Russian communist art; it’s hilarious, and more than a little creepy.

Next, there’s http://libreshot.com/, which seems to have a great variety of photos, especially traveling shots and pictures of animals, among other things. It’s worth going to, everything’s free.

There’s https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Images, which is supposedly the biggest archive of public domain or royalty-free images on the internet. I searched for apples and OMG there were so many fucking apples. So many! So there you go. Fuck Shutterstock, go to the Wikipedia Commons site for your apples. Free apples are always better.

There’s a site called http://publicphoto.org/, but then when I tried to click over to the free photos section of their site, it takes me to a place called http://www.freebiesgallery.com/. Hmm. Ok… But, at any rate, they have some good imagery there. I enjoyed their backgrounds and textures.

I also found a site called Pond5, http://www.pond5.com/free, but you have to make sure that if you want FREE photos, you find the little price-dial-thing, and dial the high price and the low price both down to $0, (instead of $350… Yes, $350…) at which point, all the great modern photos seem to disappear and you’re left with old public domain photos. Lots of them, though. I’m guessing if you look around, you might find something decent. Maybe they have World War 1 art. I didn’t look. I already got my fill from the Library of Congress’s site, so I’m good on that for awhile, I think…

http://www.4freephotos.com/ is another one that is free, but each photo has it’s own specific license. For example, many of these photos say they are allowed to be used commercially as well as personally, but some of them also say you have to give attribution. If you don’t mind giving credit, then, it’s all good – but just keep in mind, if you have a big archive of photos sitting on your hard drive, you might not remember what the license for every photo is, unless you specifically write that into each specific file name – which you could do – but, that’s the one flaw I see with a site like this. Other than that, props on this one. Free! W00T!

There are some other sites… Some of them are decent, and some of them are FUCKING TERRIBLE, but I thought I’d do a quick run-down of some of them. The site is I clearly favor is in this list, too…

So, to start, there’s a 14 day free-trial membership over at a photo site I found, called, http://www.bigstockphoto.com/free-trial where you can get a whopping 70 free images. No, it’s not an insane amount, it’s just 70 images. AGAIN: IT’S JUST 70 IMAGES… But they’re free, and that’s something worth mentioning. I mean, free content is free content. If you like the imagery, maybe you’ll stick with em, or maybe not. Obviously, it’s up to you. Moving on…

I looked around a lot and found http://www.Wallpoper.com/, but be warned, it’s not really for businesses. Why? Well, the second image I saw on the site was one that I know I’ve seen in a tool album booklet. I don’t think Alex Grey’s art is all public domain and just free to use at your disposal. Imagine seeing a movie poster that looked a Tool album cover. You’d just assume they paid for it, right? Of course. Sooo…. Yea, it’s not public domain or royalty-free at all. And then there was an Ice Age 2 image just a few photos below… Yea, copyright-free or anything like that… They boast, “447,195 Free Wallpapers,” but with an obvious catch. I mean, definitely not free to use commercially, by any means. Right? They don’t seem to advertise it as a royalty-free photos site, though, so I can’t talk too much shit, can I? So, as far as copyrighted images, if it doesn’t bother you to use them, or if the photo isn’t something you’re looking to use commercially, or you’re using these sites to find pictures for your own background on your desktop, then, fuck, have at! Just thought I’d mention all of that.

Alright, now there’s http://www.Pixabay.com/ and they boast a little over half a million photos and images (they didn’t say that, but I counted, so I know….)

….Ok, I didn’t actually count… but they just said that they had that many photos, and it’s probably true. But it’s free (for a month-long trial) and you can use the photos commercially, so bing bang, there’s an option! I checked out some of the photos, and the site seems pretty legit.  Mostly legit (I’ll get to my one concern with this site down the page). They let people upload their own photos to the site, after which point if you DO upload your own photos, you waive the rights to copyright-protection, the site says. I wondered how the site functions, with all those big photos taking up space, and server space isn’t free (unfortunately) so how do they do it? I bet a lot of people just get the trial membership and browse around for awhile, download some photos for a project, and then never come back. That might sound harsh, but you know it’s probably true, right? Well, ironically enough, when I do a search, (for example, a search for “apples”) I see a top row of photos – but that’s an ad – an ad that contains images I might want – but they’re from Shutterstock! Oh, the irony! Oh, the fucking tease! Fuck off, Shutterstock! Is there anything you won’t rub your stink on?

As I said, the thing with Pixabay that I encountered was that it had a one-month membership for free. After that, you can either just keep going after that and pay, or you can just use a different email and get another month… Not that I would … suggest such a thing… But anywho, what I did was go on a binge of downloading TONS of photos from the site during a free trial membership, I created this huge archive of photos – and I’m still getting through the photos now (months later) when I need different bits of graphics for a project or something. I know it’s gonna be awhile before I go back and need to find some more stock photos. I might go back, though. I definitely might. In fact, if I’d pay for a site for stock photos and stock art, it’d be Pixabay, definitely. But, again, there are also lots of free options, too, so I might check those out first before paying for something.

obnoxious free photo

Ahh, Shutterstock, why can’t you just fuck off?

The problem with totally-free-forever imagery is that, well, often, it’s from 1902. Not always, but you know what I’m saying. I can definitely see how there’s a need for modern images. In ten years from now, there will have to be a whole new series of images. Sure, a nice photo of a forest could be from 2005 or 2020 and you might not really notice much of a difference – but you probably would notice, for example, if a person is wearing a wardrobe straight out of the 1980s vs. the 1990s vs. 2016, etc… I guess it’s a niche that can’t be completely itched. But I feel like those shitty businessperson stock photos are going to go the way of the dodo. At least, I HOPE they do.

Anyway, though, as far as Pixabay goes, it does seem legit, and they have over half a million photos. Some of them seem great, some of them seem mediocre, but I’m sure you could use them as a resource for a great number of projects. You can definitely find some good ones, like this ultra-detailed photo of some fruit:


Mmmhmmm, those are some good lookin strawberries.

But anyway, there’s my Pixabay rant. I recommend them.

Another site I found, which I’m never going to use, and I don’t even want to link to them – but, since they kind of annoyed me, I’ll post part of their user agreement here:

“A link (or textural credit in non-web applications) to this site is required where an image is used. Acceptable credits include ‘image: http://www.freeimages.co.uk’ or a hyperlink to the URL http://www.freeimages.co.uk”

…  Are you joking? That sounds extremely tedious. They also say that you can’t store a bunch of their images on your hard drive after downloading. What the fuck? Why not? I understand I can’t resell them, but I can’t even have a big and substantial amount of them? But, I like having a big ol’ archive of images at my disposal. It makes me feel good. God damn, it just seems as though they have a million terms of agreement. Whatever, though. Can’t they just put ads up like good ol’ Pixabay? Pixabay obviously being the clear champion of this article, thus far, in my own personal opinion… I’ll get to the possible downside of Pixabay in a minute, but first let me mention iStock, and a couple other really hilariously bad sites.

This is almost becoming parody at this point because there are so many shitty sites out there, but I couldn’t even believe it when I found this tagline on iStock:

“Get a 10 image one-month subscription for as low as $40. Buy now.” HA!!!! Nice try, iStock nerds. Good luck with all that…

Ok, so there’s also http://depositphotos.com/, which claims 33 million high-quality stock photos. I don’t know if they count the different size variations of photos to get up to 33 million, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they actually do have what they say. I prefer the sites with ads, because they’re free. This one, though has different packages. They have packages from that range 100 images/month for $99; 500 for $199, they also have a plan for $219 that lets you get 30 images a day. I’m not going to list every single price, because I think you get the idea. It’s 99 cents or less for a photo, but you have to buy a package and download as many photos as allowable to get your money’s worth. Still, they do have a lot of stock photos, I have to give them that credit. So, if you want something like this, here you go.

I wasn’t going to mention www.Negativespace.co/, (don’t waste your time) but… well, goddamn. I search for “car,” and I get a bunch of pictures of laptops and credit cards and London streets before I see any actual cars. That seems unusual. What an awesomely inaccurate site. I search for “apple,” and nothing comes up. I guess not everyone can boast of having 33 million images, and this site IS free, but… Damn, I really have to just go with Pixabay. Unless I find out that they really, really, really suck (for whatever reason) I’m probably going to continue using their site as a resource.

BTW, 33 million? Now that I think about, I’m skeptical. I can’t prove them wrong, though, because I’m not going to literally sit there and just count all their images… I just can’t help but be skeptical of that site I mentioned a bit ago with that 33 million…

So, there are some of the resources I found… Goddamn, there sure are a lot of terrible photo sites out there. There’s a niche for you. Create a better photo site. And for fuck’s sake, please don’t pull the ol’ “10 photos for $40,” nonsense. Please! I’ve thought about starting a site with some friends to post photos, and I sure as hell wouldn’t try to charge THAT much. Who knows, the site I envisioned will probably never come into fruition, it’s just a possible idea for down the road. Maybe I shouldn’t even mention it, it’s a good market to try and “tap,” but I enjoy this format of saying exactly what’s on my mind – be they thoughts of photo sites, thoughts of how so many photo sites suck (especially Shutterstock) etc.


TL;DR:  …I … well, I kinda wish you DID read some of this, but ok, ok; in my opinion, Pixabay is the CLEAR champion. Boom. There you go. And, below, I’ll explain my only concern with the site.

So, yes, Pixabay has a variety of photos, although they have pretty ironic advertising. My only real concern with some of the photos uploaded – uh… how do I put this: OK, so I know its user-uploaded content, but there’s a few that look like they’re definitely not in the public domain or royalty-free.  But, admittedly, I don’t know know this for sure.

Also, I’m not sure that all the photos of people should necessarily be on there, as I just wonder if all the people in the photos personally consented to being put on the site. Like, for example, there’s a few photos of a woman in a bikini, and she just has this look on her face like she’s nervous, and, well, I don’t know what to think – is she uncomfortable? Did she not want to take these photos posing in her bikini but was pressured to? Does she even know they’re on this website? Or, is she totally and completely fine with all of it, and she just seems to have a curious expression on her face, as some people do from time to time, and any concern of mine is just paranoia?

I just don’t know. I want to assume the best, but I don’t know.

I will say, though, most of the images on that site DO seem fine, and aside from some of those questionable images of people that I just talked about, I think Pixabay is the best.

You know, there’s also Google Image Search, if you get desperate. Ha. Real high-quality… Yes, that’s sarcasm. And no, almost none of those images are public domain. It’s a free-for-all there. Who the hell knows what you’ll get when you go to a google image search, really.

Well, anyway, that’s about it for now. I hope this article gave you a bit of insight. There are a lot of resources out there, and I hate Shutterstock. It’s funny how many ads on free sites are for Shutterstock, too. I guess it is targeted advertising, but it still seems pretty funny.

Well, that’s it for now…. have a great one! Peace!


4 thoughts on “Fuck Shutterstock. Here are A Bunch of Free Alternatives (and a few that aren’t free, but are better than Shutterstock)

  1. I totally agree with you. They put words like” free” in the ads. with ripped off price. I image for AU$29.
    Thanks for sharing your valuable input.


    1. Word, yea I don’t know why people go with them so much (or seem to, but maybe “the bigger the site, the more popular it is,” .. ?) ..But I don’t know. If that’s even 10% the truth, there’s a huge need for someone to come in and dominate the niche. I know others are around too, obviously (hence the article) but yea, I guess all I’m saying is I appreciate your comment, thanks for taking the time to write, XC! 😀


    1. hahaha yea, I feel like they have (((SORT OF?))) like an unspoken monopoly in online photos. Maybe they’re just the biggest and people buy into it. I’m glad I’m not the only one annoyed by em! Thanks for the comment!


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