If you’re hunting for niche photos for your blog, then stock photos might not cut it. I’ve often found myself wondering, “How can I get a photograph of [this thing] that nobody else cares about, but I do?”
Here are 7 somewhat unusual sources I’ve used for niche stock photos. You won’t find any Getty images here! (Number 7 is my favorite.)
Craigslist seems to be rapidly morphing into the notorious Dark Web. Anywhere you can hire a tattoo artist, hawk your old DVDs, find a rideshare partner, and hookup with said rideshare partner is kind of scammy, right?
But … it’s a hidden treasure trove of free-use images (if you get permission).
In the “For Sale” section of Craigslist you can find anything from clothes to collectibles to gently used tires, half off, always been stored inside, no really! If you write about physical goods, then why not reach out to a Craigslist poster and ask if you can republish their photographs on your website? Offer to Venmo them $5. You’d be surprised how often this works!
Unlike many other stock photo sites, Flickr is an image hosting and sharing service. Most people on Flickr post their photos to share with friends or with the world as a labor of love, not as a profit-making enterprise.
The great thing about using Flickr for stock photos is there’s no guessing. You can search by license and attribution requirements. It’s so easy! And there’s over 170 million photos on Flickr!
Most of the professional-quality images on Flickr will require you to link back to the source and attribute the author with an image caption. If you’re not comfortable with that, you can specify “No Known Copyright Restrictions” in the search query criteria.
I love searching for photos on Flickr! They look like they’ve been taken by real people (they have); they’re not overly staged and Photoshopped. And you can find subject matter that you’d never find on commercial stock photo sites.
3. Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons is a repository of free-use media. It contains over 80 million files! – but fair warning: A lot of them are useless. The Commons is actually infamous for being full of amateur pornography and graphic images involving – well, you get the idea.
You won’t find prim n’ polished stock photos here. All these images belong to the Public Domain. A lot of the photos are uploaded by government departments, government agencies, museums, or “Wikipedians,” a body of volunteers that reports spamming, cyber vandalism, and gets a kick out of showing everybody else how much they know.
But I’m amazed by what I can find here! I can find pictures of greyhound racing, nun convents, ham radios, bleached coral reefs, and 18th-century paintings of Genghis Khan. Try finding those at Shutterstock!
My big complaint is that the Wikimedia Commons search bar is AWFUL. The search algorithm seems primitive. There’s no semantic understanding. A search for “Atlantic Salmon,” “Pacific Salmon,” and plain ol’ “Salmon” turn up completely different images. You might need to think up 3-5 keyword phrases to find what you’re after.
4. Facebook Marketplace
Similar to Craiglist, Facebook Marketplace is a great place to search for photos of everyday things: clothes, power tools, lawnmowers, antiques, guns, etc. If you blog about something that people sell out of their garages, just go straight to the source!
I have had excellent luck simply asking people if I can use their photos from their sales listing, and I always offer to link back to their site if requested. Not everyone responds, but most people are very agreeable.
5. Canva Pro
So, Canva Pro isn’t really free. It’s $12.99 a month. But as part of the deal, you get access to a fairly large, diverse library of stock images you can use in your Canva designs.
Now, there are a LOT of caveats to using Canva Pro for stock images. Canva lists their rules and restrictions here.
- You can’t use any of their pictures to sell stuff, for instance, even as a download thumbnail.
- You can’t use the images in trademarked applications.
- And fun fact, if you download the image unedited from Canva, you can’t make it bigger than 480,000 square pixels (e.g. 800×600 pixels)!
Plus, downloading images from Canva isn’t one-click-and-done. They don’t want you to use their images as standalone images; they want you to create designs. So you have to insert a picture into a design and then download the design. It’s a hassle for more than a handful of photos.
And finally, a lot of the images in Canva Pro are actually sourced from Pixabay or Pexels, both of which are already free sources for stock images!
I would not sign up with Canva Pro just for the stock photos. But if you already use Canva Pro to design blog featured images or Pinterest pins, it’s a nice bonus.
6. Windows Key + PrtScn
Every computer since has had the ability to record a screenshot. On a Windows 10 computer, just use the shortcut command Windows Key + PrtScn. You can also use the Snipping Tool on a Windows machine or press Shift+Cmd+4 on an Apple Macbook.
You can’t copy someone else’s copyrighted work with a screenshot, obviously. But what if you could screenshot a chart from Google Trends or a snippet of Google News Search Results? This could provide background or contextual information about your subject.
7. A Retail Store
Even if you don’t own the thing, can you think of somewhere that sells it? I’ve walked through Lowes, Walmart, and Sears, just snapping photographs of items on sale. If your blog is about home decor, go to Home Depot! If it’s about health and wellness, stop by a GNC Supplements store.
Go to a zoo, an amusement, a school, Tractor Supply, or a playground! I’d almost guarantee there’s a retail store near you that sells something you’re writing about. Who cares if you look like a creep to everyone else, taking pictures of the artisan cheese? You’re making money, dagnabit!
Bonus: Your Smartphone
Of course, the best tool for a blogger isn’t some secret website – it’s your own camera.
If you think to yourself, “I’m not a photographer; I could never take photos!” then I think you’re missing the point. In fact, I think stock photos often do us bloggers more harm than good! What’s worse: To show the world that you aren’t a paid professional photographer, or to admit that you have never owned, never touched, and never even seen what you’re writing about?
Be brave; take a photo!