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My 5 favorite places to find stock art

My 5 favorite places to find stock art

I like to use my own photos to illustrate my projects when I can. There’s something refreshingly clear-cut about it: These may not be the most awesome photos in the world, but they are mine, and they are attached to more work that is also mine, dammit.

But when it’s not amateur hour, the amateur photographers among us need a reliable place to find beautiful images for our professional work. Type “stock art” into your search engine of choice, and you’ll be inundated. It can be a bit like the peanut butter section at the grocery store. Where do you begin?

These days there are online lists galore of all the great places to find stock art that doesn’t look like stock art. But let’s cut down on the overwhelming variety of options a bit more — I just want to tell you about my five favorite places to find great stock art.

1. Death to Stock

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Image courtesy of Death to Stock

This suggestion is not going to blow anyone’s mind. I see these photos everywhere online, so you guys have already found Death to Stock. You’ve made a wise choice. For the price of your email address, your inbox receives a monthly package of free, high-res photos — the headcount ranges from around 10 to nearly 30, but hey, free.

Of course, for $10 a month, you can get everything. About 400 images and counting.

As for content, the many natural landscape photos are quite lovely and serene-looking. Still, I personally wouldn’t mind a few more images showcasing unique work environments with a diversity of creative professionals. A bit more variety wouldn’t go amiss.

And, like I said earlier, Death to Stock isn’t a secret to anyone. If you’re looking for images that won’t pop up on a competitor’s site, I recommend steering clear. You’ll see these around because they’re that good.

2. The Creative Commons on Flickr

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Image courtesy of Shari Thompson

Want photos that no one’s seen before? You’re gonna have to dig. You can find obscure, fabulous, high-res images for free with the Creative Commons license.

When I have a very specific image in mind, something I know would perfectly illustrate my point, I turn to Flickr. I’m pretty much guaranteed to find something if I keep my mind open and I’m not in a rush. Just be sure to double check the license you’re searching under — Creative Commons definitely, but there are more specific licenses like Commercial use allowed or Modifications allowed. So keep your end use in mind while you browse.

Most of these high-res images you’ll find here require attribution upon use. At any rate, attributing isn’t a bad habit to get into whenever you receive something for free from another artist.

3. New Old Stock

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Image courtesy of New Old Stock

I get bored quickly with flashy images of sleek Macs and minimalist desks — besides, that photo of a random, middle-aged person at their open-space office could illustrate any number of concepts. Too often, it’s simply not descriptive enough.

When I need to illustrate a post that deals with business topics applicable to design, I take a scroll through New Old Stock. This Tumblr site does have a search option, but you’re better off dealing with it like you do Flickr: Take your time and keep your mind open. I’ve found some of my favorite Mad Men-style office photos from this site.

And let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun to illustrate modern business concepts in an online design publication with grainy, black-and-white photos of office workers using equipment we’ve never seen before. Is that a Dictaphone? It’s the ultimate hipster designer’s dream.

4. Split Shire

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Image courtesy of Split Shire

So we’ve established that Death to Stock’s content contains top-notch photography. Split Shire reminds me of that style but with a touch more whimsy. Need a photo of a headbanger with hot pink locks jamming out to some headphones? Oh, you’ll find that here, you’re welcome.

Again, like Death to Stock, there’s a premium service option at $5.50 a month available via Gumroad. A bundle of exclusive photos drops neatly into your Dropbox every month in addition to the over-400 on the site now.

Split Shire’s site already runs a little slow, so I’m hesitant to share this favorite. But I like telling people about stuff that’s helped me out. Just be patient, right?

5. Life of Pix

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Image courtesy of Life of Pix

What strikes me instantly about the photos on Life of Pix is their exquisite composition. You’re not going to find subject matter that stands out from the norm all that much here, but the visual lines are stunning.

The site itself is a pleasure to look at too, with easy navigation, large previews of images, and neatly organized galleries.

Also, is anyone looking for stock video? You’ll find a decent selection at Life of Vids. I’m partial to the dairy cow chewing its cud, but there are much more widely applicable clips available: autumn leaves, running water, a country road, for example.

So these are my favorites that I turn to repeatedly. Have a resource for stock images that you like better? Tell me about it! I always want to know what I’m missing.

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