Nowadays, royalty-free images have become essential to be able to create beautiful visuals and highlight your content. The image is very useful to capture attention, convey a message or simply enrich a statement. Nothing beats a beautiful image to bring value to its contents and make them more alive. You have certainly already experienced it, whether you work in marketing, training, journalism or content creation for example.
Far too many people still come to Google for their images, and we’ve all made this mistake before. Yet it is forbidden to use them for the most part and they are not always of very good quality.
Royalty-free image banks solve this problem.
1-WHAT IS AN IMAGE BANK?
Image banks are platforms that offer users a wide choice of royalty-free images. Which means you can download and use them legally, without any copyright issues. They can contain illustrations, drawings, photos, models, or icons. You no longer necessarily need to call on a photographer to get quality photos, or a graphic designer to create the illustration of your dreams.
Be careful, do not confuse royalty-free with free. Image banks can offer free images but also for a fee.
But finding good royalty-free photos isn’t always easy. Each of the platforms has specificities. That’s why we have selected 6 platforms with different characteristics to allow you to choose the most suitable for your project.
1-1-SHUTTERSTOCK//ALL IN ONE
It is the world leader in royalty-free image banks with 350 million images and nearly 200,000 that are added every day, but not only…
Indeed, Shutterstock also hosts 12 million videos on its platform and several hundred thousand music accessible to its customers. Photos, videos, music tracks; as you will have understood, it is a real all-in-one.
Whatever image you are looking for, you will find your happiness. The images are of exceptional quality. The site also offers an image customization feature. You can then change their size, color and add text to them once you have downloaded them.
A section dedicated to new features has been integrated on the platform allowing users to directly find the news of the moment. In addition, unlike some market players, Shutterstock has its interface perfectly translated into French and it is a real comfort.
Shutterstock offers rates a little more expensive than the competition. The image bank has planned to provide formulas adapted to each one, to be able to meet the unique needs of the different users. It is possible to subscribe to a monthly license or to purchase an image pack. The subscription very quickly becomes more profitable than the purchase by pack:
5 images = 49€ (9,80€ per image)
25 images = 179€ (7,16€ per image)
Monthly plans without an annual license:
50 images per month = 2,50€ per image (125€ per month)
350 images per month = 0,45€ per image (159€ per month)
750 images per month = 0,27€ per image (199€ per month)
1-2- 123RF//IDEAL FOR ILLUSTRATION NEEDS
Like Shutterstock, 123RF is one of the most popular image platforms with over 180 million creations, 115 million royalty-free images and 90,000 daily contributions. Its catalog continues to grow day by day and it offers stock images of very good quality.
Vectors, creative images, high-definition videos and music are at the heart of this image bank.
Unlike its competitors, 123RF does not offer news photographs reserved for editorial use. It is much more focused on its vector offering. This is a small gold mine for agencies that are very fond of vector images to illustrate their content in the best way.
123RF has a fairly advantageous pricing and the platform is cheaper than its big competitor Shutterstock. It opts for an operation by credits or by subscription formulas to meet the recurring and foreseeable needs of users. For credits, the amount will depend on the size of the chosen image.
40 credits: €45 (€1.12 per credit)
90 credits: €99 (€1.10 per credit)
200 credits: €199 (€0.99 per credit)
400 credits: €379 (€0.94 per credit)
600 credits: €549 (€0.915 per credit)
10 images per month: €29 / month (€2.90 per image)
150 images per month (5 images / day): 79€ / month (0,53€ per image)
350 images per month: 139€ / month (0,40€ per image)
750 images per month: 179€ / month (0,24€ per image)
Pixabay is a free platform with more than 1 million high-quality royalty-free images. Each user shares their creations within the platform, which can then be freely downloaded.
You can find photographs, illustration images, vector images and videos.
Pixabay guarantees exceptional image quality. Indeed, it has a dynamic upload limit for contributors, with the aim of encouraging everyone to upload really useful and impressive photos and videos. If you like the style of a content creator, you have the opportunity to follow all of their work through their profile.
This platform is perfect for individuals with its pleasant to use and very intuitive search system. When uploading your photos, you have the choice between a battery of image resolution, which will be useful to get a format adapted to your needs.
1-4- PEXELS//FOR PHOTOGRAPHY ENTHUSIASTS
Pexels is a free platform on which we will be able to find thousands of images. New images are added every day.
She focuses on real photographs. All the images deposited are all of incredible quality and the tool is very popular for its original photos. The site also regularly organizes contests to keep only the best possible photos in its library.
In addition to images, Pexels also has a royalty-free video bank. It works on the same principle. You will be able to download and integrate HD content in MP4 format into all your web projects.
With Pexels, you don’t need to navigate a lot of pages before you find what you’re looking for. All shots are tagged, so it’s pretty easy to find results related to your search.
In addition, when uploading your photos, you have the choice between several dimensions of images.
It is possible to search by theme or to fill in a keyword in the bar dedicated to this purpose to find the image you want. There is also an image suggestions feature associated with your searches.
1-5- UNSPLASH//THE MOST POPULAR WITH START-UPS
Unsplash is more than a million high-resolution images that you can download for free. Thousands of new images are added every day.
Its specificity: absolutely magnificent photographs. To walk on Unsplash is to find yourself in a photo exhibition but virtual. You will find original shots that will strike you with their quality and power.
The platform is a great success with leading start-ups in the market such as Trello and advertising agencies that are increasingly fans of this platform. This success is explained by its simplicity of use but also by the very high aesthetic quality of the shots present on the site.
Indeed, the interface is very pleasant and the site is easy to handle. You can navigate between the different themes available on the site (business, love, nature, space, etc.) to find the rare pearl. Each theme is made up of several different categories of images and photos.
Each shot has statistics that allow you to find the trendiest photos of the moment. So the chances of you finding what you’re looking for are excellent. Just like Pexels and Pixabay, we will be offered image suggestions during our research.
1-6-FREEPIK//FOR GRAPHIC CONTENT LOVERS
Building on its success, Freepik has more than 100 million downloads per month. It offers a large repertoire of royalty-free images for the realization of various contents in order to improve its graphic communication.
Unlike other sites, Freepik is less focused on photography and has more graphic options. Photos, models, illustrations, icons and other presentation models are present.
Its interface is simple, ergonomic and easy to use. It only takes a few seconds to master it. Resources are organized into categories and the search can be filtered by popularity, publication date, authors, colors, and format.
However, users deplore the limitation of the number of daily downloads on the free version. The premium version is then more interesting: € 9.99 per month and per user. The advertisements will then be removed and access to all the content on the site will therefore be unlimited. For each use of a Freepik image, the user must credit the author by adding his name or the mention Designed by FreePik. In addition, the premium version allows up to 100 downloads per day, as well as access to exclusive designs and premium updates without credit.
2-WHICH PLATFORM TO CHOOSE IN THE END?
Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash are huge repositories of free images. They compete with the big popular paid sites like Shutterstock and 123RF. Their success is particularly explained by the simplicity of their use, a high quality of their shots and contents.
It will be for you to find the balance between proposed rates, quality of photographs and generosity of the catalog to make your choice. Each platform has its particularity, very varied content and depending on the platform, you will have more or less relevant results. We really advise you to test several different platforms to be able to find the image that best suits your needs.
If you are looking for beautiful original photographs, it will be better to go to Pexels and Unsplash. You want graphic content or illustrations, then 123RF and Freepik will be perfect for you. If you want some diversification in terms of content, Shutterstock and Pixabay will be your allies.
3-SOME RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE USE OF ROYALTY-FREE IMAGES
Whatever the royalty-free image bank you use, always remember to select relevant and original images to accompany your remarks. You can translate your keywords into English to get a wider range of images.
Regardless of the site you choose, it is important to check the type of license and respect it.
It will be necessary to pay attention to the mentions indicated on the royalty-free photographs hosted on these platforms. Some are only for editorial use and therefore absolutely cannot be used for commercial purposes. Others ask to quote the author. Remember that « royalty-free » does not mean royalty-free.
If you then want to edit, add or remove an element from your image; many free photo editing software exist.
4-BONUS: SPECIAL CASE OF DIGITAL TRAINING
As you know, digital learning is our dada, and we could not finish this comparison without mentioning the importance of the image in training. So if you are for example an educational engineer or Digital Learning Manager/Designer, this bonus is for you!
In our current modes of communication, the image captures a lot of attention and takes precedence, often over words. It has a pedagogical interest since memory refers to the visual and auditory sense. The image will energize the training, revive the concentration in the moments of training experienced heavily by the learner. The visual impact of your training modules is therefore a key factor for the engagement of your learners.
It is for all these reasons that Kumullus has decided to integrate Pexels, Unsplash and Pixabay into its K.Air platform, the #1 author tool of Video Learning. But not only! It is also to simplify and streamline the life of the digital learning designer as much as possible.
We all know how tedious and time-consuming it can be to use too many tools. Now, with K.Air, there is no need to use 30 software to carry out its training modules. You are designing a module in K.Air and you need an image to illustrate your point? One click on the magic button and you are connected to the royalty-free image platform of your choice. A second click and hop the image is uploaded to your module. And all this without leaving the author tool
This isn’t the only premium feature that has been added in kumullus’ media section. Do you know Canva for online graphic design? Crello too, Kumullus has also integrated it into his authoring tool K.Air. No need to leave the platform for its creation of visuals.
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