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Social Photo content - it may be easy, but is stock imagery the way to go?

Stock photos, we all use them. In 2021, 36.4% of all the images we saw online were stock photos. It’s a huge market, expected to be worth approx. USD$4 billion in 2023 as we up our social photo game and keep producing more visual content as marketers, brands and business owners.

While nothing beats originality and authenticity (more on that later), sometimes you just need a great photo to go with that social media content, blog or newsletter, so for those instances where you need some free stock imagery, we’ve put together a list of what we consider some of best options out there right now, especially if you’re on a budget. 


Owned by Canva, Pexels has over 3.2 million photos and videos that you can use for your social media content. We like it because while its library may not be as massive as, say Shutterstock, as far as free stock imagery and video goes there is plenty to choose from.

Pexels is easy to search and easy to use which is also a bonus.


Their MO is simple – to inspire and simplify the creative process.

These guys have a tonne of photos, vectors and videos you can get creative with when it comes to your social media content. We like their filters so you can search images by colour, age, subject etc., and they have loads of stuff to pimp up your social photo game! 

They also offer a pro-account option for less than $20 per month for unlimited downloads and access to millions of free stock imagery and video — this is a good option for those of you who are using stock imagery regularly.


These guys are worth having in your bookmark folder. Pixabay has over 2.7 million royalty-free stock images, videos, GIFs, sound effects and music tracks to help your social media content creation.

Their interface is super user-friendly, and you can search their massive library by size, subject orientation and colour. They also have some great free stock imagery geared to businesses and marketers so you can create that perfect infographic or image for your blog or social post.


If you’ve got a Shopify store, then you are probably familiar with Burst, their free stock photo platform. Their image library includes thousands of high-resolution royalty free stock imagery shot by their global community of photographers, and you can use their images anywhere without the need for attribution (but where possible, it’s always nice to credit the creator).

We also like their ‘Business Idea ‘pages – which are curated free stock imagery collections and case studies for new businesses and entrepreneurs.


We’ve included this one in our list simply because if you have a little time and patience to deep dive into their library and overlook their pretty average search functionality, there are indeed a few gems to be found. 

These guys have about 3 million curated photos from a community of almost 300 000 photographers from around the world that ‘gift’ the platform and you use of their images.

Lastly, a little bonus, especially for our foodies and hospo businesses – yes, you can now have your free cake and post it too!


This site is all things food when it comes to free stock imagery. You’ll find close to 2000 free high-resolution images you can use for your social media content. From burgers to bacon and eggs, prawns to pizza, if you can eat it, you can find it here!

Stock Imagery VS Original Imagery

We get it! When you’re under the pump or on a budget, stock imagery seems like a godsend when it comes to churning out your social media content, but as we alluded to earlier, it may not be the right or best strategy for your brand’s persona or bottom line.

Not convinced… check out these little stats.

Stock vs Orignal Images: How effective for communicating what a brand stands for?

According to, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most effective, the effectiveness for communicating what a brand stands for when using stock images VS original images is 5.76, while original photos are almost double at 9.33.

Stock Images vs Original Images: How effective for driving purchases

When it comes to driving your bottom line… the effectiveness for driving a purchase when using stock images are on 5.47, while original pics are at 8.98.

While stock imagery definitely has its advantages, it also has some major disadvantages… It can make you blend in and become indistinguishable from your competitors. Consumers have gotten pretty good at discerning a stock image from an original one, Google doesn’t love them when it comes to ranking your site, and they don’t add or build anything for your brand’s personality.

So next time you go to search for that stock image for your social media content, stop and think if it’s the very best representation for your business.


If you’re looking to create original, authentic social photo or video content for your website, blogs, newsletters or socials, avails has you covered. We can send a squad to you to shoot a bunch of unique content to make you stand out from the crowd. 1-hour shoots start from $590 and we send all your content back to you edited and ready to go. Click here for more info.


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