From Instagram to Pinterest to YouTube, visual media reigns supreme in travel marketing. And while you might hire a photographer to take professional photos for you, that’s an expense not every business can indulge in regularly. Meanwhile, the demand for fresh, new images is seemingly endless.
You can enhance your personal photo gallery with stock images from sites like Shutterstock, but over time those costs can add up, too.
So what’s a small travel brand to do? Where can you find a steady supply of free, inspiring photos for your travel marketing? I’ve got nine resources you can mine for that perfect, cost-free shot to add to your blog post, Instagram feed, or company brochure.
9 Sources For FreeTravel Photos & Videos
#1 source of free travel photos: your phone
You don’t have to know a thing about photo composition, lighting, or framing to take a perfectly good picture for your marketing—especially for use on social media. Today’s smartphones have built-in cameras that rival or surpass yesterday’s stand-alone cameras. And, as we all know, Instagram filters can make just about anything look good.
Candid shots are more compelling, too, because prospective customers know professional photos are staged and photoshopped to make everything look perfect. Your amateur photos offer greater authenticity and more relatablility.
The best part about using your own photos is that you own the copyright and therefore needn’t concern yourself with any of the sometimes confusing rules about licensing. Not only that, you never have to worry about who else is using the exact same picture!
So go ahead, snap and share photos of your location, your team, and (with permission) your guests doing whatever it is you do every day.
#2 source of free photos: your customers
Known as user generated content (UGC), pictures, videos, reviews and stories created and shared by your customers or fans is one of the most powerful forms of marketing there is. UGC is viewed as more trustworthy than branded content and is more likely to influence purchasing decisions.
Need an example of the power UGC? Take one look at TripAdvisor. Quite possibly the most influential voice in all of travel and it’s almost 100% user generated content—travelers sharing their experiences and photos in the form of ratings and reviews.
Is it OK to simply download customers’ pictures of your business and use them in your marketing? No, because there are still copyright issues to contend with. But you CAN:
- Ask for and receive permission first, then use the photo or video
- Like and reshare customer posts directly on the platform where you found it
- Use the embed code from social media to add content on your website
If your customers are not organically sharing UGC on social media or elsewhere there are tools available to help you manage and grow customer reviews.
#3 source of free photos: influencers
Influencers can be an amazing resource to help you market your travel brand. And while this isn’t necessarily “free” in the same way as some of the other resources on this list, we learned from travel influencer Timo Kiviluoma that there’s a good chance you’ll be able to barter for it.
The great thing about working with influencers is that they already know what kind of content people like. They put the effort into creating, editing and promoting the content on your behalf. And you can even negotiate permission to use their content in your other marketing materials.
I was going to list these three separately, but it turns out Canva bought the other two, so I’m now lumping them together.
Pixabay and Pexels both offer libraries of 100% free stock photos, videos, and illustrations. These images are contributed by a community of creators who, by using the site, agree to let anyone download them for personal or commercial use, free of charge, and without attribution. While the images are available at no cost, donations to the creators are accepted and appreciated.
Pixabay is my personal favorite. With a little bit of searching I can almost always find a visually interesting, high-quality photo for use on my blog or social media.
The thing about stock photography, however, is that once you’ve used one of their images you’ll begin to notice it everywhere. That’s where Canva comes in. Canva is a free, web-based graphic design software that will let you personalize your images with text, emoji, icons, frames, filters, etc.
If, like me, your design skills are—ahem—subpar, you’ll love that Canva has tons of pre-designed templates for everything from printed brochures to social media posts to videos. They also have their own, built-in library of free and paid images in addition to what they’ve acquired from Pixabay and Pexels.
#7 source for free photos: Death To Stock
This is a unique one. Death to Stock is a paid stock photography service that prides itself on high quality, artistic imagery. Here’s what their website says:
“Cheesy and overused stock photos have invaded our internet. Now we’re taking it back.
By funding talented artists who are creating fresh and stunning work that you can’t get anywhere else. Immediately giving you an edge you can see and feel.”
Yes, it’s a paid service with a monthly subscription fee. BUT if you sign up for their newsletter you’ll get free samples delivered to your inbox. The samples come in packs of approximately 15 high-resolution images that are far more visually interesting than your standard stock photography. Each pack centers around a particular theme, and while not every theme will relate to your business, those that do will add flair to whatever you’re working on.
#8 source for free photos: Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons is a sister product of Wikipedia. In fact, many Wikimedia images are included with Wikipedia entries.
I have occasionally found useful photos on Wikimedia Commons, but it’s not my favorite resource. The search function isn’t great, the quality of the photos can be hit or miss, and the user experience could be better.
#9 source for free photos: Flickr
Flickr is more of a photo sharing app than it is a stock photography resource, but sometimes you’ll find a real gem. People upload photos to Flickr for a variety of reasons whether it’s simply saving them for personal use, sharing them with friends and family, or promoting their photography business.
When searching Flickr, look for photos that have the “creative commons” copyright, which will be noted under the photo on the right-hand side. Even when something has a creative commons license, you’ll still need to follow this guide to understand the various restrictions. All-in-all, if you see something on Flickr you like, it’s worth checking to see if you can use it. But it wouldn’t be my go-to resource for free stock photography.
So there you have it, 9 sources of free stock photography for your travel marketing. Do you know of any more? Leave a comment below.