The Most Ethical Place to Get Free Photography for Your Needs

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This article isn’t for photographers: it’s for the people who want images and end up ripping off photographers. They know it’s wrong; they know they’re using images without consent or permission. Should photographers be paid? Yes. Absolutely. I think it’s essential for photographers to make money and support their families the same way someone doing business does. Consistently ripping off photographers isn’t the key. And there’s a huge difference between fair use and commercial use. Here are the most ethical places to get free photography.

First Off, Try Shooting Your Own Photos or Hire a Photographer

You probably need images to promote your product. So honestly, hire a photographer. Do a bunch of looks, and invest in yourself. When I say hire you can flat out, you know, just pay them, or you can make a fair trade if possible. Once you’ve paid for the images, you can recycle them as much as you need to. Of course, you’re paying in this case.

First and foremost, I will always recommend paying a photographer. Lots of our staff are paid photographers, and I’m a former professional. Trust me, not just anyone can do what they do. It’s not about the camera. These days, there’s a lot of work involved with photography. We can tell when images posted on Etsy, Instagram, or Amazon, are awfully photoshopped. You pay for what you get. 

The Flickr Creative Commons

By far, the best thing to do is to search the Flickr Creative Commons. It is probably the largest and most ethical database of free photography on the web. Whatever you do, do not use Unsplash, Pexels, or similar services. They more or less make new photographers feel like their images aren’t going to go anywhere and trick them into giving away their work for free.

So what’s different about the Flickr Creative Commons? Awful people (like a few I used to know on the board of American Photographic Artists NY, unfortunately) will say Unsplash is fine. They’ll argue that photographers uploading to Unsplash will totally understand it, but they’re wrong. How many times have you ever read the terms and conditions? Probably never. What is different about Flickr is photographers upload images and then specifically set them to be Creative Commons or something else. Photographers also specifically set the type of usage that’s allowed.

You, as someone looking for free photography, should look for photos for commercial usage.


Behance is owned by Adobe and is also a fantastic place for free photography. Lots of the photos there are under Creative Commons usage. And we’ve featured plenty of photographers using those rights. (These days though, we reach out and do full interviews.) But on Behance, you can also reach out to artists (not just photographers) and ask to collaborate. If you really want to use the images, you can ask. 

Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated

In the end, just remember that photographers are business people and artists too. The best thing to do in life is to treat others the way you want to be treated. That applies to being a business owner or an employee. The more people you step on, the worse it will become for you.

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