Anastasia Grebneva October 24th, 2019

How to Get Quality Photos for Your Designs: Tips, Resources, and Tools

Photos in design can kill it or breathe life into it. You can spend days and weeks on creating a fantastic design but use too generic hero image, and people won't notice your work at all; they will see a stock-looking picture and leave.

In this article, you will find tips on getting quality photos, not an obvious choice of photo stocks, and some handy tools to ease up your work.

How to Choose Photos for Your Designs

Tip 1. Check if the image was used before.

One of the things you probably don't want is to find out that the photo you used in your design is also used by a local pharmacy, an internet-marketing course, or a restaurant across the street for their discount ads. And this is a real possibility, especially while using a free photo.

Most likely, you've already met Kate somewhere.

This photo of Kate on a pink background is quite popular all over the world, as you can see. The picture was originally taken for Moose Stock Photos and then uploaded to free popular photo stock Unsplash. For sure, it is a great image; otherwise, it wouldn't be so sought-after, but maybe you would prefer to use a different photo of Kate instead of the one that you can see on a weekly basis in various designs.

So before using an image in your project, google it.

Tip 2. Make sure the photo you want to use is hi-res.

The size of the image depends on where exactly you want to use it. In some stocks, photos with higher resolution cost much more expensive than an image that will be ok for web usage in a blog post. If you are on a budget you can either use free photo stocks, but don't forget about tip 1, or choose a subscription model that unlike a pay-per-image model will give you access to hi-res pictures. After all, you can cancel the subscription once you got all the images you need.

Tip 3. Select realistic emotions and scenes.

The quality of the photo is not only about good lightning and the absence of blurriness but about what people see. Do they feel fakeness? Do they believe the emotions of models? Everyone knows "Oh salad, you are so funny" memes, and you don't want to use such a photo unless it is chosen on purpose or to laugh.

To make your design look better, select photos with more realistic emotions and scenarios for your goal. If the company's call center doesn't work with stand up comedians maybe you shouldn't use an image with all models laughing while talking on their phones.

Though emotions on these pictures look natural, the scene, itself might not, especially for a tech support center, for example.

Tip 4. Make your own photos when possible.

When you design a page about the team of the company, it is much better to use the image with real employees. While designing a project about a physical product, you better use real pictures; otherwise, it can harm the sales level even. How can you get your own photos if you are on the budget?

  • If you have an audience on social media or newsletter subscribers, you can announce a photo contest. Ask users to create photos with the product and award those participants whose photos you like the most.
  • You can hire several beginner photographers to take photos. Their rates will be lower than the professional ones, some times they can agree to work for free if you credit them when publishing or give them a shout out. This way, you get to choose from plenty of photos and experiment with styles.
  • Rent a studio and order a light setting, but do images yourself with an iPhone.

Real photos gain more trust in most cases.

Photo Stocks: In Search of Diverse and Quality Photos

This is a list of photo stocks that are not as famous as Shutterstock or Unsplash. Some of these stocks offer more diverse collections than those giants. The list consists of free and paid photo libraries.
Rawpixel goal is to reflect today’s society as it really is. The library is quite huge with plenty of categories to choose from. Users can download up to five images per day from the Free Collection and unlimited CC0 free images. Also, Rawpixel offers lifetime licenses for $99 (for personal use) and $499 (for commercial use).

Moose Photos is more than just a free photo stock. First, users can recompose most of the photos for their needs: change models, replace backgrounds including uploading your own, add and remove objects. It helps to diversify the scenes: add a transgender person to office space, create a mix-race family, and so on. Second, photos were shot by one team with the same lighting and angles to make images work together in one design.

Bonus: Check out the Stockphotos article about the best way to buy stock photos.

The library has filters for body features giving users an option to find a specific looking models. You can use photos for free and set a link to Moose website, or buy a license for $19.90/month.

Nappy offers photos of black and brown people. There are just six categories to choose from. But you can use a search option (beta) to find the image you need faster. Users can download, modify, share, distribute, or use photos in any project for free.

Create Her Stock collects authentic stock photography featuring women of color mostly, though you can find photos of men there as well. There are not many categories in this library. Users can choose from Beauty, Business, Creatives, Desk, Family, Fellas, Hair, Holidays, Lifestyle, Love, Visuals, Wellness, and Miscellaneous collections. The whole stock has 3000+ images currently.

180+ photos are available for free without registration. The price is starting from $10/month for full access. The downside: you can not see the whole collection before buying one of the plans.

The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library with images of trans and non-binary models. The difference between this and other stocks that these models were captured in scenes that go beyond the clichés; it represents members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities, but as people with careers, relationships, and talents. The collection is quite small, though. All photos are free, but you need to credit The Collection in your captions. And you may not create derivative work from the images or use the images for commercial purposes.

TONL is a photo stock that showcases people of different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations doing everyday things: going to the gym, cooking, reading, etc. The basic subscription costs $29 and allows downloading of 15 photos. 

Reshot collects photos from talented photographers and gives them away for free (for personal and commercial use). There are no categories on the website, but there is a section with several packs that are available for a tweet, and there is a search option, of course. 

Stocksy offers quality photos starting from $15 per image. The higher the resolution, the more you need to pay. The cool thing is you can choose to use the image exclusively from 6 months to 4 years. Lots of photos look quite natural, including models' emotions.

Haute Stock is a source of Instagram-worthy photos. New images added weekly. If you sign up for their newsletter, you will receive some free photos every month. The plan price starts from $99 for 3 months (unlimited downloads). 

Handy Photo Tools to Get Quality Images is a tool that works as a search engine basically. It uses the APIs from several stock photo providers (Rawpixel, Pexels, Foodiesfeed, and many others) and assembles pictures in one library. Users can download these photos directly from The tool has its own simple photo editor built-in to the website.  

Photo Creator tool is based on Moose photos. Anyone can create a photo they need from scratch choosing from thousands of models, objects and backgrounds (rendered, real-life, or solid colored). Photo Creator library has plenty of funny animals, and moreover 3D meme faces and aliens. So for those who need bizarre or comical images, it can be very handy as well. The tool allows for uploading of custom images and a background removal (only for paid accounts). PhotoCreator is available for free.

Removebg is a free tool for removing a background from the photo automatically. Sometimes you like the main model or an object on the photo but you don't need the background, and if you don't want to use tools like PhotoShop this is a way to go. But keep in mind that not all services allow modifications of the photos. Read the terms of use before doing anything with the image.

Removal.AI is one of the best AI tools you can have to help optimize your graphic design tasks. It is a free image background remover and editor that can help you remove background from photos quickly and easily. It has features such as automatic background remova?, a photo editing tool, and it can be integrated with other applications with its API.

Alongside these tools, consider Kittl's AI Background Remover for your design projects. It's an efficient solution for quickly removing unwanted backgrounds from images. This feature is particularly useful for designers who need to isolate elements for compositions without the hassle of manual editing. Whether it's integrating subjects into new environments or creating cleaner, more focused visuals, Kittl’s AI tool streamlines the process, saving time and enhancing the final image quality.


Choosing photos can be an enjoyable search operation or a nightmare. Hopefully, these tips, photo stocks, and tools will help you to find images you need to compliment your design.

Anastasia Grebneva

Anastasia Grebneva, the digital marketer with diverse experience.


  1. WOW!! These resources I am exactly looking for a long time. I mainly depend on Shuterstock , Pixabuy, and 2 other markets for royalty-free photos. In this article, I found both free and commercial service. Now It will be a great asset for me to design my magazine template. Thanks again for this nice post.

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