The human brain is a grey mystery wrapped in a squishy enigma.
We can’t even really say with any certainty how much we know about it.
After all, how can we be sure we know 10% about the brain if we have no idea what the full picture even looks like?
One of the very few things we do know about it is that it likes stimuli.
The Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics notes that 30% to 40% of the hundreds of billions of neurons in our brains are devoted to making sense of the images we see.
That’s one of the reasons why images have always been key components of successful marketing. We’re wired for visual content.
Consider this: adding an image to even something as bone-dry as a press release can increase readership by up to 40%, according to a PR Newswire report.
PR Newswire also found that the more images you add, the higher readership climbs. Add six images, and that 40% jumps to 240%.
And when it comes to articles, the importance of images become even more apparent. According to Kissmetrics, articles with images get 94% more views.
No Marketing Budget? No Problem
With all the information people take in on a daily basis, businesses need an eye catching image now more that ever to entice people into actually reading their content.
Of course, not every business can splurge on a top-flight photographer or even a premium stock image, but there are free alternatives. And by free, I mean really free, with absolutely no strings attached.
This is where the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license comes in.
Any work released under the CC0 license has essentially been put by its creator in the public domain, meaning you’re free to copy and edit it to your heart’s content, even for commercial purposes, without asking permission.
For a small business with a super tight marketing budget, CC0 images (as well as music and video) are a veritable treasure trove.
Here are some of our favorite CC0 image sites:
What started out as a simple Tumblr has since grown into one of the best free stock image sites today (the header image in this post is actually from Unsplash). Unsplash’s collection of over 300,000 high-resolution photos is completely searchable and completely free. They also have photo collections curated by some of the most recognized online brands today, including Spotify, Slack, and Product Hunt.
Death to Stock
Sign up with your email and you’ll receive a free set of high-quality images every month. They also have a “graveyard” area where you can download some older photo packs. The site’s entire collection is searchable only if you sign up for their premium service ($12/mo billed annually for an individual account), but be that as it may, Death to Stock still has, hands down, one of the highest quality free stock image collections online.
Every photographer has at least a few good images sitting in their hard drives for which they’ve never found a use. Upon realizing that he had thousands of pictures that would otherwise never see the light of day, the photographer behind SplitShire decided to just make them available to everyone for free.
StockSnap has thousands of high quality public domain images submitted by photographers, with hundreds more being added weekly. Their archive is easily searchable, plus you can sign up to get a collection of curated images sent to your email, completely free. If you don’t want another newsletter subscription cluttering up your email inbox, you can download their weekly photo bundle directly from their site as a zip file.
Design-wise, LibreShot looks like most other image aggregator sites, but don’t be fooled. Every single photo here is the work of photographer Martin Vorel, who has chosen to basically give them all away free for any kind of marketing use. The collection is categorized and comes with a search function, which can also be used to search a number of other free stock image sites including some of those listed here.
Gratisography by Ryan Maguire is yet another collection of absolutely free stock images with more photos being uploaded on a weekly basis. What sets this site apart from other similar collections is that it celebrates quirkiness; if you’re looking for something a bit more offbeat and humorous than usual, you’ll probably find it here.
Pixabay is another CC0 image aggregator. As of last count, the site already has over 1.3 million images (and quite a few HD and 4K videos), all free from copyright restrictions. You can also choose to filter results according to image type, i.e. photos, vector images, or illustrations.
You’ll find a growing collection of around 40,000 tagged, searchable, and completely free images (and some videos) here. Pexels is notable in that it offers a free Photoshop plugin that’ll prove useful for creatives who want to search for free images without leaving Photoshop.
Visualhunt is a CC0 image aggregator that gathers free public domain images from a wide variety of online sources, making it easier to find the image you need. They also allow you to embed their photos instead of downloading them, in case you want to cut down on loading speed. Note that not all images here are under a CC0 license, so make sure to check an image’s license info before you download.
Flickr may have shed some popularity points in the last few years, but it remains one of the best sources for Creative Commons images. The site has pre-built filters for each flavor of Creative Commons license, but if you’re looking for the totally free, no-restrictions images you should check the “Public Domain Dedication (CC0)” collection or set your search filter to “No known copyright restrictions”.
Marketing takes effort, but it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. Even if you don’t have a big fat budget, you can still put in the time and market your brand effectively.
Give the sites we’ve listed a browse and chances are, you’ll find something worth using or at least saving for your next big marketing push.