Stock photography often does more harm than good. The images tend to be too perfect, too contrived, more plastic than real. So after hundreds of dollars (and hours) spent purchasing photos from numerous stock photography websites, I’ve become a huge fan of Creative Commons searches on flickr.com. The Flickr Creative Commons library is massive and provides access to real photos taken all over the world – not airbrushed fakes. The photos are free and many of the file sizes are large enough to be used as backgrounds (e.g., Sarah Wolfe or Willie’s Cafe & Bakery websites). The end result: designs with a greater ring of truth.
To do a Flickr Creative Commons photo search, type in your search term on flickr.com, then select a Creative Commons option from the ‘Any license’ dropdown at the top left of your search results. Remember to give the photographer credit!
Besides Flickr, if you must go with stock photography, Death to Stock Photo and Unsplash are two worthwhile subscription services that offer true-to-life photos I’ve found useful in design work. Enjoy!