When you create a new website or a series of social media posts for your coaching brand, you want every bit of your campaign to scream quality. But you can only do that with high-quality photography that illustrates your niche — that ideally doesn’t break the bank either.
I’ve been working with online content for over a decade, including stock photography downloaded from various websites. In this guide, you’ll find the best stock photo sites based on a few clearly defined factors.
None of these image banks sponsored this article; this is simply an honest review of their features and the photography they offer — particularly through the lens of a coaching business.
Scroll on if you want to find out more about:
- The different image licenses stock photo websites use
- How to choose the one that fits your needs best
- What keywords to use to ease your photo search
- And whether generative AI can beat photographers
How Stock Photography Licenses Work
Before you post a photo online, consider how it’s licensed — even if you have downloaded it for free. Photography licenses are an agreement between you and the image provider (a photographer or an agency), and they determine how you’re allowed to use the images.
Here are the most common licenses you’ll come across on stock photo sites online.
Creative Commons (CC) Licenses
Stock photo sites like Unsplash typically offer images under a Creative Commons license.
You can download, modify, and use these photos for free. You don’t have to attribute the creator; you can use the images for your blog, marketing materials, or other purposes.
Royalty-Free (RF) Licenses
Royalty-free stock photos cost a one-time fee; you can use them as often as you like. These images are non-exclusive, which means you may come across other people using them on their websites and social media.
Stock photo sites like Shutterstock offer royalty-free images as individual downloads or as a part of a subscription.
Editorial and Commercial Licenses
Editorial and Commercial licenses restrict how you can use their photography.
A photo with an editorial license can be used in blog posts that are informative and in educational contexts, like your workshop materials. They often include recognizable people.
Photography under a commercial license can be used for promotional purposes. You can include them in your marketing materials or on your brand website.
Stock photo sites like Getty Images sell photography under these licenses and indicate their permitted use.
If you purchase an exclusive license for a photo, it grants you exclusive rights to use the image during a particular license period. It prevents other users from using the image, so you won’t see it on other sites. However, it comes with a higher price tag than non-exclusive licenses.
Alamy is a stock photo site that offers exclusive licenses for a set period. This can be beneficial if you want to build a unique visual brand identity for your coaching business.
However, with such a wide selection of high-quality images accessible online, you’re unlikely to see the photos you find on other sites. Even if you do, it probably won’t affect the credibility of your brand.
How to Choose from the Best Stock Image Websites
Restrictions to Use
Stock image sites offer different licensing agreements. Consider whether you’re looking for stock photography for your course material or commercial purposes, i.e., for your marketing campaign. If you’re unsure, a Creative Commons or Royalty-Free photo will be your safest bet.
If stock photography isn’t something you want to budget for right now, you can try out one of these free stock image websites first:
If you’re looking for a better selection of coaching-related photography, opt for a paid plan with a stock image site like Shutterstock or iStock.
Subscriptions are the best investment if you need new photography regularly. You can get a better deal with annual plans, plus some of these packages include additional features like editing tools and other media types.
If you’re not really sure about the number of images you’ll use in the upcoming months, or you just want a few high-res shots for your brand website, you can go for a pay-per-download plan for a one-time fee.
If you compare a free stock image site that relies on user contributions versus a paid one, you’ll immediately notice a difference.
Websites that list images from a photographer community often have a bigger diversity of image styles. Some of them are more candid and genuine than highly edited images, but others have a visibly lower quality.
On the other hand, Premium image banks work with professional photographers and models and use better lighting and a set that’s designed intentionally. They do quite a bit of editing work on their photography, too, to enhance its quality.
Image resolution can also be a concern depending on what medium you need visuals for. Image banks like Shutterstock let you download images in various sizes. You can save on storage space with smaller files used for social media or get extra high-res shots for your offline promotion display.
You might find limited options on a free stock image website if you’re going for a particular niche like health and wellness or spirituality coaching. Large photo banks that upload thousands of new images daily will likely have a wider range of themed images you can use for your content.
Sites like iStock also have collections that specifically list photography related to coaching or mentoring. They also have exclusive content you won’t encounter on other websites. Before you sign up for a subscription plan, it’s worth doing a test run on your shortlisted stock photo sites.
The Best Stock Photography Sites for Coaches
Here are the best stock photo sites at a glance that you can use for your marketing materials and curriculum.
|Stock Photo Site
|Best for free, high-quality photography from contributors
|Best for free images, vectors, and illustrations
|Best for high-quality studio shots
|Best for themed imagery with a dedicated collection for coaching
|Best design app with a high-quality stock photo bank
|Free, royalty-free images
|Royalty-free images, vectors, and AI-generated images
|Free and premium graphics
|Integration with Adobe Creative Cloud for seamless design
|Premium and exclusive visual content
Now, look at the top five stock photography websites in more detail.
Unsplash is a great resource that offers unlimited downloads of free, high-quality imagery. It has an extensive library of over a million images for any purpose and a great selection of coaching-related photography.
The images are contributed by talented photographers covering various topics that make great social media posts and marketing collaterals.
Pixabay is the ultimate resource for free stock images and illustrations. It’s ideal if you’re on a budget and need great illustrations and photography without a subscription. Sites like Pixabay use a Creative Commons license, which allows you to use and modify their visuals for free and use them for marketing purposes.
Though not curated, Pixabay lists images from a community of photographers, so you can find a diverse range of styles and subjects on their site. It offers unlimited downloads of images, vectors, music, GIFs, and sound effects.
Shutterstock has set the standard high when it comes to high-quality stock photos. It has a great collection of premium, high-resolution photos, illustrations, and vectors in the coaching niche and beyond.
Shutterstock subscriptions are $29-499 a month, depending on the number of downloads you need. They have 200,000 high-res photos added daily and aren’t cringy anymore like stock photos used to be. Shutterstock also offers a cinematic 4K stock video subscription and has a library of stock music perfect for podcast production.
iStock by Getty Images has a dedicated section for coaching and mentoring. Their specialized collections on life coaching, business coaching, wellness, and personal development are easy to navigate.
iStock offers both subscriptions starting at $29 a month and credit packs. If you want more, it also has a combined plan with videos, music, and Premium imagery.
Canva is a comprehensive design platform with a high-quality stock photo bank, not just a design app. If you use Canva for your content visuals, you don’t need a separate stock photography subscription. You can search for relevant imagery while creating and simply drag and drop stunning photos on your design.
Canva has a free plan and a Premium subscription for $14.99 with a wider selection of photography and other design features. They also have thousands of templates for coaching materials that you can easily customize for your post or campaign.
How to Find the Best Stock Images for Coaching
If you don’t want to waste your time and photography credits browsing around, try these coaching-specific keywords.
Stock Photos Related to Business Coaching and Consulting
- Business coaching
- Career coaching
- Executive coaching
- Business consulting
- Management consulting
- Strategy consulting
- Financial consulting
- Leadership consulting
- Professional development
- Meeting room
- Business professionals
- Client meeting
- Team collaboration
- Coaching session
- Multicultural team
- Diverse professionals
- Inclusive workplace
- Group coaching
Stock Photos Related to Health Coaching and Spiritual Coaching
- Healthy living
- Nutrition and diet
- Wellness coaching
- Fitness coaching
- Holistic well-being
- Physical wellness
- Healthy lifestyle
- Mindfulness meditation
- Wellness journey
- Physical fitness
- Mental well-being
- Spiritual growth
- Mindful living
- Inner peace
- Meditation practice
- Spiritual journey
Stock Photos Related to Relationship Coaching
- Couple coaching
- Love and connection
- Healthy relationships
- Couples therapy
- Relationship communication
- Emotional intimacy
- Marriage guidance
- Communication skills
- Relationship goals
- Relationship dynamics
- Relationship harmony
- Intimacy coaching
- Conflict resolution
Stock Photo Sites VS AI-Generated Images
With generative AI, you can type in a specific description of a visual into an app and generate the image you’re looking for. Apps like Midjourney are getting increasingly sophisticated in understanding queries and refining images based on your inputs.
However, generative AI is still far from producing photography that can compete with camera shots. It’s fun to play around with it. However, AI images still resemble gaming graphics rather than real-life situations so for the foreseeable future, AI image generators remain one-trick ponies.
It’s also time-consuming to rewrite detailed queries to generate images that may or may not resemble what you’re looking for. It’s much faster to just head to one of the best stock photo sites and download exactly what you need in a few clicks.
Plus, let’s not forget the ethical and copyright concerns surrounding generative AI. We’re all curious about what the machine will learn in the upcoming years, but till then, you’re better off downloading human-made photography for your coaching campaigns.
Automate Your Coaching Business With Paperbell
While looking for the perfect photo for your next post or website, save time by automating your client management workflow.
Paperbell is an all-in-one client management tool that takes care of your contracts, scheduling, payments, and other admin tasks. It also…
- Turns your onboarding flow into a payment-first process;
- Helps you create stunning landing pages for your coaching packages;
- And keeps all your client information in one neat place.