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The pros and cons of using free images online



User browing free stock image library
Founded in 2014, Pexels today has over 1 million free images available | Photo: @cottonbro

Everyone likes getting something for free and when it comes to images it is no different.

Free images can help small business to scale content production. They can also enhance reach when used to illustrate a blog post. In fact, more and more people are using free images that are widely available on digital platforms such as, an Australian design app which, in 2020, doubled its valuation to $6 billion.

If it is beautiful and up for grabs, what harm can free images cause?

Here digital creators, businesses owners and publicists weigh in on the pros and cons of using free images that are available on the internet.


Limited range of free images can slow you down

“I use a mixture of paid subscription stock images (Envato Elements) and free stock images (Pixabay, Unsplash) for both my own and my clients’ websites and social media.
Free sites are absolutely amazing for providing some really appealing-looking visuals for people who are designing content on a budget. But, on the downside, free images are available to the many. This means you will start to see the same content cropping up in multiple locations. This repetition won’t be as obvious to the regular internet user, as they don’t spend their days trawling these image libraries – but once you know, you know! Another downside of free stock images is the range available. It can be a lot trickier to find the right image to suit your content when compared with their paid counterparts.”

Jessica Bents – Digital Specialist at


You will spend more time finding images

I still haven’t made the decision to pay for a stock photo subscription, I use the free photos that are available online on sites like Pexels. I love these photos as they are high quality and free, but I also know two things that makes me want to stop using them: they are not unique and I don’t always have time to find the right photos that match my site colour theme. If I decide to take out a subscription, I am sure it will be easier and less time consuming to find images based on my needs.”

Ekta Swarnkar  – Blogger at


Paid doesn’t always mean better

“Having used (and still in use of) both free and subscription-based image services for our website, the free services were an excellent way to initially bootstrap the business when in its infancy while also keeping running costs low. And although our subscription to Shutterstock comes in very handy for uniqueness, a large negative of using a service such as this is that the vast majority of images are highly staged and often appear very fake. The images that Unsplash (a free service) provides, for example, are taken by independent photographers in very natural and bespoke scenarios with often much greater care taken to portray legitimacy. This for the most part produces a far better and more usable photograph.”

Chris Michael – Architect & Founder at online learning platform for architecture students


Make a plan to stop depending solely on image banks

“Free imagery can be high quality but the amateur photographers creating them don’t generate many images for B2B use. Particularly for niche markets like ours (voice-over) it can be very difficult to find suitable images in free libraries. This is why we mainly use paid images for posts we intend to boost on Twitter or Instagram. We do use free images for standard posts and it’s always worth checking in both free and paid libraries to find images that work best for the specific post. If you intend to boost the post, it’s almost always worth paying for the best image. Occasionally you will find a gem for free but in most cases the paid libraries have better quality images covering a wider variety of topics. As our business grows, we anticipate gravitating away from image libraries toward using more user generated content in our posts.”

Al Black – Production Director at


You could be using a copyrighted image without realising

“We have Canva Pro, which gives us access to lots more images than the free version of the graphic design platform. But we also use free libraries to add to our content.
There are negatives of using free online images, such as the images not being uploaded by the copyright owner themself. Sites such as Unsplash and Pexels make it easy for any photo to be uploaded, even if there is no permission from the copyright owner to do so. As a result, you could be using a copyrighted image without realising.

Rhiannon Moore – CMO at


Free and stock photos make your projects look ordinary

“Anyone can sniff a stock photo out from a mile away. Imagine you worked really hard on your website or a presentation and it is original and innovative. Even with this originality, by using stock photos you make it look ordinary. If you are devoted to your projects and put a lot of time into their creation, you want to finish them with style based on some original pictures. Standard photos do not help to build your brand image, as people will not associate them in the context of your particular business.

Instead, it’s worth investing in a photographer that takes a bunch of unique and beautiful photos of your employees, the company, or photos presenting what your company has to offer.”

Nina Król – Outreach and PR Specialist at career blog


Photographer taking a picture of staged food

Free images can help you to scale content

“A few years back, Lionbridge underwent a full digital transformation and rebrand. Leveraging gorgeous, free images from sites like Pexels was crucial to rebuilding our global image library quickly and affordably. We did reserve a sizable budget for some knockout, centerpiece imagery that we purchased exclusive rights to and that are some of our most frequently used images even today. That said, we would never have been able to launch and scale as quickly as we did without free images.

One con that we weighed up against the pros was that we never wanted the brand to be basic, boring, or unrecognizable. This can be a frequent trap of certain stock photography. To combat that, we were very prescriptive in choosing imagery that aligned with our new brand and would help build the foundation of our look and feel. Each free image was carefully chosen by our brand team before use, and we continue that practice with our brand imagery today. That level of careful governance ensures our brand remains solid and distinctive.”

Stephanie Carone – Senior Manager, Global Brand & Social at


Free libraries will require you to be flexible with your search

“We use both Shutterstock as a paid subscription, and Unsplash as unpaid, to go with our written articles.

Free imagery can be better than stock images as the photographs often look more authentic. Some are more artistic and more beautiful as well. On the other hand, with free images it can be difficult to find photographs showing exactly what you want for a particular article topic. You may have to be more flexible with the subject of the photograph.”

Sophia Nomicos – Founder at parenting and lifestyle website


Remember to give credit when using something for free

“As a publicist who does a ton of content development and social media, the free image sites are a godsend. But we need to make sure we give credit to the photographers when use someone’s free image.

There is so much talent on these free image sites and to not include a photo credit is a huge disservice to the photographers who are likely struggling to make a living, especially during the pandemic when bread and butter jobs like weddings are all but gone.
When I’m posting on social media I always try to tag them whenever possible.”

Kimberly Hathaway – President at



Sky Studios Elstree searches for young talent to join Content Academy



Young cameraman filming a singer
Applications for new roles aimed at launching young people into a career in film and TV close on May 15th | Photo: Kyle Loftus

Sky Studios Elstree is on the search for local candidates, in Hertfordshire, to fill 12 fully paid, year-long placements as part of Sky’s Content Academy, aimed at launching young people into careers in the film and TV industry.

The Studio, which is set to open later this year, is looking for eight school leavers and four recent graduates to work at their brand-new site and is calling out for applicants from Borehamwood, Elstree and the surrounding areas.

For school leavers, the roles include four Runners who will be at the heart of the operations of Sky Studios Elstree, working with the Client Services and Operations teams to provide support to some of the biggest productions filming in the UK. There’s also one Rigging and three Lighting roles to be filled and this team will play a critical role in providing set lighting and equipment to clients filming at the studios.

“Elstree and Borehamwood is synonymous with producing world-class film & TV and, as long-term partners in the local area, we are excited to create these new opportunities for young people who want to get in to the industry. These roles allow us to break down barriers to entry, by enabling applicants without previous film or TV experience to secure a paid, full-time role at the heart of the UK’s newest studio. These 12 new roles, on top of the jobs already created locally at the studio, are just the first intake of placements and we’re excited to announce more as we ready for opening later this year.” – says Caroline Cooper, COO at Sky Studios.

When it opens later this year, Sky Studios Elstree will house 13 studios and enable £3bn of production investment over the first five years of operation.

The graduate roles include Senior Runner and Client Services and Operations Trainee positions. These candidates will be responsible for everything from coordinating the runner team, attending production meetings to overall studio operation support. The positions are designed to give people starting out in their career a broad understanding of what goes into productions and the vast range of opportunities available, as well as allowing them to build up their on-set experience and production network.

This opportunity follows Sky’s yearlong partnership with Elstree Screen Arts Academy, coaching students in a documentary project celebrating Elstree & Borehamwood’s rich film and TV heritage. This summer, ESA students will receive first-hand production experience as part of a 6-week summer internship on a variety of Sky Studios productions.

These new roles come after Sky Studios Elstree announced a local recruitment drive late last year for a range of operational roles and for facilities support across the site including security, cleaners and maintenance.

Applications for new roles aimed at launching young people into a career in film and TV close on May 15th  and for further information visit:

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Applications for the 2022 Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant are open until May 20



Young athlete getting ready
In 2021, more than 9,000 athletes benefited from Airbnb athlete support programs, representing more than $4 million in direct support | Photo: Anastase Maragos

Airbnb has opened applications for the next edition of the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The program, which was launched in 2021, offers up to 500 athletes a year $2,000 USD travel grant to use exclusively on the accommodation platform as they travel, train, and compete and will run through 2028.

Last year 500 athletes representing 125 countries and 63 sports benefitted from the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant program, including Canoe sprint athlete Saied Fazloula, who represented the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020:

’’I used my Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant for multiple trips before the Olympic Games in Tokyo, including for a training camp and other competitions. It’s incredibly valuable to have this support as a refugee – Airbnb has provided not only a grant, but also a clear head so that I can concentrate on my sport.” – acknowledges Fazloula.

Applications will close on May 20, 2022 at 1:59 pm PDT. The Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant can only be used towards Stays in association with training, medical, or competition-related travel, and is not intended for non-sports-related personal use.

To find out more and apply, visit:

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Top 10 cities for sourcing highly skilled talent in Europe



Young European male professional working on a computer
Forecast: 30-40% of employees are expected to be part of hybrid work settings

A new report by Forrester, a research and advisory firm, has ranked Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen as the top European hotspots for businesses to recruit highly skilled talent.

Navigating The Leading Skill Clusters Across Europe, ranks 50 cities to help tech and business leaders establish where to source the skills needed for the future. The focus on digital transformation efforts, an aging population, increasing automation, and continued pandemic-related disruptions have created a skills gap in Europe.

The recent study also highlights that Europe‘s heterogeneous skill landscape is led by the North and West. Top ranked cities like Helsinki and Berlin offer a highly educated and diverse workforce with above average language skills and a business-friendly regulatory framework.

“The focus on green and digital revolution coupled with the socio-economic changes have created a noticeable skills gap in Europe, which can be debilitating for business growth,” – says Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester. “To prepare for the future of work, European businesses need to hire talent adept at both technical and soft skills. The Nordics region is teeming with precisely this kind of talent. Recruiting talent from emerging hubs like the Nordics will allow European businesses to accelerate digital transformation efforts and drive long-term business growth.”

The top 10 cities also include Berlin, Hamburg, Oslo, Munich, Vienna, Zurich, and Amsterdam. London, often known as Europe’s tech hub, was ranked 19th — largely due to stringent immigration rules post-Brexit, resulting in London, Manchester, and Birmingham sliding in rankings.

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