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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



The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project announces 50 nominees



Kim Rihal, founder of social enterprise Equal Education, is one of the 50 women shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project
Kim Rihal, founder of social enterprise Equal Education, is one of the 50 women shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project

Earlier this year, on International Women’s Day 2023, Häagen-Dazs launched ‘The Rose Project’, a global initiative with a $100,000 (USD) bursary grant inviting nominations to recognise unsung trailblazing women in honour of the brand’s female co-founder Rose Mattus. Yesterday, 23 November, on what would have been Rose Mattus’ birthday, Häagen-Dazs announced the top 50 #WomenWhoDontHoldBack nominees being shortlisted for their achievements and its five globally accomplished Häagen-Dazs Rose Project judges.

Over 2,500 applications were received for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project putting forward pioneering efforts and societal contributions made by women across the globe. From these, 50 talented and inspirational women have been shortlisted and will be put forward to win one of five monetary grants of $20,000 (USD), which will be announced on International Women’s Day 2024, to continue their exceptional work, unleash their potential or give to a cause they are passionate about. The top 50 shortlist includes women from 17 countries hailing from across Europe, Asia, Africa & Middle East, Australia and the Americas.

The all-female judging panel from across the world has been handpicked for the final selection stage of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project includes. UK-based author, broadcaster and philanthropist Katie Piper, fashion entrepreneur and advocate for women’s fertility issues, Velda Tan from Singapore and Spanish entrepreneur and creative director Inés Arroyo, are amongst the judges.

“International Women’s Day 2023 marked the launch of The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project to honour the legacy of our co-founder, Rose Mattus, and create a fund platform to provide opportunities to women across all fields around the world who are truly deserving of support and recognition. We were thrilled to receive thousands of nominations across countries and our #WomenWhoDontHoldBack Top 50 shortlist is a compelling and diverse mosaic of trailblazing female narratives that moved us and serve as an inspiration to women everywhere”, says Aurélie Lory, Häagen-Dazs spokesperson.

To find out more about the story of each entrepreneur shortlisted for The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project, visit:

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47% of women feel their workplace is not combatting inequality



Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit, on Centre Stage during day one of Web Summit 2023 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, Portugal
Katherine Maher, CEO, Web Summit, on Centre Stage during day one of Web Summit 2023 | Photo: Eóin Noonan/Web Summit

The proportion of women who feel that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality has nearly doubled in a year, a new survey has revealed.

Web Summit, the world’s largest technology event taking place in Lisbon this week, has released its third annual State of Gender Equity in Tech report, which is based on a survey distributed among its women in tech community.

76.1 percent of respondents feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position; fewer respondents (41.8 %) feel the need to choose between family and career when compared to 2022 (50.4 %); and there is at least one woman in a senior management position in 80.4 percent of respondents’ companies, a similar proportion to last year (81.3%).

The survey found that 70.5 percent of respondents feel pressure to prove their worth compared to male counterparts, while 77.2 percent feel they need to work harder to prove themselves because of their gender.

Over three quarters of respondents (76.1 %) feel empowered to pursue and/or hold a leadership position. And almost half of respondents think that their workplace is not taking appropriate measures to combat gender inequality, increasing from 26 percent in 2022 to 47
percent in 2023.

“While it is encouraging to see progress in some areas, such as those feeling the need to choose between their family and career, there are also some deeply concerning trends within this report. Seeing an increase in those who report having experienced sexism in the workplace in the last year is disheartening in 2023. We hope that this kind of research can breed some positives, and that it will push workplaces – and women within these workplaces – to broach these topics and make progress in these areas,” said Carolyn Quinlan, VP of community at Web Summit.

Last year, 42 percent of attendees at Web Summit were women and 33 percent of speakers were women. In 2023 these numbers have slightly improved with 43 percent of attendees and 38 percent of speakers on stage being women this year.

The women in tech programme at this year’s Web Summit is at capacity, and the women in tech programme at Web Summit Rio 2023 reached capacity in record time.

The WebSummit 2023 is running from November 13th to 16th in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Krispy Kreme to give away free donuts on World Kindness Day



A box of Krispy Kreme donuts opened and with donuts inside
The company, founded in 1937, is giving away 60,000 free doughnuts around the world today | Photo: Clément Proust

American multinational doughnut company and coffeehouse chain, Krispy Kreme, is celebrating “World Kindness Day” today by distributing free donuts in the US and the UK.

The chain is giving away a box of a dozen glazed donuts for free with no purchase necessary. But only the first 500 guests that visit each participating Krispy Kreme US stores on “World Kindness Day”, Monday November 13th, will be able to get a free box of donuts.

Krispy Kreme often gives away free or discounted donuts to generate buzz on special occasions. The company, founded in 1937, traditionally gives out free donuts to customers on National Donut Day, celebrated on the first Friday of June of each year. And in July, a dozen of glazed donuts were sold for 86 cents to celebrate its 86th birthday.

Thousands of free donuts are also expected to be given away today across Krispy Kreme stores in the United Kingdom, with customers being encouraged to ask for the World Kindness Day offer. No purchase necessary.

The company, which operates in over 30 countries around the world, said it wants the brand associated with World Kindness Day to make “meaningful connections” with customers.

“World Kindness Day is an opportunity to make a positive difference by being generous,” Dave Skena, Krispy Kreme’s global chief brand officer, said in a release. “Simple gestures of caring and thanks, including sharing a sweet treat, is a great way to do that.”

Krispy Kreme said that it’s considering expanding a limited partnership it has with McDonald’s to sell more of its donuts at the latter’s location.

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