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How to Find Real Estate Pictures Worth 1,000 Words (That Don't Cost $1,000)

How to Find Real Estate Pictures Worth 1,000 Words (That Don't Cost $1,000)

12 min read
How to Find Real Estate Pictures Worth 1,000 Words (That Don't Cost $1,000)

Anyone who hasn’t spent much time in real estate might imagine that photos of homes are the most harmless, easy-to-use images available. That’s … definitely not the case and hasn’t been for some time, and when you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense that not everyone would want pictures of their private space plastered online or elsewhere.

But it might leave you in a bind as a real estate agent with marketing materials to create because those materials require images, and ideally high-quality ones. And it’s not just photos of homes or listing photos that are tied up in licensing minutiae — you could get slapped with a “cease and desist” and fined if you improperly use a landscape photo! If you’re not going to take the pictures yourself, then that means you need to get at least somewhat savvy about what you can and can’t use from different websites, and how to tell whether an image is usable for you.

Of course, the best route is to work with a service or vendor that handles this legal wrangle for you because they do exist, they make it really easy, and (we have to say it!) this article shouldn’t be considered legal advice, so you should talk to your broker or a creative rights lawyer if you have nuanced questions. But hopefully it will start to point you in the right direction.

Image licenses, explained

There are six types of image licenses that you might encounter as you’re looking for photos online:

  • Rights Managed License: This license specifies exactly where and how many times you will use the image; it’s the most restrictive (and expensive) type of license.
  • Editorial Use License: If the image includes a celebrity or a brand, then it may be labeled for editorial use only, which means it can be used in a news story, but not in any kind of marketing (sorry!).
  • Royalty Free License: The standard license you’ll see online from stock photography outlets, this license allows you to use the image as many times as you want (sometimes up to a point), but you can’t create derivative products with the image, like swag.
  • Royalty Free Extended License: Unlike with a royalty free license, the extended license does allow you to create derivative products with the image, such as mugs or T-shirts.
  • Creative Commons License: With this license, you can use the image for free as long as you credit the photographer and aren’t using it for commercial purposes (such as to create those mugs and T-shirts you started dreaming about already).
  • Public Domain: This is the least-restrictive, most wide-open type of license. You’re free to do whatever! Go nuts.

For real estate marketing purposes, you’ll probably want to consider one of the royalty free license types (and set up a system for keeping track of the images you pay for so you can reuse them easily), or gravitate toward Creative Commons or public domain images. If the latter is your preferred path, you shouldn’t be making any money from products created using the images! The artist was nice enough to give you the image, so do them a solid and follow their wishes.

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Where can you find royalty free images for real estate?

A number of providers offer high-quality real estate images that you can license individually or in batches. These aren’t typically super expensive, but you’ll get your best per-image rate if you sign up for a subscription where you can download a certain number of images every month instead of pay for them one at a time.

Here are some of the best royalty free image providers for real estate photos:

  • Shutterstock offers both subscriptions (with monthly download limits, starting at $29 for 10 images per month) and on-demand download discounts. It has a huge repository of real estate-related images.
  • iStockphoto also offers both subscriptions with download limits (the lowest option is also $29 for 10 images per month) and on-demand download discounts. There’s also a large stack of images that you could use here.
  • will give you unlimited downloads for $16.50 per month, or you can pay $2 per download; there’s a decent number of real estate-related images, but not as many as the previous two options. will sell you individual licenses for a number of quality images.

Where can you find actually free images for real estate?

There are also places you can find Creative Commons and public domain images to use! Here’s a non-comprehensive list of some of our favorite outlets for free images.

  • has a ton of free stock photos and videos that are also gorgeous, with quite a few house-related options.
  • has an entire architecture category, and you can also search by photographer and even the camera used if you like.
  • KaboomPics lets you search not only by keyword but also by color palette.
  • Unsplash has a plethora of truly gorgeous photos, though sadly, not very many of houses.
  • Burst also has a decent number of house-related images, all of which are free to use.
  • Pixabay lets you search thousands of stock images, both free to use and available through stock photo purchasing sites.
  • You can always search Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed images.
  • For something a little quirky, sign up to get 20 free images delivered to your inbox every month from Death to Stock.

Finally, there’s Google: Use the advanced image search “tools” button to pull up a “Usage Rights” drop-down menu. Select “Creative Commons” licenses, and then make sure you’re crediting the photographers and using the photos according to the license type. (Double-check to make sure it’s still Creative Commons! Google is pretty good, but even it is mistaken from time to time.)

Happy image hunting!

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