I came across morgueFile.
MorgueFile’s deal is that they offer free-to-use stock photos for corporate or personal use. They are NOT in the public domain, but are under their terms of service. Pretty cool. Looks like you can browse by directory (dogs, people, office objects, and tons more). They say they do this to provide material for design work, but you can also see its purpose in getting people to contribute so that they can publicize their photos. And of course you can see the Google Ads on the site.
So, feel free to grab some photos to practice your Photoshopping skills or any design techniques. For commercial work, particularly ads, I question if stock photos are effective.
Designers love stock photos because it helps enhance the look of an ad. The strength in stock photos is also its weakness; they’re so generic that they generally work with anything. Want to convey a happy moment? Look for a woman smiling, a kid playing on a swingset, yadda yadda yadda.
Seems like what stock photos oftentimes do is lose the focus of your ad. Sure, you want to convey the happiness or success of someone who uses your product…but don’t forget that you should have a picture of the product in your ad too!
It’s kind of like Superbowl ads. They can be funny, they can be memorable, but did the company make any more money from those ads? How would they really know? Some ads come on the air and 30 seconds later you don’t even know what’s being sold.
If you overuse stock photos, the same thing would probably happen to your ads.