The Easy Way: Buy Pictures for About a Buck
Everyone knows you can't steal pictures from the internet. Technically, maybe you can, but it's not a good idea. Many pictures have tracking codes and you're liable to get an unpleasant phone call.
I use iStockPhoto to get pictures for about a buck. Massive selection, good search engine, buy the smallest size for web use and sleep well at night.
The Easy Way: Flickr Creative Commons
You can't steal pictures from Flickr either. But many photographers list their pictures as available for use with a link and credit. It's called a Creative Commons license.
To find these pics, search for a subject on Flickr. When the results are returned, clicked on "Advanced Search" (upper right). You'll see a whole page of options.
Scroll down to the bottom. Check off "Creative Commons." Presto! You'll see all the pictures that match your search and which are licensed for Creative Commons usage.
Here's a whole collection of stories on CaryCitizen where we got a picture from Flickr using a Creative Commons license:
Take Your Own Pictures
You don't need a fancy camera to take good pictures. You do need a decent eye, steady hands and the ability to edit your shots. Here is a collection of pictures I took with my iPhone to prove that good pictures can be had from mobile phones:
Point-and-shoots can take good pictures as well: Here are some pictures taken with a Canon A400 filtered for "interestingness:"
Of course, DSLRs take great pictures. They have larger, more sensitive imaging areas than cheaper cameras and the significant advantage of great lenses.
A mid-priced DSLR will run you $1000-1500 but a used camera can be found on eBay for around $500.
Lots of good photographers in your neighborhood probably willing to work for $25-50. Search Flickr in your area. Find someone you like. Make 'em an offer.
Make sure you ask beforehand to get a CD of all the images from the shoot and the right to use them for your business. That's what we offer. Call us.
Good pictures make all the difference in how people perceive your website, your brand and, ultimately, you as a service provider.