Yes, I get most of the subjects off of the internet. Pixabay is a good source since they have descent selection of photos that are not copyright protected. Of course you can use pics of your own photos too.
For basic cropping operations I use Paint. It is good for that and it is already installed in all Windows OS versions since XP I believe. I use the default Windows photo program for basic enhancements like removing color and sharpening if need be. I have found that PhotoVCarve does not need a black and white or gray scale photo per se. It will generate a tool path with a color photo just fine in many cases.
I got the vacuum pump out of Amazon. I did not want to spend too much money in case the vacuum clamping cells didn't work so I bought an inexpensive model, $51.99, TA350 by Kozyard. I have about 100 hours on it so far and it is still performing well. At only 3.5 cfm displacement it will not keep up if the rest of the system is not pretty tight; particularly at the interface of the project piece and the seal of the cell. I will be getting a larger two stage model, same brand, when the time comes to upgrade or replace. Their customer service is pretty good.