Images can make or break a website design. Toss a low resolution, bad image into a good design, and visitors will still be hitting the back button. But buying photos from big stock agencies can get expensive—especially if you're a new business or frequently use images for a content marketing blog. There are a few ways to obtain free, high-resolution images—legally. Several websites offering copyright free images have come onto the scene in the past few years. Free stock photo websites tend to earn a profit by selling ads, though there's a handful just from creatives wanting to share their work and give back. We've compiled a list of the best resources for high quality, free stock photos. Enjoy—and feel free to bookmark this resource, we'll update it often.
But first, a note on copyright.
The images on these sites are Creative Commons, but there's more than one type of Creative Commons license.
- Creative Commons Zero means you can use the work for commercial purposes, and even adapt it. Attribution is not required.
- Creative Commons 3.0 is similar, except attribution is required. You must credit the photographer to use the image.
Creative common images can be used commercially, and can usually be adapted. You can't take credit for the photo or sell the photo. We've checked out the usage guidelines on each of these sites, but be sure to check to ensure those guidelines haven't changed. So without further adieu, here are some of the best resources for free stock photos.
Pexels has a surprising selection of high-quality images, considering it's free. That's because the images are curated from other sources, but by an actual human, not a robot—so you may find some of the photos that were first listed on other websites. They have a good selection of images related to business, food, nature, and people in particular, as well as images with a vintage feel. Pexels currently offers over 3,000 images, with about ten new photos every day. All images are available under the creative commons license, with no attribution required. The search tool is easy to use, or you can browse by popular topics or recently added images. Go to Pexels.
Pixabay has an excellent selection of images, with plenty to choose from in most categories. Most of the images are excellent, and there are some clip art style graphics too. The search tool is nice, but you can also browse by editor's choice, photographer or even what camera took the shot. Users can choose which resolution they'd like before downloading, and attribution usually isn't required. Go to Pixabay.
Stocksnap has thousands of images available, paired with an excellent search system. The search results can be arranged by relevance, date added, trending images, or the number of views, downloads or favorites. A log-in isn't necessary, but users can create an account to save their favorite images. All the images are licensed with Creative Commons Zero, which means attribution isn't required. Got to Stocksnap.io.
All of the images on Gratisography were taken by a single photographer, so this website understandably doesn't have the volume of some of the other options. However, it's certainly a resource worth checking out. There's a good assortment of images, but photographer Ryan McGuire has an eye for unusual, whimsical shots that are hard to find with other resources. With images under a Creative Commons Zero license, attribution isn't required either. Go to Gratisography.
Morgefile is a free image database by creatives for creatives. The platform is searchable, though there doesn't appear to be a good way to browse by category. Photographers and graphic designers can easily upload their work, so there looks to be a pretty good selection. Images are free to use, but check each image to see if attribution is required. Go to Morguefile.
A website supported by a single photographer, Splitshire still has a pretty good assortment, particularly in the automotive and technology categories. Images are searchable, or site visitors can browse for images by category. Under the creative commons license, the images can be used even for commercial purposes. Go to Splitshire.
Death to the Stock Photo
Death To The Stock Photo isn't a searchable database; subscribers receive free creative commons images delivered via email once a month. Sure, you can't search for a specific image, but getting images delivered to your inbox is a good reminder to keep that blog updated. Death to The Stock Photo is known for bucking the trend of the corny business photos of men in suits, with images that have a more modern, unique feel. Go to Death to the Stock Photo.
With such a wide range of images, it's hard to believe Kaboompics is run by a single photographer. The quality is excellent. Images can be searched, or browsed by category. The website is also a good resource for textures and abstract images to use as backgrounds. Under the Creative Commons Zero license, attribution is requested but not required. Go to Kaboompics.
A website updating its photo database with ten new images every ten days, Unsplash is an excellent resource for Creative Commons Zero (no attribution required). The images tend to have an artistic flair to them and certainly aren't the boring traditional style. There's a range of options, including people, landscapes, and still life. Go to Unsplash.
With a set of seven photos released every week, Snapwire Snaps is a growing database of solid images. Users can choose to get those sets delivered to their inbox every week, browse the files, or search by topic. The images are offered under the Creative Commons Zero license and are free to use even commercially, without attribution. Go to Snapwire Snaps.
Free Images has over 390,000 photos, so it's a pretty vast database. Most of the images follow the more traditional feel of stock photos, but the database is worth checking out if you can't find what you're looking for anywhere else. The search feature is excellent, with different filters to narrow down the results. The images are available for commercial use, though cannot be used as part of a logo or other piece of the trademark. Go to Free Images.
*Attribution is required Superfamous isn't a searchable database, but the images are excellent. Try out Superfamous if you're looking for a good landscape photo or an image with a lot of texture. The images are provided under Creative Commons 3.0, so you must credit the photographer whenever you use one of the images. Go to Superfamous.
Travel Coffee Book
As the name implies, Travel Coffee Book is a website full of travel photos, all available to use for both personal and commercial use. The travel theme makes them a bit more limited, but they're excellent images and still include a small range, like architecture, nature and food. There's no search feature, however, they are enjoyable to browse through and there's also an option to download them all. Go to Travel Coffee Book.
Picography is a small set of images, but they're certainly better than the boring traditional stock photos. The images here are more of a street style set, including shots of people, everyday objects and landscapes. With a Creative Commons Zero license, they can be used and adapted without attribution. Go to Picography.
If you're looking for an image of an item on a white background, look at Stocka. They don't currently seem to offer much else, but it's a useful style for product photos nonetheless. Navigation is rather awkward, and some of their listed categories actually don't have any images in them. But their style of images can be easily adapted for a number of different uses. Images are free, even for commercial use. Go to Stocka.
Stock photos can add quite a bit of expense to building a website. Free stock photo websites may be a bit more limited, but often offer plenty to choose from as well as a more unique style than the boring, traditional stock photos.