This is a guest post by Max Therry, an architecture student who is fond of photography and wants to become a professional photographer. He is also working on his brand-new photography blog about photo editing, modern photo trends, and inspiration. Max shares here some great resources for stock photos, a topic I’ve written about in the past. You can reach him by email.
The Best (Completely Free) Stock Photo Resources
You’ve written a sensational blog post — typed up the perfect email newsletter — or designed a batch of perfectly festive holiday cards. But, alas, you’re on a budget and you need a photo. Finding photos free of copyright restrictions (in other words, you can download and use them for both commercial and personal use without attribution) can often prove to be one giant headache. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of some of the best free stock photo resources out there, as well as an explanation about the differences in stock photo licensing. We’ve also included a few not-so-free options at the end — a few popular and professional options when you’re on the hunt for images.
So, about those licenses…
The two most common types of stock photo licenses you’ll see are Royalty-Free (RF) and Rights Managed (RM).
Don’t let the title fool you. Royalty-free images are not, in fact, free. With these licenses, the buyer receives unlimited usage from the holder of the copyright once they purchase the photo. The buyer can use the image for as long as he or she would like with as many projects as they desire. As long as the buyer stays within the terms of the agreement, all is good.
With these images, there tend to be restrictions regarding when, where, and how the image can be used. The restrictions may have to do with various regions, industries or length of use.
Here are some of the best Royalty-Free sites, organized by topic:
1. Travel Coffee Book
With Travel Coffee Book, you’re free to take these stock photos and run wild. Venture from the streets of China to the foods of Thailand to the sunsets of Croatia and beyond.
Unsplash provides an incredible and creative collection of high-resolution stock images — from blog-worthy family shots to food photos. The best images are featured on the homepage and all are released for free under Unsplash’s license. If you’re looking for HDR images, in particular, they have a nice assortment of landscape and city shots.
This site offers free images for your own personal and commercial use. Photos are added weekly by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design and are free of copyright restrictions.
Submitted by Dave Meier (and other photographers) the beautiful photos on this site range from holiday snapshots to scenic landscape images. They’re free and released under Creative Commons CC0.
With 1.3 million images shared from their community, Pixabay offers photographs, illustrations, Vector graphics and more.
6. Fancy Crave
Fancy Crave offers 14 free, high resolution, professional, and emotionally driven photos weekly. From typewriters to horses, to office spaces — you’ll surely find something unique to fit your project.
7. ISO Republic
ISO Republic offers free stock photos for creative professionals. From animals to people, to food and drink — they cover a wide variety of cool, shareable images.
From fashion to nature — Picjumbo offers free images for all your stock photo needs. Fresh images are added every day which means you have a great chance of finding something that suits your creative needs.
Just as you might think, Foodiesfeed is devoted to all things food. It offers thousands of high resolution, drool-worthy shots.
10. Life of Pix
With no copyright restrictions, Life of Pix offers fresh, innovative photos from LEEROY creative agency. In addition, they feature a fantastic photographer of the week to ignite inspiration.
11. The Pattern Library
The Pattern Library offers an assortment of free, creative patterns for all your design needs. From ‘kale salad’ to ‘flowers’ to ‘the illusionist’ — use these patterns to add flare and funk to your site or project.
12. Ancestry Images
If it’s history you’re after, Ancestry Images offers a free image archive of historical prints. It’s an image resource made especially for historians, genealogists and those interested in diving into family history, local history or ancestry.
13. Find a Photo
Find a Photo specializes in search-by-color images — from blues to purples to pinks and more. In addition, you can choose by collection (like wild animals, light rays, landmarks, and bokeh).
14. Free Nature Stock
If you’re looking for royalty-free nature stock photos that you can use however you’d like, this site is photo gold. Created by Adrian Pelletier and updated daily, it features stars, sunsets, mountains (and everything in between).
15. Move East
Move East is the journey of a Portuguese man on the move. He decided every image should be used for free and as such, you’re allowed to use his scenic and breathtaking photos however (and wherever) you’d like.
16. New Old Stock
If you’re looking to recapture history and tell your own story, check out these vintage photos from the public archives. They’re free of known copyright restrictions and feature everything from old offices to city streets, to restaurants.
With a touch of romance and whimsy, Pexels offers approachable, hip, and color filled images. Find everything from engagement shots, to cookie spreads, to sleepy cats.
Magdeleine offers free hand-picked photos filled with inspiration. Browse through peaceful images of flowers, coffee cups, snow-dusted trees and more.
19. Skitter Photo
Skitter Photo images can be used by anyone for any purpose. Find cityscapes, streets lined with fallen orange leaves, macro shots of coffee beans, car snaps and a whole lot more.
20. Morgue File
Morgue File offers free images for creatives, by creatives. To keep the inspiration flowing, they host a daily photo challenge called #quest, which sends creatives out into the world on assignment to capture various elements of life unfolding around them.
StockSnap features free, high-resolution stock images. It tracks downloads so you can see what’s most popular — and also adds images daily (all photos related under creative commons public domain).
If it’s photos of people you’re looking for, then Pikwizard is the perfect resource for you. Check out the site by searching for “office” or “meeting” and you’ll see what I mean. All photos are free to use without attribution. Pikwizard has over 100,000 completely free images on the site, over 20,000 of which are exclusive to it. They’re also adding new images to their library daily since their ultimate goal is to get to more than 1 million images.
A Few Other Popular Resources
There are some other popular resources that — although they aren’t free — can often be used under a Creative Commons License.
- Shutterstock is perhaps one of the most popular sites for stock photography. It offers an incredible variety of images (including 10,000 new photos per day) and once you purchase a plan, the world is your oyster.
- iStock by Getty Images offers flexible plans and pricing for photos, illustrations, auto, and video. Browse through patterns and backgrounds, templates, infographics and more until you find just what you’re looking for.
- 500px offers mobile professionals and photographers the chance to share their products and their photography. In their marketplace, they offer premium royalty-free stock photos from over 8 million top photographers (and they’re incredible).
- Flickr is home to tens of billions of photos — and lots of Flickr users offer their work under a Creative Commons License.
- Storyblocks (formerly Graphicstock) offers the best value for money. Download as many images as you like for a small annual fee.
- Stock Photo Secrets: A list with stock photo sites, updated for 2020.
- Photutorial’s Best Stock Photo Sites: A searchable list with stock photo sites, updated for 2021. Photutorial has even included a fantastic tool that calculates the best stock photo plan for you based on your input!
So, whether you’re on the hunt for one stellar image — or a variety of images — we hope these resources have helped you in your quest to find that perfect photo. From scenic beach shots to styled food spreads, there’s something inspiring in this list for us all.
Best of luck!