25+ Free Stock Photo Websites And Why You Need Them

SO many people have asked where we get our awesome free stock photos from. Here’s an ever growing list of sites along with some reasons why you should never EVER use images you find off the web unless you read the fine print.
 

Over the years, we’ve become quite comfortable with borrowing and sharing photos from the web. It’s so tempting, so easy, and yet, so dangerous.
 
A quick Google Image search yields a breathtaking oasis of imagery to choose from. But, unbeknownst to many (maybe even most) Copyright Law protects a vast majority of those images. That means, if you use them without permission, you’re on the hook.
 
 

What does that mean?

Potentially, a lot. Copyright infringement fees can be staggering, reaching into the $8,000+ range, even for first-time offenders. True story. It happened to this blogger not that long ago.
 

But HOW?

 

No matter what the reason or rationale, you cannot use Copyrighted images on your website or blog without explicit permission under any circumstances, or you are financially liable. 

 

Even if you:
  • provide a direct link back to the original source
  •  

  • have a disclaimer on your site or blog
  •  

  • use it non-commercially
  •  

  • crop, resize, or otherwise alter the image
  •  

  • found the image being used somewhere else online (i.e. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or on someone else’s site. You don’t know if they had special permission, if they purchased it, or if they are in jeopardy of infringement themselves.)
  •  

  • and, even if you had absolutely no idea
  •  
     
     
     

    So what can you do?

    1. Take your own pictures

    As is often the case, the most obvious choice is the best choice. However, there are a few issues with this option. Not everyone is adept at taking quality photos, others just don’t have the time, and still others need so many it just wouldn’t make sense, productively, to spend time snapping the day away.
     
    PRO: You can choose your own subject matter and bring your vision to life with no worries of someone else having the same image.
     
    CON: Time, prop, and equipment shortages.
     
     

    2. Buy rights

    There are plenty of stock sites out there where you can find delicious images that are just perfect for your project. Designers frequent these sites all the time because, other than taking your own shots, this is your best bet. Check out Shutterstock and iStock Photo are a couple popular pay-per-use choices.
     
    PRO: You’re safe from legal issues, provided you follow the Terms Of Use to the letter.
     
    CON: It costs money.
     
     

    3. Forego Pictures Altogether

    When it comes to creating for your site of blog, you might forget about using photos altogether, instead opting for graphics alone. Sites like Canva, PicMonkey, and Creative Market all offer beautiful fonts and imagery you can use either free or for a nominal fee.
     
    PRO: No worries about getting pinched for using someone else’s photography improperly (even if you did so innocently).
     
    CON: If you’ve got your heart set on using photography, this isn’t your ideal solution.
     
     

    4. Scour free stock photo sites

    PRO: Plenty of free imagery to choose from.
     
    CON: A lot of people source images from these sites, and as a result you may see the photo you used hawking someone else’s items online. This can be confusing for people as they may potentially confuse your ‘thing’ with someone else’s ‘thing’.
     
     

    Here’s some more on those ‘free stock image’ sites and how to navigate them with care:


     

    What to look for

    Read the Terms Of Use on each and every image before using it, even on the so-called ‘100% free’ sites. Look for The Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license and/or the term ‘public domain’. What this means is that you can copy, modify, or distribute the image (even for commercial purposes), all without asking permission. You can get super savvy and read the CC0 FAQs, here.
     
     

     
     
    Without further ado, here’s a list of free stock photos that currently share CC0 licensed imagery. It’s imperative to note that NOT all of the images you find on these sites fall under the CC0 license. Remember to always check the terms on each and every single image before using. A lot of these sites are curated by different photographers, some of whom may have special caveats about using their work. And, even though you may have gotten the green light on a site’s content in the past, check again. Some of the terms may have changed since you last visited. Better safe than sorry (and $8,000 poorer).
     
     
     

    Free Stock Photo Sites

     
    Pexels
     
    Pixabay
     
    Unsplash
     
    Ivory Mix
     
    Gratisography
     
    Death To The Stock Photo
     
    CC0 Photo
     
    SplitShire
     
    Public Domain Archive
     
    PublicDomainPictures
     
    Photos Public Domain
     
    Pickup Image
     
    PDpics
     
    Old Book Illustrations
     
    Negative Space
     
    PicJumbo
     
    re:splashed
     
    Stocka
     
    ISO Republic
     
    1 Million Free Pictures
     
    Viintage
     
    Startup Stockphotos
     
    Skitterphoto
     
    New Old Stock
     
    Visual Hunt
     
    Morguefile
     
    Burst
     
    Styled Stock Society has some freebies every now and then that we love! (Check out their membership. It’s not free but it’s totally worth it!)
     
     
    UPDATE: The New York Public Library just uploaded nearly 200,000 images you can use for free. Find them HERE. All of the out-of-copyright items are free to use without restriction. For more on usage guidelines for all of their Digital Collections, please visit this link.
     
     
     

    You can take it from here

    While I’ve done my due diligence to share sites offering truly free photos, you’re still cautioned to do your own research to ensure that you’re using the individual images properly and legally. I cannot be held liable for the illicit or improper use of any of the images you find through these sites. You’re on your own with that.
     
    If you’re looking for some fantastic commercial fonts for your website, this article has you covered.
     

    What are some of your favorite stock photography sites?

     

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    Melissa Bolton

    Brand Therapist™ + Copywriter at Melissa Bolton
    Melissa is a mompreneur and brand therapist™ providing neurobranding and conversion copywriting services to solopreneurs and micro-business owners looking to truly connect with their right people. Leaning on proven psychology principles, she helps clients create a brand presence that's not only explicitly unique, but highly memorable. She offers 25 years of extensive sales and marketing experience through her proprietary brand therapy™ methodologies. You can learn more about her and how she can help you grown your own brand, right here: MelissaBolton.com
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    6 Comments

    1. Snappy Goat

      Thanks for writing this — what a great resource for bloggers!

      You and your readers might also like our site Snappy Goat. It’s a searchable database of over 12 million free, downloadable public domain and cc0 images. Check it out at snappygoat.com

      Reply
    2. Karen Lee

      Great list Melissa!

      I use flickr sometimes. It’s not the best source for artistic photos but they are there if you look closely.

      Reply
      • Melissa Bolton

        Thanks, Karen! Flickr is another great source. It’s just so important to look for the proper licenses. If nothing else, I hope this article helps people see that.

        Reply
        • Karen Lee

          Maybe a good follow up article would be what all those different Creative Commons mean. There are so many types! Also, you’re right about reading the TOS from sites, even if you’re buying the rights. Some still require that you give credit.

          Reply
          • Melissa Bolton

            Yes, and some don’t allow for alterations (with or without credit) and still others REQUIRE that you alter the image (like Morguefile.com)

            Reply

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