Maybe you're an aspiring photographer looking for inspiration. Or an up-and-coming entrepreneur trying to find stock photography to add to your website.
Whatever your profession, this list of the best stock photography websites will ensure that you'll always have access to copyright and royalty-free images.
How Do Copyright Free Images Work?
Some websites allow you to download pictures for private use (e.g., background wallpapers) yet disallow images to be used commercially. This includes instances such as business cards, websites, or posters. The images on the following websites have protection under Creative Commons CC0:
"The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law."
The following websites either support or are fully composed of CC0 images available in the public domain. The owners of these images have allowed users to modify, edit, and use their images without copyright backlash.
Before delving into the free stock image sites, there are two common courtesies to consider when using CC0 images.
- Although you do not have to give credit to the creator, we recommend that you publicize the artists' efforts.
- These websites often have a Donate page or splash screen. If you use free image hosting sites often, consider donating to their cause. If everyone using a copyright-free image site threw in the price of a coffee, it would greatly benefit the photographers and artists offering their wares for free.
Now that that's cleared up, here are the websites you need to bookmark for quality, copyright-free images.
Once you register for a free membership at Freerange, thousands of high-resolution stock photos will be at your fingertips at no cost. All of the website's images can be used for personal or commercial projects. For photographers, Freerange also offers Google AdSense revenue sharing when you contribute.
In addition to thousands of unique images, the site also has about 20,000 CC0 photos, most of which have accurate keywords and descriptions.
Unsplash is a side-project started by Crew, an online marketing agency dedicated to making your design dreams a reality.
Besides providing free stock photography, Unsplash also showcases graphic design work done by users with its MadeWith section.
Although Unsplash started as a side project, it is now one of the best copyright-free image sites around, hence why it doesn't feature on our list of lesser-known free stock image sites.
Pexels is a website that wants to help. Started in 2015, it has grown to be a reputable stock photo library. Its mission statement phrases their aim best:
We help millions of designers, writers, artists, programmers and other creators to get access to beautiful photos that they can use freely which empowers them to create amazing products, designs, stories, websites, apps, art and other work. We call it: "Empowering Creators."
Pexels is also unique in that it doesn't only display images located on the Pexels website. It also outsources images from other high-quality websites such as Little Visuals.
Best of all, Pexels screens its images to ensure the highest quality images available. Note that you can also download copyright-free stock videos from the site.
Although Flickr is not dedicated to public domain images, it boasts an extensive library of high-quality public domain images.
Flickr is and has been one of the greatest image libraries on the internet for a long time. With millions of high-quality public domain images, you're unlikely to run out of stock photography anytime soon.
There are always new features appearing over at Flickr, too. For instance, you can now order photo prints directly from Flickr.
5. Life of Pix
You can easily lose yourself for hours scouring through the beautiful copyright-free pictures available on Life of Pix.
Created by the LEEROY advertising agency in Montreal, Life of Pix is a haven for free, public domain photography. Better yet, its Life of Vids website contains even more impressive stock video footage, all available for free.
StockSnap provides an excellent and extensive library of free stock imagery. With hundreds of high-quality photos added weekly, StockSnap isn't your casual photography outlet.
Created by the good people at Snappa, every single image in StockSnap is free for you to use. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better image repository.
Pixabay is another image repository that integrates images from other image hosting sites. It attempts to gather the very best of free stock images for your own personal or commercial use.
Pixabay also allows easy access to "camera search," which allows users to explore images based on the camera used to take them. This is a great resource for both beginners and professional photographers alike.
Wikimedia provides a truly stunning image repository, spanning everything from lush landscapes to historical events.
Touting over 34 million freely usable pieces of media, including videos and sounds, Wikimedia is a necessity for graphic designers, photographers, and artists looking for free, high-quality images. Wikimedia is also part of a much larger organization dedicated to free images, education, and information.
They say something works well when you hardly notice it at all, and that's exactly what Burst provides. In the same vein as Unsplash, Burst not only provides a sleek interface to explore but a very wide selection of images and categories to choose from as well.
Better yet, it provides both low- and high-quality images without copyright, depending on whether you're adding images to a website or using images for graphic design.
If you need a vast online repository of free high-quality images, bookmark Burst immediately.
KaboomPics is a legitimately impressive undertaking. From the UI design to the vast reservoir or stellar images, you will find yourself combing through images you don't even need.
If it was just about royalty-free images, KaboomPics' selection would already be top of the class. But it also features both a color picker search engine and color palettes for images as well.
That's just scratching the surface of what KaboomPics has to offer. From photoshoots to informative blog entries, it's one of the most impressive free stock image sites around.
The team behind Freerange also operates another free site specializing in vintage images, called Vintage Stock Photos. The content previously required payment, but now you can find thousands of dollars worth of quality vintage photos available at no extra charge.
Vintage Stock Photos is another site where you can lose serious time browsing through the catalog. The range of copyright-free images spans multiple decades and provides a fantastic snapshot of life through the ages.
Are you looking for something a little more out there? Do you need a quirky free high-resolution photo? Then Gratisography is the place for you.
The site features a heap of "quirky… beautiful… arresting" copyright-free images that will enable you to put a unique spin on your next project.
Libreshot is another handy source for slightly unusual free stock photography. Every shot on the site is the work of owner Martin Vorel.
Vorel uploads his brilliant photography from around the world to Libreshot, allowing you to use them for free. He only asks that if you do use one of his photos, consider adding a link to the site.
14. Negative Space
Negative Space offers up thousands of beautiful royalty-free images for you, covering a comprehensive range of categories. Like some of the other top copyright-free image sites, you can search Negative Space using the color of the image you want, rather than a specific search term or category.
New free images are added all the time, so make sure to bookmark Negative Space for your next project.
Your final option for royalty-free stock images is the excellent Reshot. If you want truly unique stock images, Reshot is one of your best options.
The development and creative team vet each copyright-free shot uploaded to the site, ensuring only the best of the best are available to you. That means the standard of photography on show at Reshot is very high—and that will be reflected in your work, too.
Look at the quality on offer in my casual search term, "eggs," pictured above. There are some brilliant high-resolution shots there.
More Copyright-Free Media for You to Use
With so many sites dedicated to bringing you high-quality stock images for free, you may feel overwhelmed with choice. There are even free stock sites for illustrations and vectors.
However, we recommend focusing on the most appealing site and browsing the range of copyright-free images available until you find something that appeals.
Don't use music in Youtube videos from a copyrighted source. Use one of these sites for copyright-free music instead.