Free Stock Photos: Where to find them and which ones you can use
If you’re a professional writer, you probably already know that you can’t just take photos from anywhere online and use them.
Firstly, as a writer, you know all about copyright, and you don’t want anyone to take your work and not give you credit. So you should extend the same courtesy to photographers, right?
Second of all, using any photo you find online and posting it on your blog (or a client’s blog) could lend you in hot water. You could receive a nasty letter, o worse, get sued.
But don’t despair if you have no photography skills (or if you don’t have the time to create an original stock photo database). There are plenty of places online to find free online photos that won’t get you into trouble—because photographers have shared them under the Creative Commons Licenses.
A work that’s shared under the Creative Commons License is a work that can be used by any other party without a fee. However, it’s important to note that there are different kinds of Creative Commons Licenses, so always check what license is granted before using someone else’s photographs.
The easiest photographs to use are the ones shared as public domain photos licensed under CC0. CC0 images are free to use for any purpose (including commercial), with no attribution required. This makes it easier for bloggers to find free high-quality photos for their blogs, and for freelance writers to find photos to offer as a “bonus” with their articles.
Two of the most popular places online to find CC0 (and only CC0) images are Unsplash and Pixabay, both of which I use regularly. Most of the photos on this blog come form these two websites.These aren’t the only options, though.
Read on for several places to find CC0 photos for your blog and other business ventures! For each website mentioned, I’ve explained what uses are allowed for the photos, and whether or not you’re able to donate to the photographer if you so choose.
Remember that while attribution is not required for most of these websites, attribution is always appreciated, so if you can, include a “photo by” note in a caption, or at least in the image description/alt text.
An important note: you’ll read the suggestion to right click and “save as” when websites don’t offer a download button. It’s very important that you only do this on websites that you know are offering CC0 and/or public domain images. Never right click and “save as” on websites that have not given you strict permission to use their photos.
1 Million Free Pictures
All photos on 1 Million Free Pictures are public domain, so you can use them for any purpose, personal or commercial. This website has some cool photos, but the site itself is a little clunky.
There’s a search box, but it seems to be for the entirety of the site rather than for the photos themselves, and doesn’t return great results. You’re better off looking at the gallery and scrolling down to find your category. There’s no download button, so you’ll need to right click and “save as.”
The photographers appreciate it if you include a link back to their site and “spread the word on social media” if you use their photos.
Every image is free, but you can show your appreciation by “buying the author a coffee,” by clicking the button below the image. There is a search function as well as a blog about photography on this website.
CC0.photo is a website by Rafael Herrman. All photos on the website have been taken by either him or by his uncle Peter Janzen before he passed away.
All photos on the website are free to use for any purpose, but you can “buy the author a coffee” via a button on the right side of the page, if you feel so inclined. You can use the search function or browse by category via the top bar.
Dreamstime has both for pay and free images, and there’s an option to search for free images only. Free images are public domain and can be found here. You can find photos by using the search box or you can browse by category.
FindA.Photo is a service provided by chamberofcommerce.org. It searches several online databases for CC0 images when you use their search box or browse by categories, which are super organized. You can browse by colour, category collection, or source (meaning the websites FindA.Photo searches). Downside: slow to load.
Flickr CC0 Tag
You can find public domain images on Flickr by searching for the tag CC0 or public domain (or just click here). Just be sure to read the fine print below the image to ensure it truly is public domain before downloading.
Free images is a website that shares public domain and CC0 photos from several websites. To make sure you don’t need to give attribution, read the photo info on the right side of the page, and to make extra sure, visit the image source website.
Free to Use Original Photos by Daria
Free to Use Original Photos by Daria offers various images for any use, whether personal or commercial. The website doesn’t have a search function or download button, so you’ll need to right click and “save as.”
Clicking on “archive” will make the website easier to browse. There’s no licensing information on the website; however, the “why am I doing this” page does say you’re free to use the photos for any purpose. It does not say whether Daria would like attribution, so I’d give it just to be safe.
Good Free Photos
God Free Photos offers several images of travel, landscapes, and landmarks. All images are offered under public domain and have seemingly been taken by a single photographer. You can enter your keyword in the search box or browse by category.
ISO Republic provides CC0-licensed photos and videos. You can find images by using the search box or by browsing categories (just below the search bar).
Jay Mantri offers photos and videos under CC0 license. There are some great photos and videos on here, but unfortunately no search function or categorized browsing list, so you’ll need to scroll to see the photos.
There are many black and white photos available, which are sometimes hard to find on other sites, so that’s cool. Plenty of colour photos also.
Kaboom Pics is a generic database of free stock photos that can be used for personal and commercial purposes without attribution (though attribution is always appreciated).
Each photo comes with a suggested colour palette that would accent the photo, which is pretty neat. The website also has a blog with articles discussing design trends, tips for entrepreneurs, and more. I love it that Kaboom Pics is a “one woman show” and that all of the over 10,000 images on the sites were taken by a single photographer, Karolina.
LibreShot is another database of photographs of various kinds, all taken by a single photographer—Martin Vorel. Martin is an SEO consultant who loves photography but didn’t want his photos just sitting on his computer. So he offers his images for free for anyone to use for personal or commercial use with no need for attribution (though links back to his site are always appreciated). There doesn’t seem to be a download button with each image, so you’ll need to right-click and “save as.”
Life of Pix
Life of Pix is a searchable database of images that are free to use for any purpose, commercial or personal, and you don’t need to give attribution. You can find photos by using the search box.
Little Visuals was created by a young man named Nic, who sadly passed away at 26 years old in 2013 from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, better known as Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (which I wasn’t aware existed until I visited this website).
Nic’s family keeps the website alive in his memory, and asks that if you visit and download photos, you consider making a donation to Hand on Heart, a charity that aims to provide defibrillators to schools.
Little Visuals does not have a search function or download button, so you’ll need to browse by scrolling down and download by right clicking and “saving as.” Having said that, don’t let this deter you; this website has some absolutely gorgeous nature photographs that Nic had taken and shared with the world. It’s worth the time it takes to browse.
Magdeleine has several images available under the public domain, but you must give attribution to the photographer and website on which it appears. I know that’s basically the opposite of public domain, but since the website requires it, you might as well be safe and give attribution. It doesn’t cost you anything other than caption space.
All MMT photos are CC0-licensed, so you can use them for any purpose without attribution. You can browse through their featured categories or use the search function to find images. There’s fewer images here than on the other sites mentioned on this post, but it’s still worth a look.
When I first saw the name for this website, I thought I was going to be finding weird photos from the morgue. Shows how much I know. Morgue is actually a term from publishing that basically means post-production files. This website is another searchable database of images that are free for commercial or personal use. If you use the images without altering it, you need to give credit to the image’s author.
PDPics.com offers several public domain images that you can use for any purpose, personal or commercial. You can use the search box or click on the categories at the bottom of the page. They request that you give a link back to their website if you use one of the images. There’s no download button, so you’ll need to right click and “save as.”
Pexels has several images available in various categories, and the search box makes it easy to find them. They also offer free videos. There’s a blog with some photography tips and interviews, but it’s not updated regularly (last post as of this writing was in October 2018).
After downloading a photo, you’re given the option of thanking the photographer by either making a Paypal donation, tweeting a thank you, following the photographer on Instagram, or giving attribution (copying a line that says photo by [name] on Pexels). None of this is required, but doing one of them is a nice way to show your thanks to the photographer.
All free stock photos on Pixabay are shared under the CC0 license. You can find pictures, vectors, and illustrations for just about anything on Pixabay, and their search is pretty solid.
I’ve found searches work best when they’re single words, but multiple words work, too. All photos on Pixabay are free and you can use them for any purpose, including commercial. A Paypal button is available for “buying a coffee” for the photographers who choose to include this feature with their photos.
Pick Up Image
Not putting a photo from the website here because I couldn’t be bothered to upload 10 images before downloading one.
Pick Up Image is a large collection of royalty-free photos that you can use for anything, whether personal or commercial purposes. There’s a pretty good variety of photographs, and the website has a search function. However, for me personally, this site is more trouble than it’s worth.
You have to sign up for a membership to download any photos, which is fine, but the way it’s presented is not. While the membership is free, they don’t tell you ahead of time that you need to have it—you find out when you click the download button for a photo. Then, once you sign up for the membership and click the download button again, that’s when they tell you that if you want to download photos, you have to upload 10 images.
While requiring users to contribute is smart—they grow their database every time someone wants to download something—I don’t like that there’s no notice of any of this until you click download (twice). It smells of false advertising, and I won’t be coming back to this particular site. I only mention it here so if you find this website through a “free stock photo” search, you’ve been pre-warned about the nonsense.
It’s also worth noting that if you require people to upload photos to download photos, the photos aren’t free. It’s a barter agreement. And while that’s fine, it would be nice to be told this ahead of time, rather than being lead on through the process.
Public Domain Pictures
Public Domain Pictures is another website with all kinds of photos for free use. It has both photos and illustrations, and it’s pretty cool in that it has modern images as well as vintage illustrations.
I couldn’t find license information on the website, but there’s a note on some of the photos that “If you intend to use an image you find here for commercial use, please be aware that some photos do require a model or property release. Pictures featuring products should be used with care.”
This website also has the option of donating to the photographers via Paypal. However, I find this a little fishy with regards to pictures of vintage illustrations. Public domain doesn’t mean you can sell someone else’s work as your own without any modifications to the work, and when a photographer posts a photo of someone else’s illustration (even if said illustration is in the public domain), I don’t think payment or donations are deserved (or legal). I’d use this website with a lot of caution.
Skitterphoto is a generic stock photo website. It was created in 2014 by amateur photographers from The Netherlands. All photos on this website are CC0 licensed.
There’s a good search function, or you can browse by category. There are many types of photographs available, from vintage-looking illustrations to modern photos. Some photographs have a “donate to photographer” option with a Paypal button.
Splashbase lists free-to-use images and videos from various sources. All images have the type of license directly below the image, so be sure to check that before downloading. The search box is probably the most efficient way to find images on the site.
Splitshire is a collection of over 1,000 photos taken by graphic designer Daniel Nanescu. He decided to share the many photos he’s taken over the years with the public, because as a graphic designer, he knows “how hard it is to get great photos.”
There is a variety of images on this site, and the search function makes it easy to find them. I also kind of love the Lord of the Rings reference in the website name.
The setup of this site seems a little odd, with each image seemingly added as a new blog post, and a bit of a clunky search function. The pictures are awesome, though.
Clicking the download button will download a ziplock file of a bunch of data you probably don’t need, so I recommend right-clicking and “saving as.”
Stocksnap.io has several images available, all free to use for any purpose, personal or commercial, without attribution. All images are CC0 licensed, and you can find them easily by using the search box.
Unsplash is my favourite place to find free stock photos online. The photographs are super high quality, and Unsplash has a very large library. I also like that I can create my own collections of photographs I find on the site, and that these collections then become available to other users.
I like Unsplash better than Pixabay because although all photos offered on Unsplash are CC0, requiring no attribution to the photographers, Unsplash nevertheless has always encouraged people to give attribution and made it easy to do so, with a popup reminder of “copyable” text each time you download a photograph. Pixabay now offers this also, but it’s clunky and always copies as html rather than plain text, making it more difficult for those who don’t know code.
Reminding you to give attribution and offering an easy way to do so is great for two reasons: for photographers who don’t want to bother setting up a full-on website for their portfolio, Unsplash offers an easy way to display their work. And because Unsplash encourages (but doesn’t require) attribution, photographers often get mentioned, leading to more contacts. Some photographers have seen great success with this.
Yes, this is basically a “work for exposure” model and it has its issues, but for beginning or hobby photographers, it actually works well. Just like with writing, working for free makes sense sometimes.
It’s ultimately up to the photographer whether they’ll share free images on someone else’s platform or not. I’m thankful to the ones who do, and I’ve also started contributing my (very amateur) photos to the website. You can see them here.
If you’re looking for generic photos, the websites above will help you out. But if you’re looking for something a little more specific, try the following websites.
If you’re after antique illustrations, this Flickr account is perfect. Here you’ll find illustrations from several works from the 17th through 19th centuries, all available for personal or commercial use without restrictions (as are most works 120 years after the death of the creator).
Free food!!! Well, free food photos, anyway. If you like writing about food, or even if you just like staring at delicious food, this website will fill your needs. All photos on Foodiesfeed are shared under CC0, so you can use these free stock photos for personal or commercial use. There’s a search function, or you can browse by category.
You can download photos for free without signing up for the website, but signing up for a free membership will give you faster downloads. It will also give you a newsletter with the latest photos in your inbox.
If you’re after quirky images, Gratisography will be right up your alley. All images are free to use both for personal and commercial use, with some common-sense restrictions, which you can read about here.
Nappy.co offers free stock photos of black and brown people. The photos are beautiful and shared under the CC0 license. There’s a search box, or you can browse by category on the left side of the page. The disadvantage of this site is that it’s slow to load. While attribution is not required, they “strongly recommend it.”
New Old Stock
If you’re looking for historical photographs, this is the place to go. New Old Stock provides historical photographs “free of known copyright restricitons.” The pro of New Old Stock is that it has some pretty neat antique images you won’t easily find elsewhere. The con is that you might have a hard time finding the images you want on the site, as there’s no search function.
For crafters who love to incorporate vintage illustrations in their work, Reusable Art is the perfect site. There’s no search function, but the categories are really well set out on the left column of the page.
The “download button” is actually an ad for downloading some software, so right-clicking an image and “saving as” will serve you better. All photos are free to use for any purpose with no attribution required (as are most images after 120 years have passed since the death of their creator).
Startup Stock Photos
If you’re looking for business-related photos, this website will help you find a few. This site doesn’t have a search function, so you’ll have to scroll down to find what you need. All photos are free to use for personal or commercial use without attribution.
What I do like about it is that the people who put the website up are the ones who took the photos. They share photos they were “already taking on a regular basis.” You can also support the photos’ creators through a link on their about page.
Styled Stock offers “feminine stock photography,” and all the photos on the site can be used for any purpose, personal or commercial. As with all other sites mentioned on this post, they do appreciate a link back, but attribution is not required.
I especially like these photos because there’s often lots of white space, so they’re perfect for blog titles. And the pictures are gorgeous. You can use the search box or browse by category (just to the right of the search field). You can filter by product type or colour, and you can sort your search results by newness or popularity. To use these functions, click on “our images.”
Viintage (Design Rush)
Viintage (Design Rush) offers several vintage images free to use for any purpose, personal or commercial. These images are really neat, but you’ll have to scroll, as there’s no search function or categorized browsing. You’ll need to right click and “save as,” since there’s no download button.
There are several other places online to get free stock photos that are licensed for use without attribution or payment.
I’ve chosen to only share database-like websites for free photos on this post, since they tend to be the most useful for bloggers and freelance writers. Having access to these photos is pretty awesome, as most writers who are just starting out can’t really afford the extremely expensive subscription stock photo services.
But when you get rich and famous, consider paying a service for your photos, or better yet, hiring a photographer directly for your projects. In the meantime, be sure to contribute to photographers when you’re able, and to give attribution when possible.
One final note: while images given away as public domain works can be used without restriction, you should be careful of commercial use of photos that include trademarks or that show models. A model or property release is usually needed to use these works for commercial purposes, but not if you’re just displaying them on your blog, which is usually considered editorial use (non-commercial). Pixabay has a really helpful explanation of this topic here.
Also, use common sense. Don’t imply that people or brands on photos you use somehow endorse your business, don’t use photos for illicit purposes, and don’t embarrass the subjects in your photos. Also, it’s always a good idea to read the licensing information on any websites where you download photos.
I take a tonne of photos during our family adventures. I’ve been thinking about offering these photos for downloads on my currently static freelance writing site, www.dreamsintogoalswriting.com. Should I do it?