We’ve all been there: a deadline looms, and you need a knockout image to top off your masterpiece. But where to turn in the madding crowd of stock photo sites? And when iStock costs $11 a picture, how do you find a photo that won’t break the bank? The good news for weary image seekers is that there’s a growing wealth of free stock photos out there—so once you load up on free fonts, give some of these resources a try:
- Jay Mantri
- Polar Fox
- Good Stock Photos
- Travel Coffee Book
- Free Food Photos
- Startup Stock Photos
- Death to the Stock Photo
- Pic Jumbo
A quick note on licenses: all the image sites featured here offer free stock photos. However, the license may vary. Many are “Creative Commons Zero,” which means they are free to use for any purpose, including commercial, with no attribution required. Images sourced from Flickr are often CC2.0, which may be free to use commercially but require attribution. Additionally, you’re on the hook to be sure that the subject of the image (people, logos, private property, etc.) is clear of rights infringement.
Basically: When in doubt, check the license. When in more doubt, contact the photographer. When in most doubt, don’t use the image—go for another one!
For that oh-so specific image
When you’ve got the perfect image in your head and just need to find it, these sites are here to help.
Flickr’s sheer volume can overwhelm—a single search can return thousands of images. Luckily, they’ve removed some of the needle-in-a-haystack guesswork with updated search options. You can select keyword, color(s), shape, minimum size, license, and more.
License? Varies—be sure to check each image.
Pixabay doesn’t provide as many images as Flickr, but it more than makes up for it with quality and restriction-free licensing. Pixabay’s images are released under a CC0 license, which means the creators have ceded all rights to their work.
What sets Albumarium apart is its organization. It’s arranged into “albums”—some as vague as “women,” others specific as “abandoned buildings.” The albums tend to be small, some with only a single image, but if you’re looking for the holy grail, you can’t do much better.
License? Varies—be sure to check each image.
Magdeleine is an aggregator, with curated images collected from other free resources. Fortunately, the site makes it easy to search by subject, license, and even color.
License? Varies—you can select CC0-only in their sidebar.
No fuss about attribution here! All Unsplash photos are released under a CC0 license, and they’re gorgeous to boot.
6. Barn Images
Don’t let the name fool you: Barn Images provides way more than pictures of barns. You’re free to use their royalty-free stock images without attribution for any purpose, but the site creators would appreciate a shoutout if you like their work.
Free high-res photography? Yes.
7. Negative Space
Negative Space is modest in size, but offers a really cool collection of images.
When quality trumps specificity
These sites don’t have as many options as some of the ones listed above, but they make up for it in glorious quality and thought-provoking composition. If you’re looking for inspiration more than a set image, these may be for you.
With ten new photos added daily, Pexels’ artsy archive is growing fast.
Skitterphoto offers some truly unique photos—and depending on which you choose, you may also get a personal story from the photographer about how and where the picture was taken.
10. Jay Mantri
“Do anything. Make magic.” That’s how Jay Mantri urges visitors to his site to use his images. Don’t mind if we do!
11. Polar Fox
Polar Fox may not have the biggest photo archive on the block, but it does have seriously gorgeous images edited by people who know their schtuff.
12. Good Stock Photos
Truth in advertising at its finest! Though not a large resource, Good Stock Photos provides high-res images on subjects as broad as “objects” and as narrow as “trains.”
License? The site owner does not technically identify GSP photos as Creative Commons; you can read more here.
For a particular topic
Most of these sites have at least a few images of nature, food and drink, fashion, and animals, but a few free photo resources focus specifically on one type of image.
13. Travel Coffee Book
Travel Coffee Book hasn’t been updated in a few months, but definitely worth perusing for its unique and beautiful travel shots.
14. Free Food Photos
Free Food Photo’s site is an easy go-to for recipe mavens and kitchenistas of all kinds. The images are free to use for any purpose, commercial or noncommercial, as long as you provide attribution and don’t resell them as stock photos.
License? Creative Commons; you can read more here.
15. Startup Stock Photos
Startup Stock Photos: so much exposed brick and whiteboard scribbling. So many young people wielding laptops. If you’re looking for the start-uppiest of startup images, look no further.
While KaboomPics’ archived categories cover a range of topics, this site has large batches of beautiful photos in the oft-neglected categories of food and fashion. Site owner Karolina has created these images specifically for bloggers, small business owners, freelancers, and other digital natives—thanks, Karolina!
License? The site owner does not technically identify KP photos as Creative Commons; you can read more here.
That je ne sais quoi free stock photo
Although Ryan McGuire’s Gratisography site offers plenty of mainstream images, his sense of humor shines through in his wonderfully weird “whimsical” category. Do you need an image of a man brandishing a banana as a gun? Yes, yes you do.
18. Death to the Stock Photo
Death to the Stock Photo is the rogue photographer duo Allie Lehman and David Sherry. They offer more than 2,000 photos and a buncha videos for free, and you can sign up for a paid premium subscription if you want even more good stuff.
License? Read their “plain English” license here.
In offering over 600 free stock images of tantalizing quality, Picjumbo realized it put its users in a pickle: How to download them all without contracting carpal tunnel? Luckily, the site saves heartache (and hand-ache) by providing an All in One photo pack–and while it’s not technically free, you can name your own price.
License? Not technically licensed under Creative Commons, but their extensive FAQ section allows you to use their royalty free stock images for commercial and noncommercial use.
If you’re not sure what to do with your newfound bounty, did you know PicMonkey has templates? Yes, Chuck, we’ve got a library of designed-crafted templates for everything from wedding invitations to business cards to motivational quote images. All you have to do is pick a free stock photo you love, pick a template you love, and put ’em together like peanut butter and marshmallow.
Turn inspiration into action. Join now, and treat yourself to the PicMonkey creative toolkit.