Strong design is based on strong imagery. Unfortunately, strong imagery requires a good photographer and that costs money. In the past we were limited to stock photography sites that charge ten quid an image or absolutely terrible free stock photography that cost you conversions.
Thankfully, things are changing.
There’s now hundreds of sites offering free or freemium stock photography services. But with the good comes the bad and that means much of our time is spent wading through the rubbish. What we needed was a list of the best free stock photography sites out there.
So that’s what we created.
Our article pulls together the best of the best free stock photography sites so you don’t have to, freeing up your time to do the important things like being creative.
With all your new free time you could even write us a nice thank you letter or maybe write a lovely comment below. We’d probably accept a nice social share too.
Best Stock Photo Free (BSPF) is a collection built by creatives for creatives. Its images are sourced from a wide range of photographers who voluntarily donate their shots to the project. Pictures are available under a range of licenses, including 1.0 Public Domain Dedication. However, there are some non-commercial and attribution licenses so make sure you know how you are allowed to use an image before you use it.
Freerange Stock is a manually curated and extensively keyworded collection of quality high-res free photos, licensed under a no-attribution commercial license. Over 2000 registered photographers have uploaded over 40000 images to the site, and images are added every day.
LibreShot is the project of Martin Vorel, a Czech Republic-based photography committed to making design a prettier place. He releases all his images under a Creative Commons Zero deed, which means you can use them for commercial projects, desktop backgrounds and everything in between.
Magdeleine is a gallery of handpicked stock photographs. Although the collection is small, most images come with a Creative Commons Zero licence. This means the image has been released to the public domain and you’re free to do with it what you want.
Public Domain Archive is a side project from husband and wife team Matt and Shayna. Matt’s a web designer who loved using high quality images in his designs but found it frustrating that there wasn’t a central collection of all public domain images. He set out to change that.
Stokpic is a small collection of high quality stock photos given away for free by the website’s owner. While the collection isn’t huge, the quality of the images is uniformly outstanding. The images are released for all uses apart from redistribution.
Unsplash releases ten new photos every ten days for you to use – all free from copyright jargon and limitations too. There’s not really a theme to Unsplash. One day it could be cloudy vista looking over Machu Picchu, the next the bright red face of a baboon.
Unsplash was one of the original free stock photo sites and is seen by many as the source for quality free images.
Good Free Photos does exactly what it says on the tin and releases good photos for free. All photographs were taken by the enigmatic ninja behind the site and released into the public domain. The collection is incredibly varied – sky, cars, textures, weapons, food, animals – but quite small. It’s unlikely you’ll find exactly what you’re after but you might find some things you never even thought you needed.
Pixabay collects and publishes images under a Creative Commons Zero deed. That means the images are in the public domain and you’re free to copy, modify, distribute and use them in any way you wish. The site takes submissions from the public but has quite strict quality guidelines and this keeps the overall quality pretty high.
StockPhotos is a collection of high quality images released under Creative Commons Zero deed. They source images via their audience and measure all submissions against their Image Acceptance Criteria. The quality of images is exceptional but the size of the collection does let it down.
When you need beautiful photography, StockSnap should be one of your first ports of call – just be prepared to be disappointed when your search doesn’t return any results. The quality of images on StockSnap is second to none but the size of its collection is a massive drawback. Hopefully they will keep adding images and turn StockSnap into a real contender.
Kaboompics is the brainchild of Polish designer Karolina Grabowska. All the images on Kaboompics have been taken by Grabowska over the years and released to the public. Images aren’t released under a specific license but Grabowska says they are fair game for pretty much anything except redistribution.
PicJumbo got off to a slow start adding just a single new photo every day. However, now that it’s been going for a while, it’s amassed quite a nice little library. Picjumbo has some exceptional macro photos and almost all the rest play with the depth of field in really interesting ways. We’re a little fuzzy over how images are released but the website claims they are totally free for commercial and personal work.
Pexels is committed to bringing the best handcrafted images to media types around the world. They only accept images released under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license from reliable sources like Unsplash, Gratisography, Little Visuals so you can be sure there won’t be an angry lawyer’s email coming in the future.
re:splashed is a collection of a little over 600 free high definition images sourced by the fine folks at Crew. The collection isn’t the biggest but the photos are stunning. They’ve obviously gone for atmosphere over anything else and it really shows in the moody shots on offer.
With over 30,000 photographers on their books and a catalogue stretching into the millions, Free Images definitely takes the quantity-over-quality approach to curation. Finding quality images takes a while but there’s definitely some gems in there if you’re willing to dig. Images are released under a variety of licenses so it’s always best to check the small print before using them.
Life of Pix is a gallery of free use images curated by the LEEROY creative agency in Montreal. Images are submitted to the website by interested photographers and released to the public domain. The quality and breadth of the collection makes Life of Pix an easy stand out.
Lock & Stock Photos is the work of open source advocate AJ Montpetit. AJ claims to have benefited greatly from others who have shared stock photos for free and wants to pass on the good feelings. Users can subscribe for free to get access to a host of photos not available to the public. Images are released under Creative Commons Attribution ShakeAlike 4.0 license. This means you must link back for attribution.
IM Free is a curated collection of free web design resources. There’s a reasonably big gallery and the quality is generally very high throughout. It’s not just images, though, IM Free has templates, vectors and all sorts of design loveliness too.
Albumarium provides outstanding selection of images across a pretty decent range of categories, including animals, nature and buildings. Photos are sourced from the site’s community and are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 licence, which lets you modify and share images as long as you provide attribution to the creator.
ISO Republic is an exclusive – and free – stock photography site for creatives. The site was founded by designer Tom Eversley back in 2014 and has developed a really impressive catalogue of images. Photos tend to relate to architecture and urban scenes so if that’s what you’re after, you won’t find better images. We’re a little fuzzy as to how images are technically released but the website claims they are free to use for commercial and personal projects without attribution.
While Nabeel claims to be a mechanical engineer by trade and a patent agent-in-training, he’s quite clearly destined to become a photographer. His images are beautifully composed, razor sharp and tremendously usable. He’ll even take on pro bono work for empowering causes – what a guy!
Raumrot offers a curated and handpicked stock photo selection. Images are fairly stylised and tend to have an Instagram-esque quality to them so they might not serve all purposes. Most images on Raumrot are published under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence which means you have to credit the creator with a link.
Since its launch in 2000, BigFoto has offered royalty-free images across a relatively small range of images. Images are grouped either geographically or by a handful of thematic categories. Not all images are sharp and well composed but if you’re willing to dig there is certainly some gems hidden there.
New Old Stock is a retro collection of public domain images collected and published by Cole Townsend. If you’re searching for something with a bit of old school cool, look no further.
Fancy Crave are purveyors of fine imagery for designers, developers, artists and creatives. While photos are released in themed packs, there’s no way to search for individual images. The image quality is outstanding and all images are released free of copyright restrictions.
Refe is a collection of real life photos released to the public domain. Refe’s images lack that staged stock photography look so they’re great for conveying that authentic look.
Superfamous has a great catalogue of quality stock photos and the website is a breeze to use. The only drawback is that their images are released under a CC3.0 licence which means you are required to credit the creator.
As if SpaceX could get any cooler, they’ve just started releasing photos for free. The private space organisation has set up a Flickr account and has been steadily adding photos related to all things space. Most images are released under a Creative Commons Zero deed and are free to use, edit and distribute. You stay classy, Elon.
Jeshoots is the creative outlet for 24-year-old Jan Vasek. An illustrator by trade, Jan founded Jeshoots to support other creatives working in the industry. Images are released under a Creative Commons Zero deed and are free to use as you please without attribution.
InstaStock is half visual diary and half stock photography gallery. All images are taken by Dylan Simel on an iPhone 6 and released to the public domain. Images are viewed chronologically and it’s weirdly satisfying to scroll through months Dylan’s life in the flick of a finger.
Stocka’s site is as beautiful as its stocks – which is saying something because the quality of the Stocka’s images is head and shoulders above its competition. Stocka’s small collection is added to weekly and tends to focus on nature-type things. Expect lots of flowers, sunsets and landscapes.
Gratisography was one of the first free stock sites to really get famous. It’s collection is pretty small but its eclectic images are all fantastic quality and massively usable. All images are released to the public domain.
Moveast is the visual diary of a Portuguese man moving to Dubai. The man is question is João Pacheco and Moveast is his way of giving back to the design community. All images are released under Creative Commons Zero.
SplitShire is the side project of Daniel Nanescu, a graphic designer from Torino in Italy. Daniel – who also dabbles in photography – uses SplitShire to share his work with the world and has amassed a collection of images on pretty much every subject under the sun.
Startup Stock Photos is the answer to the question: Where can I find business-themed photos that aren’t horrendously cringe-inducing? With hundreds of images from super cool offices and of super cool people, Startup Stock Photos is a great way to deck out a brand new business website.
The team behind Travel Coffee Book are committed to bringing you beautiful moments from all around the world. Images are brilliantly diverse, stretching from the dusty midwest of America to the bustle of downtown Tokyo and all are released to the public domain under a Creative Commons Zero license.
Foodie’s Feed uploads five or so images every week of food from around the world. There’s an artistry to food photography and it’s one of the folk behind the lens have definitely mastered. Every single shoot oozes desire and it’s all you can do to not lick the screen. The site is supported via donations and all images are released free to use and edit without attribution.
Skitterphoto is a disparate collection of public domain images taken by the website’s three resident photographers. Images are released under a Creative Commons Zero deed and .raw files are generally available on request.
Free Nature Stock should be your first port of call if you need an image with bushes, trees, clouds or lakes. The quality of images is absolutely outstanding and new photos are added every day. All images are released under Creative Commons Zero deed.
If you’re looking for a photo in a hurry, this definitely isn’t the site for you. Picography takes images from a handful of professional photographers and displays them in a super minimal scroll-through gallery. If you’re looking for artistic inspiration, give Picography a look. All images are released under a Creative Commons Zero deed.
Every seven days Little Visuals will email you seven beautiful, high-resolution, public domain images. Subject matter varies but there’s a strong nature theme throughout the collections. Don’t worry if you’re late to the party either – all older collections are available on their website.
MMT is an up-and-coming free stock photography site run by Jeffrey Betts. Jeffrey releases brand new photos every week and publishes them under a Creative Commons Zero deed. Images on MMT tend to be of cityscapes or little pockets of urban greenery. All Jeffrey’s images are fantastic quality, really nicely framed and terrific for atmospheric shots.
Death to Stock Photos is the brainchild of photographers Allie and David. A little over a year ago the pair noticed that other creatives were struggling to find images that fit their vibe. With an extensive back catalogue of unpublished images, the pair saw an opportunity to help.
Death to Stock Photos now emails subscribers a pack of absolutely beautiful images every month with a story for the month’s theme. You might not always find what you’re looking for but it’s hard to care when photos are this beautiful.
Snapwire emails seven hand-picked images to subscribers every seven days. There’s not much of a theme – small kids playing baseball, macro shot of a raspberry, models sitting on tyre swings – so it’s a little bit of a lottery every week. However, all the images are tremendously well framed and are excellent quality. All images have been dedicated to the public domain and released under a Creative Commons Zero deed.
Jay Mantri posts seven new photos to his site each week with only one request: Make magic. His photos are hugely diverse but all have an artful touch and are tremendously useful for design. Jay releases his images under a Creative Commons Zero license so you are free to do with them what you please.
Morguefile is a invaluable bank of high-resolution stock photos for all sorts of digital creatives. Started back in 1996 as the pet project of college student Michael Connors, it’s come a long way in those two decades. Morguefile is currently run in partnership between Michael and his his brother Kevin. All images are free to use in creative projects so long as you alter them. If you intend to use the image unaltered, the brothers recommend you contact the individual photographer directly.
So that’s all we’ve got. Our designers, developers and copywriters are always on the lookout for more resources though so expect this list to grow over time as more quality stock photography sites pop up over the internet.
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