Photography has always been an important element of design. It’s no secret; we’re all aware that blog posts, articles, web pages, and newsletters all benefit from the inclusion of unique, eye-catching images. Yet, it feels like lately we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing the same cheesy stock images of people in suits shaking hands over and over and over again. Don’t worry; it’s not déjà vu… or a glitch in The Matrix. For some reason, many content creators and marketers feel as though these tacky images serve as an acceptable representation of their brand. Spoiler alert: they aren’t. And it gets worse. Not only do these images suck– but people actually pay a lot of money for them.
Look, we get it. Good stock images can be hard to find. And when you need an image fast, it’s easy to default to the obvious. But that can lead to some less-than-stellar photo choices. And we’re here to help you put an end to it.
Thankfully, there’s been a growing number of websites with beautiful stock photography popping up all over the web. Best of all, they’re free!
Want proof? I got the featured image above for free on Pikwizard.
Quick note about licensing.
Nearly all images on these free stock sites have a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which provides users with the freedom to copy, modify, distribute, and use all of the photos without permissions or attribution.
However, some photos may require attribution. We’ve done our best to identify which license they fall under, but we still advise you to do your own research and determine how these images can be used. It’s also a good idea to always read the fine print when you get stock images so that you know if or how you need to attribute that photo.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into our curated list of awesome websites for free stock photos.
Pexels provides high-quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. These photos are carefully handpicked from a variety of free image sources to ensure that you’re getting only the best of the best. All photos are nicely tagged, searchable and also easy to discover through their discover pages.
Death to Stock was founded with a mission in mind: to provide high-quality images that fit the “vibe and tribe” of creatives world-wide. Simply submit your email and enjoy a new batch of photos delivered to your inbox every month. If you do have an extra budget for stock images – spend it with Death to Stock. They offer a Premium membership starting at $12/month. The awesome part about the paid membership is that a percentage of the profit is used to fund photography trips and other creative projects to keep the resource moving forward.
Unsplash was founded just over 4 years ago as a humble Tumblr blog. Since then, it’s grown into an industry-leading photography community. With over 850,000 beautiful, high-resolution images (and counting by the hour), chances are good that you’ll find something to work with on this site. Not to mention, every photo published on Unsplash is licensed under Creative Commons Zero.
This resource has a very large database of high-quality images. It’s somewhat more oriented towards business and marketing, which is often helpful for content marketers and bloggers. A big plus – the site is clean and intuitive, making it easy to navigate your way through the 1.6 million+ free photos, vectors, and illustrations.
With new photos added weekly, this is another awesome website serving up high-resolution photos covered under the Creative Commons Zero license. Gratisography proudly claims that it is the “world’s quirkiest collection of free high-resolution pictures”. All of the photos are taken by Ryan McGuire, a “whimsically creative visual artist, based in Ithaca, NY.” While this site can’t compare to the others in terms of quantity – it excels at providing high-quality creative images that you won’t find anywhere else.
StockSnap.io is not your typical crappy stock photo site. They offer a large selection of interesting and versatile free stock photos and high resolution images. StockSnap.io adds hundreds of images on a weekly basis and all photos are released under the Creative Commons Zero license.
Step back in time with this stellar collection of vintage photos, which comes from the public archive via Flickr Commons. According to the website, the photos are free of any known copyright restrictions.
That said, while it’s likely that they are safe to use for things like blog posts and hero images, you’ll want to read up on the rights and usage below before you use them for any type of commercial project.
Life of Pix is a resource brought to you by the LEEROY Creative Agency in Montreal – and its network of ridiculously talented photographers. All of the images are donated to the public domain, and are available for personal and commercial use.
As if that wasn’t enough, Life of Pix also has a counterpart, Life of Vids. According to its website, Life of Vids serves up free footage videos, clips, and loops, weekly. Like the images, the video content contains no copyright restrictions, and can be easily downloaded on its Vimeo account.
ISO’s Republic’s mission is to “provide high-quality images to be used by designers, developers, bloggers, marketers, and social media teams.” And wow, do they succeed. It’s actually hard to believe that the images are free.
If you’re looking for access to more exclusive free photos, ISO Republic invites you to sign up for its email list and receive photos right to your inbox.
More like a fine art gallery than a stock photo site, designer Jay Mantri has created this impressive collection of high-quality, professional, and stunning photos for you, me and everyone else to use – no attribution required. Subscribe for updates on new photos.
Need free images for your next website design or blog post? Look no further than Pikwizard. The site features over 100,000 high-quality photos (over 20,000 of those being exclusive to them), with new photos added daily. You can browse through dozens of categories or search until you find the perfect image.
Pikwizard features a wide selection of high-quality images to fit a variety of different topics. But what really sets them apart from the rest is their variety of fantastic images featuring people.
With so many resources available, there is absolutely no reason to use that cliché “Smiling Employee Shakes Hands With Boss” shot or any other tacky, cheesy, overused image for that matter. So whether you’re revamping your company’s “careers” page, updating your travel blog, writing about your favorite podcast, publishing a news story about goat yoga or anything else, check out these sites before you publish.