Where can I find stock images to use for free?

amsterdam sunset

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Stock images can make your content stand out, but can you really find good images for free?

Warning: While there are lots of websites dedicated to providing high quality, royalty free stock photography, you will need to check the license before you reuse the image.

What is a stock image?

“Stock photography is the supply of photographs which are often licensed for specific uses.”
Wikipedia

A stock photo is a high quality image that serves a specific purpose. It might be a business setting, a scenic picture, a picture of food or anything you think can enhance your content.

Today, there are lots of websites selling stock images and also many that are supplying ‘free’ stock photographs. In this article we are going to find out where you can download high quality free stock images.

Remember to check the license!

  • Public Domain: The image is free to use without purchasing a license and can be used for commercial purposes.
  • Royalty-free: You can use the image without many restrictions based on a one-time payment to the licensor.
  • Rights-managed: The image can only be used for a single purpose determined by the copyright license purchased.

Where to find free stock images

The following sites allow you to download and use images for free. You should give credit to the creator when necessary. Check the conditions when downloading the image.

  1. Unsplash
  2. Pexels
  3. rawpixel
  4. MyStockPhotos
  5. Stock Up
  6. Pixabay
  7. StickPNG
  8. StockSnap
  9. visualhunt
  10. Burst by Shopify
  11. JD Designs
  12. Create your own

Unsplash

Photo by Christian Dubovan on Unsplash

Let’s say I wanted to write an article on how Covid-19 was signalling the end of cash, I could use this picture from Christian Dubovan on Unsplash. And that’s the point of Unsplash. You can usually find good creative images to use in your posts.

“All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.”
Review unsplash license terms.

Pexels

As well as stock photography, Pexels has the added advantage of including video. This is particularly useful if you need to include some filler in a video you are putting together.

Pexels License

For all Content made available for download on the Service, that is not CC0-Content or Sponsored Content, Pexels grants you an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and otherwise use the Content (this does not include Sponsored Content), including for commercial purposes, without attributing the photographer/ content owner or Pexels (“Pexels License“).

rawpixel

Billing itself as “the best safe to use design resources for everyone” rawpixel is an excellent site to find images and graphics that can supercharge your social media images. Like this one you could use in an article about recycling.

Students learning about various recyclable materials from rawpixel

You’ll need to create a free account to download some images, but it’s quick and easy and provides a ton of value to you.

Commercial License
For every image you download, we grant you a commercial license for a single user which is non-exclusive, non-transferable and revocable. It applies throughout the world and is subject to the standards and restrictions set out below.
Find out more at https://www.rawpixel.com/services/licenses

MyStockPhotos

MyStockPhotos is from the people behind the succesful WordPress theme company, themeisle. While not as comprehensive as some of the others on the list, it is still just as useful.

I mean, who doesn’t like a cute puppy photo?
cute puppy

“All photos on MyStock are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose.
The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use.
You can modify, copy and distribute the photos.
All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.”

Stock Up

“Stock Up works by aggregating dozens of free stock photo websites. We only include stock photo websites that explicitly give us permission— in return we link back to their website.”

As an aggregating service Stock Up gives you access to over 35000 images. Many of their sites aren’t included in this list, so it’s well worth checking out if you are struggling to find an appropriate image for your work.
Web Designer Sketching a Wireframe Layout Ideas in a Notebook byViktor Hanacek

“Each photo on Stock Up will show the license when you hover over it. Most photos are Creative Commons 0. Some are public domain.”

Pixabay

Photos, illustrations, vectors, videos and music are all available to download from pixabay, making this a go to site for many creators. You could, for example, download an MP3 and use it for background music for a video you are making. Here’s a dance track I found by ‘Loyalty Freak Music’.

According to Pixabay’s terms:

  • All content on Pixabay can be used for free for commercial and noncommercial use across print and digital, except in the cases mentioned in “What is not allowed”.
  • Attribution is not required. Giving credit to the contributor or Pixabay is not necessary but is always appreciated by our community.
  • You can make modifications to content from Pixabay.

StickPNG

StickPNG’s USP is free transparent PNGs. Cheers 🙂

StickPNG.com is a free community supported website where you will find transparent PNG images submitted by StickPNG users.

Although you can download those PNG images for your non commercial personal projects, StickPNG doesn’t grant any license for the content shared on their website.

So if you wish to use these images for any other purpose you must get permission from their respective authors.

StockSnap

I like this site for its ease of use. It has useful categories and trending searches which is always a handy way to do some research.

Colourful Pencils by Artsy Crafty from StockSnap

That’s why every single image on StockSnap are governed exclusively by the generous terms of the Creative Commons CC0 license.

Visual Hunt

What I really like about Visual Hunt is the Colour Palette provided with each photo. This is great for finding a very specific image to suit the style of your social media profile or blog.

Woman photographing city lights at night with mobile phone

As per Visual Hunt:

“Most of our photos are CC0 license (do whatever you want). Additionally we offer all Creative Commons and Public Domain photos from sources like Flickr and make it possible to embed them directly from our website.”

Burst by Shopify

With over a million shops selling on shopify, you can trust their stock library for commercial use. I like it for finding inspiration on how you could model your own products. If you have a food blog you could use an image like this.

red-orange-yellow-green-vegatables

Full terms of use are available at https://burst.shopify.com/legal/terms

JD Designs

JD Designs are a UK creative agency that are sharing free stock images. You are allowed to use their photos for personal and commercial purposes.

Here’s one of an airplane set against a nice blue sky.

airplane-taking-off-with-blue-sky

Create your own

While you might not have the skills and experience of a professional photographer, you probably have a smartphone that can produce good images. With a little practice you can produce images that are good enough to be published on a website and shared on social media. Stock photos are great, but sometimes your content deserves a little more authenticity. The featured image at the top of this article is one I took on holiday.

If you found this article interesting, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

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