Looking for free stock photos?
Here are the best sites to find images for your website and social media.
Visuals are a necessity for your online marketing, but they won’t do you any good if they’re of less than stellar quality.
Professional photos can be quite expensive, and top stock photography sites have pricey membership fees.
Here you’ll find:
- Top 10 best sites for free stock photos.
- Resources for free texture photos and icons.
- Is it legal to use free images? Including Google image search.
- How to choose and personalize free photos so you don’t look cheesy.
- Ultimate list of 50+ free stock photo sites at the end of article.
10 Best Free Stock Photo Sites
These top 10 free stock image sites offer all types of photography:
- Foca Stock
- Life of Pix
- Negative Space
I’ve checked each one out to give you a personal review from my designer’s eye.
You can compare a screen capture of each site’s search results for “joyful woman”.
If the site had no results for that term, you’ll see search results for “woman” or the site’s homepage.
The ultimate list at the end of this article includes specialty sites that cater to things like travel or food photography. Add more sites to it if you have other favorites!
When you’re looking for free pictures online, be sure to check licensing restrictions.
I’ll explain after you see the sites!
Shown below: Foca Stock home page
Shown above. Free photos, videos, and templates for commercial use from photographer Jeffrey Betts. Use them in your website, themes, templates, projects, print materials, social posts, and more. CC0 license.
This site doesn’t seem to include people photos, but has a good range of workspace, nature, food / drink, and city / urban photography.
These photos can be freely downloaded, used, and redistributed for both personal and commercial purposes.
The workspace photos come in handy for me as a B2B (business to business). I’m glad to have rediscovered this site, formerly known as MMT.
Shown below: Unsplash site with “joyful woman” search results
Unsplash is a photo lover’s dream. This site offers over one million free images.
They’re high resolution and a cut above some cheesy sites you’ve tried to avoid. Look how cool and unusual is the one sample I had to show you. It just popped up when I went to their Creative Commons page. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.
Of course, there are so many more!
You can subscribe to get an inspirational collection in your email each month, or simply view by collection, or search for a specific term.
In addition to keyword search, you can filter results by horizontal, square, or vertical – handy for Pinterest Pins.
You can also limit to a specific color, which is great for maintaining your business colors.
Shown below: Gratisography site with “joyful woman” search results
With new pictures added every week, you’re sure to find the perfect one for your blog posts. Photographer Ryan McGuire generously offers his quality images free with no copyright restrictions.
They’re unique and whimsical, and include his “peace of mind license.”
To give you an idea of what you might find, Ryan’s collections include:
- Amusing Animals
- Artsy Architecture
- Funky Food
- Goofy Grownups
- Hijinks Hands
- Mischievous Men
- Virtual Backgrounds
- Whimsical Women
Check it out and have some fun.
Shown below: Pixabay site with “joyful woman” search results
Pixabay is a website that offers a little something more. Not only can you get photos of all kinds, there are also offerings of vectors, illustrations, and videos. You can use it all at no cost.
Better yet, the search capabilities allow you to filter by type, color, category, size, and more.
I have to admit, this one’s my go-to. I just always find something useable here!
Beware, though, not all are what I’d call high quality. Some even look like they might be from a college class project.
If you can be discerning, you can find some real gems amidst their 1.7 million offerings.
Shown below: Picjumbo site with “joyful woman” search results
More beautiful photos that don’t look like free photos – but are!
Viktor Hanasek, a talented photographer, set up this site to share his photos back in 2013.
You can search his vast library of free images, opt for premium membership or even purchase the All in One Pack of every image from the site.
An email subscription will get a selection of new photos sent to your inbox weekly.
Picumbo’s search isn’t as robust as some others, but the quality is great, and you won’t see these everywhere.
Shown below: StockSnap.io site with “joyful woman” search results
Whatever you’re marketing, you know you need striking, beautiful, on-point images. And ideally, you’ll need the freedom to copy, edit, modify, and distribute those images in a variety of formats and purposes – including business-related ones.
That’s why every single image on StockSnap is governed exclusively by the generous terms of the Creative Commons CC0 license.
I was impressed with the results for my search on “joyful woman” until I realized that the not-free Shutterstock search results were shown the same size as the free images, with just a star in the upper corner to distinguish them. And they took up the first two rows of results. So beware of that if you only want free images.
Many of these sites do display paid photos as a way to make money, and I totally support that. I just found the treatment here made it tough to distinguish free from paid.
You can sort your results in descending or ascending order by:
With the easy searching, it’s worth checking this one out.
Shown below: Life of Pix site with “woman” search results
Free high-resolution photos, no copyright restriction for personal and commercial use. New photography added weekly!
All images are donated to the public domain.
Not only can you choose amazing photos from a slew of skilled artists, you can also set up an account that lets you curate a portfolio of images and follow your favorite photographers.
Offers some advanced search features, but is definitely heavier on ads than most.
Shown below: Kaboompics site with “woman” search results
This free photo site with the quirky name grants you access to tons of photos from a wide selection of topics. Easy to search by word or category, you can browse images for all your blogging needs.
I really like that Kaboompics let you sort by most downloaded – if you want to see the most popular pics – and least downloaded – if you want to find something less-used.
Also sort by newest, oldest, and featured. Limit search by orientation and color.
Currently over 17,000 free images that are only available on Kaboompics. This one’s a keeper.
Shown below: Negative Space site with “woman” search results
Each of the high-quality photographs you find here has been taken by a photographer from the NegativeSpace community.
- Black & White
To provide easy access to beautiful, high-resolution photography, all of the photos on this site are free. Free in cost as well as free to use under a Creative Commons CC0 license.
It’s easy to search by keyword or color as well, which is a fun idea for color-branded backgrounds to make Pinterest Pins.
The “green” color search is shown below, with the Picography site below that.
Shown below: Picography site with “woman” search results
Picography has been providing stunning images to millions of people for the past 3 years. It is now one of the top sources for gorgeous, high-resolution, free photos.
You can use any of our free stock photos however and wherever you like, with no attribution required. All photos are CC0 licensed.
People pictures might not be this site’s strong suit, but I checked out some of the other categories and found quality photos I’d be happy to use.
I often see this one listed on free photo site lists. It’s not in my top 10 though.
Death to Stock does not provide a searchable image library for free images, thus you may find it quite limited. However, you can sign up for the newsletter to receive free photo samples each month.
There’s also a premium package that grants access to the more than 4500 photos in their library and extras such as videos.
Easiest Way to Find Free Public Domain Art
Old Masters art is one category that generally falls in the public domain.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t hold a palette knife to these guys! I’m thrilled to be able to use their works, when appropriate.
NOTE: Living artists’ work is usually NOT in the public domain!
In the U.S., works published before 1923 are in the public domain, plus lots more complicated rules. But instead of worrying about what is or isn’t OK to use, just search on this awesome site that spells it all out for you, image by image: WikiMedia.
All you need to do is enter your search term in the upper right of the home page. Using “Van Gogh” yielded dozens of art pieces.
Click on the one you prefer, and you’re taken to a page that gives you a choice of available sizes to download, AND any information on attribution requirements (i.e. giving credit to the artist).
What you want to see is this:
That means the work is free for you to use without any attribution.
For this picture quote, I added a quote from Van Gogh himself, in the font Chalkduster for its arty feel. The image had 33 shares from my Facebook Fan Page, and had the second highest reach of any of my posts.
If you need help putting your picture quote together, see this post on easy ways to make picture quotes online.
Resources for Free Textures and Icons
Here are a few more resources. These sites offer a mix of licenses as well as free and paid options, so check carefully before using their images.
Shown below: textures.com home page
Textures.com offers digital pictures of all sorts of materials: fabrics, wood, metal, bricks, plastic, and many more. These images are called textures and can be used for graphic design, visual effects, in computer games and any other situation where you need a nice pattern or background image.
You can download up to 15 images for free every day. If you need more or bigger images, you can purchase a credit pack or a subscription.
Shown below: Texture King home page
TextureKing currently offers 422 free textures to use with your project designs. Choose from texture categories such as concrete, grunge, wood, stone/rock, liquids, and more.
Shown below: IconArchive home page
IconArchive is a professional icon search engine with more than 290,000 icons for web developers, end users and graphic artists. It is an inspiration source for new design ideas and a place to enjoy beautiful icons.
Shown below: IconFinder home page
IconFinder still offers some free icon sets for commercial use, though you’ll initially be prompted to subscribe. Read licensing restrictions carefully to ensure commercial use is allowed and if attribution is required.
On any of these sites, be sure to follow the instructions on giving credit to your source. Show your gratitude to the graphic designers and artists who have shared their work, and give them the credit they deserve!
Is It Safe to Use Free Photos?
When using free photos, you must check each site, and in some cases each photo, individually to learn its licensing restrictions.
In many cases, you can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission or giving credits to the artist.
Note that many photographers and sites DO require credit and a link back to their site, so you must check.
Sometimes you can use the images on items for sale, as long as you’re adding value. For instance, just printing a photo on a poster, or including photos in a collection, is not considered adding value. It needs to be a new creation, different from the photo(s) you just downloaded for free.
In other cases, you may need to purchase an “extended license” to use the images on items for sale.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this is not to be construed as legal advice. Consult a professional if you have questions about image licenses and copyright.
However, depicted content may still be protected by trademarks, publicity, or privacy rights. This is where you can get into trouble.
From the PicJumbo site, and typical of many of these sites:
Can I use the photos commercially (e.g. for client’s works)?
Yes, you can. All photos are free to use, however, please keep in mind although the photos listed here are free to download and use, some photos do not have model or property release. Some photos may also contain copyrighted brands, logos, objects or personal properties.
Note that the Kaboompics License does not include the right to use:
- Works of art or authorship that appear in Photos
- Trademarks, logos, or brands that appear in Photos
If you download photos with any of these depicted in them, you may need the permission of the brand owner of the brand or work of authorship or individual depending on how you use the Photo. If you still aren’t sure, you should probably talk to a lawyer who knows about these things.
It’s also important to note that some sites allow people to upload photos that don’t belong to them, so they could be presenting them as being copyright-free when they actually have no right to say that.
Be sure the person who uploaded actually owns the images so they can grant a license to you.
According to StockSnap, here are more things not allowed with the CC0 license:
For one thing, you cannot use these images to imply any kind of endorsement on the part of the image creator or any person or product depicted in the image. So, you can’t imply or state that the very attractive person depicted in your image thinks your brand is the best thing ever. You can’t pass the image or the photographer as a direct stamp of approval for you, your company, or your products or services.
Finally, you cannot sue or claim any kind of liability against the person who created the image on any kind of theory of warranty or guarantee in the image. All such warranties and liabilities are explicitly disclaimed to the fullest extent allowed by any applicable laws.
If you’d like to read more about the Creative Commons CC0 licensing terms, read more below.
And remember that not all image sites listed here offer CC0! Once again, check each site and image carefully.
What Does Royalty Free Mean?
Royalty free means you pay a one-time fee to use a copyrighted image as many times as you like for advertising or promotion. You don’t have to pay a royalty each time you use the image.
Royalty free does not mean free of cost!
It does NOT mean copyright-free, either.
Don’t download images labeled as royalty free without paying. Get caught using them and you could be sued.
Which Photos Are Copyright-free?
Copyright-free photos are called Public Domain art, Creative Commons License 0, or CC0.
Unless designated or known as copyright-free, all published works are under copyright protection.
If you’re looking for images that are free of cost, copyright, and most restrictions, this is what you want.
What Are CC0 Photos?
If a creator wants to make their work available without any restrictions, they can add what is called the “CC0” or “CCZero” designation.
Under this license, you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. Attribution is not required.
Some free photo sites include only CC0 images, which also means “no rights reserved.”
CC0 is a legal tool for waiving as many rights as legally possible. It is not possible to free all rights from every photo! These rights are reserved to their respective owners:
- In no way are the patent or trademark rights of any person affected by CC0, nor are the rights that other persons may have in the work or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
- The use of a work free of known copyright restrictions may be otherwise regulated or limited. The work or its use may be subject to personal data protection laws, publicity, image, or privacy rights that allow a person to control how their voice, image or likeness is used, or other restrictions or limitations under applicable law.
- Unless expressly stated otherwise, the person who associated a work with this deed makes no warranties about the work, and disclaims liability for all uses of the work, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law.
- When using or citing the work, you should not imply endorsement by the author or the affirmer. source
Is Google Image Search Safe?
We live in a visually-driven world. Web surfers with little time to read have many blogs and social media sites competing for their attention. To grab their attention and communicate quickly, you need compelling images.
Couple this need with the best search engine on the planet and you’ve got – a whole lotta copyright infringement goin’ on!
Per BloggingPro, “The problem with this method of acquiring images is that, under modern copyright law, virtually every image you find on the Web is copyrighted.”
If you’re Googling images to use for your marketing – beware.
Yes, Google changed image search in January 2014. Now you can use Advanced Search and choose to filter by usage rights.
But how is Google determining the usage rights?
When I used my preferred settings – free to use share or modify, even commercially – some videos were included in the search results. They didn’t seem to fit that filter.
In addition, I found images from a site that stated:
(sitename) is an open platform for designers to share their favorite design files, this file is uploaded by (username), if you are the author and find this file is shared without your permission, please Contact Us.
That hardly sounds reliable.
If you use Google to search for images, I strongly suggest you click through to the site where the image is hosted, and do some digging to determine if the image is really safe to use.
You’ll find that many (if not most) images labeled for reuse have attribution requirements. Respect the artist – and protect yourself! – by following them.
If you don’t find a license specified, you can reach out to the site owner to request rights to use the image you found. Ensure they have the legal capacity to grant you that right.
It’s easier than you’d expect for the creator to track down copyright infringement – and with advances in technology, it will only get easier. I hear there are photographers who make a good living posting their photos and suing infringers. So don’t risk it!
Honestly, you’re better off just vetting one or more sites whose licenses you understand, and search there, instead of adding another layer or three of complexity by using Google.
Are Free Photos More Trouble Than They’re Worth?
Maybe. It depends on your tolerance for risk, and/or the time you’re willing to spend to vet the photos.
Whatever your search parameters, know that you are responsible for ensuring the results are free to use in the manner you wish. Be sure you understand the photo’s license and comply.
If you wish to use images licensed with Creative Commons, you must credit the creator in the manner they specify. Since many artists don’t specify, check this article for how to attribute.
If all this sounds like too much hassle, you can try my two favorite sources for low cost photos.
Disclosure: If you purchase via my links, I’ll earn a referral fee.
Shown below: Adobe Stock site with “joyful woman” search results
Adobe Stock’s filters and features help you to find content easier and faster.
- Finds assets by mood, style, color, or focus.
- Find images to fit your layout.
- Find assets similar to an asset you like.
You’ll also find a lot more content suitable for marketing, including images with lots of “white space” or background where you can place type.
Definitely a more professional vibe than the free sites, but the choice is yours.
Shown below: Dreamstime site with “joyful woman” search results
Dreamstime says they’re the world’s largest stock photography community with:
- 134 million stock photos
- 30,256,453 users
- 621,523 photographers
- 5,186,794 monthly images
The interface is not as elegant as Adobe’s, but the results are just as good.
The big benefit is that you don’t have to subscribe. Buy a pack of credits and apply them towards your photo purchases.
Use a lot of images? Then you might save money by subscribing instead of using credits.
They offer robust search tools, and no worries about attribution.
You can also find their free photo offerings here.
With any photo sites, free or paid, you may not resell the images, or use them as the primary value on something for sale, like a T-shirt.
With paid photos, you’ll probably need an extended license to use them on anything you plan to sell, other than books or magazines. Always check!
How to Personalize Free Stock Images
In the early days of blogging, it was easy to simply choose an image and plop it into a post. In today’s crowded and competitive market, any old photo won’t do.
First, let’s look at 5 tips to choose non-cheesy stock images. These tips are provided with graphics from MyCleverAgency.
1 | Avoid clichéd images
Your audience can see through overused, tired photos. These images undermine your brand by making it look boring.
2 | Make it personal
Photos with people and animals help the viewer connect with the content.
3 | Keep it relevant
Out of date clothing or technology makes your company look like they can’t keep up. Always portray images that are a step ahead of your audience.
That phone tho!
4 | Choose colors carefully
Stay consistent with your brand colors and personality.
For instance, don’t choose drab images if your brand has a happy, colorful vibe. Or vibrant, chaotic images for a relaxing spa vibe!
5 | Get the right shape
Regardless of the subject matter, photos may be square, portrait shape (vertical), or landscape (horizontal).
Learn more about aspect ratio for social media images.
Now let’s customize those free images!
Not only does customizing your graphics help you stand out, it also creates brand awareness and increases social sharing.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a designer to customize your stock photos. You should just know a few basics to get started.
Follow these 3 tips on how to personalize free stock images to create graphics that get noticed!
1 | Create Your Brand
Yes, bloggers and other online marketers need a brand. Branding isn’t just for commercial or retail sites.
No matter the purpose of your business, you likely want to set a certain tone or convey a certain type of message. That is the purpose of branding.
You can use design elements such as color, font, and image style to achieve the impact you’re after. The key to increasing recognition is consistency, so use the same font, colors and style in everything you post.
For instance, using the same filter on your photos will create a recognizable look. You may also achieve a distinct style just by adding a transparent color overlay on top of your images.
Use images that coordinate well with your business color scheme.
Add text in your blog’s fonts to further personalize each image, and use your brand colors for this text.
You can also add a small watermark with your blog’s logo to boost your branding.
2 | Edit Your Images
Professional designers use Photoshop and Illustrator. These tools give you the most versatility and features.
However, there are platforms such as Canva and PicMonkey that have far less of a learning curve and can produce fine quality graphics. These easy design tools allow you lots of time-saving options like pre-sized canvas, formatted templates and filtered overlays.
The free versions have fewer selections from which to choose. Consider the premium options to determine if the cost is worthwhile for your needs.
There are several ways you can edit free stock images to make them unique.
One easy way is by cropping the photo. Cropping lets you focus on one portion of the overall picture, which can create a cool effect.
Softening, blurring or coloring an image by using a filter is another simple way to add your own unique touch.
These programs all have ways of achieving the look you want; just be sure to use that same or similar filter in all your images for consistent branding.
The way you incorporate your blog’s font through text also jazzes up your photos in a way that is brand-friendly. Find ways to present your text and consistently use them in every graphic. This can be through bold, chunky layouts or with a more sophisticated feel.
3 | Save Templates
Creating a customized graphic for each blog post might seem a bit overwhelming. It can seem even more of a challenge when you consider that each social network requires its own specific sizing.
For example, Instagram likes square and Pinterest graphics work best when they’re tall. A time-saving technique is to create and save templates in each size you need, then simply switch out the image and text when needed.
Because optimal size requirements sometimes change for each platform and purpose, be sure to check my social media image size cheat sheet to determine the correct dimensions.
These are just the basics of how to personalize free stock images. You can design your own simple layouts for your blog images without being a designer. Start simply and learn as you go.
- Top 10 best sites for free stock photos.
- Resources for free texture photos and icons.
- Legal concerns when using free images, including Google image search.
- How to personalize free photos so you don’t look like everyone else.
- Ultimate list of 50+ free stock photo sites (just below!).
Scroll back to recap what you missed, and be sure to Pin an image to Pinterest so you can return later.
Enjoy creating fantastic imagery with these fantastic resources!
Like this list? Embed it on your own blog if your readers would find it useful.
Add to the list (FREE sites ONLY), vote for your favorites – and help make this the ultimate list of free photo sites!