As Head of marketing at Alore, I need to add images to various forms of content on a daily basis- website, blogs, whitepapers, case studies, tweets etc. My Google history would show you how much I’m scrounging for “free stock photos”, “free stock images” or “free high-resolution images” 😛
Don’t get me wrong, I respect creativity and art or rather bow to it, but if you need to pay for fifty stock images a week, the cumulative costs would be almost colossal for a bootstrapped startup. We are one.
A picture speaks a thousand words or maybe even a million when placed in the right context. Images are not just aiding marketers in grabbing attention and increasing shareability but also helping us with SEO when we do the alt-tags right!
So here’s me sharing all I understand so far of image usage so far.
Do feel free to correct my understanding if I’ve got something not quite right! Won’t you please? 🙂
Diving into the world of free stock images.
Types of Stock images:
As far as I know, Stock photos come in four categories:
1. Public domain Images – Images where the copyright has expired or isn’t applicable
2. Creative Common – Creative Common is a non-profit organization that promotes sharing and using of creativity tools. The creative commons Zero license allows free use of images for personal or commercial purposes as long as you aren’t using the images to harm or use for anything offensive without consent from the photographer.
3. Royalty Free Images – Images for which user makes a one-time payment
4. Rights-managed Images – Images for which the user pays per use eg if you use an image in two blogs you pay the amount twice.
Understanding Copyright Infringement:
As you’d mostly agree, good quality stock images can be very expensive. Downloading an image off Google or using a copyrighted image without giving due credit is called copyright infringement and that’s a punishable offense.
“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, first-time copyright infringement cases can carry a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. If you get caught more than once in a copyright-infringement case, you could face additional fines of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison” (Legalzoom )
I suggest before you use images do check the copyright status of the images you use.
and now diving straight into the list. All the sites mentioned below have a high-resolution free stock image with or without the need for attribution.
Sites offering public domain and creative common free stock images:
This site just had to be the number one. Within the first quarter of 2018, they had 16 billion views and 87 million downloads, 116,867 photos contributed by 23k people!! (Source: Stephanie Liverani ) It’s growing faster than we can breathe ! and all of it free to use personally or commercially. Off late it’s my number one go to 😊
The site offers public domain and CCO images. Skitterphoto was started by two Dutch amateur photographers based out of The Netherlands who started this as a hobby and have now opened it to contributions from other photographers.
FreeDigitalPhotos.Net has a huge collection of free images for business, charitable and educational use. The smaller sizes are free and can be easily downloaded whereas the larger versions are available at a price. Using the free images requires you to give a credit to the photographer and the site. You can download the images even without registering.
Negative Space offers you new free stock photos every week. You can download and share without any copyright restrictions. From architecture to technology, it has it all. The best part of the site is, you can easily filter through the gallery of photos. They can be sorted by category, colour and also cop space position.
It offers a variety of free photos for use without the need for registration. New photos are added daily to give a scope of wide selection of high-quality images to fit a variety of topics. Although there are no search functions, the categories help you to find the right one for your blog. There are also paid packages for bloggers and designers to suit their unique needs.
It is a collection of free high-resolution images under the Creative Common Zero License. The images can be used both for personal and commercial purposes. New photos are added every week and the USP of the site is its whimsical creative visuals.
It is a repository for tons of quality free stock images under the Creative Common Zero License into the Public domain. The site is easy to navigate and boost of more than 780K+ photographs and illustrations. You can easily filter your query by factors like orientation, color, dimensions and also the media type.
These photos are picked from a variety of free image sources under the creative common zero license so that you get to pick the best from the best for your commercial and personal use without the need for any attribution
Although it’s not a photo source the marketing platform, Hubspot does offer free high-quality digital images, victors and illustration in exchange for your email address.
It is a large collection of free stock images of nature and mainly outdoor related scenes. Since every image is under Creative Common Zero license, they can be easily downloaded, shared and used for both commercial and personal purposes. To make the process simpler, there is no registration required to access the images.
The site actually does justice to what it claims, i.e. “not your typical crappy stock photo site.” The site has an amazing collection of free and not so free images which are both interesting and versatile that you will be spoilt for choice.
The site has a collection of awesome free photos under the creative common zero license. From stunning portraits to sleek workstations, you have it all. You will find the perfect image to enhance the beauty and do justice to your next project or blog. It truly justifies what has been claimed by its photographer- Daniel Nanescu that each photo has been painstakingly made with love.
This site is a repository of amazing high-resolution digital images. The site is being managed by Leeroy Advertising Agency in Montreal. All the images here have been donated to the public domain and therefore can be freely used for both personal and commercial purposes.
Life of Pix also has its sister concern-Life of Vids which also offers high-quality free video clips and loops.
The site offers royalty and costs free stock images and videos that can be used for your print, TV or Internet for both personal and commercial purposes. There is a no requirement of registration, however, the number of images is limited and are organized into unique categories like “beach backgrounds” and “concrete textures”.
The photos on this site are very high-quality digital images and are free of copyright restrictions. The only requirement the site ask as to provide attribution where ever possible and not to advertise the photographs as your own which is again a very valid expectation. With two new photos being uploaded daily, this is actually a bookmark-worthy site for your image needs.
The free images on this site come from the pool of both in-house photographers and as well as from external contributors. The images are of very high quality as they are either digitally photographed on Canon DSLR cameras or are high resolution(400dpi) scan of original 35mm images.
It’s a stock photo sharing website wherein photographers, designers and as well as students share photographs, images and graphics with each other for free.The users are allowed to use the photographs for both personal and non-commercial design work. There is no requirement for registration.
Renowned photographer and SEO consultant Martin Vorel is behind this site. The site boasts of amazing and stunning photos. You get to choose from a wide range starting from architectural beauties to nature’s flora and fauna. You name it and the site has it all.
You get to choose high-quality digital images and vectors from 516500 plus images under CC0 license and also can access 681000 premium resources under a nominal subscription plan. The site also uploads 77000 new images every month.
It is a dynamic stock photo search engine and boasts of more than 25000 stock photos under various categories.
It’s a curated list of free stock high-quality digital images and videos.
You can search and download stock photos, videos under CC0 license
It has high-quality royalty-free stock images for commercial purposes. The images are mostly of landscape, ocean and also city photography.
This is a website featuring travel photographs by a Portuguese man from all over the world for free usage under the CCO license.
A large collection of beautiful travel free stock images that are available under the creative common zero license.
The site offers high-resolution free stock images absolutely free without the need for any attribution.
The founder Jan Vasek offers high-quality digital stock images absolutely free to be used for both commercial and personal purposes.
You get high quality digital free stock images for commercial or personal use with both CCO license and attribution needed categories. The navigation tool allows you to filter the images on basis of colour, dimensions, category, tags and etc.
The site offers high quality free images, videos and vectors to be used for personal and commercial purposes. Although credit is not mandatory, the site expects a backlink.
A curated collection of free resources for websites such as templates, icons and photos to be used for commercial purposes.
A photographer’s treat by Jonas Nelson Lee. The site has high quality stunning landscape and nature related stock photos.
The site boasts of more than 3000 images to be used for commercial purposes completely free of cost. The images have been specifically shot keeping in creative professionals in mind.
The site offers curated and handpicked high-quality free stock photos on animals, cities, people, nature etc. under the public domain archive which requires attribution.
It has high quality free stock images perfect for any travel website. You get to choose from more than 5000 travel related images from all over the world.
The site boasts of images perfect for anything food related. You get to choose from over 900 high-quality stock images that can be used for commercial purposes for free under the CCO license.
Perfect for food blogger or food-related website. You get to choose from more than 1000 food-related stock photos that can be used for commercial purposes for free.
The site provides free stock images for websites, blogs and commercial use of various industries. You need to give your email ID in return.
The site hosts a jaw-dropping 335 Million free stock images. However these require attribution.
This is a simple site where you can search for free CCO license images based on keywords.
The site allows you to download free stock images for personal use based on attribution (Blogs, HTML templates, presentations etc). However, they do not allow free commercial use or reselling.
Free HD Video under CCO License:
Jeffery Betts offers high-quality digital images and videos under the creative common zero licenses.
It offers high-quality stock videos under attribution.
So, these were the free image sites. 90% of the times, I have always found what I need from among these. However, I do understand and have faced times when even the most exhaustive search doesn’t capture what you have in your mind – the idea, the mood, the depiction, the significance etc. In those cases many paid images do offer the solution and as a marketer and creative person its great to know of these sites too!
The Paid Sites:
it’s a sister concern of Adobe and has more than 54 million royalty free images and vectors through credit or daily and monthly subscriptions.
The site offers you choose from 30 million stock photo images, video and audio content at a very nominal price.
The site offers royalty free high-quality stock photos at very nominal rates starting at $1. You can either buy on demand; go for subscription or purchase credits.
The site offers over 33 million stock photos, videos and vectors which you can purchase via three different subscription plans. It also displays a glimpse of what your competitors are searching.
You get to choose from millions of photos and illustrations curated by renowned photographers, artists and museums from all over the world. The images on these site are mostly royalty free and rights managed.
Getty Images is probably one of the most stock photo agencies in the world. They are the largest stock image services online. Besides photos, they also provide vectors, video footage, and music licensing. They boast of having more than 80,000,000 images. All you need to do is click the embed icon and paste the code into your post.
You get to choose from over 1 million royalty free high quality stock images, vectors, Icons and templates under various downloads and subscription plans which are amongst the cheapest available.
The site offers free and paid membership. Under the free plan ,you get a few free images every month under a proprietary license. You just need to submit your email and you get access to the new batch of photos delivered to your inbox every month. If you can afford little spending, the site also offers a premium membership. The best part of this is, a part of the profit is used for funding photography trips and for other creative pursuits.
It has user-generated premium royalty free images, vectors, and illustration from its image partner sites like Getty Images, stock and many more. The best part of this site is, you get to download and use any image of any file size without paying a premium. It also offers images from over 40 collections to choose from.
One of the oldest players, it’s a well-established photo agency which sells royalty free stock photos at very affordable prices.
This is a paid site that offers you images, vectors, and videos. DepositPhoto offers three pricing options to choose from- on-demand downloads, monthly downloads and daily downloads. It boasts of 49million stock photos and photos turn to be much cheaper when you go for the subscription plan.
Founded in 2000, this website was bought by Getty images in 2006 and is one of the oldest players around. You get to choose high end stock images from their inventory of millions. They sell image by credit, as well as subscription plans.
The Adobe stock is among the newer players in the stock photo category and rapidly gaining popularity amongst designers. It is a boon for creative cloud users as it integrates easily with software. The single image is priced at $9.9 whereas you can get a monthly subscription plan for 10 images at $29.9
they have both image credits and subscription plans for their high-end stock images. They have the largest collection which is about 84 million royalty free image.
It’s a marketplace to buy and sell royalty free stock photos, videos and audio clips. The site offers more than 8 million royalty free stock videos and 12 million stock images.
It has a section which offers high-quality digital images for a very nominal price. You just need to create your account to access the 44,000,000 photos and illustrations.
By now, you have got an exhaustive list of free stock photos sites and as well paid ones.
As I conclude the list, I’d like to share a polite caveat. This list is way exhaustive than what you will work with every single day. I suggest take some days to figure out which ones solve the need for your industry and are most aligned with your style. Choose the ones that work best for your niche. Also, always always always take care to read the license carefully. When in doubt its prudent to give credit with a link.