As a content creator, you may find yourself constantly looking for high-quality images on stock photo sites. You have a vision in your head of the image you want. But, finding a photo that aligns with your vision can be a challenge.
Half the time, the results are people with over-the-top facial expressions. Other times, there are obviously staged photos of people in an office.
Say no more to low-quality, generic photos. We’ve curated a list of the best free stock photo sites where you can find images for your presentations, online courses, social media posts, newsletters, and more.
Can you use stock photo sites for your business?
If you’re looking for free photos, you should become familiar with Creative Commons licensing. Stock photo sites provide legal guidelines around how you can use photos. For instance, the license will tell you if you need to attribute the creator, if it can be used for business purposes, and more.
There are seven regularly used licenses. If you don’t follow these licensing requirements, it can lead to a very costly mistake.
What does CC0 mean?
- The original creator of the content has freely given up the rights to the work to the public domain, worldwide
- You are free to copy, modify, distribute, and use the photos for your commercial and personal needs
- You don’t need to ask for permission or give attribution to the photographer
- You can’t redistribute or sell them to make a profit.
Even though people source photos from these sites regularly, you should still confirm the rights before using anything just to be safe.
The other six commonly used Creative Commons licenses
Here’s a brief overview of the other six licenses in case you come across them:
- Attribution: You can remix, distribute, tweak, and build upon the work, even for commercial purposes. However, you must credit the original creator and say if changes were made.
- Attribution-ShareAlike: It’s just like the attribution license, but any work you create, must also be shared under the same terms as the original work.
- Attribution-NoDerivs: You can use the work for commercial and personal uses, as long as the work is changed in any way, and you credit the original creator.
- Attribution-NonCommercial: You can remix, tweak, and build upon the work for only non-commercial purposes only and you must give credit to the original creator.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: You can remix, tweak, and build on the work for non-commercial purposes only. You must give credit to the original creator. If you remix the original, you must share your work under this same license.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: This is the most restrictive of the CC licenses. You can download and share the work, but you can’t change it in a way or use it commercially. You must give credit to the original creator.
Aside from these licenses, you should be aware of images that show a brand’s logo. For example, a photo of someone using a laptop may show the Apple logo. An image of a running shoe could have the Nike swoosh on the side.
Although the photo may appear on a stock photo site and be free to use, the logos are most likely copyrighted. To get around this, try to pick an image that doesn’t blatantly show a brand logo or symbol.
Fortunately, we’ve done some of the hard work for you. Most of the stock photo sites on this list fall under the Creative Commons Zero license (CC0), which means they are free to use for your commercial and personal needs.
12 free stock photo sites
Even though these sites are free and you aren’t required to give credit, it never hurts to give a little love back to these talented artists.
Unsplash is one of our favorite free photo sites. You can search Unsplash by keyword or browse categories like film, fashion, business, nature, current events, experimental, or even 3D.
Images are completely free and don’t need attribution. Plus, you can use them for your business. You can refer to Unsplash’s license requirements for complete attribution guidelines.
Getty Images, the paid stock photo site, acquired Unsplash in 2021. All images on Unsplash are still free, but you may see ads for other images that are not free.
Described as the quirkiest, stock photo site, Gratisography is also free to use for your personal and business projects. However, you should know that quirky accurately describes many of the images.
The site was founded in 2011 by Ryan McGuire, an artist, designer, and photographer. It focuses more on providing high-quality, unique photos and vectors, rather than having a large library. In fact, there are only a little over 700 images. Although Gratisography is free, it features ads for Shutterstock, a paid platform.
3. Negative Space
NegativeSpace features HD images that are sourced from within its community of photographers. Since they are CC0 licensed images, they are free to use, and you don’t need to worry about attribution.
You can browse through categories like fashion, food, animals, objects, travel, people, and more. It’s also possible to search based on a color or keyword. There are thousands of images to choose from, and they are all high-quality. If you browse through the gallery, you’ll see that each image feels candid and natural.
Since Viktor Hanacek started picjumbo in 2013, his photos have been downloaded and used by millions of marketers, bloggers, and businesses.
Ironically, Viktor founded picjumbo after other stock photo sites wouldn’t accept his photos. Lucky for us, they are all available to download for free.
Although picjumbo is free to use, there is a premium membership that starts at $49 a month. With premium, you get exclusive stock photos and fonts sent to your email. There is also a lifetime membership available for a flat fee of $249. If you’d like to support Viktor’s work, without purchasing a membership, you can also buy him a coffee.
If you are looking for royalty-free photos of travel and nature, then you’ll want to check out SplitShire. The stock site is “made with love in Italy” by Italian photographer and designer Daniel Nanescu. Daniel takes all the photos that are on the platform, and they have been downloaded over two million times.
Not only does SplitShire have high-quality photographs, but it also has stock videos. You can download everything from cooking footage to aerial videos of foggy mountains.
6. Life of Pix
Leeroy, a creative agency in Montréal, built Life of Pix by sourcing images from its library and network of photographers. Similar to other stock sites, you can browse by categories like animals, people, and more.
The agency adds new content weekly and also manages a free video site called Life of Vids. The stock videos are high-resolution, and unlike anything else, you will find for free on the Internet.
7. Startup Stock Photos
Startup Stock Photos started with a simple purpose—to provide creatives and entrepreneurs a resource with beautiful and free images. Produced by social media marketing agency Sculpt and photographer Eric Bailey, the site focuses on the needs of startup companies. You might find high-resolution shots of coffee shops, offices, and more.
Pexels is one of the best stock photography sites out there. It has a library of over three million royalty-free stock photos and videos. You can use Pexels for commercial or personal projects without attribution.
However, you can’t use videos and photos with people in political campaigns, to endorse a candidate or party, or in a way that Pexels’ deems offensive. Otherwise, there is a lot of freedom in how you can use Pexels, whether it’s for print ads, blogging, a mobile app, social media, or something else.
StockSnap is a CC0 photo repository that collects stock images from around the world. Every day, photographers add new submissions to StockSnap, so you have a large selection at your disposal. Another cool StockSnap feature is the ability to search by trending or most viewed images.
Similar to other companies on this list, StockSnap uses a simple CC0 license. You can use the photos however you like with no attribution required. There are, however, sponsored ads from sites like Shutterstock spread throughout the other image results, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for those.
Reshot is a stock photography website that also has illustrations and icons. Depending on what you are downloading, you can get image files in SVG (scalable vector graphics) or PNG formats. Reshot says it was made by designers, for designers. The illustrations, icons, and more are sourced from within its community of designers and Envato Elements.
Envato Elements acquired Reshot, but images that you find on Reshot remain free to use for your business, no attribution is needed. You can also modify and edit files to fit your needs. You can refer to Reshot’s license guidelines before downloading and using any of its resources.
Pixabay is one of the largest and oldest free stock photo sites. It has a library of over 2.6 million high-quality images. In addition, you can download royalty-free music, sound effects, videos, illustrations, and more.
You can explore by popular or search based on what you’re looking for–from images of coffee to to yoga. As one of the largest photo collections, you have access to tons of free creative assets.
12. The Stocks
The Stocks is an aggregated site that pulls free images from a wide variety of websites, some of the ones listed above. In addition to stock photos, you can download videos, icons, fonts, mockups, and color palettes.
However, because The Stocks pulls from other sites, you may be redirected to another page while searching. For instance, clicking on a site like Pixabay from The Stocks’ list will send you directly to the Pixabay site. However, it can give you an idea of where to find creative assets.
Also, not all of the resources that appear on The Stocks are free or CC0 licensed images. Most are actually from Getty Images and Shutterstock, two platforms that you need to pay for. Before downloading a resource, make sure to read the license guidelines.
4 paid stock photo sites
Lastly, just in case you want to spend money on your images and upgrade your options from a free stock image site, here are paid options. You can either pay per image, buy an image pack, or purchase a monthly or annual subscription.
Getty Images is a premium stock site. It has over 400 million images, videos, and other resources, making it one of the largest collections out there. In addition to being the largest, it is also possibly the most expensive.
Getty is often used by enterprise businesses that have a lot of creative asset needs. For an independent course creator or small business owner, you likely don’t need a premium membership to Getty.
If you see a Getty resource that you would like to use, you can purchase it individually or by buying a pack of images or videos. Depending on the size and quality of the footage—4K or HD—pricing can range from $150 to as much as $500 per download.
Shutterstock also has an expansive library that includes photos, templates, music, video, vectors, 3D models, and more. Like Getty, Shutterstock is a stock site that you have to pay to use.
There are many paid options available. You can buy an individual image, a pack of 25, or a monthly subscription.
Shutterstock’s pricing varies depending on the type of resource—images, videos, music, or editorial—the number of downloads a month, licensing, and other factors. If you purchase from Shutterstock, make sure to review the guidelines before downloading.
If you subscribe to Shutterstock, you can receive a free weekly download of one random photo and vector, but as mentioned, it’s random. Shutterstock sends a photo to your email, but it may or may not be what you want.
3. Envato Elements
Envato Elements is an incredibly popular resource for designers and creatives. The site boasts over 60 million creative assets, including stock videos, photos, music, graphic templates, presentations, mockups, and more.
Although Envato has a collection of images, it is really known for its templates. Designers often use Envato to make custom graphics, whether it’s to showcase your design on product packages like a can or tote or to download a font for logos.
Paid plans start at just $16.50/month, and you can try it out with a free seven-day trial.
4. Death to Stock
Rogue photographers Allie Lehman and David Sherry founded Death to the Stock, a photo site that caters to agencies, freelancers, and enterprises. Companies like Twitter and Spotify have used Death to Stock images.
You can get some free photos when you sign up as an email subscriber. Like Shutterstock, it is random.
If you’re digging what they’re sending, you opt for a paid plan, which ranges from $12/month to $33/month. Death to Stock also has a free 14-day trial, so you can test it out first.
Bonus: Icon websites and image creators
Occasionally, you may need image editing or icons for a business design. Although the above sites are fantastic resources, you’ll also want to consider the two websites below.
Made in Germany by Alexander Kahlkopf, iconmonstr is a vector icon gallery. You can download various PNG and SVG sizes.
If you create graphics, you have likely heard of sites like Canva. Canva is a platform where you can design your own images for social media, presentations, posters, and photo collages.
When you download images from the sites above, the sizes are usually giant. Using images that are this large in your projects can really jack up your file size. So to combat this, here are a few helpful tips on resizing your photos.
- Drop your image into Photoshop
- Go to Image-> Image size (in the top bar)
- First, change the resolution to 72dpi (if you are using the image of the web. For print use 300dpi)
- Then adjust the width (in pixels) based on the dimensions of your blog, presentation, or social media site
- Save your image for the web
Here is a link from Adobe that goes into more detail on resizing images
2. On a Mac
- Open the image in Preview
- Tools-> Adjust Size (in top bar)
- Change the resolution to 72 dpi and then adjust the image size (in pixels) to fit your desired width
- File-> Export to save your image as a new file
*Hack Method: If Preview is being wonky, drag the photo from the bottom corner inward to the size you want and take a screenshot of the image, and use the screenshot instead
Using high-quality photos and videos can help you tell your story. However, you don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to get amazing visuals. The free stock photo sites above can help you source everything you need, and if you want something a little extra, you can always check out paid resources like Getty and Envato.