If you’ve ever tried searching for free stock photos on the internet, you probably know what a hassle it can be. Some websites offer a free option before asking you to purchase, or the quality of the photos that you receive don’t measure up to what you need for your marketing efforts.
As a general rule, free stock photos used to be difficult to find – a huge portion of the stock photo market is owned by professional companies like Shutterstock and 123RF, who charge for a single photo.
And, even when you can find free stock photos on those sites, most are low resolution, watermarked, blurry and, at best, uninspired.
Lucky for you, there are a number of ways to access high-quality stock photos without any hassle or significant cost to you – because when you’re first starting out, any help you can get makes a difference!
Here’s a lovingly curated list of the world’s best free stock photo websites for designers, business owners and anyone else:
You could easily spend half your day scrolling through Pexel’s high-quality, inspirational images. It’s not hard to find what you’re looking for on Pexel, with both a category-based search bar and a “Discover” feature that brings you the site’s most popular collections.
This site refreshes with 10 new photos every 10 days, so there’s almost always something new to choose from. The photos include a lot of landscapes, many with exceptional lighting and almost Instagram-style effects. Every photo also includes a link to the photographer who took it, if you want to learn more about a certain photo.
Stock Snap is a personal favorite of mine, due to its easy navigation and extremely high-res photos (with no attribution required). This site also happens to sport a great collection of food shots, so if you’re running a restaurant or nutrition-themed startup, you might find it worth your while to take a browse.
Dutch artist Folkert Gorter and his graphic design peers at SuperFamous curate this collection of incredibly high-resolution images, perfect for use in website design or as desktop backgrounds.
Pixabay is a web designer’s dream. Not only does this site offer an easy-to-use search feature, the images are absolutely brilliant…and most don’t require any attribution at all.
Perhaps the simplest site on this list, MorgueFile has a streamlined layout and carefully curated list of photos. Its selection isn’t as large as that of some of the other sites you’ll see here, but the photos included cover a wide range of topics. You can find images of everything from wildlife to antiques.
One of the most exhaustive directories of open-source images, FreeImages is my go-to resource when I’m working on new web projects. While most stock photo sites focus on a small niche (usually landscape photography), FreeImages offers thousands of pictures from a diverse set of categories. Most importantly, it’s searchable, which is an incredible time-saver when you’re working on a project.
One of Southern California’s finest designers, Jay Mantri offers this eponymous collection, with free, inspiring photos that’s updated every Thursday.
Ryan McGuire of Belle Design has a fun site where he uploads new, free-to-use photos every week. The images can be used for personal or commercial projects and every image includes a high-resolution version.
Home to 335 million free stock photos (yes, you read that correctly), Foter arranges images by simple categories like nature, holidays, and sports – but you can also just type a keyword into their search bar to find what you’re looking for. Their photos are licensed with Creative Commons and are automatically attributed.
Flickr isn’t just a stock photo hub – it’s a community for photographers and patrons alike. Their thousands upon thousands of photos are made accessible through their search features, which allow you to sift through photos based on categories, sizes, orientation, colors, and even dates of photos.
Don’t let the name put you off! BarnImages offers free, high-res photos of all sorts, with a strong emphasis on gorgeous scenery. Attribution is not required (but it is appreciated!). As a bonus, they also have curated design freebies, brought to you by designers from all over the web.
13. NEGATIVE SPACE
Negative Space may not offer quite the same hefty amount of free stock photos as some of these other sites, but what they “lack” in quantity they make up for in image quality. Photos are organized by collection, but of course, you can use a keyword search as well.
14. TRAVEL COFFEE BOOK
If you’re looking for interesting shots of picturesque diversity, this is the place! A travel-focused stock photo site, Travel Coffee Book scratches that wanderlust itch with beautiful, scenic photos from all over the world.
15. SHOT STASH
Another great website for high-quality, high-res stock photos. Most of these images have a more artistic vibe than other stock photo sites, with an emphasis on office-related images (great for blogging!), stunning scenery, and people in varied states of action.
16. Foodies Feed
As the name suggests, this photo-sharing site is purely dedicated to images of food. The images are natural- and delicious-looking, and, of course, completely free to download.
17. STYLED STOCK
Although they self-brand as a source of Feminine Stock Photographs, Styled Stock’s wide collection of images are applicable to any office setting. Their photos feature light colors, clean lines, and an interesting mix of flowers, office equipment and makeup as their subjects.
In addition to providing thousands of free stock images, KaboomPics categorizes its photos by shoots – so if you see an image you like, you can access a whole album with different variations of the picture.
What sets this free stock photo provider apart is that its unique images are accompanied by specs – and sometimes even a backstory of where and when they were shot.
When you perform a Google Images search, the resulting photos are not necessarily ones that you’re free to immediately use. In most cases, the photos are still covered by photographers’ copyrights.
If you’re looking for photos to use for a design and want to keep yourself out of copyright trouble, you need to locate websites that explicitly define the copyright license of each image. For all the sites listed above, the license is generally pretty easy to find. There’s typically a description of the license on every page or at least a link to a description.
Here are two license types you’re likely to find on these sites:
Attribution is simple: If you include a photo on a web page, add text that cites the photographer (“Photo by John Smith”) and to include a link to his or her site, if there is one. Be sure to check each website’s license page for specific details!