Photography is powerful, but the prices of these valuable visual assets can add up quickly — especially if you’re working on a major website redesign or publishing blogs multiple times a month. Luckily, there is a growing number of free stock photography options out there that will ensure you can have gorgeous imagery without blowing out your budget. In this blog article, we’ll be sharing a few of our favorite free stock photo sites, as well as guiding you through the in’s and out’s of finding Creative Commons images.
Using free stock photography sites
Free stock photography sites are some of the easiest places to find high-quality, professional images for your website.
All of the stock images offered by these sites are typically in the public domain, which means you and anyone else can use them however you wish without attribution.
The collections below range from broad (general business/commercial) to niche (conceptual, food, vintage, feminine):
- Unsplash – One of our favorite free stock photos sources — features a lot of great professional imagery (including the one we’ve used at the top of this blog post!)
- Pexels – A free stock photo site containing high-quality imagery that is well-tagged and easily searchable.
- StockSnap.io – This free stock site offers a lot of excellent, well-tagged imagery for professional and business purposes.
- Pixabay – A database of nearly 1.4 million free stock photos, videos, illustrations, and vector graphics.
- Gratisography – A free stock photo site that specializes in gorgeous, conceptual photography for personal and commercial projects. All photos are captured by photographer Ryan McGuire.
- Burst by Shopify – A ecommerce-geared stock photo platform powered by Shopify.
- Foodiesfeed – A mouth-watering stock photo site that offers appetizing, naturally staged food photography.
- Styled Stock – “Feminine stock photography” that offers imagery for fashion, lifestyle, food, floral, entrepreneur, and beauty.
- New Old Stock – A curated feed of older, vintage photos that have been sourced from public archives.
Using Creative Commons
Not finding what you need on free stock photo sites? If you have more specific needs that the vast selection of free stock photos cannot meet, you can also find images that are licensed under Creative Commons. While most free stock photos are typically in the public domain, Creative Commons allows for the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work.
The internet’s foremost Creative Commons bastion, Wikipedia, sums up how a Creative Commons (CC) license works:
“A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility (for example, they might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of their own work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an author’s work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.”
There are multiple types of Creative Commons licenses, but the two licenses that businesses should be on the lookout for are:
- Attribution (CC-BY) – Licensees may use, copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works and remixes as long as attribution to the author is given.
- Attribution-Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA) – Licensees may use, copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works and remixes as long as attribution to the author is given. Under this license, any derivative works you make must be assigned the same license as the original work.
The vast majority of images on Wikipedia (and Wikimedia Commons) are in the public domain or shared under a Creative Commons license, but there are other ways to find Creative Commons images on the web. Below, we walk through two ways to go about it:
How to use Google to find Creative Commons images
One of the quickest ways to find free images is by searching on Google Images. To ensure that the image is truly Creative Commons or public domain, you must enable a special search filter that only shows images that are “labeled for reuse.” When you open up Google Images, here’s the path you’d follow to search for a commercial-friendly Attribution license:
How to use Flickr Advanced Search to find Creative Commons photos
Flickr is another great photo archive that allows you to find public domain and Creative Commons images using their Advanced Search tool. All you need to do is click on the “Any License” drop-down menu and then select the license you need:
Still can’t find the perfect stock image?
Free stock photography and Creative Commons images are really great for projects with tighter budgets, but the selection is inherently more limited than a paid stock photo site like iStockPhoto or Shutterstock. If you have a very specific vision for your website or blog’s imagery, it may be worth the money to actually buy stock photography or even hire an actual photographer.
Have more questions about stock photos?