Friday, March 22, 2013

15 Sites Where You Can Get Fabulous Free Photos

Whether you are blogging, writing articles, or designing a cover for your book, there is nothing that attracts readers more than a fetching image. Eye-catching images not only draw the reader’s attention, they establish a mood, set a tone, and express what you can’t say in words. A great image will also inspire a reader to linger, and to want to learn more about you and what you have written.

Fortunately, finding beautiful images has never been easier – or cheaper. You can, of course, purchase stock photos from any number of services. However, if you are on a limited budget, you can now get great photos for free. These are some of my favorite sites for finding fantastic free images.

1. Morguefile

Morguefile used to be my first stop when I was hunting for a photo. (Now it's pixabay.) The quality of the images has declined recently, but you don’t need to jump through hoops to download. No registration is required.

You are allowed to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt images. Attribution is not required. Like most other sources for free photos,

Morguefile prohibits use of any photo in a stand alone manner. However, unlike other sites, you are free to use photos for commercial purposes (e.g. the cover of your book).


Spilled Milk by Alecsandro Andrade de Melo
Stock.xchnge, owned by Getty, has an enormous selection of good quality photos – 398,876 photos as of this morning.  You can use all of their images for non-commercial purposes, but be sure to check the “restrictions” tab if you plan on using an image for a book cover or on anything else that you sell.

Stock.xchnge also hosts a blog, tutorials and other perks for photographers. Be careful when searching! The top line of photos - and they are always the pick of the litter - are not free.

© Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos
3. Dreamstime

Dreamstime has over 790,000 images. It’s a little harder to search than either Morguefile or Stock.xchnge, and registration is required. But once you figure out how to use this site, there are riches to be had. Attribution and a link back is required.

The maximum number of copies allowed for free images is 10,000.

4. Kozzi

Since being bought by Quality Stock Photos, Kozzi has limited the number of free downloads to five a day. But it still offers over 100,000 free photographs. Compared to Dreamstime, it’s easy to navigate. You have to register to use the site, but registration is free.

One advantage of this site is that there are  various size options for photographs. Commercial usage is allowed! (Check their FAQs.)

5. Freerange

Freerange has an eclectic mix of photos, from abstract paint spatters to squirrels. They post their newest photos on the first page, which makes for an interesting introduction to the site. You can search by category, and by most popular and newest. You must register to download. Commercial use is not allowed.

Freerange shares revenue from ads on its site with photographers who submit their photos, which is a nice gesture.

Alien Worlds by micromoth
6. RGB Free Stock Photos

All images on RGB Stock Photos are free for personal and commercial use. (The terms of use for commercial purposes are that you need to contact the artist for written permission.)

Some of these photos are truly captivating. RGB also ranks its photographers, so you can search images by their most popular artists.

7. 123RF

123RF has over 20,000,000 amazing royalty-free stock photos. That's right. Twenty million. Not all of them are free. So you have to make sure you click on "Free Stock Images" on their home page. All of the free photos are low resolution (72 dpi) and small, which is perfect for blogs. There is a trick to using 123RF.

The free photos have an expiration date, so under the search bar, click on "Browse all free images." That will take you to a page that has images that are about to expire. (Trust me, you will want all of them.) The site requires registration, which is simple to do - and well worth it.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

8. Free Digital Photos

Image Credit: by Apolonia
This site is one of my favorites. It's easy to navigate and they've got thousands of high quality stock images and photos, conveniently arranged by topic and theme. The smallest size image is free, but you pay for the larger ones. (In most cases, the small image will do just fine.)

In order to download the image without the watermark, you have to agree to their terms and conditions. A photo credit is required.

Image credit: pixabay

9. Pixabay

Pixabay is a German-based service with over 150,000 creative commons photos.

You will find some truly spectacular, professional looking photos on this site, in several different sizes.

From the site: "To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images. You are free to adapt and use the Images for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although absolutely not required, a link back to Pixabay would be nice."

(Many thanks to Thora York for suggesting this great site.)

10. U.S. Government

Did you know that all images associated with the National Institutes of Health (as well as other Federal institutions) are freely available for reprinting? To be honest, the majority of these images are about as interesting as a tree stump, but among the dull, uninspiring images that are the hallmark of government publications, there is an occasional gem.

It all depends on what you are looking for.

This site has thousands of free photos, many of which are truly spectacular. Not all are available for commercial use, but you can use any of them on your blog. At the bottom of every page there is a section for paid stock photos, so make sure you stick to the top section.

12. Faces of Books

This is a project begun by Scriggler, a reading and writing community. Scriggler collects high resolution photos and posts them in batches of 6. The photos are large files, so there are also collages of each batch for easier viewing. Scriggler only asks that you credit the photographer.

13. Google

If you want to find an image quickly, you can take the google shortcut.

Go to google images. Search for the image you want (e.g. burger and fries, football, etc.). When the images pop up, click on "search tools" on the nav bar at the top of the page. On the nav bar that pops up, click "usage rights." Then click on the "reuse" category that applies to you. (The top category, "Not filtered by license," means the image may be protected by copyright.)

Make sure you check on the source before you use the image. Some of the images that appear on a "reuse" search have watermarks, which means they are protected by copyright.


Free Images is a site owned by Getty. It offers over 390,000 quality images and illustrations that can be used virtually without restriction. (Images cannot be used in a stand-alone manner for commercial purposes.)

Registration is required for downloads, but you can simply save an image to your computer if you want to skip that step

Note: Getty Images has made some (not all) of its images free, providing you use their source code. I tried it, and didn't like the result. It was also cumbersome. I had to change the size of the image in the HTML code, and it messed up the wrap function of the text, making it impossible to embed. Here is an article that explains the process, if you want to give it a whirl.

15. Pexels

Pexels has over 3,800 free stock photos. All photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. You can modify, copy and distribute the photos without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. Attribution is not required.


  1. Great post, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on these sites! I hope you don't mind my linking to your post in my blog : ) Linking is the highest form of flattery...?

  2. Check out also for thousands of public domain photos you can use personally or commercially without any restrictions

  3. Like them all but number 7 and 8 are my favorite :) FreeDigitalPhotos is my all number one. Pixabay ( is amazing too plus they are public domain but I always put attribution because the photos are simply fabulous for public domain :)

  4. Brilliant -- thank you!! From the bottom of my blogging, self-publishing heart!

  5. You mentioned US Gov, but also think specifically of the Library of Congress, military services. Also state and city gov'ts, corporations.

  6. The have free pictures of various regions of Brazil.

  7. Thanks for all your work for this fantastic list! I look forward to checking out pixabay.

  8. Thanks for all your work for this fantastic list! I look forward to checking out pixabay.


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