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.
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 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|
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 are required.
The maximum number of copies allowed for free images is 10,000.
One advantage of this site is that there are various size options for photographs. Commercial usage is allowed! (Check their FAQs.)
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|
Some of these photos are truly captivating. RGB also ranks its photographers, so you can search images by their most popular artists.
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.
8. Free Digital Photos
|Image Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Apolonia|
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|
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.)
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.
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.
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
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.
16. Every Stock Photo
Everystockphoto.com is a search engine for stock photos - 29,368,214 of them. You can search by category, by top photos, and by popular photographers. You have to sign up, but it's free.
This site is not as easy to use as pixabay, and the search function is a little cumbersome. But if you are looking for something very specific, chances are you will find it here.
This site has a limited set of photos, mostly place and nature pics, and all have the site name prominently stamped on the photo. (They may all have been taken by one person.)
You may not find what you are looking for here, but their side bar has an impressive list of other sites that offer free photos, some of which I have not seen elsewhere.
18. Public Domain Photos
This site doesn't have a huge number of photos (only 5,000), but the quality is good and there is a broad selection.
Be careful when exploring this site. Below the free photos are Shutterstock images. Those are not free.
Kave Wall is best used for textures, some of which are truly glorious.
All of their images are free under Creative Commons, which means you can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, remix, transform, and build upon the material as long as you supply attribution. Full resolution of their photos is not free.
See their license agreement here.
20. Stock Vault
This site is a grab bag. Some of the images are unusual, artistic even. Others are mundane to the extreme. They have a wide selection, so it is worth hunting around as you will not find most of these images elsewhere. They also feature vector images.
Millions of flickr photos are available under Creative Common licensing. Under Creative Commons you can use, alter, or reproduce work online. Some flickr users require attribution, some only allow non-commercial use.
There is a convenient key on the right side bar that explains the various restrictions. Photos are organized according to the key, which makes it easy to find the category that best suits your needs.
This site gives you access to high-resolution photos. You have to register, but it's free. In addition to site downloads, you can also request to have photos delivered to your inbox.
The advantage of using a high-resolution image is that a graphic designer can easily modify it to make a clean, professional-looking final product.
All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.
New York Public Library
NYPL has a collection of more than 672,000 images in the public domain.
This site is a living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more. Collections are organized according to theme. You can also search for a specific image, or theme.
Click HERE to enter the NYPL collection.
Startup Stock Photos
Travel Coffee Book
New Old Stock
Life of Pix
Public Domain Archive
Aggregation sites - These sites feature several free photo sites.
All The Free Stock
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.