Last updated: October 2, 2020
Find Free Images for Your Website: Free and Freemium Stock Photos
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Placing photos or diagrams in website content makes it more attractive. Time and again, studies have shown that good quality images improve engagement and click-throughs, and blog pros say that you should have one image for every 350 words of content.
If you're paying for all of those images, it's going to get costly fast.
Intellectual property laws are designed to protect any type of content theft, and stealing someone else's images — knowingly or unknowingly — can put you on the receiving end of a DMCA takedown notice (or worse, a lawsuit).
Fortunately, the Internet contains an abundance of resources for finding great stock images.
To make it easy to find images you can legally reproduce, we've linked directly to the fine print, where it's available.
Blogs and Tools for Finding Images
Usability expert Jakob Nielsen found that people are very interested in relevant images, but not so interested in looking at 'filler' images that didn't add to the message.
That's why it's so important to get the right image, and the right placement. These sites offer photography information and tutorials, and tools for finding highly relevant visual content.
- Creative Commons Search: A meta-collection of stock images from around the web, along with valuable information on Creative Commons.
- Wikimedia Commons: Search through Wikipedia's vast collection of assorted media, with detailed licensing info.
- Flickr Creative Commons: Take a look at the free offerings licensed under Creative Commons on Flickr. Be sure to check license terms first. (The fine print.)
- Photobucket: Share and search for photos by the thousands on this long-running site. Includes a selection of animated gifs. (The fine print.)
- Google Images: Thousands of images, collected by Google. Some are available for general usage. Be sure to click Search Tools, Usage Rights, then Labeled For Reuse. (The fine print.)
General Stock Photo Sites
Looking for free photos? Start here. Some of these sites have relatively small free photo collections, but you should find what you need if you're prepared to search.
- MorgueFile: Named after the media storage rooms of the newspaper industry, this site has thousands of high-res reference images. (The fine print.)
- Pexels: Pexels is unlikely to provide rich results for complex queries, but there are some beautiful images on offer. Be sure to choose the free results if you don't want to pay.
- StockSnap.io: The categorization on StockSnap isn't perfect, but there are some usable images. More importantly, the images are free. (The fine print.)
- FreeImages: A large catalog of images from Getty. (The fine print.)
- Stock Free Images: This site's motto is "free and cheerful," and there's something for everyone in huge library. (The fine print.)
- Every Stock Photo: Billed as "the free image search engine," this site gathers images from around the Web and provides detailed licensing. (The fine print).
- Free Photos Bank: Similar to Free Stock Images, Free Photos Bank provides lots of free content with a link to Dreamstime for premium purchases. (The fine print.)
- PBase: A popular user-generated content site, with a large catalog of images. (The fine print.)
- Free Range Stock: This site requires a free subscription to access content, but sweetens the deal with tons of user-submitted images and a range of tutorials for enterprising designers and photographers. (The fine print.)
- Image Base: Image Base has a flexible, open licensing plan and a variety of stock images for general use. (The fine print: 100% Absolutely Free.)
- Unprofound: Created by a designer, this site promises "photos for your ideas," with no sign-up required to download images. You can also sign up to create your own online portfolio to share. (The fine print.)
- RGB Stock: The home of totally-free images, RGB Stock has free registration and lets users create lightboxes for their collections. (The fine print.)
- Free Media Goo: Free backgrounds, images, and textures abound on this site designed for developers, by developers. (The fine print.)
- Think Stock: Free backgrounds, images, and textures abound on this site designed for developers, by Getty. (The fine print.)
- Free Digital Photos: This site offers thousands of free images, with the option to purchase publishing credits for larger images or attribution-free use. (The fine print.)
- Foter: Connected with Flickr, this site lets you search by a variety of criteria, including license type. (The fine print.)
- Photogen: Choose from thousands of images in a wide variety of categories on this site, which also has links to free textures and graphic design tutorials. (The fine print.)
- Banco De Imagem: This Brazilian site has a few thousand free images from which to choose. (The fine print.)
- Big Foto: This site gathers photo submissions from amateur photographers all over the world and licenses them for personal and commercial use.
- Free Pixels: Offering a mix of images, this site also has links to tutorials and vector graphics. (The fine print.)
- Studio 25: Based in Romania, this site has detailed licensing info on the preview page of each free image. (The fine print.)
- DailyPhotoBlog: Photographer Christopher Nelson offers a range of wallpapers, textures, and other images on his Colorado-based site. (The fine print.)
- Free Image Files: This site offers more than a 1,000 free images, and asks only a backlink in exchange for use. (The fine print.)
- Unsplash: A simple Tumblr blog, Unsplash offers ten new (and totally free) images every ten days. (The fine print.)
- Pixabay: Users can submit their own photos and license them for use on this popular site. (The fine print.)
- Freepik: Search for free images, vector art, and even Photoshop files on this site. (The fine print.)
- FreeStockPhotos.biz: 15,000 free stock images are available from this site, along with sponsored premium offerings from Shutterstock. (The fine print.)
- Font Play: A group of friends has taken more than 10,000 free images and shared them on this site. (The fine print.)
- TofZ: This site has free images with a decidedly French twist and is supported by user contributions.
- Light Matter Photography: Photographer Aaron Logan offers a collection of free images on his site. (The fine print.)
- Creativity 103: Offering a wide range of content, including thematic, multi-image "design packs," this site encourages users to create, download, remix, and submit content. (The fine print.)
- A Digital Dreamer: This site offers totally free images in a number of categories. (The fine print.)
- A to Z Stock Images: A small number of free images, with a few hidden gems. (The fine print.)
- Free Foto: More than 100,000 totally free images are available for download on this site. (The fine print.)
- Cepolina: This European site has more than 20,000 free images available. (The fine print.)
- Stockphotos.io: Photographers have shared almost 17,000 high-resolution, free photos on this site. (The fine print.)
- CJO Photo: This site offers plenty of free, family-friendly images for download and use. (The fine print.)
- Photo Rack: You'll find more than 27,000 images in 149 categories on this free image site. (The fine print.)
- FlickRiver: Explore the Flickrsphere and find free images with this atmospheric site. (The fine print.)
- DHD Multimedia Gallery: A collection of 35,000 free images are available on this eclectic site. (The fine print.)
- Aarin Free Photo: A moderate collection of free images, with more content added regularly. (The fine print.)
Niche Image Sites
If your site caters to a specific audience, or has a specialized theme, a niche photo site could be extremely useful. From Hollywood photos to modern vectors, these sites include a certain amount of free content.
- Starr Environmental: Images of Hawaiian flora and fauna are on offer at this site run by a pair of married biologists. (The fine print.)
- Photo.net: A site focused on the photographer community. Download, submit, and critique content. (The fine print.)
- Sweet and Talented: Shoot for the stars — the Hollywood sort — with this archive of the rich and famous. (The fine print.)
- Open Photo: This niche site caters to artists, teachers, developers, and students. (The fine print.)
- Kosher Stock: This site is focused on free images related to Jewish culture. (The fine print.)
- Holy Land Photos: You'll find free photos of Jerusalem and other religious locales on this site. (The fine print.)
- VectorStock: Download free vectors and infographics to improve the quality of your website. Additional vectors and infographics can be accessed via subscription. (The fine print.)
- GIFGIFs: Animated GIFs may have gone out of fashion, but they still have appeal. Here's a selection of GIFs that are free to download and use. (The fine print.)
- Giphy: This 'animated search engine' lets you download movie GIFs, memes and short movies that you can embed on your website or social media pages. You can also upload your own creations. (The fine print.)
Stock Texture Sites
Texture images are useful if you need to create a page background, or you simply want to add structure to another image. Download a texture graphic from a stock texture website, and create a tiled pattern that repeats as required.
- Amazing Textures: Looking for the perfect texture for a background or a brush? Amazing Textures has you — and your image — covered. (The fine print.)
- Textures.com: From ardvaarks to x-rays, this site is overflowing with free textures. (The fine print.)
Government and Public Domain Stock Sites
Many government organizations maintain limited stock photo collections. These photos are very useful if you blog about science or current affairs.
We've also included public domain photo repositories, since there's some crossover between the two. Be sure to check license terms carefully: public domain images sometimes can't be used on commercial sites.
- Library of Congress: an enormous collection of public domain images. (The fine print.)
- Public Domain Photos: A massive collection of public domain images and clipart. (The fine print.)
- Public Domain Pictures: Most of the photos on Public Domain Photos can be used without payment, although commercial use may be prohibited. Each photo has a disclaimer and a link to the relevant license. (The fine print.)
- UK Ministry of Defence Photos: Thousands of photos from the UK's Ministry of Defence archive. Photos are released under the Open Government License. (The fine print.)
- Picdrome: Search for totally free, public domain pics on this site. (The fine print.)
- Historical Stock Photos: Find and download iconic historical images in the public domain. (The fine print.)
- From Old Books: This site offers maps and other images taken from antique texts. (The fine print.)
- Burning Well: An eclectic mix of public domain images. (The fine print.)
- Ancestry Images: This site offers resources for geneology buffs, cartographers, and anyone interested in free images of historical documents. (The fine print.)
- National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration: Find free images of sky and sea on this government site. (The fine print.)
- New York Public Library: Explore and download content from the massive digital collection of the NYPL. (The fine print.)
- NASA Image Exchange (NIX): Collect dazzling (and free) images of the final frontier from NASA's collection. (The fine print.)
- USDA Newsroom: Get free, high-quality images from the United States Department of Agriculture. (The fine print.)
Commercial and "Freemium" Image Stock Sites
Sometimes, free stock photos don't cut it: you need to pay for something better. These sites sometimes offer a very limited selection of free images, but they'll ask you to pay for the rest.
It's worth bookmarking them for special occasions when a regular free photo won't do. Some also provide a daily or weekly selection of free content that can be worth archiving for later use.
- Stockfresh: This site offers photos, vectors and icons, but they aren't free. You can pay for packs, or pay a daily or monthly subscription. (The fine print.)
- Photocase: This commercial site lets users register and use proof copies of images free for mock-ups. (The fine print.)
- Stockvault: With more than 41,000 free images, and a direct link to Shutterstock's catalog, this site offers a solid mix of "freemium" content. (The fine print.)
- Free Large Photos: This site makes its content available free for personal use, but charges a flat $50 for commercial use. (The fine print.)
- Big Stock Photo: This site starts users off with one free image a month, and offers upgraded plans to access more content at any time. (The fine print.)
- People Images: This commercial site offers more than two hundred free images. (The fine print.)
- Deviant Art: This thriving online art community is also a great place to find free or inexpensive stock photos and images, as well as high-resolution original images for purchase. (The fine print.)
- 123RF Images: A huge catalog of over 22 million images (including more than 30,000 free images, graphics, and sound files) is available on this subscription image site. (The fine print.)
- Turbo Photo: This commercial image site has a free section that contains 2,000 images in 10 categories.
- iStockPhoto: This popular site lets you purchase images with credits, and also has the occasional free image. (The fine print.)
- Dreamstime: This stock photo giant has a free section with nearly 10,000 images donated by photographers. (The fine print.)
- Fololia: Users who connect to this Adobe site with their Facebook accounts gain access to a sampling of free, high-res images. (The fine print.)
- Shutterstock: Stock photo juggernaut Shutterstock shares one free image each week, and occasionally provides free images through its blog. (The fine print.)
- DepositPhotos: This photo repository has its own iOS and Android apps. Pay per photo, or pay via subscription. (The fine print.)
- Alamy: Alamy includes photographs from 50,000 photographers working with 600 different agencies. Pictures are available via a simple system: pay for the picture you want. (The fine print.)
- Crestock: This stock photo site also offers a free image of the week, as well as moderately-priced permium stock. (The fine print.)
Using images gives written content visual appeal, and can help to give your article context. Few bloggers have the means to pay for every image they use.
It's worth familiarizing yourself with image licensing basics, so you can seek out sites that provide free stock images under acceptable licensing terms.
Further Reading and Resources
We have more guides, tutorials, and infographics related to images and blogging:
- Stop Internet Image Theft: learn about the law as it relates to images.
- Image Hosting: learn how to host your images online.
- How to Remove Stolen Photos Online: if you create your own images, find out how to protect them.
Secrets of a Killer Blog Post: Images
Great writing is critical to a blog post. But images can make your words sparkle. Check out our infographic, Secrets of a Killer Blog Post: Images.