I often joke that the hardest part about writing a blog or putting a website live is finding the right images. It’s a real conundrum. The images you choose need to support your words by conveying the appropriate meaning and emotion. They can make or break your content efforts really fast. So, do you pay for a photographer, buy images from one of the well-known stock shops, or hunt around finding quality free-to-use images? And when you find the right image, how do you ensure that you’re not breaking any copyright rules?
I’m a big supporter of artists so, where I can, I try to search for talented individuals over larger commercial sites. In my time running my own business, I’ve tried and tested a few websites where you can find free stock images and videos that are available for public use. I’ve found some favourites that I think you might like. If you agree, don’t forget to make a small donation when you download your images to help keep these websites and their artists in business.
FreePhotos.cc is a free resource where you can find creative commons photos for your website or print projects. Search from 100 popular categories or use the search function to look up images by topic (e.g. “Dogs”, “Flowers”, etc.), browse results and download. How does it work? FreePhotos.cc uses the APIs from a few stock photo providers–including Pexels.com–and gathers images in one place for easy preview and download. We recommend that you attribute the photographer as a token of respect for the work.
Pixabay is an excellent resource for free-to-use photos, illustrations, vector graphics and videos. Yep–videos! Why not transform your static web banner to a moving story? All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyright under Creative Commons (CC0). You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. And, you don’t need to attribute the source.
On this Tumblr website, images taken on mobile devices are king. These images scream Pinterest and Instagram because they capture the beauty of every day in a stylised and aesthetically pleasing way. This website is great if you’re looking for objects, landscapes or food shots. We recommend using these images for your digital projects only, as they may be too small for printing.
Gratisogrsphy offers high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. While the image library is limited – you may search in categories for animals, nature, objects, people, urban and whimsical – the images are interesting and quirky and the risk of seeing your image on other people’s websites is low. All pictures are photographed by Ryan McGuire and free of copyright restrictions. Images are free, but you’re encouraged to donate to “Ryan McGuire’s coffee fund.” Cute.
“Free pics. Do anything (CC0). Make magic.” Jay Mantri is a designer that encourages you to use his videos and photos to make magic. Mantri posts seven new photos to his site each week that are free to use in any way you like, without attribution. That’s very generous of him. The images have an artistic, urban feel and have a wide application thanks to their varied subject matter.
MyStock.photos is a curated list of free stock photos made by professionals that can be used for personal and commercial projects. The website is as simple as it gets: one search bar and the latest images in a grid underneath. It’s the perfect go-to for images of landscapes, cities and landmarks that are anything but cliché.
I’m Free is a relatively new website devoted to more than just stock images. Use it to find downloadable templates, mockups, icons, vectors, textures and graphics. For the OCD creatives among us, you’ll be pleased to find that the stock images are nicely organised and grouped by categories. If you’re writing for food, sports & fitness, health, technology, or travel–this is the stock website for you.
Are you sick of cheesy stock images? Death to the stock photo is exactly what it claims to be. It’s disrupting the stock industry with artfully created images and video “story packs” for commercial and private use. Companies including Fast Company, Spotify, TED, and Twitter all use this site for their creative pursuits. This website operates a little differently to the others on this list. Instead of searching for your images, you can either sign up to a free membership where the curators will send you images each month (that’s right–you don’t need to do anything). Or, sign up for a premium membership and take advantage of unlimited downloads, photo filtering and search. When you sign up to a free account, you’ll instantly receive free 10 photos in a zip file, including this one:
I’m breaking away from the topic for just a moment, but stay with me. This site does not offer stock photos. But, it does offer an amazing array of patterns. It’s kind of like funky wallpaper for your website and has designers written all over it. Go bold, or go home. Download your hi-resolution patterns in just one click.
If you’ve been publishing blogs for the last few years, you’ve no doubt used Pexels. It’s my go-to for high quality stock images. What I love most about it, besides the variety, is that you can download the exact size you need. Choose from original, large, medium, small or enter your own custom size. This is great for image optimisation–when size does matter. I also love that you can browse by popular photos and searches, photographer leaderboard, keywords or even colours.
Despite its clunky name, The Public Domain Archive is not a museum. Instead, it’s a collection of beautiful modern and vintage images. To keep things fresh, they add to their collection weekly. If you’re so inclined, you can also submit your own images for use. Use the Public Domain Archive if you’re looking for images of nature, skylines or objects from interesting perspectives.
Freepik is probably the most versatile free stock website of the list because its variety of content and file formats. Freepik offers high quality illustrations and graphics–including icons, vectors and PSD files–that have been carefully selected by its design team. Freepik uses a “freemium” business model which means that the majority of the content can be used for free as long as you credit the author of illustration using Freepik’s code. If you don’t want to include a credit, you may subscribe to the Premium plan for a small fee.
What do you think?
While these are my favourites, you may know of others that tick all the boxes. Please leave me a comment below so that we can share our resources.