All About Stock + Where to Get All The Best FREE Stock Photos (25 Resources)September 23, 2015
As a blogger and a working graphic designer finding free (aka cost/attribution free) stock photos is a way of life. I'm constantly on the hunt for stock photos to use across platforms for a multitude of projects. Also, I'm always keeping an eye out for stock photos that feel fresh and different because whenever you stare at stock photography as much as I do, you start noticing a lot of the same images time and time again across websites.
Today, I hope to share a bit of my knowledge about stock including why to use stock, what makes stock truly free, creative commons licensure, and my 25 favorite places from around the internet that have beautiful truly free stock for use. There are definitely more than 25 free stock photo sites out there and I debated including at least four or fives others in this round-up, but I feel like these are truly the best.
Let's jump in!
So many people have asked me over time, "Well, why do you need to use stock photos? Can't you just pull an image from Google or another site to use?" My answer, friend, is that with random images scattered throughout the web it's hard to know what is okay and legal to use versus what is not okay/legal to use. Copyright laws are pretty serious, you know? Also, when pulling images from around the web from a source like Google, typically the images aren't considered high quality, which is pretty important especially when designing for clients!
Since I generally am in charge of finding stock for my own use, paying for stock doesn't sound appealing to me. Stock sites like Shutterstock are great because you can often find high quality stock and when you download you know for sure how you are allowed to use that product. However, the downside to sites like Shutter stock is the that they're typically rather pricey. For example, to download just 5 images it would cost me nearly $50 out of pocket. Insane! Hence, why cost-free stock is the most appealing.
There are some stipulations to "cost-free" stock though. Though some of the stock is "cost-free" often times it be tagged with something along the lines of "free for personal/non-commercial use only" meaning that you can use for personal projects, but no commercial products/projects. If this is the case you'll have to buy the commercial rights if you want to use that image in that way. The other tagline often associated with "cost-free" stock is usually "attribution required" meaning you're allowed to use the stock for free as long as you credit back to the site or creator of the image when it's in use. For some, this isn't a big deal, but personally - linking back and crediting gets old and tedious especially when you're using many stock images with different creators or utilizing the same stock repeatedly in different spaces.
As a general rule of thumb I assume anything that is not under licensed under Creative Commons Zero is not truly free for use however I want. As a warning there are different degrees of Creative Commons licensure so don't assume something is totally free to use unless it's marked CC0. All the photos and websites I'm providing below are licensed under CC0, which is the most open and flexible. CC0 means there is no required linking back, attribution, or restrictions on use whether it be for personal or commercial use. Essentially you can use the photo however you want. You can share, use, or build upon/edit the work if you please. However, you cannot profit from or resell the photo as it is in its original state.
Still fuzzy? You can read even more in depth about Creative Commons licenses here!
Whew! That was a lot to take in, but now we're here...to the good stuff. Over time and much research I've combed the web and found some go-to favorite resources and I thought I'd share them here with you today with a brief description.
Death to Stock Photography
Death to Stock Photography is probably one of the most well-known places for acquiring free stock photos. How it works? You go to their website, signup by giving your email address, and each month you're sent a pack of themed stock photos. It's different and unique each month! All the photos are high quality and nothing is too posed or trying too hard. Also, watch your inboxes closely because they are known for sending bonus packs of pretty regularly. This is definitely one of my favorites.
I'm pretty sure everyone has heard about Unsplash and for good reason! They offer 10 new photos every 10 days. The images are often muted. There's a good mix of content available. Usually a mix of photos containing objects, people, spaces, and landscape are included in each upload. Another tried and true favorite for me!
This one is new to me, but so far so good. They upload new photos each week and are very clear about the creator and licensure for each photo. Nearly all are CC0. There seems to be a good mix of subject matter and most of the content refreshing. Has a bit of a moody feel overall.
This one is also new to me, but I have seen some real gems in the mix. The photos are categorized well and easy to search. All photos are taken by one person and new photos seem to be added almost daily.
This site describes themselves as a place for "free high quality photos for creatives" and that is definitely true. Most images are crisp and appeal to the creative eye. Easily categorized there is a decent mix of content designed to appeal to the designers, marketers, and web gurus of the world.
This site has grown on me over time and their content continue to improve. They upload new photos every week and most are handy. There are lots of landscape, zoomed in shots of people/things, and lots of workspace and desk area shots to be had here.
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites to go to. I feel like the photography has a fresh look and feel and their content is continuously growing and getting better. There's not as many landscape pictures, but if you're looking for humans, objects, food, and tech you should be pleased with the collection here.
Life of Pix
New photos added weekly with a good balanced selection of content. The photos, on the whole, appear fresh and clean. Definitely worth checking out.
This one maybe feels more like a traditional stock site, but the variety is there and I find myself liking more images than disliking. This site is certainly one you may have to do a tiny bit of digging in, but the pay off is generally good and worth it.
There's a good balance of black and white and color images. There's lot of outdoor shots, architecture, and people-related images on hand. There's usually a bit of whimsey or drama to each photo. Not categorized the best, so you may have to do some searching. However, the images are hi-res and easy to get.
This is another rising favorite for me! This site is growing and apparently they are adding hundreds of new photos every week. This site is easy to search and navigate. There's a diverse variety of content. Photos are usually clean and crisp, hi-res, easy to get and use.
This site feels a bit more eclectic than some of the others. They have a good selection of human centric photos. The photos are usually crisp and ready to go. Definitely has a selection of stock that is unique. File sizes were some of the largest and most high quality!
All photos are taken by one photographer, but there's a wealth of stock to navigate through. A lot of the stock is colorful and some are downright eccentric. Either way, this isn't really your run of the mill stock site. If you're looking for something a tad different or a bit bright, try Gratisography.
Travel Coffee Book
This stock site was one of my favorites to come across. The photos are a traveler's dream! The photos are mostly travel based, but there is plenty to choose from content wise from landscapes to objects to indoor scenes. They focus on capturing those interesting, lovely, and fleeting travel moments.
Unfortunately, the owner of Little Visuals passed away in 2013, but he left behind a stock site that is to this day one of my very favorites. Though there's no new uploads, there is a great amount of content left behind. These images were also some of highest quality. Each upload of 7 images was themed in some form or fashion. I even used stock found here for this post's main hero image!
This site reminds me of Unsplash in a way. They upload 7 new photos every 7 days. Usually they are unrelated images, but there is a wide variety of content. Most images don't feel too much like traditional stock and I genuinely like that. I'll be checking in more and more as this site continues to upload.
New Old Stock
I find this stock site to a be a little different than most. These images are from the public domain (no known copyright and available for use to the public). All shots are older and have a vintage look to them, whether is be a 70's tint or a black and white finish. This one is certainly worth browsing through. It's well-curated.
Public Domain Archive
I was really excited about this one upon discovery. The images are from the public domain, but most images are modern, unlike New Old Stock above. I definitely feel like I can find just about anything I need here. The site is easy to search and there is a good mix of content and subject matter to be had.
Just beautiful images here on this one. I find nearly every images appeals to my design sensibility. Creatives will like this one. There's a solid archive of content to choose from. Definitely, there is something here for everyone.
This is the perfect stock site for start-ups (duh), freelancers, web designers, small biz owners, entrepreneurs, etc. Most of the stock available is a bevy of people at work, computers being huddled over, beautiful and productive workspaces, desk areas, technology, and scenes right out of a day working at a start-up. This site has grown since I first discovered it and the content is top-notch.
This site is perhaps the newest of the 25 and perhaps has the most limited selection. The reason I'm including it though is that it seems to have content that's different, lots of isolated images (aka images of objects on a white or plain background), and is categorized well. Can't wait to see more of what they can do!
Creative Vix is newer to me than some of the other sites. Has an array of mostly nature or natural related images especially city shots, landscapes, people, animals, and flowers. Has a moodier feel to most of the pictures. Categorized and easy to find.
If you're always on the search for beautiful food images, then this site is for you! There are lots and lots of images and variety of foods. The styling is usually very natural and unforced. Each image typically has one or two variations of it which I really like. However, I don't love their download button. It takes 5 seconds to download and feels almost spammy (though it's not - promise!). They have curated food specific image packs that look to be a teeny bit higher quality, but they're not free.
This site is a curated selection of stock photos "hand picked for your creative inspiration." There's a new photo added each day and the images available are all generally very good. There's a nice variety of content, but most have a similar look and feel. Check it out.
Crow The Stone
This site is really new and there's not a ton of photos. However, I see promise. Most of the images are landscape/nature based. There's a mix of black and white and color imagery. Nearly all of the images have a moody vibe to them that I quite like. I'm going to keep my eye on this one.
Hope you enjoyed! Are there any other places you love to get free stock photos? Have you used any of these sites before? Let me know!