We are visual creatures. We love to take pictures; we love to look at pictures. We like pictures when they are still and when they are moving. A picture isn’t just worth 1,000 words; it also speaks to us when there are no words possible.
Your blog posts, your marketing materials and your website all need images. As a small business owner, you probably think that photos come with an expensive price tag, but they don’t have to. In this post, we highlight 50 image sites and services where you can get photographs and types of images for free or a low cost.
Kave Wall is a graphic design firm that also has a stock photo library. Many of the images appear to be free for the small sizes, but they also offer a full resolution catalog of 1,700-plus photos for $199.
Nations Illustrated has a unique niche — travel photographs, which are often popular and beautiful and can work well on a business site in many situations. The downside is the site doesn’t make it clear where the images come from; however, the user agreement states that you may use the images for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Historical Stock Photos has a great collection of historical photos. However, I could not determine details of copyright or ownership. I include them because the site also links to the parent company, Image Envision, which is a paid site that you might find interesting if you need historical photos for your business website.
Veer is a free and paid photo site. Each week they handpick images to put in their free gallery. (Veer is currently an advertiser at this site.) In addition, when you register at Veer they give you image credits you can use in the paid gallery. They have a terrific font gallery, too. They give you 10 free photo credits when you register.
Public-Domain-Photos offers 5,000 free photos and 8,000 free clip art items. All photos on this website are public domain. You may use these images for any purpose, including commercial. They advise you to be careful, though, if an image contains logos and products that are trademarked.
Free Digital Photos is a photographer community to help you sell your work. Most of the images are free, but you can purchase a high-resolution image, if you need it. The site states: “Download free photos and illustrations for corporate and personal use. Every image is free, with an option to buy high-resolution versions for use in print or graphic design.”
Image After offers a simple search tool with drop-down choices. You can also search by term and as soon as you click the image you like, it brings up options to download. However, you have to be careful, as there are lots of ads on this site taking you to paid photo sites. But you can find a good range of free images in their catalog.
Design Packs is aimed at Web designers and offers free stock photo sets, already Zipped up, ready for download. There are 15 different design packs, such as money, bark, rock, light, and other categories. In each “pack” or bundle, there are 10 to 20 photos. There are links to other packs, with free downloads as well. Overall, this site offers more background-type images, but you may be able to use these for more abstract work. The one I liked the most is called Grunge Textures and offers all sorts of earth and element images you could use for free.
Free Foto is one of my favorites from this round of research. They offer a huge library of images, and state the rules right up front. “FreeFoto.com is the largest collection of free photographs on the Internet (linkback and attribution required).” They offer free online use, with higher quality images available for a fee. However, they do run a lot of advertisements, which can be a bit confusing.
Deposit Photos is a fee-based service, but I mention them here because their 7-day free trial allows you to download five images per day for seven days. You have to enter a credit card, but their agreement on this page states that you can cancel at any time.
Free Pixels offers a smaller collection than some of the other providers here; however, they have millions of views in each category. This implies that they have a lot of quality images and people are spreading the word. I found a number of eye-catching images worth downloading. “Every Freepixels image or digital creation used must retain the domain name: freepixels.com when used on the Internet, in a Web page, in printed publications, or in any product, advertising, or packaging.” They seem reasonable and will allow you to remove the watermark on the image if you provide credit near the image itself. Read the terms.
Photo Rogue is incredibly unique. I would categorize them as a photo request site. You can submit a specific photo you’re looking for and a volunteer photographer will go out and try to create it for you. While they don’t have many requests in the service yet, this site could take off and provide an interesting model for both buyers and sellers of photography.
Free Range Stock is another of my favorites in the free stock world. It is a photographic community supported by ad revenue – photographers get paid when users click on the ads that appear next to their submissions. Images on the site are either shot by Freerange Stock, drawn from Freerange archives, or contributed by a talented community of photographers.
Geek Philosopher offers a free stock photo page and they request a detailed backlink for use of their free images.
Cepolina is a travel and nature focused site, but has over 16,000 images and also organizes by color for those who want to find a photo to match their website. I found some very good food images here, too. You can download by size, up to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels.
Abstract Influence is a photography community and reportedly allows members to download free photos, but I couldn’t find evidence of that without joining. You can see and peruse different photo libraries and categories without joining, so if you’re looking for an original photo this might be a good place to search. (No guarantee that it is free, however.)
Stock.XCHNG is now owned by Getty Images, but as far as I could tell it was still a free photo site. SXC has a long history, a great community, and tons of images on their unique site. How big is big? A huge gallery containing over 350,000 quality stock photos by more than 30,000 photographers.
Every Stock Photo is a search engine for free photos. The photos come from many sources and are license-specific. You can view a photo’s license by clicking on the license icon, below and left of photos. Membership is free and you need to become a member to download photos.
Imagebase by David Niblack appears to be a labor of love. David Niblack makes his images available for public use. The images are free and very few conditions are placed on them — read it here. There are not thousands of images here, but there are some good ones in the people, objects, city and nature categories.
Morguefile provides free images for personal and commercial work. Their tagline says it all: “Public Image Archive for Creatives by Creatives.” They also offer a way for you to add your own photos to morgueFile so that you can give back to the creative community.
Open Photo. This site has a range of photo categories with plenty of images in each one. Once you click on the photo you like, you can see the details about copyright, creative commons, and other rights and expectations (such as a link back) in a simple box to the right.
Stock Vault is a pretty slick site. When you pick a photo, it brings up the image and details about the photographer. Next to the image is a button that says, “Support this User,” and when you scroll over it, it says, “Buy Him a Coffee.” In the upper left portion, it simply says download and you can get the image immediately.
Unprofound is a photo site sorted by color. You pick one of six colors or white and peruse a range of photos. You can use a basic search engine on the site, but they advise you keep to simple terms. This is not a huge collection of photos (it is run by one person), but it offers truly free photos. “This collection of photos is for anyone to use in just about any way they’d like” is what the FAQ states.
Toasto is a simple free photo site by one photographer. You can browse photos by categories such as nature, technology, computing, food, and even by concept and idea. Photos are available on a creative commons license as long your use is non-commercial and attributed to the site.
Photoree is a photo search engine that searches creative commons licensed photos. In a simple dropdown menu, you can pick the license that is right for you. This image came from a simple search on “mobile device” and “creative commons, commercial use OK.”
Picapp is a widget that you can use on your website to manage your own images or to pull from other image sources (approved by Picapp in its terms of service). If your site uses images to keep people engaged, this might be a useful service to manage a photo gallery or provide dynamic photo streams on your website.
123RF is a fee-based royalty-free stock photo site, but they have a healthy collection of free images. Like others here, they have a subscription fee payment plan, or you can buy credits for just the images you need. They invite photographers to submit their work.
Dreamstime is a site offering paid and free images (over 100,000 free ones) after you register. Registration is free, too. You will often find Dreamstime mentioned or highlighted at some of the other sites here in this post because they are a frequent advertiser on photography sites.
Photodropper is a WordPress plugin that lets you add Flickr photos to your posts. It searches for Creative Commons licensed photos – images that are licensed for shared use – and lets you drop them into your posts right from your dashboard with just one click.
Photl offers high-resolution images for commercial usage for free. You have to register to download, but it is a fast registration process. They have a tag cloud on the site that shows you photo categories — the bigger the size of the tag, the more photos in that category.
Dougit Design is one man’s (Doug) design studio that provides breath-taking free photos, wallpapers and textures in high resolution. Worth a visit. Not a ton of images here, but still a good stop.
Photovaco is a good site, and they have lots of stuff to click on, including free templates, free CSS files and free photos, so just pay attention to the photo part and look to the categories in the right column if you want to explore.
Public Domain Image is a collection of images in the public domain. The site owner explains that he built this collection along with posting his own photographs. It is searchable and organized by category.
PD Photo – I like this site. Its catalog of free public domain images is solid. Plus, the owner clearly states that unless otherwise noted, the image is completely free. They would like you to link back to the site, but it is not mandatory. Just scroll through the category list on the right side.
Acobox provides free images, but they host them for you, so they take the risk of making sure the images are properly licensed or attributed. You pick the image, copy the code snippet, and paste it into your site or blog.
Freeimages expresses that they are a fully free site, but asks for linkbacks or other ways of supporting them on their Support page. You’ll find lots of images, simple and detailed, across all sorts of topics from medical to technology, animals to travel, making this site worth a look.
Free Stock Photos is a well organized site. Mixed in with the completely free results, however, are images from Shutterstock and maybe some other paid photo sites. When I clicked on the free images, I was taken to a larger version of the image and details of where it was from (for example, the open clip art library), whether it was in the public domain or its licensing terms. It is very clear what you are downloading.
High Resolution Textures is an awesome site. If you want a background or texture, such as stone or metal, or even pasta (yes, as in spaghetti), you should check this site out. Not just for digital use — think about packaging or other print media.
Flickr is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla in photo sites. While not all of their images are available for free, you can do an advanced search and find suitable creative commons licenses. Plus, if you found a great image, you could contact the photographer and get permission or purchase rights. In many cases, I’ve seen businesses build a Flickr gallery and make that available on their site because it links directly to the photographer’s site and helps both you and the photographer. Check into other creative options at Flickr and in their terms of service.
Photogen provides free, quality stock photography for both commercial and personal use. The aim is to create a valuable resource for designers, bloggers or anyone who needs an image to enhance their website, presentation, homework or print job.
Photo Everywhere has 3,000-plus travel-themed stock images available.
Like some of the free photo sites, FreeMediaGoo does not make it explicitly clear how they came by the images, but they claim you may use them for free.
Open Photo aims primarily at artists, developers, teachers and students, but through its search function or categories, you can find lots of great images. As you click on a thumbnail, you get a larger image with details about licensing/rights (often creative commons with some form of attribution).
Free Photos Bank is a solid site with lots of images, particularly for business users. They have ads, too, so don’t get distracted. They have a quick navigation button at the top right which can drop you into the section you want.
Fotolia is paid site, but has free images you can download. You have to register to complete a download, however.
Free Digital Photos. Images are free provided you publish a credit to the person who created the image. Instructions for publishing credits can be found to the right of every image – click the “Acknowledgement required” link. If you would rather not publish a credit you must purchase a licence, starting at just $5 per image.
PublicDomainPictures.net is a repository for free public domain photos. You can upload your own pictures and share your work with others. They do make statements that model and property releases are not standard, so be careful how you use these photos. However, they are all free for use.
iStockphoto is one of my regular stops when I’m looking for an image. They were one of the first to offer user-generated, royalty-free stock photos, including video, illustrations, vector images, and audio. They also offer flash-based images as well. You can buy a regular subscription plan or pay-as-you-go. There is a free photo of the week, too.
Important Caveat: Remember, just because a website has a collection of images does NOT give you the automatic right to use those images. The owner of any image or photograph has a legal copyright in that image. Make sure you purchase the right to use an image, or the image is in the public domain, or the image is under a creative commons license that gives you the right to use that image, or you receive written approval to use the image from the owner. Check the Terms of Service of any website. Never assume you have the right to use an image unless it’s clearly spelled out. Otherwise, you could someday get a letter demanding that you pay $1000 (or some other large amount) per image, or a lawsuit charging you with misappropriating someone else’s copyrighted material.
We hope you enjoy this massive list of free photo and royalty-free photo sites. Let us know which ones you use or any that we missed.More in: Blogging, Top Product Lists