With human brains processing images 60,000 times faster than text, good photos are vital for grabbing attention and getting your message across. But what do you do if you don’t have enough visual material? Get it for free from one of these free stock photo websites!
iStockphoto.com (by Getty Images) and Shutterstock.com are the most well-known paid stock photo sites. You can find pictures of virtually anything here — but at a hefty price. Also, many of the stock photos are just too, well, “stocky.” Think over-the-top typically American pictures of absurdly happy people with unnaturally white teeth.
Luckily, there are alternatives. We’ve compiled a list of five sites with free stock photos for your convenience:
Do whatever you want with their collection of over 300,000 beautiful, high-resolution images from more than 50,000 contributors. Unsplash doesn’t offer the sheer volume of choice as some paid sites, but the photos are top-quality and thousands are added every day. Chances are good that you’ll find something to work with on this free stock site.
Gratisography has something else going on. They pride themselves on being the “world’s quirkiest collection of high-resolution free stock images.” They can’t compare with Unsplash in terms of quantity, but that’s not their aim. They excel at offering free photos that are unique and less “stocky” than what you see elsewhere. Only the most “interesting” submissions get curated on this site.
This site is also somewhat different. The photos are not curated and not as professionally produced as on Unsplash or Gratisography. You’ll find pictures of random people and everyday objects, kind of like your aunt Sally shared her Google Photos stream with you. Morguefile is not the place to find big header images, but if you need a simple free photo of a kid brushing his teeth, this is the free stock photos website for you.
This site has a very large database of high-quality images. It’s somewhat more oriented towards business and marketing than Unsplash, which is often helpful for content marketers and bloggers. Another big advantage of Pixabay is that they also offer free vectors and illustrations.
Stockvault is another great source of free stock photos, wallpapers, and even textures. The collection is only about half the size of Unsplash, but it’s well-curated and has daily new additions. This site also has a good search engine and is well-organized for browsing by category.
We can't do a post on free stock images without mentioning Pexels. Their vast, well-organized collection of free stock photos is one of the best curated on the internet. In addition, they have free stock videos! Pexels is the go-to image source for many bloggers.
Run by a 24-year-old photographer who was tired of getting his photos rejected by major stock sites and decided to create his own, PicJumbo is now a thriving free stock photo community with a big selection of beautiful free photos.
Besides having a huge collection of unique stock images, Pikwazard also offers a design wizard that allows you to make basic edits like adding text overlays before downloading. While the basics are free, they also have paid version that's a full-feature online image editing tool.
Rawpixel claims to have the most diverse collection of stock photos in the industry — and it may be true. They also have vectors, PSD mockups, and public domain content like famous Japanese wood panel prints. Their paid option contributes towards Hope for Children.
More than a just a simple stock photo collection, Reshot is a community with a mission. They aim to give emerging photographers a platform to share their creativity with those who need it. Their curated collections are extensive, stunning, and completely free.
What about usage rights on free stock photos?
Nearly all images on these free stock sites have a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you can copy, adapt or distribute the images — even for commercial purposes — without requiring author consent. In other words, do whatever you want with them!
Do you know of other free stock photo websites that deserve mention? Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let us know!
Sean Filidis is a copywriter, blogger, web developer and content marketing specialist. He heads up content strategy at Instant Magazine, making sure the right people see the right messages at just the right time.
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