Whether you’re a graphic designer, run a website, or are simply looking for a cool Facebook banner image, finding the right image online can be daunting. A quick Google Image search will provide you with a plethora of pictures to choose from, but you can’t always just pluck an image from cyberspace and use it in whichever way you want.
Pesky things like copyright laws extend even into the digital realm. So if you want to avoid legal drama, you’ll have to find another way to get your images. This is where stock image sites come in. The images hosted on these sites are often made freely available and without restrictions. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these sites are littered with cheesy, amateurish shots.
Luckily, you don’t have to settle for cardboard cutouts standing against a non-descript white background. There are some stock image sites that buck the trend of corny photos and offer up creative, high-resolution photos that you can use however you wish.
In just three years Unsplash has gone from a simple Tumblr blog to a legit photography community. Featuring stunning high-resolution photos from all over the world, Unsplash is a must visit. Every photo published can be used free of charge for both commercial and noncommercial use. You don’t even have to credit the photographer, but it’s always nice if you do.
Viktor Hanacek started Picjumbo when other stock photo sites wouldn’t publish his images. Since then his images have been downloaded millions of times by users all over the world. Almost every image on Picjumbo has been taken by Viktor himself, which means you won’t run into any copyright surprises. Picjumbo also has a premium membership that gives you access to exclusive photos. Regardless of whether you stick with the free version or go premium, all photos are free to use as you see fit.
All pictures available on Pixabay are released under the Creative Commons Zero license. This means that you are free to modify and use them for anything you like including commercial purposes without attributing to the original author. Unfortunately, Pixabay does not group its photos into categories. This makes finding a suitable image a little more time consuming.
Pexels is kind of like a stock photo aggregator. The site acquires its images from a variety of stock photo sources, so it’s a fairly diverse collection. Pexels is another site that abides by the Creative Commons Zero license, meaning you can use the images for personal or commercial use. One of the coolest features of Pexels is its ability to search photos by color. If you’re a designer you’ll be able to quickly sort through photos that heavily feature a particular color, saving lots of time.
If you’re in the market for quirky, original photos, look no further. Gratisography features free high-resolution pictures you can use for personal or commercial projects. All pictures were photographed by Ryan McGuire and are free of copyright restrictions. The site has a handy search function, and all images are grouped into categories like urban or whimsical to help you narrow down your search.
If you’re a blogger, social media influencer or in marketing, you’ll want to check out Burst. Curated by Shopify, Burst is a stock image site geared towards business. In fact, Burst encourages you to use their images for commercial purposes. Therefore, Burst’s high-res photos can be used in ad campaigns or to create websites. All of the photos on Burst are under the Creative Commons Zero license, meaning you can do anything you want with them. Under the CC0 license you don’t even have to credit the photographer, but it’s good karma if you do.
7. New Old Stock
This collection of vintage photos comes from public archives around the world. The photos are a fascinating glimpse of history; however, the site lacks a search function. The curator of New Old Stock claims that the images are free of “known” copyright restrictions. That being said, in order to avoid any potential legal entanglements, stick to personal and non-commercial uses.
8. Foodies Feed
Whether you are a food blogger or just a lover of food, Foodies Feed might be the place for you. The site is run by Jakub, a photographer who wanted natural and realistic-looking images of food. Not happy with what he found on stock photo sites, he decided to take his own pictures and allow people to use them for free. Foodie Feed does not use a Creative Commons license. Instead, Jakub simply makes his photos available to download for personal or commercial use. His only stipulation is that you don’t sell his photos.
Do you use stock photos? Did we forget your favorite source for free stock photos? Let us know in the comments!