When you are looking for high-quality stock photos, you don’t have to worry if you can afford them or not. The shiny photos you can find on ShutterStock or DreamsTime are amazing, but they can cost a lot. Fortunately, you can find photos of similar quality, or even better, for free. Check these 10 best websites for free high-quality stock photos to see what they offer.
However, before you start downloading and using the free high-quality stock photos you find, take the time to check their licenses. The fact they are free doesn’t mean you can use them in any way you please. Some of these photos are public-domain licensed, and others are just free and your use options are very limited (e.g. commercial use is not allowed). It is better for you to first understand the various copyright licenses, then you will know exactly what you can do with an image.
The first site on this list is one of my personal favorites, and I use it quite frequently. Morguefile is one of the oldest free high-quality stock photo sites, and it has a lot of images (more than 350,000, as they state). Since it’s an old site, some photos are too old, (e.g. taken ten or more years ago), and they aren’t top notch by today’s standards yet are still good. There are also many recent images in many niches.
Pixabay is another favorite of mine. In many aspects, and for some niches, it’s even better than Morguefile. This site offers over 740,000 stock photos, vectors, art illustrations, and videos, and the best is all of them are licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 license. This means you may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free in any project you like, including commercial projects. Attribution is not required, but it’s nice. If you do it, it’s a small gesture in exchange for great imagery.
Pexels, which sounds so similar to pixels, is another big site with hundreds of thousands of free high-quality stock photos. Every day 100 new high quality photos are added, so the collection is always growing. As for licenses, it’s again CC0, which means the photos are free to use for any legal purpose with no need to ask permission from the author or to make attribution. One of the nice features of the site is that you can search for images by color.
I guess you already know about Flickr as a place to upload your photos, but you might not know that it’s also one of the largest repositories of free high-quality stock photos. Many users opt to license their photos under a free license. However, be careful because not everything on Flickr is copyright free. Carefully check the license for each photo you plan to use.
5. Free Images
As you can probably guess from its name, Free Images is a site where you can find images you don’t have to pay for. This site has a ton of images (almost 400K photos and illustrations) in many niches, though not all of the photos are high quality. Additionally, some of the photos are restricted by a license, so check carefully before you use a photo, especially in a commercial project.
6. Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons, with its 33 million images, is probably the largest repository of free images. However, they do require attribution, which in some cases (e.g. the client you need the photo for objects to attribution) isn’t an option. They have images in any niche imaginable, but not all of them are high quality. There are also many small size images with somewhat limited practical use.
Unsplash is another very popular site for free high-quality stock photos. Its images are licensed under the CC0 license and there are a lot of them. What I really like about this site is its minimal and clean interface.
8. Free Digital Photos
Free Digital Photos is an old and established site with a ton of free and premium images across many categories. Unfortunately, generally only the smaller sizes are free, and some of them require attribution.
9. New Old Stock
This site is different from the rest because it’s a niche one. New Old Stock specializes in free vintage photos. If you are into old stuff, you can find real gems here. It doesn’t have a search functionality, and the photos are hosted on other sites, but still it’s a nice collection of unique vintage photos from all over the Web.
Picjumbo offers both free and premium membership. Quite naturally, the paid membership offers more, but even their free section is more than suitable. There are images in many categories, and new free photos are added regularly. One of the unique features of Picjumbo is that it has a Photoshop and Sketch plugin ($7.99), too.
There are dozens and dozens more sites with free high-quality stock photos, so I don’t claim this list contains all of them. Most of the sites on the list don’t have millions of photos as the top commercial royalty-free photo sites do, but this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage – if you can find good photos without having to search millions of irrelevant photos, what more can you ask for? If you can’t find a particular image on these free high-quality stock photo sites, you can always try your luck with a reverse image search engine and see if it can help you locate exactly the photo you are after.