The 27+ Best Free Stock Photo Sites in 2020!
Want free photos? Need free photos? Love free photos? Come and join us as we go through this megalith of a list of the best free stock photo sites dotted around the web plus a comprehensive guide for using free stock photos safely! Click here to directly go to our list of the best free stock photo sites or get 10 Free Stock Photos here at Shutterstock with their Shutterstock Free Trial.
This is not your average free photo sites list. Oh, no. This is the very best and most awesome free stock photo sites list EVER. Because we thought of everything that matters in free stock photos sites… and that is not just how nice the images are!
Our team put free photo sites under the microscope, analysing the image quality, the licensing type, the background and the legal safety of each of them to pick only the ones worthy of our recommendation. But first, we address some very important matters about free stock photo websites, licensing terms, and more.
Wanna jump right on to the list? Go ahead! But don't forget to come back and have a good read at our guide to use free stock photos safely!
The Safest Stock Photo Sites for Business and Commercial Use
The following are our pick of 27 websites where you can find high quality, royalty-free, free stock photos that are relatively safe to use in commercial work. These photos would look great in website designs, banners, adverts, social media posts, blog posts, publications, and various projects for non-commercial purposes!
Most of them feed new photos into their libraries constantly, so you likely won't be short of new images to complete your designs.
One quick note before we start:
Now that's cleared, dive into our massive list of the best free stock photo sites!
Pixabay – High Quality and German-Engineered Free Images
Pixabay is a free stock photo site founded by computer technology experts Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger. In May 2019, it was acquired by the fast-growing and very reputable online design platform Canva. Crowdsourced from Internet users around the world, their huge and very varied library of royalty-free images ascends to over 1 million files and counting, and they're all available for free download, and most of them are of high definition, suitable for professional use. While they accept submissions from anyone, they have a professional curator (a photographer and image editor) that manually reviews and ok-go's or vets submitted images as much for technical quality as for legal validity.
License Details: They now work with a proprietary license agreement that enables commercial use for both digital and print, with no attribution required (similar to Creative Commons Zero), but introduces a sensitive use clause and restricts redistribution and resale of unaltered images.
- This site combines high-quality images with German-like, sleek functionality for users. It adds community features as well as a blog.
- Hard to find something! But the user-submission system is not our favourite in terms of safe licensing practices for free photos.
Relying on user submissions is not the safest practice per se, but Pixabay handles it wonderfully by professionally reviewing all images. Add how serious the site and the owners are, the custom license and the fact it is now owned by a huge and very serious company like Canva, and you end up free images that are safer than many others.
Unsplash – Cool & Artsy Images Free
Unsplash is a give-back, side project turned into an unexpectedly big hit by Crew, an online platform connecting freelance creatives with customers. They started it as a Tumblr blog offering leftover professional shots from an in-house production for free download, and it escalated to a stand-alone site hosting over half a million royalty-free stock photos from contributing artists — who get their own portfolios pages–, all free.
License Details: They have their own custom license, enabling free use in commercial projects with no attribution required (just like a Creative Commons Zero) but forbidding image compiling.
- The modern, artsy and youthful style of their photos, the cool design of the site, and the quick expansion of their business ideas (Unsplash already has an API and many other perks)
- We have to dig really deep for a negative here, but mainly crowdsourcing images from everyone is not the safest option for free licensing
Yes, these are crowdsourced images, but the online portfolios and huge popularity of Unsplash mean it's a display window for photographers, making the chance they submit fraudulent content more unlikely. The custom license adds a little extra safety, but the fact the site is so successful and so relevant for its owners is what ensures they take image licensing seriously.
PikWizard – Creative & Commercial Free Photos from Pros
PikWizard is a very pro-style free stock photo site, full of high-quality images portraying multiple popular topics. It's owned by Wavebreak Media, a stock video and photography production company lead by Irish videographer and entrepreneur Sean Prior. Their hundreds of thousands of images come from various contributors, most of whom are known stock media producers. And they're all for free.
License Details: They have their own custom license enabling free use in commercial projects, with a sensitive use clause. They don't allow resale or use in products for resale (t-shirts, posters, etc.), but those are the only copyright restrictions
- The balanced mix of artistic and commercial styled imagery, and the cool extra function: quick on-page image editing with DesignWizard tool, which we think is one of the best free tools to add text to images.
- Not easy to complain about anything here! We'll have to get picky and say the website's design could be a bit better given the great functionality it offers
This is the free-stock-photo heaven: high-quality photos taken and submitted by professional photographers who understand licensing, offered and managed by a successful stock media company, with its own custom license for free use. Of course, you must still double check before using, but PikWizard is as reliable as it gets.
Pexels – Trendy Free Photos, Edgy Site
The brainchild of German technology-oriented twin brothers with Bruno and Ingo Joseph, Pexels is a free stock photo aggregator offering hundreds of thousands of royalty-free stock images in high resolution submitted by artists or added from other free photo sites. The catalogue is very rich and all images are free to download and use. In May 2019 Pexels was bought by the popular and successful online design platform Canva.
License Details: Their photos are under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes, no attribution required.
- The beautiful and super current imagery, the neat and super pro site, the fact they have a dedicated free videos version, and the cool add-ons: apps and a Photoshop plugin.
- That they not only take user submissions but also aggregate images from multiple other sites, multiplying the risks of potential copyright or right of privacy infringements
Pexels is a very serious site with a lot of work involved in its creation and maintenance. The developers clearly know their thing. The aggregator factor means the source for the images is not always that clear and the use of CC0 in this context is not the safest practice, but being acquired by a reputable company like Canva adds a veil of safety not many free photo sites have.
Life of Pix – Super Curated Artsy Photos for Free
Life of Pix is owned by Canadian digital marketing agency LEEROY, and provides hundreds of thousands of very artsy and high-quality photos covering a variety of popular themes. All files have been submitted by photographers, and are totally free to download and use.
License Details: Their photos are in the Public Domain, meaning they are not subject to copyright. This allows free usage for commercial purposes, no attribution required, but the site forbids mass distribution
- The strong artistic feel in their collection, the great curation level, and that they have a sister site dedicated to free videos
- Not easy to find something, but we would say the photographer donations to Public Domain can be murky, as you must make sure they know exactly what rights they waived
Public Domain license should be theoretically safer for commercial use since there's no copyright attached to the images. But as we said, that only works if who donated them is the original copyright owner and all other needed rights (model releases for example) are cleared. That said, Life of Pix being owned by a serious company is capable of providing some much-needed trustworthiness in free images.
Gratisography – Experimentally Artistic Free Photos
Graphic and web designer Ryan McGuire is the owner of Gratisography, a site where he offers a collection of nearly 500 high-res photos of his own authorship, for free. The photos are very intimate and unique, far from the typical commercial stock, and of high quality.
License Details: He has a custom license, similar to Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes, adding a sensitive use clause and advising due diligence regarding extra rights clearance (brands, trademarks, model releases)
- The site's fun-loving style and the uniqueness of the photos, that would fit perfectly in Instagram posts or visual communications for young audiences
- It's a very small collection. That means despite how cool, it's still limited in terms of content variety
Albeit modest, Gratisography collection is legally much safer than others because the copyright owner of the photos is the one offering them on his own dedicated site. You must take Ryan's advise on double checking when extra rights need to be cleared. But it's not so hard to do as you can contact McGuire on this site.
SplitShire – Free Commercial-Like Images in Trendy Style
Photographer Daniel Nanesou is behind SplitShire, a website where he displays around a thousand artistic and very professional styled photos from his personal archive, spanning various current themes, that you can download and use in your work free of charge.
License Details: Custom license, similar to Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes with a sensitive use clause. You're not allowed to no resell images as-they're-downloaded (you must alter the image for reselling purposes)
- These are very trendy images, with professional quality and great commercial value, that would work great on websites, adverts, blog post, artistic projects…
- There aren't really many negatives except for the relatively modest library size compared to others in this list
Legally speaking, SplitShire photos are very safe: they're created by a professional photographer (who knows how licensing works), are offered under his own custom license, and as you know he's the copyright owner you have a direct way of addressing extra rights requirements. A well-rounded deal in free images.
Burst – Uber-Commercial Free Stock Photos
E-commerce platform Shopify developed Burst in 2017, to offer free royalty free stock images intended for e-shops and commercial use in general (though you can use them for anything, like social media or a blog post, too). They have a big library with thousands of high-resolution images with a very current style covering popular commercial topics like lifestyle, fashion, technology, etc. Sourced from hired photographers and user submissions, all these images are free to use, be it within Shopify or anywhere else.
License Details: There are two licenses: 1. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes. 2. Custom license, pretty much identical to CC0, which allows using photos in products for resale and has a sensitive use clause. Besides a no compiling term, there are no other copyright restrictions.
- The photos are highly commercial in a very trendy way: they're authentic styled images that work well in websites, e-shops, social media, adverts, and more
- Digging deep, we would have to say having two nearly identical licenses available only complicates a regular user's life
While we're not fans of Creative Commons license, it's undeniable that Burst photos are pretty safe to use: from being powered by Shopify to the fact its sole reason is to provide images for commercial use, going through the commission-created images, legal safety is not a major concern here.
Rawpixel – Authentic Free Images, Social Media Ideal
Founded by Robert Churchill, Rawpixel website bring on thousands of unconventional, authentic and high-quality images for creatives, sourced from qualified contributors. Limited to 100 downloads per user per month, you can get your pick from this rich and varied collection for free, that adds to Rawpixel's premium royalty-free photos service.
License Details: Custom license – free usage for commercial purposes – Sensitive use clause – No resale
- It's a super trendy library, full of the high resolution images that are all the rage in Instagram and social media, and the visual market in general
- The search engine is the same for premium and free photos, so you have to remember to enable the “Free” filter in every search. Not a biggie, though
Being a proper stock image site selling Royalty-Free stock photos, it's clear they know what they're doing. The license is custom, and as they review all submissions, it's very likely all rights are properly cleared and legal safety is high.
Libreshot – Free Fine Art Photography
Libreshot is a must-know in free stock photo websites, as this one offers thousands of fine art photos by SEO consultant and photographer Martin Vorel. His images are of very good quality and cover various subjects too. And they're all made available to use for free.
License Details: Creative Commons Public Domain license, with pretty much no copyright restrictions
- Fine art photography is not something every other free photo site has. It's perfect for print and various other artistic projects
- Not all images are commercially valuable, and there's a lack of the most popular type of photos -photos of people. But you can always find creative twists for them
If you were looking for artistic high-res photos, you'll love Libreshot because you're as safe as you can be here: for one, all photos are owned by the man who licenses them for free. And then, most of the images do not include recognizable people, brands or trademarked content. So you'll be mostly all good.
PicJumbo – Free Images from a Pro Stock Photographer
A website created by stock photographer Viktor Hanacek, PicJumbo is the perfect place to find high-quality, commercial-ready, royalty-free stock images for free. This site hosts over 2000 images by Hanacek, covering multiple popular themes, all completely free. People in the images are purposefully unrecognizable, but still present.
License Details: Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial projects – Warns about due diligence when using brands and trademarked subjects
- These images clearly come from a stock photographer, someone who understands the licensing market and offers commercially valuable imagery
- It can be excessively commercial, could use a touch of artistic vibe or an edginess
Trust a stock photographer to provide the right kind of free photos! PicJumbo is a great source for images for commercial use, not only for their quality but also for their legal safety: all licensed by its owner and minimising risks with the lack of brands or recognizable models, these are CC license images you can trust.
Kaboompics – Instagram-ready Free Photos
Designer and photographer Karolina Grabowska is the mind and talent behind Kaboompics, a site providing free high-quality stock photos with a natural feel and multiple subjects. All the over 8000 images available are hers, and they're all free.
License Details: She has a custom license granting free usage for commercial purposes that includes a sensitive use clause. It's not allowed to resell images as-they-are-downloaded (so alterations to the original file are a requirement), and redistribution is also forbidden without permission. The terms add a warning about the commercial use of photos with brands or trademarked subjects on them
- The cool, modern aesthetics of the photos (that screams “social media”) and the high-end functionality: photoshoot collections, a search engine with a colour palette filter, and more
- We must get picky to find one, but let's say some topics are overrepresented and others are lacking variety
If you cater to young audiences, work with social media and you need free images, Kaboompics is your new best friend. Grabowska provides everything you need for free, and her custom license and full ownership of the images adds that very desirable trustworthy stamp.
Rgbstock – Free Photos from Pro Photographers
Rgbstock is a website giving away over 100,000 stock photos for free. It’s a 2010 creation of a group of amateur photographers and graphic artists, lead by Jay Simmons, who know their way around image licensing. The library –built on the base of files submitted by users that are reviewed for quality standards– spans across multiple popular and evergreen topics, mixing artsy shots with more commercial pictures.
License Details: They have a custom license that grants free usage for commercial work, and restrictions similar to royalty-free images: a sensitive use clause and a prohibition to use photos in products for resale. They warn about the requirement for model releases and other important legal stuff, but they disclaim it’s up to you to check for them.
- The photos have a professional and very commercial style, and there's enough variety to cover most users’ needs. They provide direct messaging to each contributing photographer regarding releases and uses that exceed Rgbstock’s license
- Overall the collection could be a bit more modern. And the fact it’s a contributor-based system is not the best for free photos
Rgbstock has been around for a long time, it’s managed by people who know the industry, and has very useful photos available. Their custom license is safer than a generic one, and while it’s true that user submissions are not the safest practice, having a way to communicate with each copyright owner directly makes everything not only easier but also more legitimate.
Good Stock Photos – Cool Free Photos with Editorial Feel
Good Stock Photos is a website that offers over 1000 high-quality photos totally free to download and use. They’re all shot and owned by Steven Ma, a web designer and marketer who is also the founder of his own design firm, SparkFlow. While totally suitable for commercial use, the collection has a strong editorial influence, with a mix of everyday life situations, social media-inspired shots, travel and landscapes, urban scenes, and more.
License Details: He uses a custom license that grants free usage in commercial projects, only restricting the selling of the photo as-is, uncrediting compiling and/or redistributing.
- There’s an interesting mix of topics, styles and perspectives. It makes for a good source of photos for a blog post!
- Albeit good quality and visually cool, not all images have a remarkable commercial value
Good Stock Photos is exactly what its name promises. The small library is full of very good shots, even if not all of them would suit a commercial project. The fact they're all owned by the site's founder, mostly don't portray recognizable people, and are offered under a custom license makes them very safe to use as well!
StockSnap.io – Free Images in Current Styles
StockSnap.io is a free stock image site by entrepreneurs Christopher Gimmer and Marc Chouinard, also developers of graphic design tool Snappa. In StockSnap io they give away tens of thousands of high-resolution images covering various popular subjects in an authentic, modern and very trendy style. The library is built on the base of user submissions, and all photos are free.
License Details: They use Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes
- How current the photos are, suitable for social media and blogging as well as for advertising and other commercial uses
- Crowdsourced images and CC license isn't the best combination
Fancy Crave – Curated & Trendy Free Photo Packs
Commercial photographer Igor Ovsyannykov owns Fancy Crave, a website where he offers his and other professional photographers‘ images free to download and use. This catalogue has thousands of files all tightly curated and arranged in themed packs, with a strong focus in travel photography and in general a very modern style and professional appeal. The site also upsells premium packs.
License Details: All photos are under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes including a sensitive use clause. The contract also disclaims the need to clear additional rights for commercial use (model releases, property releases, etc.)
- The modern aesthetics and the dedicated curation. Very useful when you're after specific themes or looking for inspiration
- CC0 license and user submissions. It's just not the best option in our view, legal-safety speaking
Given the site owner is a commercial photographer we know he knows his business, and his own images are available, factors that add an important dose of reliability. But it's still a CC0-based offer, and user submissions are included albeit coming from photographers. It's a very cool site, just need to be careful with the license coverage.
ISO Republic – A Free Stock Photo Library for your Every Need
If you look for websites with collections of free stock high-res photos about popular subjects, you need to know ISO Republic. Founded in 2014 by photographer Tom Eversley, this site is currently run by a small team and provides thousands of good quality images to download and use, free of charge.
- It is a varied selection that mixes more traditional stock photography shots with more artsy and trendy pictures, there's something for everyone
- CC0 + user submissions. Like peanut butter and guacamole, they taste well separated but mixing them is not a good idea
Startup Stock Photos – Modern Business Photos Free
Startup Stock Photos is a free stock photo site offering as the name gives away, high-quality photos focused on the subjects of startups, small businesses and entrepreneur community, all with an authentic style that shows diversity and realness. It's owned by social media marketing agency Sculpt and most of the images –which are free to use– are produced by three artists involved in the website and agency.
License Details: Photos are under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage in commercial projects
- It's great to have a collection dedicated to such a current topic as startups and entrepreneurial environments, with the plus of diversity and natural-like style
- The site is very basic, there's no search engine and it can get a bit hard to find something specific here
Images on this site are super useful for today's visual needs and also very trendy. The license used isn't the safest, but with most of the images being produced in-house it's a lot safer than you would think.
MMT Stock – Curated Nature and Workspace Free Images
Created by designer and photographer Jeffrey Betts, MMT Stock displays thousands of his own royalty free photographs made available for free download and use in creative projects, including commercial ones. Topics like nature and workspaces are predominant, and there's a notable absence of photos of people, though the curation level is excellent.
License Details: These Creative Commons Zero (CCo) photos – Free usage for commercial purposes
- It's a high-end selection of images and the dedicated curation is visible. Plus, the bonuses: free videos and a cool wallpaper creation tool you can access from every image with just one click
- Photos of people are the most valuable topic of all times. Sure they are more risky to use for free (due to model releases) but the lack of them limits the usefulness of this site
No lifestyle images is a down, but truth be told MMT has lots of high-resolution images that are ideal for commercial-intended designs. Even more, the CC0 license adds a veil of safety given all images are owned by the man who gives them away on his own site. So why not to benefit from them?
FoodiesFeed – Free High-Resolution Photos of Food
FoodiesFeed is, as its name hints, a free stock photo site offering photos of food. Over a thousand of them. This is the work of food photographer Jakub Kapusnak, and the online library includes images of his authorship as well as user-submitted content, all for free.
License Details: They have Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license – Free usage for commercial purposes
- The photos are high resolution, super current and varied within the topic. It's great to have a free source for food images!
- CC0 license and user submissions should not mix. And the site has lots of ads that can get a bit annoying
FoodiesFeed is perfect for food bloggers, social media posts, businesses, and anyone needing trendy food photos for free. The licensing model isn't the best, and of course, the site owner's images are safer than the rest. But given there's no people or brands in any image, the risk is reduced and the benefits are large.
Freerange – Free Stock Photo for Every Topic
Freerange is a free stock photo site providing a large library with thousands of images available to download and use for free. Some of these photos are produced in-house, and some are submitted by users. The selection spans a lot of current and sought-after topics.
License Details: There's two: 1. Equalicense, a licensing model enabling free usage for commercial purposes that is a bit more controlled than Creative Commons and forbids the use of the file in products for resale as well as mass distribution. 2. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial purposes
- There are lots to choose from, it's a varied library with galleries and collections to explore
- Not all are high-quality images, and we don't know much about who runs the site
This is a good, decent offer in free stock photos. Their in-house produced images are of course much safer. But the fact they have user submitted images under CC0 license, many of them of recognizable people, and they don't disclose much about who's behind the site, means it's mandatory to double and triple check all rights before using their images.
StockVault – Technically Optimal Photos for Free
A free photo site with a big collection of over 110,000 images on the most varied topics. That's StockVault. Crowdsourcing photos from users around the globe, they offer this large library for free download and use for any creative purpose.
License Details: contributing users select one of three available licenses. 1. Commercial license (free usage for commercial purposes). 2. Non-commercial license (free for personal and editorial use only). 3. Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – free usage for commercial purposes.
- There's plenty of files to choose from, the image quality is good since they review submissions for technical quality
- Choosing between three different licenses isn't practical, and not all images are available for commercial use
Big free photo libraries are great because you have most of what you'll need in one place. But in the case of StockVault, there's not a lot of info about who runs the site. So when you factor it's all user-submitted content, there are different license types, and they only review technically but not for legal status, the result is you need to be careful when you use these images in commercial projects.
Styled Stock – Free Photos in Feminine Style
Styled Stock is a small collection of free photos with a defined feminine style. With just a little over 100 images, most of them are flat lays and desktop shots with a very modern, clean and minimalist concept. It's not very clear who runs the site or who owns the photos, but it is clear they are free to download and use in commercial projects.
License Details: Free usage for commercial purposes – No attribution required – Copyright still held by the author/owner
- The photos are simple yet elegant and versatile, ideal for feminine concepts, and there are cool advanced features like a colour filter
- It's a very, very small collection and there's really not a lot of info about it
A selection of free photos as specific as this can be very helpful when it's exactly what you're looking for. for that we love it. But the fact there's virtually no information of who is licensing these photos and who owns the copyright, they aren't very safe for commercial use, at least not at first glance: you will need to check them with due diligence before using them.
New Old Stock – Vintage & Historic Images Free
Product designer Cole Townsend created New Old Stock on Tumblr a few years ago to offer his curation of great vintage and historic photography. Right now he has around 1500 files available for free, that he handpicks and aggregates from Flickr Commons listed institutions such as various museums around the world, NASA, etc. All these photos are free to download and use.
License Details: Public Domain (no known copyright) – It's subject to Flickr Commons terms, and each institution sets their own permissions. Not all images are allowed for commercial use, some require a link back
- Historically relevant and appealing vintage images have lots of possible creative uses and having someone curating them from larger archives is a plus
- Image quality is sometimes affected, and having to check each photo's licensing terms and permitted uses is a bit of a pain
The public archives available online are huge, so there's a lot of value in a selection of images curated by a knowledgeable person. No known copyright and historical means the photos are a lot safer to use commercially. However, the inconvenience in the variable licensing options and the fact these are all coming from existing archives washes some of that value.
Skitterphoto – Ecclectic Selection of Free Stock Images
Founded by a group of enthusiast photographers, Skitterphoto is a website that offers free stock photos of high quality on a plethora of styles and subjects. Sourced from the site founders as well as user submissions –which are guided on copyright and other rights needing clearance, and reviewed for technical quality–, these thousands of files are ready to be downloaded for free.
License Details: Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – free usage for commercial purposes
- How eclectic the collection is, blending in commercial-like shots with artistic images and the occasional unique, edgy picture
- CC0 and user submitted photos, ingredients of a not-so-good recipe in image licensing
It's clear Skitterphoto has valuable images, made with love for the art of photography. But legally-wise there are some concerns. Naturally, site owners' photos are safer to use, but identifying them is difficult. User submissions, albeit warned on legal matters, are only reviewed for quality, leaving you to check and confirm their legal status before using them in commercial work.
NegativeSpace – Trendy, High-Quality Free Images
NegativeSpace is a simple website with lots of free stock images of various topics and styles. These photos are gathered from contributors after a process of portfolio submission and image review and are of very good quality for professional use.
License Details: Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – Free usage for commercial projects
- The current, trendy concepts and variety of subjects, the detailed image approval process that grants content quality
- CC0 license for user-submitted images that are not reviewed for legal validity, the lack of info about site owners
Speaking solely about photography NegativeSpace is very good, you're likely to find valuable shots for your designs. But legally-wise, for commercial work, they aren't the safest of choices. They work with CC0 license and user submitted images, and we don't really know much about them as to rest assured, so you must do a background check for photos yourself.
BONUS: Moose Stock Photos & Photo Collage Editor
Moose Stock Photos is a free image collection by icons8, a company that creates media and UX elements and sells them under a freemium model. What's interesting about their offer is they give you transparent cutouts of models and objects, image backgrounds and fonts, that you can layer up to “create your own stock photo” with a composition that meets your needs. All this can be easily done with their web-based, free photo creator tool which is very user-friendly, and they own all the media available on their library.
License Details: There are two options. 1. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-ND 3.0) that allows commercial use for free but requires to include a link back to their website, and works only for PNG/JPEG files. 2. A paid license that lets you access to PSD files.
- The innovative photo collage concept that enables creative freedom, the easy to use photo editor and the honesty of the company's proposition, the fact they also have an API and additional media like icons and audio tracks
- Their collection is somewhat limited, a link attribution is not something everyone wants on their final design, and Creative Commons is not the safest license around
This is a site offering something very different than most other free photo providers offer. The novelty of having all the elements of stock photos available separately to create your own composition, with a simple tool, and for free, is certainly attention-grabbing. The fact the company is made up of a team of experts in the media, design and development fields, and while they use a CC license, the fact that they own all the elements they share with the public, makes them a much safer source for free photos than others.
BONUS: Picspree – Free, Professional Photos for Every Concept
Picspree is a young free stock photo resource, but it’s backed by one of the most renowned companies in the industry, Getty Images. Their site features a large and growing catalogue of high-res photos, plus illustrations and vectors, across various evergreen topics –though photos of people are less frequent–, all free to download and use in personal or commercial projects. Images are sourced from their own contributors and available under a custom, free use license. The library includes and up-sells premium imagery from iStock –also property of Getty Images.
License Details: Custom license – Perpetual, worldwide, unlimited and unrestricted use. No attribution required. However, the site warns you might need extra permissions from artists, brand owners, models, etc. to use the images commercially.
- The selection of images is very fresh and professional, these photos you can use in your graphics without many edits needed.
- Lifestyle images –photos of people– are a minority in the collection. It makes sense for legal safety but limits the usefulness of the service. Also, the license terms are a bit vague.
While new sites aren’t the safest, this one is partnered with one of the most prestigious names in the stock photo industry so it’s a lot more reliable than most. The library has the quality and variety to serve multiple purposes, and though the license isn’t as detailed as one wishes, it’s custom and so a bit better than a generic CC agreement.
BONUS: Free Photos from Stock Photo Agencies
In terms of safety for commercial use, nothing compares to Royalty-free stock images. These photos have been carefully reviewed and verified for both quality and legality by knowledgeable staff at the professional stock photo agencies that sell them. But did you know you can access some of these uber safe, totally cool images for free?
Here we collected quick guides to obtain free photos from some of the best stock photo sites on the web. Just click on the item you want to see how to get them!
Free Stock Photo Websites and The Catch You Must Know About
As the expression goes, nothing beats free. This is as true for stock photography sites as it is for any other case. Website designers, graphic designers, marketing creatives, bloggers, visual artists, business owners, non-profit organizations… when they (and you) need high-resolution images but can't pay for them, it's only logical to try and get them for free. Even when you can afford paid royalty-free stock photos, it's hard to resist a free deal. But the truth is the ways to get yourself some cool pictures which are not stock photography without paying are more dangerous than you imagine, legally-wise, especially if you're intending to use them in commercial endeavours.
Say No To Google-Found Photos
When looking for free photos online, the common man’s first thought would be a Google search. Mistake! Google is merely an aggregator that displays images available on the web, they do not own the copyright of any of them so they are in no power to grant you their use. Moreover, when you run a Google image search most of the first results are paid ads by pro stock photography sites, or otherwise photos under licenses forbidding free use. So this quick and dirty method for free photos can lead to all sorts of problems down the line, including possible litigation. You can read more about the tragedies that can occur in our article explaining 5 dangers of using Google Images without permission.
The Unsuspected Catch in Free Photo Download Websites
There are those that know that if it sounds too good to be true it normally is, and will resort to the first free stock photo download site that pops up on their screen. These are apparently harmless, as photos are licensed and everything in them screams they're good to use.
And that's the catch: appearance is one thing, the reality is another. Free photos from dedicated sites are certainly waived for free usage under a form of Creative Commons, Public Domain or similar license. But that is not enough to make them safe to use in commercial work. If no one checks the images' legal background and there's any irregularity… then guess what: you'll be in trouble just as if you had right-click downloaded a photo from Google images.
If you like options, you can check out our massive list of the Best Stock Photo Sites with 20 options in stock photo agencies! If you are ready to purchase – go check out our guide where to buy stock photos, but not before reviewing the top 10 most downloaded images in 2018 from top stock photo agencies to help you know what kind of photos you should definitely buy! Check out our guide for the best medical stock photo agencies as well. Check out our vintage photos and historical stock photos here and find trending stock images in our photography trends.
If you've never used stock photos before, make sure to read our beginners guide to Royalty-free stock photos from beginning to end! We also have several rebates and exclusive coupon codes like our Shutterstock coupon code or this iStock promo code here. There is also a new Shutterstock Free Trial here which will let you download 10 image free within a month.
What is a Creative Commons License
Most websites offering free Royalty-Free stock photos work with Creative Commons (commonly represented by its stands, CC), a non-profit organization that developed various licensing agreements for intellectual property that allow artists –including photographers and graphic designers– to make their work available for others to use, free of charge, but with regulations.
There are six variants of Creative Commons license. Creative Commons Zero (CC0 for short) is one of the most popular and widely used by free stock photo websites because it's the one with fewer copyright restrictions. The other CC contracts have various degrees of limitations. Some are only for non-commercial purposes, others require credit the artist and/or linking back to them in online uses, for example.
Despite restrictions or lack thereof, CC photos are basically Royalty-free images that come at no cost but you're using them with permission from the owner.
The Latent Risk in CC License for Commercial Projects
We told you above that CC photos can still get you in trouble. The reason for that is very simple, but not so clear at first glance. If there's a Creative Commons license agreement in place, that means you've been given the authorization to use the photos in your work… right? Well, not necessarily. And that's the problem.
The license is only valid when the legal copyright owner grants it. Most free photo websites are middlemen who let users submit pictures and tend to run on the low-maintenance end, meaning they don't police or verify submissions. Nothing stops random users uploading photos they don't own, so you might very well end up with a photo which license is invalid.
There's more. Every person is legally the owner of their own likeness. So photos depicting recognizable people must include a legal rights-waiving document (known as “model release”) where the persons portrayed agree to have their image used. This same principle applies to private property, which includes brands, logos, trademarked designs, and even some famous landmarks and buildings. Should the photo you chose not have these releases in place, you would be infringing on various people's rights.
Find Your Match Amongst the Best Free Stock Photo Sites
That was our titanic list of the best and safest free stock photo offers around the web. With different levels of legal safety, image quality and commercial value, each one of these sites have something to offer that you should consider. If you like paid options, you can check out our massive list of the Best Stock Photo Sites with 20 options in stock photo agencies!
Be it a library covering an array of evergreen themes and trends, or specific collections around a subject or purpose, you are certain to find the right option for you to download awesome free stock photos that you can use in commercial work safely.
Which ones are you trying first? Do you know a site we haven't listed? Drop us a comment and we'll review it!