How to Find Non Copyright Images Online (+ Safer Alternative!)

Looking for images with no copyright to use in your creative endeavors? You’ve come to the right place. 

We will not only tell you exactly where to find no-copyright image libraries, but also explain some aspects of non-copyrighted images you might not be aware of, and give you an awesome list of alternatives that are better than no copyright images for commercial use! 

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Non Copyright Images: No Owner, No Cost

Non-copyrighted images are those that not subject to copyright; they don’t have a legal owner. Be it because the author photographer is unknown, the author’s rights have expired, or the author voluntarily ceded their rights, non copyright photos belong to everyone.

More info: How copyright works in stock photography

Non copyright images are also free to use, anywhere you want, from personal use like social media and scrapbooks to commercial use like marketing and advertising.

Risks in No-Copyright Photos You Might Not Know About

Before you leap at the chance of using these stock images without having to pay anything, there are a few legal risks within them that you must be aware of, especially if you intend to use stock photography in commercial-related visuals –such as branding or promotion–. 
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How could there be legal dangers when the photos have no owner, you may ask? That’s precisely why they are dangerous… because they’re hidden. But here they are, exposed: 

  • They might not be legally non-copyright – Say what? Yes. One of the ways images become copyright-free is when they are ceded into the public domain. But it can happen that whoever ceded the image wasn’t the legal copyright holder (usually that would be the photographer that shot the picture), thus has no legal right to donate it. 
  • Models might not consent to the use – Every person included in the image must agree to have their likeness used, by signing a model release document. If releases aren’t in place, you could find yourself in legal trouble. This also applies to private property including trademarks, logos, and even protected landmarks. 
  • Endorsement is restricted – They may be free to use, but the direct endorsement is still forbidden even for copyright free images. Meaning you cannot use the photos in a way that explicitly or implicitly suggests the models/the authors are endorsing your product, service, or brand. Especially when you use pictures available through Creative Commons, you need to check if this restriction applies.

More info: 5 dangers of using free photos from the web.

These potential issues get increased when you intend to use the photos for commercial purposes, which includes every visual you create in connection with a profitable activity: adverts, flyers, and packaging, but also social media campaigns, landing pages, even email newsletters, to name a few.

Even more info: 102 expert tips to create marketing visuals

This doesn’t mean you cannot use public domain images in your designs, but it does mean you have to be diligent and vet them to make sure they’re legally safe. 

How to Find No-Copyright Images Easily

Warned about the risks, where to go for downloading non copyright, free stock images? Here are the best shortcuts to find them: 

  • Free photo sites – There are many websites offering large libraries of images you can download and use for free. Not all of them are copyright-free, though. Some require attribution and others not, but they’re all free of charge. See our list with over 27 great free photo sites! It includes sites with Creative Commons Zero CC0 licenses as well as others with custom terms that are overall safer.
  • Google – The go-to search engine actually has a very convenient way to find copyright-free photos. Simply go to the images search, enter your keywords like you normally would, and in the results page go to “Tools”. Next, go to “Usage Rights” and select “creative commons licenses”. Did you know that now there's also a Google image filter for licensable images?
  • Flickr Commons – Image-focused platform Flickr has this project, The Commons, where they collect public domain visual content from multiple organizations, institutions, and individuals. The resulting library is quite big and very useful for educational and documental projects.
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Royalty Free Images: A Safer, High-Quality Alternative

If you would like to keep your design costs at a low, but don’t want to deal with the risks in non copyright images, royalty free stock photos are ideal. 

Royalty Free images are copyrighted, yet licensed through a very flexible agreement: for a small fee, you get to use the image legally in all the designs you want, including commercial-oriented ones, for as long as you wish. Simple as that. 

They are high-resolution photos and suitable for professional use, and they come at very affordable prices. 

More info: Beginners guide to use stock photos

Even more info: Royalty-Free stock images explained + commercial use examples

Where to Find Royalty Free Images for Free or Almost Free

If budget constraints prevent you from buying professional stock photos, you’ll love to learn about these cool ways to get high quality, royalty free photos free of charge, or at such discounted rates that they are almost as good as free! 

Find more deals like this in our complete list of stock photo free trials!

Stock Photo Secrets’ 99Club – Recommended!

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Our Stock Photo Secrets Shop has the ultimate offer for small budgets in our 99Club plan, which gives you 200 image downloads for one whole year for just $99. That equals just $0.49 per image!

Learn more about the 99Club deal 

Get your 99Club plan right now

Shutterstock Free Trial – 10 Free Images 

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Take advantage of this great deal from Shutterstock, which gives you 10 high quality photo downloads to use for one month, totally free. After that, you can cancel your account, or stay subscribed to one of their super affordable stock photos subscriptions!

Shutterstock review

Start your Shutterstock Free Trial right now

Photocase – 5 Free Image Credits + Bonus Discount

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Our exclusive coupon code for Photocase gives you 5 free credits for image downloads, plus a 10% discount on your first purchase. Perfect to test the waters with Photocase’s quirky images!

Photocase review 

Get the Photocase Coupon Code right now 

Adobe Stock Free Trial – 10 Free Images

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The special trial offer from Adobe Stock lets you download up to 10 images of your choice, for 30 days, completely free of charge. After the trial period you can cancel your account, or stay subscribed for a low monthly fee. 

Adobe Stock review

Start your Adobe Stock Free Trial right now

Canva Pro Free Trial – Unlimited Images

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Canva Pro is a full-on design service for businesses, and their Canva Pro Free Trial lets you access all its features, including unlimited image downloads, for one month, for free. After that, you can upgrade to a paid membership or cancel the account. 

Canva Pro review

Start your Canva Pro Free Trial right now

Yay Images – Unlimited Downloads

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Yay Images has a cool Unlimited plan that gives you unlimited downloads of not only images but also videos, plus other perks for businesses, for just $29 a month! 

Get the Yay Images Unlimited Plan right now

Royalty Free > No Copyright Photos

Now you know where to find non-copyrighted images, and you also know what to watch out for when it comes to using them in your work. 

But more importantly, you also learned that royalty free images are a better option in terms of quality and legal safety, so you should definitely opt for them wherever possible. Be it through free trials or super low-priced deals, royalty free images are your best investment in visuals!

Header image: Copyright by Jens Lumm/Photocase.com, all rights reserved

I am Content Manager, Researcher, and Author in Stock Photo Press and its many stock media oriented publications. I am a passionate communicator with a love for visual imagery and an inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. Lucky enough to enter the wonderful world of stock photography working side-by-side with experienced experts, I am happy to share my research, insights, and advice about image licensing, stock photography offers, and the stock media industry with everyone in the creative community. My background is in Communication and Journalism, and I also love literature and performing arts.

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