Historic and vintage photos have so much character and, certainly, tell some amazing stories. From the launch of the forever-doomed Titanic to the hells of war captured on film, there are some amazing vintage and historical images that you can buy and use for your creative projects from many different stock photo agencies.
While some are already in the public domain, i.e., you can easily download and use Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” with the right attribution and copyright because it’s in the public domain, there are some images that are now available without a license and permission.
If you want to buy a physical archival historical photo, check out IMS Vintage Photos.
Often, some of these older pictures have gotten to the point where they are placed in the public domain, meaning that they have no known copyright and are available to everyone for use. You cannot assume that they are public domain, as each source may have a different set of terms, but many are available without copyright if you look just hard enough.
But if you’re looking for a specific photo a client needs, then these stock photo agencies will be your best bet in finding those rare historic and vintage photos you can’t get anywhere else. Some are free because they’ve now entered the public domain, or they are offered by the U.S. Library of Congress, and some will cost you something to use, so make sure you always find copyright information and how you can use these images before putting them into use for a client or one of your projects.
- The Getty Images Archival photos is a vast collection of vintage and historical photos that range from political movements of the 1930s to present-day photos of celebrities and political figures. The Getty Image Archive also has collections from Time and Life magazines, and historical images created in the early 1800s to the present day with their Hulton Archive. It also has the Retrofile collection, unique stock imagery from the 1930s to 1970s of authentic photos from the past. From pictures of Ernest Hemingway drinking vodka to the birth of Punk Rock in England, the Getty Image archive is one of the most extensive and rare collections of vintage photos that can’t be found anywhere else. Read our Getty Images review here.
- IMS Vintage Photos – physical archival photos.
All the photographs they sell are authentic historical documents, true collectibles, 30–100 years old. They come from archives all over the world and cover every subject. In most cases, they will also have stamps, which include details such as the publishing date. Own a fantastic piece of history, a true rarity – add to your collection, frame it, and enjoy it in your home, or give it as a fabulous gift! Get a physical vintage print now!
There are also some other stock photo agencies where you can do a photo search for historic and rare vintage photos, but the resources mentioned above will yield you the best results when it comes to finding historic and vintage stock photos.
Search results also bring up historic and vintage photos at Stockphotos.com, Pixmac, 123rf, Shutterstock, and Flickr. Many independent websites beyond those mentioned here provide historic and vintage photos. Digging through each of the websites is half of the fun. These photos are so interesting and, if appropriate, would be a great addition to your project due to the character and significance of each photo.
Images from the past, whether they are historic or just vintage shots of the past, there are some amazing stock photos out there that you will instantly recognize once you see them. Most people think they might be able to just use them freely because the images are so old, and they think the copyright is in the public domain already, but it is better to err on the side of caution. You don’t want to find an invoice from Getty or Corbis for hundreds or even thousands of dollars for using their copyrighted photos without permission.
It is your responsibility to make sure that any vintage and historical photos you use are okay to use and to contact the copyright owner to make sure that you can, otherwise, you are using someone else’s content illegally. So don’t get the law after you, instead, take the time and do your due diligence to make sure you are A-OK before using them in your projects.