Free stock photo websites provide the visual content needs of startup entrepreneurs, bloggers, marketers, designers, journalists, and students who barely have the budget for premium photographs.
These image resources are also a good place for photographers and artists to showcase their talent and launch or boost their career.
This comprehensive guide explains image licenses, lists down free stock photo sites, and answers frequently asked questions about copyright.
Before using any stock photo website, it is important to understand the two commonly used licenses: Creative Commons and public domain.
Creative Commons refers to copyright licenses that simplify how content creators assign rights and restrictions to their images.
As this blog post puts it, a Creative Commons license "helps you communicate to the world on how you would want your image to be used."
Here are the six main Creative Commons (CC) licenses and their meaning:
Public domain, also referred to as Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, is a license in which the creator waives all rights to his or her work under copyright laws. This means a public domain image is free for commercial use without attribution and asking permission from the creator.
The stock photo sites listed below offer free photos under the public domain or CC0 license for personal and commercial use, unless specified otherwise. This list also includes free stock photo aggregators and resources for historical and art images.
The "1 million" refers to the website's goal: to put 100 amateur photos daily into the public domain for the next 30 years, for a total of 1,095,000.
An easy way to get free high-resolution photos, ABSFreePic.com does not require any registration, attribution, and permission to use its images.
All images here are licensed under CC BY 2.0, so giving proper credit to the photographer is required.
AllTheFreeStock.com is a digital library of images from various free stock photo websites, including EveryPixel, Pixabay, and Unsplash.
A great resource for historians and genealogists, this free image archive features over 35,000 prints, portraits, maps, and artifacts from the 17th to 19th century. All images are free for non-commercial use only, requiring a link back to the website.
This is a photo collection of different bird, mammal, primate, and rodent species. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 or CC BY-SA 2.0, each image on Animal Photos! requires attribution.
Home to over 150,000 free stock images, AVOPIX allows downloading a picture without registration.
This site contains free high-resolution photos from Bara Cross, a designer based in Brno, Czech Republic.
The creators of Barnimages, Latvian photographers Igor Trepeshchenok and Roman Drits, provide "non-stock" photos that redefine stock photography. Although their images are free for personal and commercial use, they are not under the CC0 license, which means the copyright belongs only to the photographer.
This free photo site has a sitemap (instead of a search bar) that sorts images according to location and theme. BigFoto offers all photos for commercial use, in return for linking back to the site.
Thai travel blogger Pete Rojwongsuriya has published on his blog 7,000+ pictures shot in over 60 countries worldwide. His travel photos are free for non-commercial use only. Giving appropriate credit and linking back are required when using a photo from the blog.
Created by e-commerce company Shopify, Burst offers thousands of free stock photos that entrepreneurs can use for their websites and marketing campaigns. The images are under the CC0 license or Shopify’s own photo license.
For anyone looking for photos of specific cars, this free automotive photo site is a helpful resource. It sorts photos according to car make (Audi, Chevrolet, Ford, etc.) and licensed under CC BY or CC BY-SA.
A Creative Commons project, CC Search is a repository of over nine million photos from 500px, Flickr, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Europeana, and Rijksmuseum. Some images are public domain; others have CC BY 2.0 license.
Cepolina is a collection of 20,000+ photos shot mostly in America, China, India, and Europe, with themes such as art, nature, food, vehicles, technology, people, and objects.
To access free photos monthly via email, users need to sign up as a member. Death to The Stock Photo has its own image license.
Made for web developers and small design companies, the site's icons, website templates, and vector graphics are free to use under DryIcons' own license, which requires a link back to the site.
Sweden-based Jonas Wimmerström makes his high-resolution photos available under the CC0 license on his free stock photo site.
This site features stock photos with themes such as business, food, architecture, wildlife, and more. Jeshu John, an artist based in Kochi, India, took the photographs.
Dreamstime prides itself in being the world's biggest stock photography community with more than 19 million users and 86 million photos, illustrations, clip arts, and vectors. To download photos, a user needs to register for a free account.
Built by visual and UX designer Daria Nepriakhina, Epicantus has a wealth of high-resolution photos that startups can use for blog posts, mockups, and landing pages.
Europeana allows access to over 50 million digitized artworks, artifacts, and other items with art, music, fashion, photography, and more as themes. The collections come from European museums such as the Louvre and libraries such as the British Library.
Some images can be used for free, as they are released under the CC0 or CC BY-SA license. However, others are copyright-protected and cannot be reused.
Everypixel is a search engine that compiles over 1.5 million images from 22 free stock photo sites, including Pixabay, StockSnap.io, and Picjumbo. It features an image reverse search and customized search filters that allow finding photos based on color, orientation, image type, etc.
Like Everypixel, everystockphoto.com is a search engine for finding free stock images from multiple sources all over the internet. It indexes about 30 million images under 10 free licenses.
Fancycrave helps small businesses, bloggers, designers, digital marketers, and students find suitable photos for their mockups, blog posts, newsletters, and other projects.
This website sources about 10,000 pictures from various free stock photo sites such as Barnimages, Startup Stock Photos, and Unsplash. Photos can be searched by color, category (aerial, bokeh, landscapes, long-exposure, etc.), and source.
This fitness site, with a page dedicated to free stock photos, is ideal for fitness bloggers who need pictures of people exercising and eating healthy.
FoodieFactor collects more than 1,200 free food and drink stock photos and makes them available to everyone, especially food bloggers.
FoodiesFeed is another free stock food photography resource that food bloggers and enthusiasts must check out. Thousands of mouthwatering, high-resolution food photos can be downloaded for free.
Calling itself as the "most popular public domain stock photo site," Foter offers 335 million free Creative Commons-licensed images with themes such as art, business, nature, and vintage.
Free Images hosts over 350,000 stock photos, mostly of nature, architecture, arts, and animals. To download photos, one has to register for a free membership and sometimes, get permission from the copyright owners or provide an attribution.
Free Nature Stock offers pictures of waters, sunset, mountains, plants, skies, and trees shot by Adrian Pelletier. He adds a new photo almost daily to his free photo site.
This website provides stock images without registration, but the free ones have only a small size (400 x 300 px) and require attribution. Larger versions without attribution can be downloaded for a fee starting at US$ 5.
Spiritual bloggers, small businesses selling Christian merchandise, and churches will find this free stock image site useful. Photo collections include prayer, worship, bible, Easter, Christmas, and men's and women's ministry.
Made by a developer for developers, FreeMediaGoo.com has free stock photos and illustrations on categories such as aviation, beach, food, finance, building, and animals.
This online resource provides easy access to free photos without registration. But it requires giving credit to the photographer and prohibits modifications on images.
A good place to find Creative Commons-licensed photos, FreePhotos.cc collates free images from various sources such as Burst, Little Visuals, and Foodiesfeed for easy preview and download.
Freepik caters to designers who need free photos, vectors, icons, and other graphics for designing websites, banners, and magazines. Most images are free for commercial use. Proper credit must be given to the creator.
All images on this site, licensed under Equalicense, come from Freerange Stock's in-house photographers and contributions from a photography community.
Offering something different from traditional stock photography, Freestocks.org features fresh and updated images captured by its team of photographers and contributors.
With over a thousand photos, this site features mostly travel and home & garden photos. Images are free to download without registration. But to embed a photo on a website, a user needs to sign up for an account.
Over 25,000 high-resolution, copyright-free, and royalty-free photos can be downloaded for free. The site sorts images by location for travel photos and species for plant and animal photos.
A digital marketer and web designer named Steven created this site containing his free stock photos. Each photo has a short yet detailed description.
Gratisography aims to be "the world's quirkiest collection of free high-resolution pictures," offering copyright-free photos that cannot be found elsewhere. Ryan McGuire—an artist, designer, and photographer—founded the site and provided all its photos.
HubSpot is better known as a digital marketing platform, but it also dabbles in free stock photography. Its compilation of 550+ photos, mostly business and holiday-themed, are free to use for marketing campaigns. To access HubSpot's stock photos, one needs to sign up via email.
More than just a stock photo site, IM Free provides web designers, developers, and small businesses with curated images, templates, and icons for website building. Although everything is free for commercial use, attribution is required for some photos.
Another stock photo aggregator on this list, ImageFinder gathers and displays almost 20,000 Creative Commons-licensed images from various free photo sites such as Good Free Photos and Picjumbo.
Thousands of CC0-licensed images are available for creative professionals to download for free. The creators of ISO Republic are the same people behind the stock food photo site FoodieFactor.
Iwaria makes it possible to discover the real Africa through free photos of African people, landscapes, food, and animals.
Although Jay Mantri rarely publishes new photos nowadays, his image archive is still a good source of free travel, landscape, architecture, and food photos.
Prague-based web designer Jan Vašek founded JESHOOTS.com to share free stock photos and mockups for personal and commercial use. Every image comes with descriptive captions.
Created by a graphic designer, website builder, and photographer named Karolina, Kaboompics features over 8,000 free stock images, the most popular of which are related to lifestyle and interior design.
As its name suggests, Large Photos is a resource for anyone who needs high-quality images for large-size printing. The stock photos come from its in-house photographers and contributions from its photography community.
This search engine allows free and quick access to 48,000+ images from popular stock photography websites such as Pexels, StockSnap.io, and Gratisography.
Life of Pix features CC0-licensed, high-resolution photos from its community of photographers. Every week, the site is updated with a new set of stock photos.
Little Visuals' creator passed away in 2013, so the site is no longer updated. Still, it is a great source of stunning landscape photos, captured mostly in England and Germany.
This free stock photo website features beautiful, high-resolution images of nature, cities, people, animals, and more. All photos are licensed under CC0 or CC BY-SA.
MMT is short for Moment, a free stock photography site featuring nature, cities, landscapes, food, and macro shots. The site's creator, New York-based UI/UX designer Jeffrey Betts, captured all the high-resolution pictures.
A photographer named Moni shares her collection of CC0-licensed, high-resolution photos, mostly of nature, architecture, and food. Flatlays, bokeh, and other photography techniques can also be found here.
Morguefile serves as a platform for community-based free photo exchange. It features more than 350,000 free stock images shot by amateur and professional photographers.
Created by Portuguese designer João Pacheco, Moveast is filled with free breathtaking travel pictures shot in various locations, including Portugal, Spain, South Korea, and Indonesia.
This free stock photography site compiles over 500 pictures of people, buildings, animals, flowers, and landscapes.
To improve the representation of black and brown people in media, nappy provides free high-resolution pictures of this underrepresented group. It features black and brown people doing what others normally do—working, eating, traveling, and enjoying hobbies.
The National Gallery of Art has a digital collection of over 5,000 artworks—including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs—that are free to use as long as credit is given to the artist.
This free stock photo website is a platform for photographers to gain exposure for their work by sharing their images under the CC0 license.
New Old Stock is a great source of copyright-free vintage pictures. Each photo comes with a link to the original Flickr post, so the user can check its Creative Commons license.
The online gallery has more than 700,000 digitized art and cultural items from the New York Public Library. To access copyright-free photos, choose “Show Only Public Domain” on the Browse page.
An online image sharing platform, Openphoto.net contains Creative Commons-licensed photos that require attribution to photographer Michael Jastremski.
One of the popular free stock photo websites today, Pexels offers free CC0-licensed images for personal and commercial use.
PhotoPin compiles Creative Commons-licensed photos into one place. Designed for bloggers, the site makes it easy to download photos and give credit to the owner. Each photo is available in a wide range of sizes.
This free stock photography site contains high-quality, public-domain images of animals, nature, people, gadgets, food, and drinks.
The website was born after photographer and designer Viktor Hanacek got rejections from various stock photo sites due to quality issues. Picjumbo now boasts of having millions of downloads since its launch.
Most photos here are landscapes, seascapes, sunset, and architecture. The stock photo site also includes more than 2,000 clip arts and icons.
PicMelon hosts curated copyright-free photos for bloggers and designers. Themes include animals, food and drink, nature, technology, and holidays.
A go-to source of free high-resolution images, Picography features nature, wildlife, and street photography.
One of the most popular free stock photo sites today, Pixabay has more than 1.5 million images, illustrations, and vectors. Users can filter their search according to camera models and photographers. A free registration is required for downloading full-sized images and uploading files.
Pond5, an online marketplace for filmmakers and other content creators, has a page dedicated to free, public domain photos. However, most image sizes for the free versions are rather small.
Hosting over 200,000 CC0-licensed stock photos, Public Domain Pictures allows free access to images with a decent size. Access to full-sized photos requires a registration and a fee.
Rawpixel offers free and paid photos, vectors, and mockups for personal and/or commercial use. Up to 100 images can be downloaded for free in a month. Unlimited downloads cost $5 monthly for personal use and $29 for commercial use.
A catalog of free, high-resolution stock images for personal and commercial use, this site is a great source of nature, architecture, people, and travel photos.
Reshot sets itself apart by providing unique, "non-stocky" photos for editorial and commercial use. The free images come from individual contributors and photography communities.
Launched in 2010, this free stock photo site now has 100,000+ images and 400,000+ registered users. It also has a helpful forum section where people can chat and seek help regarding photography.
StockStash creators aim to provide carefully handpicked free stock photos for personal and commercial use. Every image has a short description that makes identifying its location or items easy.
Australian web designer and photography enthusiast Klaye Morrison shares her photos for free through this stock photo site.
Skitterphoto features captivating shots from two photographers in the Netherlands, Rudy Rudy van der Veen and Peter Heeling.
The CC0-licensed, high-resolution photos from Skuawk come in themes such as landscape, business, people, music, and sports. They can be downloaded for free without registration.
Cyprus-based graphic designer and photographer Kirill M shares his photos and illustrations that are free for personal and commercial use.
Snapwire Snaps lets users search for copyright-free stock photos. It also has a paid service where brands, agencies, and companies can request custom visual content for their marketing campaigns.
A search engine for free photos, Splashbase sources images from popular stock photo sites such as Unsplash, Skitterphoto, Gratisography, and MMT.
SplitShire allows easy access to almost 1,000 free stock photos without registration. It features abstract, automotive, fashion, food, street, nature, and other kinds of photography.
This free stock photo site features images of people working, making them suitable for tech startups, websites, and blogs.
Built by web designer and developer Steve Benjamins, Stock Up aggregates almost 30,000 stock photos from 30+ free photo sites, including Burst, Free Nature Stock, and JESHOOTS.com.
With more than 100,000 free stock photos, this website gets stills from the HD videos of its parent site VideoBlocks.com and high-resolution pictures from professional photographers.
A well-known resource in the stock photography world, StockSnap.io features an easy-to-use search function and a huge collection of high-quality images.
This site collects and displays more than 120,000 free stock photos, vectors, and graphics by and for photographers, designers, and students. The images are released under a public domain, commercial, or non-commercial license.
Photographer Ed Gregory makes his shots available for personal and commercial use through his stock photo site. A few images are licensed under CC0, while the rest carry Stokpic's own license with several restrictions.
Like New Old Stock, StreetWill.co offers free vintage photos, mostly of people, buildings, landscapes, and seascapes.
Featuring chic and girly images, Styled Stock caters to female entrepreneurs who need stylish stock photos for their business website or blog. Most of the free images show beauty products and fashion items.
This site is a great source of stunning, high-resolution travel photos from across the world. They are all free for personal and commercial use.
This website showcases free stock photos by Magnus Jälthammar that he hardly ever uses.
As the name implies, the stock photos, vectors, and videos on Unrestrictedstock.com are copyright-free and royalty-free.
Unsplash has more than half a million high-quality stock photos—with more added daily—from over 90,000 photographers.
Visual Hunt curates 300,000+ Creative Commons-licensed and 100,000+ public-domain stock photos from various online sources such as Flickr.
Wikimedia Commons has one of the biggest stock photo collections, with more than 49 million free media files from contributors worldwide.
With about 100,000 photos from the California State University IMAGE Project, the WorldImages database is a valuable resource for students and faculty. Because the images are under the CC BY-NC 2.5 license, they are free for educational and non-commercial use with proper attribution.
Copyright is a legal protection that provides the rights of a creator to an original work. Copyright laws exist in many countries to protect their citizens' intellectual property.
The creator may file a lawsuit and demand monetary damages against liable parties due to copyright infringement.
For any violation of image copyright, the following people are usually held liable:
Just because an image is licensed under the public domain does not mean its use has no limits. Selling public domain pictures is one of them.
Other restrictions on public domain or CC0-licensed image use include the following:
Even Creative Commons has no clear-cut guidelines on what constitutes commercial use. It just states that images with non-commercial licenses cannot be used for "commercial advantage or monetary compensation."
It is best to ask the copyright holders or free stock photo website owners to clarify what they allow when using their image commercially.