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Where To Find FREE Stock Photos For Your Blog & Niche Sites

By Chris Lee 57 comments

stock photosOne of the most frequently asked questions I get is: “Where can I find free stock photos for my blog or niche site?”

There are hundreds of stock photo websites around the web, and just as many “lists” compiling all of them in one place.

But there’s one problem: They’re usually a list of any and EVERY stock photo site on the web.

But most of the sites that offer free images are:

1. Full of low quality photos.
2. Mixed in with paid options with confusing licensing options, leaving you unsure about which ones you can actually take risk-free.

As a result, this list is going to be different. Instead of making this the biggest list of resources, I’m filtering out everything to only provide you with the best and most reliable resources… the ones where you can actually use the photos for free (without confusion).

Photo usage on the internet

I’m sure everyone knows by now that you can’t just take an image off of any website and use it on your own site. Usually, you probably won’t be caught. But it does put you at risk to receiving a cease and desist/bill/DMCA or in the worst case… being sued.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty about the legal issues of using copyrighted photos here because that’s a topic that’s been covered heavily already by more authoritative sources.

So without further ado, here’s a list of the best possible FREE resources you can start using + some guidance on how to use them.


1. Google Advanced Image Search

This will be your best bet for finding images of any kind for most niches.

This should be common sense knowledge, but I’ll just say it for reminder: You can’t just do a Google image search and take any ol’ image and slap it on your site. It’s like playing slots. Pick one that’s being monitored for unauthorized usage, and pay the price.

However, Google’s image search has gotten a lot more sophisticated over the years.

You can search solely for images that are free to use.

Just enter your keyword.

google images

And remember to filter it by the proper usage right.

google advanced image search

Go to Google


2. Stock.xchng

This company was bought by Getty Images, so will re-direct to a new URL (freeimages.com). However, everything still remains the same.

You might have heard of this website before. Every photo is free. Unlike other stock photo sites that make it confusing whether you need to buy a license or can simply use it, with Stock.xchang, everything is free to use.

There isn’t a huge selection of free photos depending on the keyword you search for, but they’re all free (and pretty high quality) so who can argue with that?

Just check out this free photo I’ve found searching for photography:

photographer-1436466-640x480Credit: FreeImages.com/Tori Campbell

Not bad!

Attribution: Use of photos from this site requires you to give proper attribution in the format I’ve used above.

You can learn more about their attribution policies under each photo on their website.

license & attribution

To use the photo… You can right click and save as, but it’s better to just create a free account. That will give you options of different sizes by clicking on the download button.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 3.43.40 PM

Go to Stock.xchng


3. Flickr

It’s impossible to leave out Flickr in a list of resources for free photos. It’s got a giant selection of some of the highest quality photos you can find. Not all of them are free to use, but they make it easy to filter them.

You’ll need to create a free Yahoo account before you can start downloading any photos, so do that first.

Once you do, do a search by entering in a few keywords in their search bar.

flickr searches

Next, filter out the list by license type.

You can go straight to the “No Known Copyright Restrictions” option to filter ones that don’t require any type of attribution. However, the list will be a lot smaller.

If you’re fine with giving credit on your page to the photographer, then choose “All Creative Commons”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.13.15 PM

That will show you only a list of images that are free to use, but some will have more restrictions and usage requirements than others.

To find the licensing information of your preferred image, just look here:

flickr license info

In this case, it states that I’m allowed to use the image however I like, may modify it, and may even use it commercially. BUT… I have to give attribution.

So, this is what it would look like:

flickr image exampleCredit: Tom Hall

It’s a great photo, and merely having to place a credit link is more than worth being able to use the photo for free.

Go to Flickr


4. Pexels

Think the top 3 is more than plenty? Think again.

Pexels is one of the newer sites to hit the web and they make things SUPER easy for you. They, too, realized the complications of different copyright licenses.

That’s why… all the photos on their sites are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the photos. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So that attribution is not required.

Pretty awesome, huh?

It gets better.

The site is full of very professional looking photos.

Just look at what I was able to find from looking for football photos:

people-field-crowd-sport

It’s so great to be able to just sift through and download any of the photos on the site knowing that there are no usage documents to read through.

And here’s one from doing a search for sunsets:

nature-sky-sunset-man

Compare that to the Flickr one I had above.

This site is just so great, and I’m so glad I found it. They even offer free stock videos too!

Go to Pexels


5. Gratisography

This site doesn’t have a giant database of photos like the other sites that were mentioned so far. However, it’s super easy to use the photos.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 11.43.31 PM

It’s just a giant scrolling list of photos. They don’t require any attribution. To download and use a photo, just click on one and it will download immediately.

Go to Gratisography


6. Burst

Burst is new to the scene, created by the team at Shopify.

With over 1000 high-quality images, they’re all available under the Creative Commons Zero license so you’re free to use and edit them as you see fit.

All of their images are very professional, like this one:

In addition to all of the fun lifestyle pictures on the site, they have a collection of product photography that follows trending business niches to help entrepreneurs make better products, websites, and marketing campaigns.

They also have a few in-depth case studies around business ideas which come with a set of photos and all the inspiration you need to get started, and more are on the way!

Go to Burst


7. Unsplash

Saving my favorite for last.

Another newer site that makes life super easy. They, too have filtered everything out so that EVERY photo on their site is absolutely free.

They’ve got a larger selection of photos on their site so doing a search will be required to find what you’re looking for.

unsplash search

Again, I did a search for sunset and this is what I found:

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017

Seriously? Completely free, no attribution? This looks like the kind of photo you would see on an advertisement for Gap or something.

And here’s another one:

tuscany

A lot of stock photo sites would sell photos like these for a couple of hundred dollars.

At Unsplash… it’s free.

Go to Unsplash


BONUS: The Noun Project

Thought I would end it off with a resource for icons.

For icons, there’s no better place than The Noun Project. You’ll find just about any icon you need from this website.

They’ve got a huge selection of icons for just about every keyword you search for, and they’re VERY professionally designed.

Here are a few I got back from searching for “web design”

the noun project icon examples

And there are dozens more in the list!

The best part? They’re all free BUT will require attribution. If you don’t want to credit the author, then you can just buy it for $1.99, which is so worth it.

Go to The Noun Project


Conclusion

There are a countless number of stock photo sites on the web, but not many that actually offer high-quality photos for free.

The 7 resources listed above are more than enough to find all the images you will ever need for your niche sites and blogs.

I personally go straight to Pexels and Unsplash first since they usually have the highest quality images.

They’re free, high quality, and best of all… simple to use.

Leave a Reply

57 Comments

  • Reply Jim hunter July 18, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I was doing a Flickr search under Creative Commons once and ran across one with full copyright protection which caught me unawares. Rights usage on all the photos can change so to protect myself, here is what i do.

    When I find a picture i am doing to download,
    1)I create a desktop folder and download the picture to it. The download date shows when it was downloaded. I also take a screenshot of the rights being granted (creative commons attribution, non-deriv, etc) and put that in the same folder. 3) the name of the person to give attribution to goes in the same folder. The folder goes in the notes for the blog post or whatever I am using the image for.
    2) As a result, I can prove that the image had the rights on the date I downloaded and that I gave attribution to the right person.

    I have heard too many stories about the Getty Images letters. And if someone changed their rights after I downloaded to make them more restrictive and I had no proof as to what they were when I downloaded, I’m the one who is hung out.

    I got your report after hearing about it from Jon from BC. good work.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Great extra tip, Jim. That’s going one extra step further to protect yourself. I’ve heard of the Getty Image horror stories, and even read of claims that that’s where they make a lot of their money from… which is just awful.

    • Reply Paul @ Outsprung July 20, 2015 at 4:37 am

      Flickr creative commons is a great place for free pics, i never knew that the rights can be changed, that’s surely a bit unfair if you download when its CC marked.

      In all honesty though most people will never know that an image has been used. There isn’t much in terms of detection and most people uploading stuff to flickr etc are amateur and haven’t got the time to be searching to see whos using their images.

      • Reply Chris Lee July 20, 2015 at 11:08 am

        I believe if you downloaded it when it was cc and they change it, they’re not allowed to do anything about it. It’s just proving it that’s the difficult part if it ever comes to that. Should really never come to that, though.

        • Reply Dan January 17, 2017 at 7:03 am

          Hi Chris,

          happened to me… didn’t print the screenshot then, now when rechecking all the images I checked were copyrighted… would have been hard for me to prove

          Dan

          • Chris Lee January 31, 2017 at 3:23 pm

            Yeah, definitely. If you use the sources above, you won’t have to worry about things like that πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jonathan July 18, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Awesome post, Chris. Loving your blog.

    Can I ask you two tedious questions re: your main niche site?

    Hosting- when you have a site getting close to 1m PV per month, what kind of hosting do you require? Are you still using like Bluehost shared hosting, or do you have a dedicated hosting plan?

    AdSense- you’ve mentioned you have several niche sites. Do you just manage them all under the same AdSense account, or do you have multiple accounts? I thought I read somewhere that Google only allows one account per person.

    Thanks!

    • Reply Chris Lee July 18, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Hey Jonathan, at that point you should go with dedicated, and it’s worth the money at that point.

      Google does only allow one account per person, but you can always use separate accounts other ways like using family member accounts.

  • Reply Tom July 18, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Good list with a few new ones to me.
    I love Flickr, but I find that alot of hard to find images, like for a list post, that have a “NonCommercial” license, which is vague to the point of uselessness. https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/NonCommercial_interpretation

    What’s your take on an AdSense site being “Commercial” or “NonCommercial” use?

    • Reply Chris Lee July 18, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Yeah I know what you mean, I hate all those different license types and the possibility of putting yourself at risk from misinterpreting them.

      I don’t know the legal answer to that question, but I would assume it’s non-commercial as we’re not using their images as part of a paid product.

      • Reply Omar Alaoui @Morocco July 18, 2015 at 6:17 pm

        on flickr. would not be safe just to choose commercial use and allow mods? That’s what I do,

        great post!

        • Reply Chris Lee July 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm

          Good tip. Thanks, Omar.

  • Reply Tom July 18, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Another question, sites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons usually promote using their linking tools for photos, do you ever hotlink the images on your sites, or always self host them?

    • Reply Chris Lee July 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      I usually just host them on my own site.

  • Reply Ouail July 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Awesome post! It’s hard to find great quality pictures, I am currently working on a website so I’m going to look on these site’s.

    Chris, which free wordpress theme do you recommend for a informative website? I am thinking to use optimiser.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks Ouail. Not sure about free wp themes. Any clean and simple theme is good. I usually prefer 2-column themes over 1-column themes, though.

  • Reply Alex Zemkus July 18, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Free is good… to get you going. Great list of sites to find images Chris. Do you also recommend using paid images once you start getting a decent amount of money from your site? I’d imagine when first starting out you have more time than money but then later on as your time becomes more valuable it would be worth it from a time perspective to use a stock site that has greater variety of photos/images, what do you think?

    • Reply Chris Lee July 19, 2015 at 2:02 am

      That’s entirely up to you. These free sites have more than enough options. But if you need a certain type of image that they don’t have then you can go paid.

  • Reply Mickel July 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Great list Chris!
    The website for quality free / royalty free stock photos I use is Pixabay.com.
    Regards,
    Mickel

    • Reply Chris Lee July 19, 2015 at 2:01 am

      Nice! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Sophy July 18, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I always use pexels.com for high quality to design my wordpress theme.

    Thank Chris that share this post

    • Reply Chris Lee July 19, 2015 at 2:01 am

      Cool, thanks for reading Sophy.

  • Reply Paul July 19, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Chris, thanks for the suggestions.

    TheStocks is one that I use, it includes Pexels, Gratisography, Pixabay and more similar sites,
    You might find it a useful addition to the list.

    http://thestocks.im/

    • Reply Chris Lee July 19, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Wow, looks good. Thanks for the share, Paul!

  • Reply Adrian July 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Nice list. I download all photos from Google Images just without watermark.

    I never had any problem.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 19, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      Nice!

      • Reply Carli March 9, 2017 at 7:08 am

        I aprpeciate you taking to time to contribute That’s very helpful.

        • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 11:55 am

          πŸ˜€

  • Reply Purwanto July 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Thank you, very useful. Pixabay.com also good.

    • Reply Chris Lee July 19, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Cool, thanks for the suggestion.

  • Reply Theodore Nwangene July 22, 2015 at 10:01 am

    A very nice collection of resources you’ve got here Chris,
    Using good images on your posts is very very advisable and I’m surprise why some people still finds it hard to understand this.

    An image they say speaks a thousand if not a million words and when you use good and eye catchy ones, it will not only beautify your post but will also boost its social sharing.

    I’ve come to discover that articles with relevant images tends to perform much more than the ones without images and this is one of the main reason why everyone should start using it.

    I first heard of Gratisography from Quick Sprout and i like it because it doesn’t require you to give credit which can really be a time saver.

    Will take time to check out the rest.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Reply Chris Lee July 22, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      Great points, Theodore! If you liked Gratisography, you’ll love Pexels and Unsplash πŸ™‚

  • Reply Richard Betnay July 23, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    All very useful! Here are a few more free good-quality photo sites: kaboompics.com, uhdwallpapers.org, skitterphoto.com and cupcake.nilssonlee.se

    • Reply Chris Lee July 23, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Richard.

    • Reply John August 3, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Nice. Let me add openfotos.com as another option.

      • Reply Chris Lee August 3, 2015 at 5:10 pm

        Nice add! Thanks, John.

  • Reply Bob August 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Hi,
    Great article as info. Please also check out http://www.goodfreephotos.com for thousands of unique public domain photos, especially travel photos. Appreciate it if you could add it to your list of sites. Thanks.

    • Reply Chris Lee August 7, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      Nice. Thanks for sharing, Bob.

  • Reply Michael September 11, 2015 at 3:44 am

    great list…

    but you miss a website that always use to find a great photo.

    Check pixabay.com.

    The amazing of this site, all images have free attribution license.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 11, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Nice share. Thanks, Michael.

  • Reply J Fripp October 4, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Hello Chris, an other great post, I just become a fan of your blog.

    2 question here:

    a) Have you any certainty that using images in an Adsense blog improve the CTR?

    a) In your Adsense blog do you use images like the one in this post I mean, same size and position?

    Thanks in advance for your replay πŸ™‚

    • Reply Chris Lee October 5, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      Hey, not always. Images make your content more engaging and improves readability.

      Yeah, I do use images similar to this. Some sites have a large feature image at the top rather than floated to the right.

  • Reply Image Finder December 20, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    You can also check our site http://imagefinder.co to find tons of free stock photos from various sources.

    • Reply Chris Lee December 21, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Oliver December 25, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you for the site list of free stock photos.

    I’m wondering if I like an image from shutterstock and it’s not free, and I can find that image elsewhere for free from torrent, or other websites. My question is can I use it on my website?

    How does shutterstock knows who their buyers websites? I mean even it’s not legal but they are not gonna find out right?

    Thanks

    • Reply Chris Lee December 28, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      There are a few different ways, such as reverse image searching, water marking, and even image search engines built specifically to find unauthorized use. I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of.

      A lot of the time, you probably won’t get caught. But if you do, it can cost 4-figures in legal fees as well as 4-figures to pay them off for the usage. That’s if they let it go lightly.

      • Reply Wendy January 13, 2016 at 1:17 pm

        I have heard some folks are capturing any image they want off anyone’s webpage by just using an image capturing feature like PrtSc on your computer. Open the whole image and crop what you want. This way there is no detection (unless you name the photo the exact same thing or keep the logo on the pic). Is this true? What are your thoughts!

        • Reply Chris Lee January 13, 2016 at 2:09 pm

          Not exactly sure what technology their using to find it, but I had a friend who had cropped a tiny bit of background out of a getty stock photo and got caught.

  • Reply Primera January 4, 2016 at 3:35 am

    There are also:
    http://www.thelightpaintersloft.com
    http://www.barnimages.com

    • Reply Chris Lee January 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing Primera.

  • Reply Wendy January 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Here is a compiled list of the free image sites above:

    thelightpaintersloft.com
    barnimages.com
    imagefinder.co
    pixabay.com
    goodfreephotos.com
    kaboompics.com
    uhdwallpapers.org
    skitterphoto.com
    cupcake.nilssonlee.se
    thestocks.im
    unsplash.com
    gratisography.com
    pexels.com
    videos.pexels.com
    flickr.com
    freeimages.com
    google.com/advanced_image_search?hl=en

    Thanks to all.

  • Reply Imer Imran September 18, 2016 at 3:30 am

    Hi Chris
    Wow! Seems great helpful list of a free stock photo source. From the list, I like pixels and would like to add Pixabay as another great option.

    As always, a fantastic post.

    Imer

    • Reply Chris Lee September 21, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Nice, thanks again Imer πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kuk September 28, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    As a blogger i know it is necessary to insert qulaity images in articles aprt from flickr all are new to me. thanks for sharing

    • Reply Chris Lee October 4, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      No problem πŸ™‚

  • Reply Sienna Eskildsen March 7, 2017 at 5:36 am

    Royalty free images can have different licenses. Wikimedia Commons and Creative Commons can be good place to find images that you can use commercially.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 11:50 am

      Thanks for chipping in Sienna!