We’re not all great photographers – and even if we were, we wouldn’t all have the opportunities to get the perfect shot of every scene we’d like to use. Stock photos come in really handy at those times, and it can be worth the little bit you have to spend for an awesome photo. But did you know that there are also lots of really high-quality, free stock photos available to use in your web or print projects?
A web search for “free stock photos” will provide plenty of sites that offer free photos, and I’ll provide a short list of some that I like at the end of this article. I’m going to talk about a few of my favorites first.
Whenever I’m looking for a photo, I almost always start with Pexels. I’m not sure why, other than I think the name is sort of cool — a play on “pixels”, presumably. I also like how they present their photo mosaic on the home and search pages. The photos are just big enough to get a good idea of the image without being so big you have to scroll a lot.
When you click through to a particular image, downloading is super easy, allowing for several standard sizes or a custom size. It even calculates the correctly constrained second dimension when you enter the first dimension!
While it’s not required, it’s good to credit the photographer when you use a photo. Pexels makes this easy, too; after downloading, a box pops up with link text that you can copy and paste along with the image. You can see examples in the captions of the sample photos in this article.
Another thing I like about Pexels is that the quality of the photos is always top-notch. They do a great job of curating submissions, and almost every photo that I have seen on the site is quality photography.
There are other features you can explore on Pexels, such as the “Similar Photos” recommendations at the bottom of individual photo pages, as well as the ability to follow a photographer, share on social media, like, and collect photos.
Another free stock photo site I keep in my bookmarks is Pixabay. It is probably slightly more well-known, and also offers a wide variety of quality free-to-use photos. I don’t think the site features are quite as good as Pexels, but this is by no means meant to discredit Pixabay. I find myself using it almost as much as Pexels. My sense is that they have a larger collection of images.
Occasionally, I need a photo that is very unusual, or that I just can’t find elsewhere no matter how hard I search. In this case, I often find a suitable photo at PublicDomainPictures.net. The site is a bit campier, but I think that’s the reason I might find things there I can’t find elsewhere!
As an example, if I want a photo of pigeons on pillars, I couldn’t find one similar to this on either Pexels or Pixabay – but here it is on PublicDomainPictures! The quality of the photo isn’t as good, but if I need a photo like this, it might do the job!
Something to consider with paid stock photos is that there’s usually a limit to how they can be used. While you need to check the license information for free stock photos from these sites, the license is generally something “use this however you like”, with the exception of actually reselling the photo file itself.
Additionally, many people don’t realize that stock photos usually require attribution along with usage. If you don’t provide this, you could get into legal trouble. With these sites, attribution is generally encouraged, but not required, so you can use the photos without worrying about attribution. (Again, however, it’s generally a good idea to provide attribution when you can as a way to promote and thank the photographer.)
Stock photos can add a really nice touch of flair to your blog posts or design projects. Hopefully you can make good use of some of the many free photos available on the sites listed here or elsewhere!
Short List of Free Stock Photo Sites
(Some of these sites re-post photos from other sites as well, and many photographers post the same photos to multiple sites. JF-Web is not affiliated with any of these websites.)