Internet the source of anything. You can get nearly everything from the internet. Image is no exception. Sites like Getty Images and Shutterstock are very popular in terms of stock images. But, everyone knows that downloading images from those sites require us to spend some dollars. What if you want to download stock images for free?.
Like I said, internet is the source of anything. If you are looking to download free stock images, there are some websites you can refer to.
You have probably heard about some amazing websites like Unsplash and Pixabay which allow us to download free images. They even allow us to use the downloaded images for any use including for commercial projects. That kind of websites commonly use the Creative Commons (CC0) licence which is very popular in the creative people. Just for your information, I also regularly contribute to both Unsplash and Pixabay by uploading some of my best shots :).
As a photography hobbyist, I often exploring the web. Stopping here and there to discover new ideas for my next shots. As a result, I have a good list of great websites where I supposed to go every time my brain is getting stuck.
18 best websites to download free stock images for commercial use
If you are a designer or someone who work in the creative industry and need a or two reliable websites to download free, high-resolution images for the projects you are working, I have a special gift of a list of good websites you can refer to. Here is the list.
The community of Unsplash has been growing rapidly since it was begun in 2013. At the time of writing there are over 200,000 photos submitted to Unsplash and, as the site mentioned, there are thousands being submitted each week. Unsplash used to use CC0 licence for all the submitted photos but, the site decided to introduce its own license with the same rules as CC0 where anyone can download and use all the photos for any purpose, including commercial. Photographer hobbyists can also showcase their work on Unsplash. New users are limited to 10 photos a week.
App developers can take advantages of available photos in Unsplash to develop an app involving images since Unsplash also offers an API. Here is one of examples of an app built with Unsplash API.
Pixabay is probably the most well-known of free stock images website. The site has a very abundant collections of images from photos to vectors. All images available on this site are released under the CC0 license which mean anyone can download them for free for any purpose without giving any credit to the creators. Anyone can also contribute to this site like I did :). But, your submissions will go through moderation first in order before be displayed in this site. New members are limited to 8 photos a week.
Just like Unsplash, Pixabay also offers an API to allow app developers creating with the available images. Images in Pixabay are grouped in some categories to make it easy for you finding the images you need.
Pexels is quite similar to Pixabay in terms of interface where you can easily find the images you need via the available search box. The only different is that Pexels doesn’t offer vectors. It focuses on photos (and videos). Pexels also adopts the CC0 licence to its site.
Pexels one step ahead when it comes to features since the website offers a number of tools to ease you in using the available images offered by it. Mac and Windows users can take advantage of Pexels app for those platforms to access the whole Pexels library of thousands of free stock photos while Photoshop users can install the Pexels Photoshop Plugin to do the same task. Pexels also opens an opportunity for talented photographers to showcase their works.
4. Realistic Shots
Unlike three websites mentioned earlier above which are basically the community-driven websites. Realistic Shots is a personal project run by a designer named Henry Reyes. However, the free image collections of Realistic Shots are good and very decent. The creator of Realistic Shots uses Tumblr to display his works. While the image files are put in the Amazon Web Service. All photos published on Realistic Shots are also licensed under Creative Commons. You will see 7 new photos each week.
5. Life of Pix
Life of Pix is another community-driven stock photos site meaning that photos available on this site come from various photographers instead of one. Finding photographers in this site is extremely easy since they are arranged alphabetically. For photographers, Life of Pix is a nice place to widen your wings. The site has a nice campaign each week where a photographer will be elected to become photographer of the week. 10 candidates will be highlighted on the social media channels and website of Life of Pix. Not a bad idea for self-promotion. All photos on this site are also released under the CC0 license.
6. Free Nature Stock
The concept of Free Nature Stock is quite similar to Realistic Shots where it uses Tumblr as the storefront while the photos are hosted to Amazon Web Service. The collections offered by this site are specific to nature-related photos like landscape of the highland, star, sunset and lots more. Free Nature Stock is a project run by a photographer named Adrian Pelletier. You will see a single new photo each day. Photos are also licensed under CC0.
Gratisography is also a personal project by a photographer named Ryan McGuire. But, it comes with a more professional look. Photos are well arranged (by category) so users can find something they need easier. A handy search box is also available in the front page of this site. Ryan McGuire takes advantages of Dropbox to host their photos. He offers his photos under similar terms to Creative Commons Zero which the point is that you can use all of the photos for any purpose without even giving him a credit.
A Czech phographer, Viktor Hanacek created Picjumbo in 2013 as an outlet for his frequent rejection. Before creating this site the photographer is often rejected by regular stock photos sites due to lack of quality. As of today, there have been thousands photos available on Picjumbo and they haven been downloaded over 15 millions times. Picjumbo doesn’t apply a specific license. It has its own rules of how users can use the photos they downloaded but the point of the rules are basically not too different to CC0 where you can use the photos for commercial use.
If you prefer a community-driven stock photos site instead of personal project, Magdeleine is one of the sites you can consider. Each day you will be welcomed by a beautiful photo of the day every time you visit the website of Magdeleine. Photos are also licensed under the CC0. On this site you can browse photos by category from nature, architecture, people, animals, food, tech, objects and abstract.
Back to personal project. Kaboompics is a free stock photos site created by a talented photographer named Karolina. The main purpose of this project generally is to help you vizualize your world and ideas. The photographer kindly lets you use the images you downloaded from her site for any purpose whether commercial or not. She also leaks the gears she uses for taking photos like Full Frame Canon 6d + lenses; Sigma 35mm f/1.4, Sigma 85mm f/1.4, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Helios 44-2 58mm f/2.0.
According to information on her site the photos available on Kaboompics have been downloaded over 4 millions times (and counting). Big websites such as BBC, CNN, Forbes to BuzzFeed have been using the photos from Kaboompics.
11. ISO Republic
ISO Republic was begun by England photographer Tom Eversley in 2014. But, the photos available on this not come from a single photographer. There are also a number of photographers who join the project and make the contributions. As of today there have been thousands of free images you can choose from. All photos are available for free for any purpose including commercials.
FoodiesFeed is a great resource for those running a food blog or any project involving food since the photos available on this site are focus on foods and beverages. This website is created by a photographer named Jakub in April 2014 as a personal project. The initial purpose is nothing but to share his beginner food photos with the world. He uses Nikon D5200 with 35mm f/1.8G lens to take the photos. Some photos (tagged “mobile”) are taken with Google Nexus 5. Jakub doesn’t use a specific license on his site. But, he stated that all photos on this site are free to download and can be used for any purpose including commercial.
13. Startup Stock Photos
You will find many office-related photos on Startup Stock Photos like laptop on a table, a woman writing with his pen or a young man writing something on a white board. That’s because this website is projected to help startup owners finding the best photos for their campaigns. Bloggers, publishers, developers (and whoever you are) can also take advantage of this site. Startup Stock Photos was started as an outlet for photos the creators already taking on a regular basis. All photos are licensed under the CC0.
MMT is a personal project started by UI designer and photographer Jeffrey Betts. The project was begun in 2014 as his medium to share his love of photography with the world. The contents on this site are available in categories from nature, city scenes, workspaces, and macro photography. The photos can be freely downloaded, used, and redistributed for both personal and commercial purposes. New photos are added each week.
At the time time of writing there are about 1,100 free high-resolution photos available on Freestocks.org ranging from animals, architecture, tech, nature, people and lots more. There is no much information can be digged from this site but, one thing for sure. All photos are released under the CC0 license so you have understood of how to use the photos on your project.
The duo from Netherlands Rudy and Peter launched Skitterphoto back in 2014 as a medium to showcase their works in photography. According to them it’s hard enough to find free good quality photos so they hoped Skitterphoto would be a go-to place for internet users who need that kind of photos. Is it works?. Depends on your assessment. However, after exploring the website of Skitterphoto you will see that their efforts are not in vain.
Skitterphoto itself is a community-driven website which mean you can also submit your shots if you want it. The site adopts CC0 license.
As you can read from a brief introduction on its site, NegativeSpace is a place where you can get free beautiful, high-resolution photos with no restrictions. NegativeSpace is a community-driven site which mean photos available on this site come from many photographers instead of one. The site also adopts CC0 as the license for the uploaded photos. I personally love this website because the quality of the photos are pretty good (IMO). In this website you will find many photos with wide aperture technique which create a deeper object focus.
At the front page of Stokpic you will see several photos of women and men who are playing on the beach. You might assume that Stokpic is a holiday stock photos or something like that. Unfortunately, you are wrong. You can also find photos from other categories from fashion, abstract, architecture, people to nature (as you can see on the top menu of the site).
Stokpic itself is run by a photographer named Ed Gregory. Stokpic offers 2 versions of license (read them here). Most photos are licensed under the CC0. Most doesn’t mean everything. Just be sure to see the applied license of each photo which is located right beneath each photo.