As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Images are an incredibly important part of designing any kind of project, from websites to slideshows, magazines, news blogs and more. While it’s now superseding video in terms of engagement, visuals are still a powerful way to grab attention. Nowadays, there is no excuse for poor quality images. We’re used to those cheesy shots of people in suits smiling and shaking hands, or the girl wearing headphones tilting her head while smiling at the camera. They won’t and shouldn’t anymore. There are dozens of high-quality stock image websites around that offer some outstanding royalty-free images for our use, and every designer should use them.
Today we took a look at all the royalty-free stock image sites we could find on the web, so if you’re ready to dive into the world of free images, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re interested in design or need stock photography for a project you’re working on, this post is for you.
Licensing and Stock Images
Copyright and licensing is a minefield and the main reason we don’t copy someone else’s images for our own use. Most stock image websites use the creative commons public domain license. This means you can use the image as you see fit. Some will ask for attribution, some will not. It’s good practice to offer it anyway, as the renderer certainly deserves some praise. In fact, most Creative Commons agreements require attribution for use of the photo or asset.
Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Whether you’re looking for a new desktop wallpaper, a stock photo for your next project, or something completely different, here are some of the best free stock photo sites on the web today.
Pixabay is my go-to site for awesome royalty-free images. It has hundreds of thousands of great photos, most of them high resolution and high quality. Registration is optional, downloads are free, and each photo comes in multiple sizes; which makes them ideal for web design, magazine layouts, blogs and other mediums.
Pexels is a bit like Pixabay in that it has loads of free stock photos with a search function to help navigate. The breadth is enormous and encompasses many aspects of life. Images are one-dimensional and open in the browser for you to right-click and download. If I can’t find anything on Pixabay, I tend to try Pexels. In fact, most of our title+9 photos on this site come from Pexels.
Unsplash is the place to go if I need more thoughtful images. The photos here tend to be more creative and more diverse, making them ideal for some projects. They tend to be a single dimension that you download and manipulate yourself. Many of them are full HD and very high quality. They also have a great iOS mobile app that lets you find the perfect photos for your wallpapers.
Negative Space doesn’t hold many images at once, but new ones are added every week. The images on the site at that time were of very high quality. Pictures are not available in different sizes, it’s just a matter of right-clicking and saving as. The rest is up to you.
It is a niche site manually curated by the super famous, Dutch artist Folkert Gorter. What is lacking in numbers more than makes up for in quality. If you’re looking for something a little different, this is the place to go. Check and click the Images link to access the gallery and save.
Picjumbo is another great site with a huge selection of stock images that you can download for free. The quality is excellent, the selection is wide and varied, and the search function makes it simple to find what you’re looking for. The only downside is that they block adblock users and while I can understand why it’s still not cool.
StockSnap.io is a bit more art focused than mainstream stock image websites and has a wide variety of images to choose from. Many use tones, poses and moments with a definite artistic bent that makes them ideal for many uses. The site is trying to promote its own graphics program, but other than that, it’s a convenient site to use.
Freestocks.org is another great site that offers a wide variety of premium images. Like Super Famous and StockSnap, many of the images are flashy, but their quality cannot be ignored. These are ideal for a wide variety of projects and don’t cost anything, although donations are gratefully accepted.
Picography is a good stock photography site for abstract or random images. While the site also covers the mainstream, there are lots of random objects, interesting perspectives, and intriguing angles. If you want something a little outside of the norm, Picography can provide it.
Gratisography is a curious one. The quality is excellent but the topics are a bit random and eclectic. I tend to go here if I need something quite different and usually find it. The site is easy to use and the images are really good, but you won’t find mainstream images here.
Despite its name, MorgueFile is full of life. It’s a huge site full of great royalty-free images for you to download on a wide variety of topics. It’s easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for with a great search function and logical classification.
SkitterPhoto offers a wide range of subjects, from nature to technology. All images are of excellent quality and are free to use as you see fit. There is also the option to purchase a specific image on canvas which is a neat touch. The quality and selection of images is also top notch.
Life of Pix may be a quibble, but it offers a selection of top quality free stock photos made by members of the LEEROY creative agency. There’s a little bit of everything here, moments in time, still life, landscape, nature and more.
Do you use any of these sites? Are there any others you think should be listed? You know what to do…