20 websites to download free stock photos and images

Michael Marchese
January 8, 2016
free stock photos and images

20 websites to download free stock photos and images

Michael Marchese
January 8, 2016

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Images also drive tremendous traffic. For example, Buffer, a social media management tool, showed Tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and 150 percent more retweets. This article provides you with guidance on where to obtain free images and stock photos.
But first, some basic information:
If you did not shoot the photo, you do not have permission to use it. Whenever someone creates an image, it is automatically copyrighted; there is nothing the photographer has to do to hold the right. Consider reaching out to the photographer directly or accessing a resource where you can use an image by following the licensing agreement or paying a fee. Using a copyrighted image without permission can result in a lawsuit.
Photos with the Public Domain Mark 1.0 indicate copyrights have expired or have been forfeited. You can use these without asking permission or paying a fee. Other free images can be used when providing proper attribution.
You can find such photos at:
1 Million Free Pictures
All images are created by the owner of the site. They can be used for personal or commercial use and credit does not have to be given. The gallery is a little difficult to search, but there are a number of useful categories.
Astronaut Photography of Earth
As the name indicates, you can search specific collections to find images shot by NASA astronauts. It is a service provided by the International Space Station program along with the JSC Earth Science & Remote Sensing Unit, ARES Division, Exploration Integration Science Directorate. There is no fee for use, but attribution must be given. Be sure to read the site’s FAQ regarding other conditions for use.
British Library
Here, you will find more than a million images. Most are illustrations in 17th, 18th and 19th Century books released into the public domain.
Creative Commons (CC)
These photos are public licenses that do not have a fee, but typically have restrictions for use. Read the licenses carefully before downloading and using photos.
Offers more than 38 million images. Many of them are available for purchase. However, they do have a free section that is easy to search and frequently updated. Before browsing the site, you are required you to create a free account.
Free Digital Photos
The smaller sizes are free and you must credit the photographer. To get larger photos, you must purchase the image. Thousands of photos and illustrations can be searched easily by category.
Offers royalty-free, cost-free images for commercial and personal use. There are a number of background and texture images.
Freerange Stock
Find a number of high-quality, high-resolution landscape, industry, people and food stock photos. Credit does not have to be given, but they ask that you do so as a courtesy. Registration is required to access the site.
These are free to use without restriction and the site does not require membership. Organized into categories that can be easily searched, some images are resized to fit a Facebook timeline or cover photo.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs
While there are many photos in the public domain, not all of the images on LOC site are public domain. Be sure to check the Rights and Restrictions page. Because the LOC does not hold the rights to images, they cannot grant rights. Individuals who find a photo that is restricted must research on their own to find those who can grant permission for use.
As they indicate on their site: “Beautiful Photos. Totally Free.” If you’re seeking travel photos, this is a great site. Find images from Europe, Thailand and Mongolia. It is also a good source of nature photos.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photo gallery
More than 32,000 images on topics ranging from weather to oceans to marine species. Credit must be given to NOAA and the photographer. Note that there are some photos in the library that have copyright restrictions; they are specifically identified within the collection.
Morgue File
These images are not in the public domain, but are free high resolution digital stock photos for corporate or public use. You can copy, distribute and adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are still responsible for the legal content of the images including model releases and property releases. If an image in a blog post, they recommend contacting the photographer and providing proper credit.
My Public Domain Pictures
This collection of amateur photos is available for commercial use without asking for permission. However, as they note in their FAQ, “Some of our pictures might include pictures of people, logos and brands and its always safe to assume that we have not obtained model release from these subjects.” Thus, use caution before deciding to use those specific photos.
This public domain collection isn’t particularly vast, but is growing. There are more than 100 photos that can be used specifically for background or texture. Another 100 are close ups of food and drink.
Allows for commercial use without attribution. The library contains more than 2,000 photos and they add 10 high-quality photos a day.
Offers more than 500,000 high quality photos, illustrations and vector graphics. All are free for commercial use and may be modified. No is attribution required.
This is a repository for free public domain images. Do note that some photos require a model or property release.
The Famous Artists
Search is easily done to find works by artist, country or subject matter. As their FAQ notes, “Most of the countries of the world extend copyright protection to artists 70 years after their death, at which time the work falls into the public domain. All of the artwork showcased on The Famous Artists is in the public domain.” That said, copyright on the reproduction of two-dimensional art is still not clear. Read the sites FAQ carefully to understand the possible risks before using the images.
Find thousands of vintage graphics, ephemera, and vintage advertisements. All can be used for private or commercial use. The free downloads are medium resolution (600px to 3000px). The site offers a premium membership allowing for unlimited high resolution (over 3000px) downloads. Bulk downloads are also available for a fee.
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