Top 5 websites for free stock photos

Top 5 websites for free stock photos

As I first stepped into the professional world of design and heard all this talk about copyrights, licenses, and royalty-free images, I’d have to say I was quite confused. No, technically you can’t just find someone else’s image on google and use that for whatever you want (like I’ve always done and most people I know do). But if I’m not an illustrator or photographer, and I don’t feel the need to pay a good amount of money for a stock photo, what am I supposed to do?

Recently as I’ve been working with some clients, we’ve been running into this issue because of the lack of original photos. I just wanted to share my personal TOP 5 websites (in no order) for “free stock photos”.

1. Stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu) – This was my first find when I started working part-time as a student graphic designer in college. Basically, get an account (it’s free!) and search for your photo! There’s a row of “premium results” that cost money, but the rest are free. As for free stock photos, this was probably my favorite website that had the most results for the quality I was looking for at the time (studio-like white background photos), but nowadays as I look back, the photos here are a bit cheesier and set up. It’s not the place to look for photos for a specific event, location, person, etc. So if this isn’t what you’re looking for, move on.

 2. Flickr (http://www.flickr.com) – As I entered the professional world as a full-time designer, I needed to find more resources for photos. I learned a bit about the Creative Commons licensed-content. Flickr, one of the largest (if not the largest) photo-sharing community webpages, has been a great source for photos. If you click on the “Advanced Search” link at the top right of the page, and scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll find the Creative Commons licensed content options. Click on “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and click on one or both of the options below (depending on what you need). And you’ll have a vast amount of photos to use as long as you follow the license and attribute it the correct way. (See below for CC-licensing attributions).

3. Wikimedia Commons (http://commons.wikimedia.org) – Similar to flickr, there’s some photos on wikimedia commons that have the CC-license. If its something on Wikipedia, there’s a chance you’ll find photos you can use here as long as you give it the proper attribution.

4. Google Image Search (www.google.com) – After searching for an image on google, cilck on the gear icon in the top right corner of the page, and click on “Advanced Search”. Scroll all the way to the bottom (similar to Flickr) and under “usage rights”, you can click on “free to use or share, even commercially”, or whichever other option you want. The images here on google aren’t as artistic as the ones on flickr, but it works and there’s a vast number of photos to choose from. However, if it were me, I’d double check the license for those photos since it doesn’t clearly state the license on each photo in the same spot like on flickr or wikimedia commons.

5. Unsplash (unsplash.com/archive) – I just recently heard about this from one of my clients. (Thanks!) Unsplash comes out with 10 free hi-resolution photos every 10 days. The photos are some of the best (artistically) free photos I’ve seen around, but unfortunately there’s no search function, so you’ll have to browse around and see if there’s anything that fits what you’re looking for. I’d probably recommend clicking on “Archive” to take a look at all the photos as thumbnails for faster browsing. It seems like it’s a relatively new site since it only goes back to May 2013.

Don’t get “Royalty free” confused with “free”. Royalty free refers to the “right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for EACH use or PER VOLUME sold, or some time period of use or sales”. You may have to purchase it first with money, but additional usages won’t cost you anything. 

Creative Commons Licensing Attributions
(copyright licensing that enables the free distribution of copywrited work). Here’s a great site that helped me learn how to attribute CC-Licensing: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Marking/Users.

Thanks for reading! Have any other websites that you love using for free photos? Or did you find this post helpful? Comment and let us know!