10 Best Stock Photography Sites – Free Images for Websites
May 17, 2022
If there’s one element which is often overlooked when it comes to creating a new website, it’s photography. Specifically the need for great images that support the brand and help sell services or products.
This omission is often due to the misconception that it’s the responsibility of the web design agency to source images during the design process. When in fact, just like the text that appears on any of the web pages, imagery is also the responsibility of the client.
Another reason for omission can be the factor of cost. Purchasing good quality royalty-free images or hiring a photographer to shoot great product photos can add significant costs to any project, be it a website or any other marketing materials.
But help is at hand thanks to stock photography websites that offer free images.
The use of royalty-free images from stock photography websites has been widespread for many years. However, it was often the case that the best images always required payment.
The big stock libraries such as Getty were generally very expensive. Too expensive for many brands, especially start-ups. This fueled the rise in cheaper subscription-based stock libraries such as Shutterstock. But the problem with the cheaper libraries is that the quality of the photography could often be sub-standard.
Moving forward in time, most people have fairly powerful camera functions as a part of their mobile phones, resulting in the need to spend large sums of money on stock photography reducing significantly.
The popularity of camera-phones also fueled interest in photography in general, and with that, a slew of new stock photo libraries appeared. Many of which include thousands of photos that are free to use.
10 Best Free Stock Photography Websites
So, without further ado, here’s the list of our top 10 free stock photography websites. Useful for brand owners and entrepreneurs looking for free images for websites and other marketing purposes.
1 – Unsplash
Arguably one of the most popular resources for free images on the Internet is Unsplash.
The popularity of Unsplash has grown primarily due to the fact that the images are of excellent quality and their licence lets you use images for free, in any way that you like, except for creating a competing website.
We particularly love the abstract textures and aerial photos which are great for website background images.
2 – Flickr
One of the first, if not THE first photo-sharing platform of any significance was Flickr.
Enjoyed by amateur and professional photographers the world over, Flickr allows users to upload and share great imagery which they have taken themselves.
The platform has now grown beyond being just a photo-sharing website, allowing users to download and use images for free on their websites.
However, not all photos can be used free of charge. There are some restrictions in place regarding usage, but you can filter your search results to view those that are free to use.
Simply select ‘Commercial use & mods allowed’ under the ‘Any license’ filter in the top left of your screen to find images which are free to use. Also, remember to check the license for each image as they do vary.
The great thing about Flickr is the sheer number of images available. The platform has been going for so long that there are millions of images available, covering almost every subject that you can think of.
3 – Adobe Stock
Wait. What?! Adobe Stock includes free images to use on websites and other marketing material?! Why, yes it does. But of course, there is a catch.
Adobe Stock does indeed have a good selection of images that are free to use, but you do have to be a member of Adobe Creative Cloud to access them.
The selection is quite broad and also includes vector illustrations and some video content. So if you do have an Adobe CC licence, it’s always a good idea to check what’s available before trying any other service.
4 – Burst
Despite being a user of Shopify for many years, I was actually unaware of Burst. A royalty-free photo library from the makers of the popular eCommerce platform, Shopify.
The library isn’t particularly large, with relatively few results when compared with the above three options. But the images are free to download without needing to set up an account.
It’s always nice to credit the person who created the image, so please remember to copy the code that is given each time you download an image and use this on your website.
5 – Pexels
With Pexels, you don’t have to credit the photographer, but they do have their own set of licencing rules. So please make sure you read and adhere to those before committing to using one of their shots.
Pexels seem to have a sizable library, including images tagged by some relatively new and obscure terms.
For instance, at the time of writing, we were working with a new client – Vapes etc – so I used the term ‘Vaping’ as a test subject and found 124 results on Pexels. That number doesn’t seem like much, but it’s vastly more than the handful I found via Burst.
6 – Pixabay
The photos on Pixabay are licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0), meaning you can use their images without permission or giving credit to the artist (but you really should because it’s only polite to do so).
Their home page states that they have over 2.6 million high-quality stock images, videos and music available to use, so it’s a sizable resource.
My test search for Vaping delivered an impressive 257 results.
7 – Kaboompics
The Kaboompics home page states ‘Thousands of pictures without any payment, even for commercial use.’, which to me says that they don’t have a particularly big library.
Still, free is free, so if you haven’t found what you are looking for by the time you have searched the sites listed above, you might be able to find something suitable here.
One interesting feature of Kaboompics is that you can filter your search results by colour. Very handy for building mood boards!
8 – Freeimages.com
Freeimages.com does exactly what it says on the tin with a library of over 300,000 images. Although they do have a few particular restrictions within their licencing terms.
One irritating feature – or perhaps glitch – is that when performing my first search, the website spawned another window with the same keyword search but this time using iStock. This is a subscription site run by Getty Images, so I presume Freeimages.com is also run by Getty.
9 – Stocksnap.io
Stocksnap uses the same Creative Commons license as Pixabay, so its photos are free to download, edit, and use for commercial projects.
The library is quite limited, with regular reminders that you can get 10 free images from their sponsors at Shutterstock. They must have a good affiliate programme in place there.
I found the search results layout a bit glitchy, with sponsored images appearing above the free images. I also encountered several 502 errors, so the site clearly needs some work from a technical point of view.
Even so, Stocksnap.io is still likely a good resource for common search terms.
10 – Gratisography
Our final choice of royalty-free image websites comes in the shape of Gratisography.
The look and feel of Gratisography is quite different from the other sites on the list, making us believe that we’ve stumbled across something fresh & exciting. But unfortunately, this service suffers from a much smaller library.
Many searches delivered zero results, even for popular/general terms such as ‘Wedding’ and ‘Rollerskating’. So our advice is to use the navigation to find images.
There are some very nice images on this site. You just need to work much harder to find them.
Free Images for Websites: A Summary
Good quality imagery is very important when it comes to installing confidence in your brand and website. There’s no point in spending good money on a new website or brochure, only to fill it with poor-quality images.
Web agencies will always be happy to use place-holder images in their designs, with many of these sourced from free stock photography websites. It’s these sites that may prove useful when choosing images to support your brand. Especially if you’re working to a tight budget.
When using images from stock photo libraries, you may need to do one or all of the following:
- Create an account with the service.
- Credit the image creator.
- Adhere to some specific terms & conditions regarding usage.
Make sure you review the licencing rules before usage and give credit where credit’s due.
If you can’t find what you need from the above sites, you may need to consider paying for images. Websites such as Getty and Adobe Stock have vast catalogues of images that may be suitable.
Alternatively, you should consider hiring a professional photographer to create the exact images you need.
We hope you’ve found this article useful for your current or future website projects. But if you are looking to get some specific images created for your brand, drop us a line and we’ll point you in the right direction.