Last updated: May 22, 2017
Adding photos to your blog posts makes a huge difference for your readers.
I giant wall of text is boring no matter how awesome your writing is and photos help keep peoples attention and keep them engaged.
At the very least you should have one great looking photo as the featured image of your post so your post will look good when shared on social media.
You can’t just grab any photos that you want off of Google Images and put them up on your blog though. There are copyrights and rules when it comes to using photos you find on the Internet.
I once worked with someone who grabbed a simple photo of a phone from Google Images to put on his contact page. He had some angry lawyers come after him demanding a lot of money.
Fortunately though there are a ton of fantastic websites where you can get amazing photos that are completely free to use for any purpose.
When it comes to using photos on the Internet there are various licenses attached to them and each licence has different rules and restrictions.
It’s a very good idea to have a basic understanding of these licences if you’re going to be using photos from the Internet.
Most photos fall under the Creative Commons licence. There are 5 main categories to this licence and some photos can fall under more than one category.
If a photo has an attribution licence that means you’re free to use it however you have to give credit to the original photographer. This is usually done with something like a caption below the image saying “Photo by …” with a link back to where you got the photo.
If a photo has the non-commercial licence that means you can use it for non-profit purposes. You can’t use it to make money. If you’re running a blog as a business then you shouldn’t use these photos and you definitely shouldn’t use them in any advertising or anything like that.
If you have a personal blog that doesn’t make you any money then you’re free to use the photo.
No Derivative Works
If a photo is marked with the No Derivative Works licence that means you can only use the photo exactly as it is. You can’t edit it in photoshop or anything like that.
If a photo has the Share Alike licence that means that you’re allowed to use the photo for your own work but when you’re done people can also use that photo from you now, under the same licence you did.
For example, say someone has a photo that has the Attribution and Share Alike licences and you edit it in Photoshop and post it on your blog with a credit back to the photographer. Anyone else can then take the edited version of the photo from your blog and use it themselves. The edited version has the same Attribution and Share Alike licence which means this person has to credit you now for using the photo.
Creative Commons Zero or Public Domain
This is the easiest type of licence because it means you can use the photo however you want without worrying about any copyrights. The photographer has waived any copyright rights and anyone in the world is free to use the photo for any purpose, with no attribution, even to make money.
Websites with Completely Free to Use Stock Photos
There’s a large collection of websites out there with stock photos that fall under the Public Domain licence that you’re free to use any way you want. I’ve collected a ton of them in this post and between them all you should easily be able to find pretty much anything you want.
My Top 4 Free Stock Photo Websites
There are 4 main stock photo sites that I use in almost all my projects. I absolutely love these sites and I recommend you check them out first.
This is currently my favourite stock photo website and I get almost all my photos from here now. They add 10 new photos every 10 days and have a variety of incredibly talented photographers. All of their photos are awesome and they’re all completely free to use in any way you want.
This was my favourite stock photo site before I discovered Unsplash. All the photos are taken by one person so the number of photos isn’t as high as other sites but all the photos you do find on the site are amazing and have a unique style. The photos are free to use any way you like. The photographer has politely requested that you give her credit by using a caption like “photo by kaboompics” but this isn’t necessary.
This site has a huge amount of photos, much more than the previous two sites. They’re pretty much all fantastic and completely free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence.
Before I discovered the 3 sites above I used Pixabay for pretty much all my stock photo needs. There’s a massive library of photos here. Not all of them are amazing but a lot of them are and they’re all completely free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence. You will have to make an account to download the highest resolutions of the photos though.
Other General Free Stock Photo Websites
These are general sort of free stock photo websites where you can usually find a ton of great photos. The quality of some of the photos across these sites might vary a bit but most of them have pretty large selections.
All the photos here are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero licence so you can use them any way you want and they add new photos every week. There isn’t a huge selection here but the quality of all the images is pretty great.
Picjumbo has over 800 excellent stock photos and they’re all free to use however you like. They also have premium accounts where you can get access to extra photos that regular people don’t get but all their free photos are available without any account.
7) IM Creator
This website has a large collection of free to use graphic resources that aren’t limited to stock photos. You’ll also find things like templates and icons as well. All the stock photos do require attribution to the photographer though so be aware of that before you use any of their photos.
Another excellent site with a very nice selection of photos that are free to use however you want. If you like the photos on this site there are also premium packages and a premium photo marketplace. The website is a little frustrating to use though because you have to go through the process of making an account, adding the free images to a cart and checking out like you were buying something online.
9) Free Stocks
Free Stocks is exactly what it sounds like. They don’t have the largest selection of photos but the photos they do have are really great and they’re all free to use any way you want.
10) Snapwire Snaps
This is a Tumblr account made by a paid stock photography site. They add 7 new photos every 7 days and they’re all free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence. They actually have quite an impressive collection of photos and I think I might have to start using photos from this site in my own projects.
11) Took a Pic
This is technically a paid stock photo site but they do have a pretty large selection of free photos as well. If you buy a premium account you’re free to use the photos however you want however if you’re just downloading the free ones you have to include attribution to the photographer and a link back to the site.
Picography doesn’t have the largest collection of stock photos but the photos they do have are all fantastic. All the photos are free to use however you like and the site is easy to use.
This website has a lot of awesome photos including a ton of great photos of animals. Before you download a photo you have to agree to their terms of service but don’t be intimidated by that, the photos are free to use however you want. You just can’t claim ownership of the photos, re-sell them or anything like that.
14) Free Images
I used this site years ago back when it was called sxc.hu. They have a huge library of photos and a lot of them are awesome. You do have to make an account though before you can download any photos but they are free and you can use them however you want. They do want you to include a photo credit if you’re using the image for editorial purposes though.
Pexels is one of the largest free stock photo sites out there with a ton of awesome photos that are completely free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence. Apparently they add 100 new stock photos daily that are uploaded from a big group of different photographers. I’d never heard of this site before and I think I’m going to have to start using it.
This site has over a thousand photos that are completely free to use however you want under the Creative Commons Zero licence. The photos are all collected into sets based on different categories and if you want the full resolution photos you have to download a zip file of the entire set which is a little bit frustrating though.
17) Stok Pic
Stok Pic is another free stock photo site with a huge library of photos. You’re free to use the photos however you want but they politely request that you include attribution although it’s not required.
18) ISO Republic
ISO Republic has a mixture of free and paid stock photos. They don’t have the largest collection of free photos but the photos they do have are really great. You can use the photos however you want. Attribution is not required but they do say it’s appreciated.
SplitShire has a large amount of great photos and they update the site daily. You’re free to use the photos however you want except they don’t want you using the photos for “inappropriate projects” that involve things like racism, violence, hate, etc.
This website adds one new photo from a different photographer each day. Most of the photos fall under the Creative Commons Zero licence but some of the photos do require attribution so double check before you use them. The photos on this site have a unique softer feel to them than what you see on most of the other stock photo sites.
21) Designers Pics
Designers Pics has a pretty impressive collection of their own unique stock photos. Their photos are completely free to use however you want no attribution required.
22) Free Range Stock
Free Range Stock has a great selection of free images but they do have terms that are a bit more complicated than most other sites. You’re free to use the photos however you want except in certain cases you have to provide attribution and a link back to the site. It’s probably best to give a quick read through their terms before you use any of their images.
23) Stock Vault
Stock Vault is an absolutely massive free stock photo site that also has things like textures, 3D renders and other graphics. The images are free to use however you’re not allowed to use them to promote products or services. You can still use them on say a company blog but it’s probably best that you read their terms and F.A.Q. before using their images just to be safe.
24) Skitter Photo
This site has over 800 free stock photos and they’re all public domain so you can use them however you want without worrying about anything. Some of their photos are very unique.
25) Nomad Pictures
Nomad Photos has a large collection of Creative Commons Zero licensed images by a couple of different photographers. There’s a very wide variety of great photos here. The photos don’t have a super high resolution but they’re more than fine for a website.
26) Realistic Shots
This is a website run by another website called Commit 2 Design where they upload 7 new free stock images every week. The photos are all completely free to use however you want.
Sites Run by Individual Photographers
There are also a ton of sites out there where individual photographers upload their own photos. A lot of these photographers are incredibly talented and they all have their own unique style.
Gratisography is a website by an increidbly talented photographer named Ryan McGuire. All of his photos are completely free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence although he says that attribution is always appreciated. You’ll find a very wide variety of photos on this site.
28) Little Visuals
Little Visuals has a ton of amazing photographs by a guy named Nic. Unfortunately Nic passed away in 2013 so the site is no longer updated. The photos the site does have are excellent and you can use them however you want.
29) Life of Pix
Life of Pix is a site run by an advertising agency in Montreal. They have a pretty impressive collection of photos and they’re all free to use under Public Domain.
30) Jay Mantri
This photographer is absolutely amazing and all the photographs in his site are free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence. I’d never heard of this site before and I’m definitely going to start using it.
31) MMT Stock
MMT Stock is the website of photographer Jeffery Betts. He has a lot of very excellent photos of plants and flowers and all the images on the site are free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence.
This is a Tumblr blog run by a photographer name Daria. There are a lot of very excellent photos of places that look like they’re from Europe and many of the photos have a distinctive European feel to them. All the photos are free to use however you want.
Cupcake is the website of a photographer from Sweden named Jonas Wimmerström. His photos are fantastic and they’re all licences under Creative Commons Zero so you can use them however you want. You don’t need to provide attribution but if you do use one of his photos you can send him a message through his site because he says he’s always inspired by seeing how people use his photos.
34) Move East
Move East is a site that belongs to a photographer from Portugal. He’s travelling around the world and posting his photos under the Creative Commons Zero licence so you can use them for anything. There’s a lot of great exotic looking travel photos on this site. The photos aren’t quite as high resolution as I’d like but they’re more than fine to use on a website.
35) Titania Foto
This site belongs to a German photographer and the entire site is in German which might make searching for specific photos a bit difficult. All the photos are free to use however you want and they’re sorted into pretty obvious categories so you should still be able to use the site with no problem. You don’t have to make an account but you do have to enter an email address and then they send you the photo you want as an email attachment which is a little bit strange.
36) Super Famous
This is the site of a photographer named Folkert Gorter. There aren’t a ton of pictures but the photos that are there are pretty great. There’s a lot of excellent landscape photos. One thing you need to be aware of is that all the photos have an Attribution licence which means you can use them however you want but you have to provide a credit back to Folkert Gorter. The photos are all in square sizes and not super high resolution but they’re more than fine for a website.
37) Je Shoots
Je Shoots is the website of photographer Jan Vašek. There’s a very large collection of great photos that are all licensed under Creative Commons Zero so you can use them for anything you want.
38) Barn Images
Despite the name you actually won’t find any pictures of barns on this site. Barn Images is a site made by two photographers from Latvia, Igor Trepeshchenok and Roman Drits. All the images are completely free to use, even commercially and they appreciate a link back to their site or donations whenever possible.
An incredibly talented photographer named Vladimir Kudinov has set up a Google Photos page with an absolutely massive collection of his amazing photos. They’re all free for you to use however you want.
Shutteroo is the website of Klaye Morrison, a photographer from Australia. She doesn’t have too many photos but there are some really great nature photos with closeups of leaves, bark, etc. All the photos are free to use however you want. You have to download the photos in packs and enter your email address first though.
This website is made by someone called Skuawk, I don’t know the full name and it doesn’t seem to be listed on the site. There are a bunch of photos sorted into categories and they’re all free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence. Click then menu icon in the upper right to get access to the photos.
Libreshot is the website of a photographer named Martin Vorel who has an excellent collection of photographs that are all free to use under a Public Domain license.
43) Fancy Crave
Fancy Crave is a website started by Igor Ovsyannykov. Every day he publishes 2 new high resolution free stock photos that you can use any way you want. There’s a ton of amazing photos from places all around the world.
44) Nobl Web
Nobl Web is a website by a group of web designers from Ottawa, Canada. They have several packages of great photos from places around the world and they’re all free to use however you’d like.
45) Boss Fight
In addition to having a really awesome website name this site has a ton of really awesome photos. They have a whole section of animal photos for example that are some of the best animal stock photos I’ve ever seen anywhere. All of the stock photos have a Creative Commons Zero licence so you can use them however you want.
This is the website of a photographer named Magnus Jälthammar. It’s not the largest collection of photos but it’s definitely a diverse collection of great photos and they’re all completely free to use however you want. There’s no need for attribution but he appreciates it if you do credit him.
This is an archive of photos from a photographer named Samuel Zeller who lives in Switzerland. There’s a bunch of great photos from places in Europe and they’re all free to use however you want as long as you include credit. You also have to enter an email address to download the photos but you only have to do that once.
Specifically Themed Free Stock Image Sites
There are also a bunch of great free stock image sites where all the photos follow the same theme such as pictures of food, historical photos, travel photos, etc.
48) Foodies Feed
Foodies Feed has over 1,000 food themed stock photos. The photos are all free to use however you want however they’re locked behind a Facebook share button. Once you share there site on Facebook you get the download link. It looks like you only have to share the site once though and then all the photos unlock. There are also premium photos that you can buy if you want to support the site and those photos are clearly marked.
49) Food Shot
Food Shot is another food themed stock photo site. They add a new photo every day and they’re all free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence.
Travel Coffee Book is all about travel photos and anyone is free to send in their photos from anywhere in the world. There’s a ton of great photos from all around the world and they’re all free to use under the Creative Commons Zero licence. If you click on the image you’ll get a reasonably high resolution version that’s fine for a website. Clicking the “download now” link looks like it’s supposed to take you to a One Drive account with the full resolution version of the photo but none of the links seem to work for me.
51) New Old Stock
This is a really cool site because you can get all kinds of really old historical photos. Because the photos are so old they’re all in the public domain so you can use them however you want. Some of the download links take you to other websites such as Flickr but those photos are still safe to use.
52) Ancestry Images
Ancestry images also has a ton of vintage and historical images but tends to focus more on things like maps and illustrations. You’re free to use the websites on your own website as long as it’s not for commercial purposes and the owner of the site says he’d appreciate credit for the images with a link back to his site. If you do want to use these images for commercial purposes you can contact the owner of the site for permission. The resolution of the images isn’t very high but it’s perfectly fine to use on a website.
This site features more corporate sort of stock photos of things like startups, offices, boardrooms, etc. The photos are all free to use however you’d like.
Iwaria is a site that features specifically images from Africa. They don’t just have photos of landscapes and wildlife either, there a ton of really interesting photos of people, cities, food and much more.
This website specializes in minimalism style photography. You’re completely free to use the photos however you’d like although they definitely appreciate it if you link back to them and tell others about the site.
This site is exactly what it sounds like, a big collection of free nature themed stock photos. All of the great photos that you’ll find here were taken by Adrian Pelletier and they’re all free to use however you want under the Creative Commons Zero licence.
57) Good Free Photos
Good Free Photos has over 12,000 public domain photos specializing in photos of state parks, national parks, landmarks and historical sites but there are also a ton of photos in other categories such as tech, animals, plants and food. There are some absolutely beautiful photographs of parks and nature scenes if that’s what you’re looking for.
Searching Through Multiple Stock Photo Sites at Once
I realize that the amount of free stock photo sites out there can be pretty intimidating and it can definitely be time consuming searching through multiple sites for the image you need.
Fortunately though there are a few sites that let you search through multiple free stock photo sites at once!
58) Stock Up
Stock Up lets you search through over 13,500 free stock photos across 27 different websites. Most of the photos that come up will be completely free to use with a Public Domain or Creative Commons Zero licence but just double check because some of them require attribution or have other licences. I especially like this site because they state which website the photo is from and then links to that website instead of just taking their photos and putting them on their site.
59) Visual Hunt
Visual Hunt lets you search through over 350 million free stock photos that are pulled from a ton of different sources. over 62,000 of them have a Creative Commons Zero licence. The site has an absolutely ridiculous amount of photos to search through and it’s very easy to use but they don’t credit the original source of the photo which I don’t feel too great about.
We’ve learned about a few more great sites since we originally wrote this post. Here they are.
This site has a pretty great selection of photos and it’s updated with a new one daily. All the photos are personally taken by Steven, the site owner so you won’t see these images on any other sites. Of course all the images are free to use personally or commercially. Attribution is much appreciated but not necessary.
A Few Tips for Using Stock Photos on Your Website
Most of these websites have their photos available in full resolution which means the images are very huge, both in terms of how many pixels are in the image and how big the file size is.
You don’t want to upload a photo that’s something like 6,000 pixels by 4,000 pixels and 6MB to your site because that will load really slow.
If you’re doing any sort of print project like a poster, flyer, brochure, etc. then yes, you want to use photos as big as possible or else they’ll look pixelated.
On the web however you don’t need to use photos nearly that big.
I’m using a 27 inch monitor, its resolution is 2560 x 1440 pixels and most people are using monitors with a lower resolution.
The width of this blog post is a little over 1000 pixels wide on desktop (a bit larger than usual) so if you use photos somewhere around 800 to 1,000 pixels wide you probably don’t ever need to worry about them being too big or two small.
If you’re using a WordPress website and you upload a photo that’s too big pixel-wise WordPress will just shrink it to fit the space in the website. The photo will still have the full file size though which will impact your page load time.
If you keep your photos around 800 to 1,000 pixels wide you should have no problem with them being too small for the spot on the website and they’ll be more than big enough to look good to your viewers while loading quickly.
I use Adobe Photoshop to resize all of my photos down to the exact size I want but you can use pretty much any image editing program you want, even Microsoft Paint.
Once you have your images at the perfect resolution I also recommend compressing the file as well through a service like TinyJPG.
You just have to upload the photo, the website will compress the image saving you 70% to 90% of the file size and then you re-download the photo with a much smaller file size.
99% Of the time you won’t be able to tell any difference between the two photos and it’s definitely worth it to keep your website’s load speed down as low as possible.
That’s it for this post, hopefully you find this list of sites useful for your own projects.
Official stock photos are unbelievably expensive and unless you’re running some sort of an advertising agency with major world-wide brands there’s probably no need to ever spend money on stock photography when there’s such an amazing collection of free to use stock images out there.
If you have a favourite stock photo site that’s not listen here let us know in the comments.