Buying photography is changing….fast, and it’s getting ever cheaper. We have listed 105 Stock Photography websites where you can find free pictures.
10 years ago you could have paid thousands of dollars for an image of a background, over the past years this has been reduced to tens of dollars and now you can find free backgrounds on 40 websites! And it’s not just backgrounds. We have found over 100 websites with photography that is free to use, not Royalty Free (which still requires a fee), but really, truly free. We knew there were free sites around but once we started to browse the web we were surprised about the quantity and quality of the images available.
We could have listed a few more and there are larger lists out there. The problem with some other lists is that they confuse Free with Royalty Free, which still requires a fee. There are other listings that have companies that will have a free image every day, we ignored those and have only listed sites that are dedicated to providing free photography.
Editors note: Publishing a list like this may be controversial, especially as I know this site is popular amongst photographers and the Stock Photography industry. The reason is a classic ”keep your enemies closer’. These sites are there, and they are growing. It’s important to know what they offer. This way photographers may be able to avoid focussing on content that is available elsewhere for free. While this may seem far fetched, these sites could even serve as a marketing platform to showcase some work, get exposure and then use the leads to upsell paid content (a ‘freemium’ approach). I didn’t think ignoring this movement was an option and others outside the industry have already done blogposts about free sites. The intention is to give image buyers information while keeping image sellers close to the latest developments.
We have found and listed 105 websites with free images here. 75 of these sites offer various types of photography while 40 sites offer all kind of free backgrounds and elements. Not all images are up to commercial standards but there is relevantand surprisingly goood free content out there. Especially some of the communities of designers who do not have photography as their first profession provide some interesting concepts. Having gone through the lists here’s a rough split in different types:
Large community sites: Websites like Stock Exchange, Stockxpress, Stockvault, Morguefile and others are photosharing sites where amateur photographers and designers share pictures for free. Sometimes these sites are used to up-sell to higher quality photos on microstock sites. These sites can host up to 500.000 images and are a quick resource for images on most subjects. There are a large number of smaller community sites and even a few search engines that find free images across different sources.
Niche sites: These independent sites, usually managed by one person are made up of contributions from small communities. UK based unprofound is a popular example. Deviant art even has a YouTube-style embed functionality.
Government and companies: Both institutions and some companies are offering free images. Redbull is an example and so are the National Parks in the US and NASA. Watch carefully though as in many cases these images are for editorial use only. Some of these archives have great specialist content for blogs and magazines straight from the source.
Side product: Some sites share photography as a side product. Geek Philosopher is one of them
Travel: Whoopy has a great way to search using a big interactive map of the world. There are numerous other sites dedicated to travel. With so many people documenting their trips and holidays the offer is unsurprisingly comprehensive.
Backgrounds.Elements and Textures: We found 40 sites offering a wide variety of elements, from doors, to digital drawings, woodgrains and other textures. It made our experience of licensing similar images years ago for thousands of dollars a distant memory.
Other sites: Not all sites have a professional look and feel. Some offer a very simple interface made up of folders and links. While we haven’t explored them all some may have interesting discoveries in their files. One of the subjects recurring frequently is nature and animals.
Please give us your ratings and feedback on these sites. You can rate with a 10 star system after registering on the directory page. You can also leave your comment. This will help to qualify the sites and create a more relevant list over time. Also let us know if you found other sites or if links are broken at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your help will make the listing better over time.
Finally, please be mindful using the pictures. If there are models or certain properties and landmark don’t use the images without a model and property release. Also be careful with recognisable brands. Celebrities may not be used for promotional purposes and there are other risks involved. When in doubt, don’t use the image or get professional advice. Please make sure you credit the original author.UPDATED: Please also bear in mind Tim’s comments on this post and ensure the images are from original authors.
Enjoy the discovery process and keep us posted on how you get on. If you don’t find the image you’re looking for check out if your favourite pictures are available at a discount here. Or check out the directory with over 1.000 companies offering all types of high-quality photography.
Picture: Stock Exchange | Free | Jan Willem Geertsma