Finding the perfect free stock photo can be a real pain.
As a website designer, I’m constantly on the lookout for high-quality images to help improve websites. Nine times out of ten I have the exact vision in my head of what image I want, but finding the exact photo I want can be a nightmare.
I’m not looking for that generic man-in-office photo or the super cheese I’m-giving-a-great-presentation shot and neither you (hopefully). So say no more to low quality, generic photos, as below is a few of the best free stock photo websites where you can find images for your social media posts, websites, email marketing campaign… the works!
The following sites made the list because one, the photos they share are high quality and look fantastic, and two, the photos don’t look like your typical, generic stock image.
Also I’ve checked to make sure that each website within this list falls under the Creative Commons Zero license. Which means they are free to use for your commercial and personal needs. If you would like to know more about the legal side of things, I’ve also added a short section on this at the foot of the post.
Rogue photographers, as Allie Lehman and David Sherry call themselves, send you downloadable photos right to your inbox, and that’s the only way to get them! If you’re digging what they’re sending, you can pay $15/month to get full access to their library and a bonus image pack each month.
Since photographer Viktor Hanacek started picjumbo in Nov. 2013, his photos have been downloaded over 4.1 million times. Why did he decide to start a free stock site? No one else would accept his photos. Lucky us!
Leeroy, an advertising agency in Montréal, built this stock site with their own images and through their network of photographers. They add new photos weekly and have them split into easy to navigate categories.
Let’s get legal
As if finding free stock images isn’t hard enough, there is the Creative Commons licensing to worry about. There are seven regularly used licenses. Not correctly following these licensing requirements can lead to a very costly mistake.
To make it easy, my above list only includes sources that fall under theCreative Commons Zero license (CC0).
What does CC0 mean?
- The original creator of the content has freely given up the rights to the work to the public domain, worldwide
- You are free to copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for your commercial and personal needs
- No need to ask for permission or give attribution to the photographer
The one thing you can’t do with these free images is redistribute or sell them to make a profit.
Even though I use many of these sites regularly, I still confirm the rights before using anything, just to be safe, and I do recommend that you try to do the same.
One final thing to be aware of is when you are using images with a specific brand showing, for example Apple or Nike. Although the images are free to use, the logos in the photos are copyrights of the brand (and most likely are copyrighted), so just pay attention to where the logos fall when you are choosing an image.
A way around this is to try to pick an image that isn’t blatantly showing the logo or symbol that defines the brand.