The quality of Stock Imagery on your blog or site is often linked by users with the quality of the content offered. Is there a difference between paid and free to use images? What is the best Free Stock Image site for Commercial or Personal use?
+ ADDITIONALLY FREE, SORTABLE COMPARISION LIST
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Stock Images databases, which offers both free and paid pictures are used today by nearly every content creator in the world.
It’s quite understandable, since using visual content in pair with text message significantly boosts your content reach and readability.
Not only bloggers or website designers needs visual content for theirs work assignments.It doesn’t matter if you want to write a book, open a bakery, design shampoo bottles, or manage a restaurant – photo depository will be necessary for you eventually.
Using already taken images that suit your need significantly lower the costs of your project.
Thanks to a huge number of contributors, professionals photographers, and amateurs, it’s easy to find visualisations of even the weirdest queries.
Pexels will help you if you run a blog about the… miniature dogs that live in pots in the forest
Hiring your own photographer for the photo shoot of the „Miniature Dog” can be quite expensive and exceed your budget many times. (Needless to say about weirdness of the order)
What was the first Stock Image Database?
Stock Images seems like pretty modern invention.
It’s popular to assume that that kind of services was created in the past 30 years, and gained popularity in pair with other web-based inventions of the XXI century.
Right? No, totally wrong…
Stock Images history actually starts in the late 1880s along with the half-tone printing press invention.
Thanks to new printing method newspapers gained the possibility to add pictures to their articles easily.
At first, Newspapers hired their own photographers to send them on the field to have fresh visual materials to a described news.
Photography in that time was something very complicated and nearly inaccessible
Staff photographers weren’t so effective and affordable – agencies usually had few of them at most and it was impossible for few people only to cover all of the news by traveling from place to place in a short amount of time.
That’s when the freelance photography branch was invented.
Companies could contract out a specific photo to a specific photographer, thanks to what it was possible to visually cover presidential speech in New York and storm in California in one print.
Stock Imagery emerged from freelance photography somewhere around 1920.
This year H. Armstrong Roberts took a photo called “Group in Front of Tri-Motor Airplane” (I don’t have to explain what was the subject of the photo) and ensured that all people visible on the image sign the model releases.
You can find the original photo here. It’s still copyrighted and you need to buy it in order to use it.
By doing that he made the photo commercially available to various newspapers or companies, and not only to one subject that was paying for the freelance job.
Later this year he decided to open first Major Stock Photo Library.
Many others photographers decided to provide images via the same, much more efficient system.
One of the first serious Stock Photo agency was founded in 1936 in New York by Otto Bettman.
It was based on a collection of over 15 000 of his proprietary photos taken in Nazi Germany, before fleeing to states in 1935.
In addition to simply selling photos, he founded the company delivering his photos in less than 24h (by post or personally) and advertised the whole business in local newspapers.
One of the most recognizable photos from the Bettman archive
During the World War II, many Archives expanded with important and valued historical content. One of the biggest libraries was gathered by Hulton Archive, which started as an archive for the Picture Post.
Just after the War, the founder Edward Hulton, created the Hulton Press Library, as an independent branch of the library, and hired the expert from the Victoria and Albert Museum to create a catalog of the resources.
The Gibbs-Smith system, which used the keywords and categories-like classification, claims to be the world first system for pictures indexing.
After its success, it was adopted by the British Museum to catalog their collections.
During the World War II, many photographers were documenting actions on the battlefield
Modern-like stock photography history starts in the mid-90s when physical libraries started their transitions onto servers and databases.
That was the time when stock libraries started converting into stock agencies and the role of keywords significantly increased.
In 1991 PhotoDisc company began selling CDs with images collections. All of the pictures were royalty free, which allowed the buyer to use the images as many times as they liked without paying further fees.
Types of Stock Photo Licenses
There are 3 main stock photo licenses under which you can use the stock visual content.
Public domain (PD)
In relation to photography and graphics, public domain (PD) means the image is free to use without purchasing a license and can be used for commercial or personal purposes. Works in the public domain are those whose exclusive intellectual property rights have expired, have been forfeited, or are inapplicable.
In photography and the illustration industry, royalty-free (RF) refers to a copyright license where the user has the right to use the picture without many restrictions based on one-time payment to the licensor. The user can use the image in several projects without having to purchase any additional licenses. RF licenses can not be given on an exclusive basis. In stock photography, RF is one of the common licenses sometimes contrasted with Rights Managed licenses and often employed in subscription-based or microstock photography business models.
Rights Managed (RM) in the stock photo industry (sometimes called “licensed images”) refers to a copyright license which, if purchased by a user, allows the one-time use of the photo as specified by the license. If the user wants to use the photo for other uses an additional license needs to be purchased. RM licenses can be given on a non-exclusive or exclusive basis. In stock photography RM is one of the two common license types together with royalty-free, subscription and microstock photography being business models often confused as separate license types (both use the royalty-free license type).
But to the point! (Nearly) full list of sites.
Here you can find the list of domains with free stock pictures for your needs! All of the sites were cataloged and ranked due to few key factors:
- Number of photos (If the exact number wasn’t provided – we counted it. Insane, right?)
- Attribution rules (Required author/site/Not required at all/Mixed for different photos etc.)
- Freedom of use (Commercial/Non Commercial/Personal/Mixed etc.)
- Search options (No Search/Colour filter/Size filter/Extension etc.)
- Categories (If there are categories/Subcategories/How many/How specific)
- Artistic Value (Most subjective category – if the photos are interesting, not straightforward, with creative color grading etc.)
I searched for a picture of “camera” on every site and included it in the ranking table for the better view on what you can find on a particular website.
Don’t let the name fool you! You won’t find there a million of free to use photos. But there is something more incredible about this site than the number of images.
All of the resources here are made by the author himself – Toper Domingo. His goal is to upload 100 photos every day for the next 30 years to finally break the one million milestone.
Photos are a rather amateur style, and the site is not that intuitive (every photo is a blog post – not a clickable miniature in a gallery). On the other hand, most of the time author posts dozens of photos from one place or of one subject – which can be great if you want to have a uniform photo shoot.
2.) 4 Free Photos
4 Free Photos is a site that collects many professional photos with mixed license rights. There are 2 types of licenses – photos are either under CC0 (public domain), or requires an attribution, but only when used online.
Their site is very intuitive and with clean design, so it’s easy to navigate and find the desired photos.
There are no search options, but photos contain a lot of keywords, so searching for a “computer” will give you multiple results connected with the IT.
One of the great features we loved were pre-made collections of photos, based on one topic, or taken in one photo shoot.
Alegriphotos is a very similar site to 4 Free Photos – they even share nearly the same database of pictures.
Every feature is exactly the same for both sites – it looks like they were made by the same manufacturer but there are few differences in the photo libraries.
Alegriphotos archive is a few times smaller, but some of the photos from this site cannot be found on the 4 free photos.
Yup, you guessed it there are… no images of Barn in the database of Barn Images (but the authors of the project assure that they are working on fixing that problem)
The purpose of the project was to create a place with professional photographs that couldn’t be found via the traditional services.
You can find here a Blog with helpful tips regarding photography or subscribe to a mailing list which will give you 50 images for your mailbox and many more freebies later on.
All of the works were made by the authors themselves and are distributed under the “Barn Images Free Images License”. This means that you can use the images without attribution for commercial purposes, but the author still has the copyrights to the original image. So you can’t, for example, sell a merch with their photo, or make a sellable collage with it.
Death to stock photo presents a slightly different approach to the stock photography by offering weekly packs of photos directly to your e-mail address.
Each week you will receive 15 pictures, each under the public domain license.
Photos are handpicked by staff, they are professional with high artistic value.
The main issue is that you don’t have control over what kind of content will you get each time.
That kind of service is great if you would like to build your own library of good looking visuals to use as a background to your social media posts
It’s a pretty young project that collects photographs captured by Jeshu John
All of the works are completely free to use and don’t require attribution.
The database is quite small but the owner is adding new photos every month.
As you can see – there was no camera photo, so I took something similar from the “tech” category.
It’s a good source of original photos that weren’t used much in many places before, and don’t look anything like stock photographs.
Dreamsite is one of the bigger players in the game.
They gathered nearly 2 millions of photos, free to commercial use.
Our query returned a huge number of 1368 pictures with the keyword “camera”.
Most of them are under RF-LL license so you can use them with giving the proper credits to the author. The suggested credit line is presented on the download page.
If you prefer to use public domain photos – you can filter the images that you search easily.
Team behind Fancy Crave thinks that “People are tired of cheesy stock photos. Instead, they want emotionally driven images that tell a story.”
That is why they decided to handpick 2 images every day and add it to their database!
They collected over thousand of good quality images, all under the CC0 license.
Their collections are pretty amazing! You can not only download a pack containing 50 images of palm trees, or drones but also read about them! Every pack contains a short story to introduce you to the presented subject. Pretty awesome!
They also run a blog with many interesting tips about visual content.
9+10.)Flickr & Flickr: The Commons
Everyone heard about Flickr, one of the largest photo hosting sites in the world. Basically, it’s like a Facebook for amateur and pro photographers. Their database contains a huge number of 13 billion (!) photos.
The photos there are under nearly every license – but it’s easy to filter out ones that are not available for commercial purposes.
The thing we love the most in Flickr is the search engine.
You can not only filter the license type but select the desired color palette, orientation, min. size, or artistic type like shallow depth of field or images with a pattern.
Moreover, you can sort the images by the date of the upload or the ammount of buzz that photo created (views, likes, downloads)
If the photo contains EXIF data it’s displayed in easy to read form under every picture.
The Commons is the part of the service which contain only public domain pictures that were “donated” by various organisations – libraries, goverments, etc.
The awesome search engine is still available here, and it’s a perfect place to find vintage photos or illustrations from the old books.
Foodie Factor is your source of high quality photos of food related content, created by proffesionall community.
All of the photos are under CC0 license, so ou can use them without mentioning the author.
Big con of the site is lack of the categories, so the only way to browse photos, is to use keywords.
Overall site looks really slick and have a great selection of pretty photos, all available to download without the need to register.
Foodies Feed is another food-oriented photo database.
All of the content is under the CC0 license, so you can use it without attribution.
Unlike the Foodie Factor, there are much more ways to browse the site assets.
You can find here categories describing food types, or the type of the shoot (close-up/full table etc.)
It’s possible to browse the author pages directly, and see the rest stuff from the same camera and with the same style!
This option can be very helpfull if you look for consistent stye pictures for your website design or menu card!
To download, you don’t have to be registred (8 sec. waiting time for download), but being a user gives you the possibility to skip the waiting time, and another dosens of photos to your email and on your account on the site.
The “Free” part in the name is pretty tricky here.
The website with nearly 200k photos, indeed let you download nearly every picture for free, BUT:
1.You have to give credits to the site with link
2.The downloadable size is… 400px wide max
3.You need to provide them with your email, on which they send you the photo.
As you can see – the site might not be for everyone, but the possibility of downloading a small photos for free can be helpful for your design sketches before you decide to buy the paid version.
You can browse through categories and there are few search options… but it doesn’t really help find the pictures you need – the camera photo shown here was really one of the best available.
Their manifesto is quite simple – they hate glossy stock photography and created the database of 1450 pictures grouped into categories.
All of the content is under the CC-BY license, which means that it requires the name attribution.
The site is very well designed and eye-catching, as well as the hand picked selection of materials.
Main disadvantage of the site is the lack of search functionality.
Instead of that you can download the whole library packed into few categories (like nature, tech, food etc.)
Pretty cool domain for SEO optimization, right?
They gathered nearly 400k of free to use images, all without the need to give the credits to the author.
Unless you are using the image in some kind of an editorial (video slideshow, or a presentation) than it’s necessary to include the credits in either audio or visual form.
There are no search options, but you can browse photos by the category.
All of the assets look very “stock-like” and it’s hard to find something creative or original.
There is an “Editorials Pick” section, but… just see for yourself.
The website contains over 16k of photos created by the contributed photographers.
All of the photos are free to personal use, and you need to pay 50$ for each one if you want to use them commercially.
That’s the first reason why there is no “camera” photo attached.
The second one is that searching for a “camera” delivers you pictures of a kangaroo, cat, and some trees.
A design is clearly not the best side of the site founder, and navigating is pretty crooked.
But we must admit, that some of the shots are really jaw-dropping. (But still, they look “stocky”)
18.)Free Photos Bank
Site contains over 24k of photos, but only some of them are free to use.
19.)Free Range Stock
Free Range Stock is a nice looking website that offers both illustrations and photos, free to commercial use.
There are 2 types of licenses on the site – CC0 and the “Freerange” license, which is basically the same as the CC0. So no attribution required for any type of photo usage.
There are many categories on the site, author pages, and search options.
You need to register in order to download photos, but you don’t have to confirm your email, so the process is very easy and fast.
But it’s kind of hard to find what you want there – after putting in the keyword “camera”, an image with a visible camera on it was displayed on the end of the second page.
This website contains over 15k of photos and clip-art like images.
There are images there under many different licenses, so you need to find out on your own when you need to attribute the site or the author.
It’s easy to download the images, but there are many low-resolution ones and many amateur style ones.
Good Stock Photos is one of the sites with a very nice selection of images available.
All of the stuff can be used without any attribution and can be downloaded very easily without any requirements.
Very nicely designed site with awesome pictures photographed by Ryan McGuire, the owner and founder of the website.
There is no copyright on the images, so you can use them in nearly every situation without providing an attribution.
Ryan shoot some dope photos, nearly all of them are in one, vibrant style, so it’s easy to compose a design from his library.
There is a search field and the photos are categorized – the library isn’t the biggest one, but he claims to add new photos every week.
A big plus for the creative and artistic value of the pictures and very easy to use, one-page design!
Pretty tiny database (just over 500 photos) packed into few categories.
There is an option to search through the images, but as you can see – it can be hard to find the photo you wanted.
The biggest flaw is that you need to register and confirm your email address in order to download your content.
Furthermore – after confirming my email address I was still unable to download anything due to XML error page displayed after clicking the download button.
Hope that that was just temp problem, cause there are some very nice looking photos on the site.
I’m Creator is more than just a free photo source.
It’s your all in one resource for the freebies for designers.
You can find here fonts, cms templates, icons, pictures, and illustrations.
It’s not a stock database itself, it’s more like a place where contributors put links to the works that they enjoy and admire.
Attribution is very mixed – it depends on the type of the work, author, and the site that it’s hosted on.
25-51.) Download sortable comparison list of all 51 sites for free!
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51.- 73.) Article with more than 20 search engines indexing free stock photos!