Compelling images garner more clicks.
As a business owner, maybe you don’t have a high-flying budget to pay for pricey stock photos for your business, but need not worry. The list below provides the gamut of royalty-free image websites for both personal and commercial use. First, we start with some basic definitions.
Understanding Common Royalty-Free Images Terms
- Royalty-Free: The right to use intellectual property without having to pay royalties or license fees. While this varies depending on the source, royalty-free means you don’t have to fork over money to use the image.
- Creative Commons: This is when an artist waives their rights to their work, so it can be used for the common good by others. Different levels of creative commons exist. Ensure you read the terms of the specific images, graphics, videos, written material and other forms of content before publishing.
- Public Domain: Any material created in the United States before 1923, as well as any non-classified images taken by federal, state and local government are part of the public domain.
- Attribution: This is when the creator or photo-sharing website requires you to credit the author. This varies by site and photographer.
- Commercial Use: The right to use royalty-free images for any business venture.
- Membership: A sign-up is required to access royalty-free images.
Dreams Time: This large royalty-free photo site has a library of thousands of images. Attribution is required.
Free Digital Photos: Provides free images in smaller dimensions. You must include attribution, but may be removed for a small fee.
FreeImages: Hundreds of thousands of free and paid photos organized under a number of categories from architecture, automotive and education.
Free Range Stock: Thousands of high-resolution stock photos for commercial use.
Free Photos Bank: Use Free Photos Bank images for any project you have. There is a searchable database with a number of categories. You are not allowed to modify the images, and must provide photographer credit.
morgueFile: Free photos by creatives for creatives. Started by Michael Connors in 1996, it is one of the oldest free image websites on the internet. All photos can be downloaded and reused for commercial and personal work.
Pixabay: Free, high-quality stock photos, vectors and art illustrations. No attribution is needed.
Public Domain Pictures: Thousands of free images. As you might have guessed, they have public domain photos. To use for commercial purposes, some images require property release.
stockvault: Free stock photos and graphics. Stock Vault adds more high-resolution images every week and requires no attribution.
RGB Stock: Free photos for personal and commercial use. To access high-resolution photos, registration is required. Double check individual photos for attribution.
US Government Photos and Images: A vast majority of these images are public domain or US Government works. However, some images are from private sources. Check each photo before using.
StockSnap.io: A small collection of high-resolution stock photos. These are free from copyright restrictions and attributions.
Stock Photos For Free: Photos are from around the world with a royalty-free license, and permission to use on commercial projects.
Pexels: Thousands of free stock photos with a Creative Commons license. New high-resolution photos are added each month.
StockPhotos.io: Website shares images from multiple sources, so check each photo’s attribution requirements.
Imfree: Images from multiple sources, providing commercially viable, royalty-free images. Imfree images require attribution.
Libre Shot: Hundreds of Creative Commons images for any use. Attribution isn’t required.
Public Domain Archive: Thousands of free public domain images uploaded every week.
Large Photos: A large number of Creative Commons high-quality photos, which can be used for commercial projects.
Freestocks: Creative Commons images that can be copied, modified, distributed and used for commercial projects. Photos may not be sold.
StockPic: Free stock photos for any commercial use except redistribution.
Negative Space: Creative Commons photos with no copyright restrictions. Attribution isn’t required.
ISO Republic: This website combines both free and premium stock photos. They have featured photographers who share images on the website as well. Check out the license requirements for each photo before using.
123RF: While a large part of 123RF is devoted to the millions of premium images, they do have a free library available to members.
Unrestricted: Vector and royalty-free stock photos provided at no cost. Unrestricted allows you to use them for commercial purposes.
Getty Images: Getty is well-known for their high-quality premium images. Their Embed Viewer feature allows for free download, as long as you properly embed the provided code for editorial use only.
VisualHunt: This photo stock search engine crawls over millions of Creative Commons images from sites like Flickr.
Splitshire: Italian photographer Daniel Nanescu shares dozens of free images and also sells premium photos.
BigFoto: A royalty-free photo agency. Make sure to check the individual photos for the attribution. BigFoto photos can be used for personal and commercial purposes.
Death to the Stock Photo: A unique royalty-free photo collection. You’ll need to sign up for their free newsletter to access and browse free photos. Death to the Stock Photo prohibits image distribution, claiming them as yours, and using them in bad taste.
FreeMediaGoo.Com: Complimentary photos with no need for attribution. Many of the images on this site have smaller dimensions—typically not ideal for print campaigns.
HubSpot: The inbound marketing company donates photos for creative and marketing professionals to use. While they appreciate an inbound link to their photos, these images are free to use as you want.
Picjumbo: Ad-funded photo sharing website started by Viktor Hanacek has millions of downloads to date. They have a number of copyright restrictions, so be sure to check their licensing terms before use.
Super Famous Studios: Created by Dutch interaction designer Folkert Gorter. The Creative Commons license does require a credit to the photographer.
Dryicons: Providing free image licenses with restrictions, as well as regular and extended paid licenses allowing additional image rights.
Life of Pix: Montreal advertising agency Leeroy shares a number of photos from featured photographers, adding new images weekly.
Kaboompics: Fashion and food stocks photos from Karolina Grabowska. Free of restrictions, but a website link is appreciated.
Fancy Crave: Collection of photos from around the world that are free of use, but a website attribution is appreciated.
InstaStocka: One of the few iPhone stock photo collections. Dylan Simel gives you a smaller collection of restriction-free photos to use personally or commercially.
FindA.Photo: A mini search engine for thousands of free royalty-free images from sites like Unsplash and Jay Mantri. Images are sorted by keywords and color.
MMT: A library of urban shots and are free for commercial use.
Epicantus: A Tumblr blog that provides stunning Creative Commons images. Every photo shared on the blog reviews the copyright status of the image.
Ancestry Images: Many images in this collection are antique prints. They require attribution; not all can be used for commercial use.
New Old Stock: Dozens of free vintage photos. They are free from “known copyright restrictions” since most of these photos are past their copyright date.
Royalty Free Cartoon Characters: While not a photo sharing site, this collection of royalty-free cartoon characters is great for social media, blog, and other digital media efforts. No accreditation necessary. The images are not watermarked, but you are not allowed to sell them.
NASA: The agency’s Flickr account, sharing a collection of space-related images with no known copyright restrictions.
Carpictures.cc: Obviously enough, Carpictures has a library of Creative Commons car photos. You can narrow down your search by car maker.
PhotosEverywhere.co.uk: High-resolution travel images from around the world. These are Creative Commons images you can find using their custom map graphic to determine each photo’s origin.
Startup Stock Photos: Business stock photo site from social media marketing company Sculpt. There are no copyright restrictions, but a link to their website is appreciated.
Travel Coffee Book: A library of copyright-free travel photos from around the world.
Free Nature Stock: Royalty-free nature stock photos for any use.
Good Stock Photos: Free stock photos for personal or commercial use. As they state on the website, “the photos are free, so keep it that way.”
Photo Sharing Sites
Creative Commons: A way to access photo libraries on Flickr, Google, Europeana, Wikimedia, Pixabay and other media websites.
Wikimedia: A media file library with public domain and copyright-free images. You do have to check each author’s specific image terms.
Foter: With millions of free stock photos, Foter one of the largest royalty-free collections on the internet. They also have a convenient WordPress plugin to embed photos directly on your blog. The images are Creative Commons and do need attribution.
Every Stock Photo: Photo search engine organized by category. Every photo has a different attribution requirement.
Photo Pin: A large search navigation bar on the home page gives you access to millions of Creative Commons images. This site is geared directly for bloggers and creatives. Attribution is required.
Lock and Stock: AJ Montpetit has a few collections of Creative Commons photos. Attribution is preferred.
DesignerPics: Images by web designer and developer Jeshu John are free for personal and commercial use.
Picography: A Creative Commons collection of images from professional photographers.
GetRefe: Royalty-free images for personal or commercial use. Resale is prohibited.
Wylio: A Creative Commons image finder that was started in 2010, helping content creators find legal photos. Attribution is preferred.
Flickr: One of the world’s largest photo sharing websites. While not all of their photos have Creative Commons rights, you can do a search for commercial images. Use Flickr’s provided embed code to ensure proper attribution.
Compfight: An image search engine for images for personal and commercial use.
Images to Your Inbox
Unsplash: Three times per month you’ll receive 10 royalty-free images for commercial and personal use, plus free images from a collection of photographers around the world.
SnapWire Snaps: You’ll receive seven free photos every week from their collection of over 200,000 photographers. All are royalty-free images. A paid service is available for images.
Jay Mantri: Another website that sends seven new photos every Thursday. Images are Creative Commons.
Canva: Known as a simple-to-use design program to edit photos, create your own graphics and download templates.
PicMonkey: Design and edit your own images. Similar to Canva, PicMonkey is a what you see is what you get visual editor for creating your own images.
ToonDoo: A resource to create your own cartoons.
Photype.co: Photo editor for images from both free and premium stock sites.
Easel.ly: They have thousands of templates to help you create your own infographics and visuals.
Piktochart: An infographic creator that provides a library of images, the ability to import data and high-resolution graphics to create your infographic.
Seventy-five links later, I hope you’re able to find the royalty-free images you’ve been looking for. As a takeaway, keep in mind licenses change over time, so ensure you read the licensing terms for each image you use.
Drop us a line and let us know which royalty-free image websites you found to be the best match for your needs—or if we missed any.
Andy Nathan is the founder of Smart at the Start, a digital marketing strategy company that helps small businesses grow through bite-sized internet marketing services. He has successfully worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs in over 80 different industries over the past six years.