Humans are visual creatures by nature.
This means, if you have an online presence (website, blog, email campaigns etc.), be sure to include photos, images, graphics. This will not only help break up the lame-o text, but help your visitors visually understand your messages. We’re actually just kidding about the lame-o text bit – text is sooo important!
But seriously, not everyone can afford to have a paid subscription to those expensive stock photography sites. And besides, everyone uses them too. What you need is to find great images that are royalty-free AND actually free.
Since we’re in the business of making beautiful websites and blogs pop with images, we wanted to share a few of our favourite (actually, 16) image banks.
1. Death to Stock
Let’s start with this since it’s unlike the others we review. This stock site operates a little differently. You have two options, a premium membership (monthly or annual dues) where you get, surprise!, premium photos. OR you can submit your email and receive free photos on a monthly basis. Trouble is, you never know what you’re gonna get and if it’s relevant to your business. But hey, if you’re flexible, and love surprises, this is the site for you. Visit Death to Stock
Ah, Pexels. Where have you been all our (digital) lives? This site offers its visitors lots and lots and lots of great, high resolution options. The home page lists the most popular downloads of the month and a little further down, you’ll see the newest uploads. Meanwhile, much like the paid sites, once you click on a photo, you’ll be shown ‘similar’ photos as well. Visit Pexels
If you like things a little less traditional (like the OG team!), then this is probably the site for you. Under the whimsical tab, you’ll find exactly that. Whimsical, fun and unique photos. All the photos are taken by Ryan McGuire who also includes a few self-portraits. Visit Gratisography
A great site with great photos, but the search function leaves a little something to be desired. Our recommendation is to be as generic in your search terms as possible to get the best results. Having said that, the photos on this site are top notch. Truly. The other great feature of this site? The creative commons zero license, which means you can do whatever your little heart desires to these pics, without having to ask for permission. Visit Unsplash
Originally called DavesFreePhotos.com, what makes Imagebase special is the fact that they offer PowerPoint templates. That’s right, Microsoft PowerPoint templates with images and layouts all ready to go. There are only a few categories to choose from (city, nature, holy land, objects, people and slides), so pics are limited, but it’s still a great site with great photos. Visit Imagebase
With almost a million pics (and counting) to choose from, submitted by photographers and artists, you can search stock photos as well as art illustrations and vector files. Also part of the creative commons license, you have free reign with these lovelies. Visit Pixabay
As it says on the Minimography homepage, “Royalty-free minimalist photos.” So if that’s what you’re in search of, minimalist photos, you’ve come to the right place. The photos on this site don’t scream colour, but the colours that are present are bright and stand out to make a point. The composition is something unique and it’s definitely worth checking out. Visit Imagebase
PhotoPin, specifically for “bloggers and creatives” (as the site claims) is surely one of the better sites. But again, it’s all based on your search terms. Once you get to your results page, be sure to click on what type of license you require. Unlike some of the other sites, this bad boy does have some restrictions. Visit Photopin
OK so for all the food-loving, food-eating, food-creating folks out there, this is the site for you. If your blog or business has anything to do with food, any food, this is the site you want to start with. Be warned, not everything on FoodiesFeed is free. In fact, if there is a [$] before the header, it means there is a cost associated with that image or item. There is also a premium section where you can pay a low, lifetime membership fee and have access to premium food photos. Visit FoodiesFeed
Not all photos are 100% free here, so be weary of your selections. What is cool and different about Picjumbo is their ‘Test Drive’ section. Once you click on a photo, you can select the ‘Test Drive’ option which will open a new tab. There, you can scroll through different full-screen-size versions of your chosen pic and see what it looks like with variations of copy superimposed, or in different positions. This will help you judge whether it’s the right photo for you. Visit PicJumbo
11. ISO Republic
ISO Republic offers both free and paid royalty-free images on their site (check the fine print). There are only a few key categories to choose from, but ISO does offer up its users a basic keyword search. Visit ISO Republic
Beautiful photos, she has. This site offers its users a more artistic type of photography, as opposed to literal, though there are some of those as well. The explore function on the right side of the page allows you to even specify the dominant colours in the images. From cityscapes to animals and technology, these are certainly some of the more interesting free stock images on the web. Visit Magdeleine
Wow these photos. These photos right here have a depth to them like almost no other site. From the lighting and composition, to the subject and the colours, everything is near perfect with this bunch. What is also great about this site is you can see how many views and downloads each photo has received. This is great if you’re on the prowl for less popular pics, though there’s nothing stopping every Tom, Dick and Harry from downloading the same image after you. Visit Skitterphoto
14. Life of Pix
A great selection of pix (ahem!) and a great search function. They have a dozen or so categories to choose from including beach, desk, city, and textures. Not to mention, you can even specify what feature colour you want in your photo, and there’s every colour of the rainbow and several shades for each colour to choose from. Life of Pix also offers Life of Vids – a similar royalty-free site for videos, clips, and loops, perfect for the modern website. Visit Life of Pix
Flickr’s been around for quite some time, and is a user-generated site where people can choose to share their best pics with the world. A word of caution, however, is that not everything you find on Flickr is free to use as you please. Users have the option of selecting whether their photos are completely restriction-free, require attribution (photo credit is given to the author of the image), whether they can or cannot be used for commercial purposes and about a half-a-dozen other stipulations. Visit Flickr
This website started off as a way for a photographer to share his otherwise unseen photos with the world. Now, it’s evolved into a site where people can use his incredible images without restrictions and he invites others to share their photos for the same purpose. The only thing that makes this site a little different then the others is the lack of a traditional search feature. Instead, click on the categories tab to select your preference. Visit SplitShire
A Parting Note
We’ve mentioned throughout that some sites are flat-out free for everyone to use, with a creative commons license that allows you to use the images for commercial (business) purposes and does not require you to provide photo credit. Please, please, pretty please, make sure you read the fine print and ensure you are respecting the licenses on each site and for each photo. Always read the terms and conditions before making assumptions – even on free sites.