When you need an image for a post or product and do not have the opportunity to take a picture, you look for a reputable website with royalty free images… and you get frustrated. Right?
But don’t fret, my friend! Free stock photos are easy to find if you know where to look. Grab this list of over 80 places to get royalty free images.
However, while there are places to find copyright free images, you need to understand the legalese to avoid getting into trouble using stock photography that requires additional licensing.
Stop! Have you made these copyright mistakes?
Have you ever used a photo you discovered through an internet search?
Did you think the photo was free because it did not have a watermark?
Have you used a photo because you do not blog for profit and thought you would not be prosecuted since you are not a business?
Did you comply with a DMCA takedown notice by removing a photo and feel like “all is well”?
Do you have a disclaimer on your website saying that you “do not claim copyright to any of the images” on your blog?
Answer “yes” to any of these questions and you are in jeopardy of copyright infringement.
Every photograph, blog post, graphic… everything created and published in the internet is immediately covered by copyright law whether it is register or not. Even if an image is void of watermark, the intellectual property rights belong to the original photographer and may not be used without permission or licensing.
>>Read more about copyright for bloggers.
>>Learn about United States Copyright.
>>Learn about International Copyright.
Finding free images through search
Many internet newbies make a huge mistake by searching for an image with a search engine like Google Images or Pinterest and assume that if the photograph is online, it is readily available for any use.
Actually, the majority of images that show up in searches are all copyrighted images.
>>Read more about Copyright and Fair Use of images.
Whether an image carries a watermark or not, it is the property of the original owner. You may not use these images even if you remove the watermark or alter the image. These photos do not belong to you and using them can get you in tremendous trouble.
Bloggers can be sued for using images!
Don’t believe me? Read these articles about bloggers who were sued for thousands because they used what they thought were “free images”:
- The $7,500 Blogging Mistake
- Bloggers Beware! You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog
- The $8,000 Mistake that All Bloggers Should Beware
- NYTimes Photographer Sues Perez Hilton for $2.1M Over Copyright Infringement
Important Terms to Understand
You might see one blogger say, “I am safe because I use Public Domain images” while another blogger boasts, “I am just as safe because I use photos with Creative Commons.” But what is the difference? What do all of these terms mean?
Intellectual Property Rights
Creations of the mind are protected by certain laws and may have rights to additional patents and trademarks. Works include but are not limited to music, literature, discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, photographs, and designs.
>>Read more about intellectual property rights.
Selected by the owner based on perceived value, licensing imparts certain rights to others on how the property may be used. The terms of a license should include the requirements and restraints for use.
The term “royalty-free” means that the owner shares the right to use copyrighted material without charging the consumer with royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization intent on providing creates with the ability to share their art with certain protections.
They have created several levels of licensing to help others understand how the property can be copied, distributed, edited, and altered.
The 6 basic Creative Commons Licenses
With a Creative Commons license, you can build upon the original work. However, each work may have additional conditions attached. Look for these terms when searching for photographs:
- Non-Commercial (NC) means the image may not used for business intentions.
- No Derivative Works (ND) gives you permission to use the original work only and not to change it in any way.
- Share Alike (SA) refers back to the original license and means you can only use that image based on the conditions placed on the original work. An image denoting CC BY-SA means that you can change the work but you have to maintain the original works designated licensing. For instance, you cannot change the photograph and then insist on a ND condition.
These options are combined into six basic Creative Commons licenses.
CC BY – Attribution required
“This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered.”
CC BY-SA – Attribution and sharing required
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.”
CC BY-ND – Attribution required and no derivatives allowed
“This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.”
CC BY-NC – Attribution required and noncommercial use only
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.”
CC BY-NC-SA – Attribution required, noncommercial only, and sharing required
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.”
CC BY-NC-ND – Attribution required, noncommercial use only, and no derivatives allowed
The most restrictive of the six main licenses, this license only allows others to “download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.”
CC0 – No attribution required, no limitations
This license allows commercial use and derivative works without requiring attribution. Many websites refer to this as a “do anything you want” license. Sometimes, this is referred to as Public Domain.
Read more about Creative Commons licensing.
Credit is required to use property requiring attribution. Correct attribution means that under the image you will place the name of the work (with link), name of the photographer (with link), and the CC license number (with link).
A public domain photograph can be used by anyone and altered without giving attribution to the original artist. The copyright or licensing has expired or been forfeited. [SOURCE]
Using royalty free images
Personally, I seek royalty free images, meaning that I pay for a membership to an image library or buy the image and can use it without owing the company further payment based on my profit. [SOURCE]
Most royalty-free images also come with licensing guidelines. Make sure that you read the guidelines as they may differ based on the company.
For example, on Canva you can pay $1 per image but only have rights to use the image once.
If you want to use any of Canva’s Stock Media, you have to pay to obtain a license.
If you pay for a One-time Use License, then you can only use that Stock Media in one of your Canva Designs and you’re not allowed to edit the PDFs, PNGs or JPGs that we give you as part of that license. [SOURCE]
According to my understanding of these terms, you can can create an image for a blog post but need to purchase the image again if you want to resize it for social media or an email campaign.
Also with Canva, you are not allowed to use their images if you will be profiting from the image. Within the terms, Canva specifically mentions posters, templates of any nature, and “on demand” products, including postcards, mugs, t-shirts, posters and other items. [SOURCE]
Where to find royalty free images
Free and cheap images are available but finding them through a basic search can be difficult so I compiled a list of websites that I either use or have been recommended to me.
Please be aware that the licensing on these websites may change. A link is provided (when available) for you to verify the terms of the website before using.
Snapwire Snaps – A Tumblr-based website, seven free photographs are made available every seven days. You can also search for image by topic. [TERMS: not found]
MyCuteGraphics.com – Free clip art “for printing, scrapooking, teacher created lessons, craft projects, to decorate your blog and more. The clip art you find here is 100% original and free for personal and educational use.” [TERMS]
Flickr – Search by “license” to find images available for free use without attribution. [TERMS: vary by image]
Epicantus – A Tumblr-based website. “Feel free to use these hi-res photos for your landing pages, blog posts & designs.” [TERMS: not found]
Raw Pixel – Authentically styled, unique stock photography. Email registration required. [TERMS: not found]
Epicva – “All photos on Epicva are our property, but anyone can download them and use them for both personal and commercial projects. No attribution needed but much appreciated.” [TERMS: not found]
IM Creator – A collection for free elements intended for website design including templates, photos, icons, and more. [TERMS: not found]
Sketch Jar – Although they promote two new pictures every day, nothing new has been added since 2015. Even so, you will still find an eclectic collection on images here. [TERMS: not found]
Free JPG – The tagline mentions these images are free for commercial and editorial use. [TERMS: not found]
Splashbase – Free photographs and videos available under the CC0 license. [TERMS: not found]
Photo Collections – Browse CC0 photos by category, including industrial, nature, people, transportation, food, and animals. [TERMS: not found] MMT Stock – Free for commercial use, these photos are by Jeffrey Betts with a CC0 license. [TERMS: not found] Designers Pic – All images listed are “free for personal and commercial use” with the condition that you do not sell the photographs. [TERMS] StreetWill.co – “Free vintage photos to use any way you want…” but they offer a lot more than vintage photography. [TERMS: not found] PublicDomainPictures.net – A collection of free and premium images. Also includes vectors and videos. [TERMS: not found] Jay Mantri – A Tumblr based photo blog where all photos are available to use for free under CC0. [TERMS: not found] stokpic – Download images from various categories or subscribe to receive ten premium images each week. [TERMS] Re:Splashed – Landscape and architectural photography “for website and design projects.” [TERMS: not found] UnrestrictedStock.com – A large collection of vectors and stock photos. [TERMS] Stocka – Beware the click-bating of advertisements on this site. Search by category (and there are several) or with the search bar. [TERMS: not found] Picography – Free high resolution images of animals, architecture, and landscapes. [TERMS] Lime Lane Photography – A collection of photographs intended to be used by bloggers. Includes nature, food, crafts, and more. [TERMS] Travel Coffee Book – A collection of landscapes and travel photos listed with Creative Commons. [TERMS: not found] Refe – Not everything is free but they do have a category for free images. [TERMS] SplitShire – More like a blog that a stock photography site, you can browse this collection of Creative Commons images by category or search. New images are added daily. [TERMS: not found] Little Visuals – Unfortunately, this website is no longer updated due to the tragic death of the photographer but a large selection of landscape and architecture images are available. [TERMS: not found] Titania Foto – A German website featuring animals, landscapes, food, and backgrounds. [TERMS] Gratisography – “Free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. “ [TERMS] StockSnap – Primarily nature and architecture, you can browse through recently available photos or using their search bar. [TERMS] Public-Domain-Image.com – “High quality copyright friendly images, not copyrighted and no restriction for their use. Images explicitly placed in the public domain, no any rights reserved. Public domain images can be used for whatever you want, use it freely for any personal or commercial use.” [TERMS] FreeDigitalPhotos.net – “Download free and premium stock photos and illustrations for websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications and much more.” [TERMS: not found] ThinkStockPhotos.com – Search millions of premium royalty-free images selected from Getty Images and iStock pulled using API. Also features premium services. [TERMS] Bucketlistly – “A free creative common collection of over 2800+ travel photos anyone can use.” [TERMS] ISO Republic – Free and premium photographs with people, landscape, urban, and texture categories. [TERMS] Foter.com – “Foter.com allows you to search, manage and add free stock photos to blogs, forums, websites and other online media. We host over 220 million free Creative Commons images from many online sources and the entire system is also available as a WordPress plugin for seamless use within the WordPress platform.” [TERMS: not found] FreeImages.com – A collection of over 300,000 free images and illustrations. [TERMS] Frankenfotos – A German photograph website with a focus on travel photography. Licensing is CC-BY. [TERMS] Fancy Crave – Free high resolution photos from professional photographers. Two new images every day. [TERMS] Magdeleine.co – Browse a curated collection of images by photographer, dominant color, category, or license requirement. [TERMS: none found. Varies based on image.] FreeMediaGoo.com – “No subscriptions, commission plans or shopping of any kind. These are free stock photos and backgrounds for you to use.” [TERMS] Foodies Feed – Choose free images or become a premium member. Images are all food themed. [TERMS] Skitterphoto – Over 800 photos from people to landscapes and everything in between. All photos are CC0. [TERMS] New Old Stock – Copyright free vintage photographs. Most in black and white. [TERMS: not found] 123rf.com – Over 58 million stock photographs, vectors, footage and audio clips available for purchase through a credit system. [TERMS] Negative Space – Browse images by search and sort based on category, copy space position and color. [TERMS] Creative-Commons.DeviantArt.com – A photographer community where not all images are CC0. [TERMS] FreeRangeStock.com – Search by keyword and browse a database of images including holidays, insects, arts, flowers, food, fitness, and more. [TERMS] KaboomPics – Lovely photographs of architecture, fashion, food, and more. According to their terms, you “can do virtually anything” with these images. [TERMS] Tookapic – User submitted photo database of free and premium images. [TERMS: not found] pdphoto.org – An older website with a category listing in the sidebar, most are copyright free but some are not. [TERMS] BossFight – Promises new images are added daily. Just look for the small text to “download” and avoid the click-bait ads trying to distract you. [TERMS] Photo Everywhere – Over 3,000 travel related photos that you browse using an image map of the world. [TERMS] EveryStockPhoto.com – “We are a search engine for free photos. These come from many sources and are license-specific.” [TERMS] Startup Stock Photo – Business-themed photographs listed with Creative Commons as CC0. [TERMS: not found] Cupcake – “Free (do what ever you want) photos.” [TERMS] Minimography – A stark collection of minimalist photographs. Browse by number, tag, or category. [TERMS] FromOldBooks.org – True to the name, expect over 3,500 free images from old rare antique and vintage books. [TERMS: not found] Pexels – Promising to add 50 new photos every day, choose from a wide variety of CC0 images. [TERMS] Shutteroo – A collection of travel-related photographs. [TERMS] animalphotos.info – A large database of user submitted animal photos. “Image Copyright is held by original owners; all are licensed as either CC-BY or CC-BY-SA.” [TERMS: not found] CarPictures.cc – An abundance of automobile photography. “Images on this site are licensed CC-BY or CC-BY-SA; Image descriptions and metadata are CC-BY-SA.” [TERMS: not found] Visual Hunt – Images are pulled using the Flickr API and a search for Creative Commons photos. I recommend verifying the photos licensing before use. [TERMS] openclipart.org – Primarily clip art and graphics, these are available for unlimited commercial use. [TERMS] clker.com – A variety of free clip art and images covered under CC0 licensing. [TERMS] Skuawk – A varied collection of photographs without need for license or attribution. [TERMS] Libreshot – Browse images based on category or keyword. (Just beware the advertising strategically placed below their search bar.) “A collection of hundreds of high quality free stock images for personal or commercial use.” It is not necessary to indicate the author or source. [TERMS] CompFight.com – “Compfight is an image search engine tailored to efficiently locate images for blogs, comps, inspiration, and research. We make good use of the flickr™ API, but aren’t affiliated with flickr.” [TERMS: not found] Creative Vix – All images are CC0 but be aware that repeats were on the home page from others similar websites. [TERMS] Pixabay – Over 660000 high quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. Free for commercial use. No attribution required. [TERMS] search.CreativeCommons.org – Free images, videos and more but a sketchy disclaimer: “Please note that search.creativecommons.org is not a search engine, but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations. CC has no control over the results that are returned. Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license.” [TERMS] Good Stock Photos – Browse free images, purchase photo packs, or choose a membership. [TERMS] moveast – “This is a journey of a Portuguese guy moving that decided that every photo should be used for free.” [TERMS – not found] photopin.com – Free image database that you can search based on type of license. [TERMS] Realistic Shots – “Free stock photos (high resolution) for personal and commercial use. 7 new photos every week.” [TERMS] Photos8 – Free photos are available but you can only use a small size and attribution is required. They have a complex licensing system. [TERMS] Barn Images – Despite the name, this website hosts a wide variety of photos with free and premium images available. [TERMS]
Have a favorite spot for royalty free photos?
Leave the link in the comments and tell us about the type of images (and the licensing required) that you find there.