Finding free images to use in personal or commercial work has never been easier, thanks to a growing number of stock photo websites. Better yet, the photos I have been finding are surprisingly high quality and lack the typical boring, stock feel.
Below is my hand-picked selection of the best free stock photo sites that I often reference when designing websites. The majority of these sources offer completely free, do-whatever-you-want licensing but it’s still a good idea to check the copyright details before downloading.
I’ll continue to update this collection so bookmark it and check back. If you have a suggestion for where to find other free stock photos, leave a comment.
Unsplash kicked off the free stock revolution. They were one of the first to start giving away totally free images and have built an incredible catalog of content (over 2 million at the time of this writing). The photo quality and community following is nothing short of astounding. They’ve also partnered with several popular services, which you can see on their Developers page.
Pexels has really transformed over the years and grown into a major player in the free stock world. Their photo quality is extremely high and focuses heavily on models, portraits, and other people scenes. I suspect they’re also commissioning content, which helps keep a steady flow of fresh content.
They’ve added videos as well and it’s some of the best free stock videos you’ll find anywhere. Unfortunately, Pexels also switched their license away from CC0 around 2018, which may have been related to being acquired by Canva. If the site feels familiar, it’s because it has a very similar design to Unsplash.
StockSnap is one of the few big free stock sites still offering a CC0 license. Their catalog is not as extensive as others but the site is updated regularly and has a lot of original content you won’t find elsewhere. My personal favorite categories are flat lays and technology, which have a solid mix for creating mockups that I use a lot in my Creative Market designs.
Burst (made by Shopify) is relatively new in terms of site age but they’ve quickly grown to be one of the best sources of free stock photos. Although they have some CC0 content, most of it is licensed under their own custom terms. Just be sure to take note when viewing each individual file.
One unique aspect of Burst is their content is usually topical. For example, during the summer of 2020, they focused a lot on images with people wearing masks, working from home, and other relevant scenes. They have at least a handful of very consistent contributors, like Matthew Henry, with a clean, modern style to their photos.
If you need silly, quirky stock photos, Gratisography is the only site you need to visit. Created by the wildly creative Ryan McGuire, this site is full of funny and unusual stock photos you just can’t get anywhere else. To top it off, the peace-of-mind licensing makes it super easy to use.
Pixabay has been around for a long time and has an extensive photo collection that has grown into videos and vectors as well. Compared to other large stock sites, I’ve found Pixabay’s content quality to be a little more random and slightly lower in quality. My best guess is their submissions aren’t reviewed as closely and let in just about any content. That being said, they still have one of the top free stock sites available as long as you’re ok using their own license.
Free Nature Stock is my own side project and I’m extremely proud of it. I have personally captured every photo and video on the site and share them for free under the CC0 license. I’ve been working on this for a handful of years now and the collection is growing quite large for a one-man crew.
Along with capturing the content, I also built and maintain the site itself. If you’re looking for outdoorsy shots, especially Milky Way images, I’d like to think my site can help you out.
New Old Stock has a unique, vintage collection of photographs that take you back in time. While the old-fashioned content is very specific, there is a significant amount to browse.
Startup Stock Photos doesn’t appear to be updated often anymore but they still have a useful set of free stock photos of business scenes, freelancers, and work-from-home offices.
This is another site that looks dormant lately. However, there’s still a very nice collection of free CC0 images to browse and use in personal or commercial projects.
As the name implies, this site offers free images from travels around the world and has been at it since 2014. It’s a nice collection released with a CC0 license.
ISO Republic is a blend of free stock photos and videos, although much more full on the photo side. The site is updated often and all content is public domain under the CC0 license.
Victor Hanacek has been building Picjumbo since 2013 and crafted a really nice selection of free images. He mentions being rejected by traditional stock photo sites and deciding to give his work away for free, which is a story I can relate to after struggling to sell on the typical marketplaces.
There’s also a Premium side of Picjumbo where you can get access to more content. My one tiny gripe with the site is it’s relatively heavy with ads.
Picography is a little on the small side compared to other massive collections listed above. However, it’s still updated every week and has a great variety to choose from.
It’s hard to find the photo license on Life of Pix but there is a mention of being able to use these photos and videos without restrictions in personal or commercial work.