I just love the internet. It’s full of generous people who don’t mind contributing to interesting initiatives to help others. Case in point, lots of people need pictures for their websites and blogs (like me), and there’s thousands of people who upload their pictures to a number of websites where you can download them to use as you want (except selling them as your own, of course).
Bear in mind that most of these photographs are taken by amateurs, not professionals. That being said, I often find that the quality of the pictures is very good, and I use them extensively for my websites (such as Chrisbizz.com). If they’re too big or too heavy I edit them using a cool little tool called Ipiccy – go check it out. Meantime, here’s my list (I’ve color-highlighted a few of my own preferred ones, too):
- UNSPLASH: my first source whenever I need a picture. No registration required, downloads are easy, lots of choice and a good search function, excellent quality… Unsplash has it all. Visit Unsplash. And because there’s no such thing as taking without giving, I’m also contributing a few of my own.
- FOODSIEFEED: FoodiesFeed is a resource of free realistic food images in high resolution and free digital goods related to food, and organised in several categories for easy reference. There’s also an option to select a Premium plan (a one-time payment of $39-$69-$139 for lifetime access) to access higher resolution pictures that are packaged in bundles (several pictures together in a single download – quite a neat trick). Visit Foodsiefeed.
- GRATISOGRAPHY: neatly organised pictures taken by Ryan McGuire, who adds new photographs every week. Everything is organised in 6 generic categories: animals, nature, objects, people, urban, and whimsical. If you can’t find what you need, there’s plenty of links to Shutterstock for more choice (90m+ pictures – but on that site you have to pay for your downloads). Visit Gratisography.
- JAY MANTRI: Jay’s homepage is very simple with large pictures underneath each other. I suggest you go straight to the archive (that’s where the link after this text is taking you), because there you have a thumbnail’s overview of all pictures, organised chronologically. Quite a good selection, but Jay does not appear to have added any new picture since August 2015. Visit Jay Mantri’s archive.
- JESHOOTS: individual initiative by Jan Vašek of the Czech Republic. 8 categories (animals, architecture, city & street, devices, food, lights, nature, and people) to help you find exactly what you need. It’s probably easier to go straight to any category to have an idea of everything that’s in there, rather than start looking at individual pictures. Visit Jéshoots.
- KABOOMPICS: Karolina is a web designer from Poland who has a passion for photography, and who makes 1530 pictures (and counting) available for use for anybody who wants them. Resolution is mainly 5472px or 3888px (I’m assuming that’s width x height), and everything is organised in 5 categories: abstract, city & architecture, fashion, food, and landscapes. Then there is a search function for anything else, and an option to look things up by tag. Visit Kaboompics.
- PEXELS: this is a site that consolidates pictures from their own contributors, as well as images taken from other free sources like some mentioned in this list. Then some photographs from Shutterstock are added to the pack as “sponsored photo” with a link to go and buy them there. But there’s plenty of very good free ones on Pexels itself, with a very neat little feature that lets you look for pictures based on color. When you found your picture, you can even select the format you want to download it in (original, large, medium, small, or custom). Definitely worth a look so go visit Pexels.
- PIXABAY doesn’t only offer free pictures, but also free vector graphics and illustrations. More than 720.000, to be more or less exact. Lots of these have been submitted by amateur phtographers, but they also offer “sponsored” content, meaning Shutterstock, and that’s how the site is financed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that model, just so you know why for particular pictures you may be redirected somewhere else and asked to pay for it. Visit Pixabay.
- RAUMROT is published by Markus Spiske, who offers his pictures free for commercial use under the creative commons license CC-BY – which means that you must give appropriate credit. There’s 10 categories: business, food & drink, mountain, nature, seasonal, sport, technic, transport, urban, and “best of Franken”. Lots of these have also been packaged in sets so that you can download several pictures all at once. Finally, Markus also offers special sets for sale at a rack rate of $10/set, and you’ll also find links to Shutterstock and Depositphotos if you can’t find what you need on Raumrot. Visit Raumrot.
- SPLITSHIRE is Daniel Nanescu’s initiative to distribute his own pictures for use by everyone who wants them. He prefers that they be used rather than (figuratively) sitting on his hard drive, collecting dust. There’s too many categories to mention (21), so I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking here. If you need the best quality (ZIP pack) you can do that against a cheap payment of only $20/year. Visit Splitshire.
- LITTLE VISUALS is also a little different. The site is kept online by the family of Nic, who died in 2013 by S.A.D.S. (Sudden Adult Death Syndrome). You can sign up with your e-mail to be sent a ZIP file with 7 pictures every week. In return, the family asks if you would consider a small donation to support Hand on Heart charity, that places defibrilators in schools. The images here are very attractive, and easy to find using the tags function. Visit Little Visuals.
- SUPERFAMOUS STUDIOS is a media design practice run by Folkert Gorter in Los Angeles, USA, dedicated to investigating new ways of seeing and communicating. Their images are available under the conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means that you can use the work for your own purposes as long as credit is provided. Pictures are mostly focused on nature, close-ups, and structures. Visit Superfamous Images.
- LIFE OF PIX: like Unsplash, a Canadian initiative. No registration required, easy downloads, and a very visible search feature. More than 1000 pictures, with new ones being added every week (as per Life of Pics own claim). Go to Life of Pix.
- STARTUP STOCK PHOTOS: I don’t know how many photos you can find here, but there could be many. Pictures are mainly business-oriented I feel, and you can find them only by scrolling down and clicking on a button that says “load more”. As many other sites in this list, you can use the pictures as you want, without attribution, but it’s accompanied by a very lengthy legal disclaimer. A bit strange perhaps, but hey, they decide how they want to do it. Visit Startup Stock Photos.
- MMT offers 39 categories with very good pictures of a lot of things. The site is published by Jeffrey Betts, and pictures are available under the CCO license (no attribution required, but you can only use the downloaded pictures for legal purposes). You can comment on any picture if you feel like it, share, tweet, or pin it, and even save it to Dropbox if you’re so inclined. Visit MMT.
- MAGDELEINE has a good selection that you can browse using tags and categories (nature, city & architecture, people, animals, food, technology, objects and abstract). There’s also a neat color selector if you’re looking for a particular hue that you need on your website or blog. Pictures are contributed by different people, and the license under which you can use them are either CCO (no attribution required) or CC-BY (attribution required). I noticed that one of the contributors is Jay Mantri, who is listed nr 4 in this list. Small world, the free pics scene. Visit Magdeleine.
- STOCKSNAP.IO curates the best stock photos from around the web and they also upload photos from select photographers within their network. The end result is a badass repository of beautiful stock photography – as per their own claims. It’s being run by Snappa, a company that offers a graphic design tool that I may feature later on this site. Everything is organised in 19 categories, and I must say it looks good, go have a look for yourself. Visit Stocksnap.io.
- RE:SPLASHED: I’m not too sure what this is all about. Someone (@twanlass) thought it was a good idea to set up a site and post a selection of Unsplash pictures there. So unless I misunderstood (I’m ready to stand corrected if I’m wrong about this) it’s probably better to just use Unsplash – refer to nr 1 in this list. But you can always go and make up your own mind, visit Re:splashed.
- PICOGRAPHY keeps things very simple. They obtain their free pictures from people who freely submit them, and post them with tags which can be used to look through the collection. I think there’s about 120-130 photographs all told, and I believe they regularly add some (you can subscribe to be alerted when that happens). Visit Picography.
- ISO REPUBLIC provides exclusive free and premium stock photos. This website was founded in October 2014 by Tom Eversley, a designer and photographer from England. 600+ pictures, with more added every week. These are of good quality, but if you want the best, you have to buy one of the themed premium packs (which are good value, actually). Visit ISO Republic.
- STOKPIC is Ed Gregory’s initiative to offer lots of free photographs in 16 different categories. Ed has a particular approach to things that appeals to me very much – do read his “about” page when you go there. There are no fewer than 16 categories, which in turn are divided in sub-categories. That makes looking for your picture very easy. Pictures on his site have a watermark on them when viewed online, but that disappears when you download them. Visit Stokpic.
- WEFUNCTION.COM is published by Liam McKay, a designer who seems to be doing a lot of things. His approach is a bit different from other sites in this list, you’ll also find articles on his site that relate to non-photographic graphic work (I hope that makes sense). There’s a few interestingly-priced bundles with graphics for website backgrounds that look good, too. Visit Wefunction.com.
- BUCKETLISTLY PHOTOS is a creative common collection of travel photos anyone can use for free. In this case, the license clearly stipulates that you must attribute the pictures to Bucketlistly, and you must also include a link back to their site. But if you need a great travel picture, this is where you go. Visit Bucketlistly photos.
- CUPCAKE by Jonas Wimmerström who lives in Malmö, Sweden (aka Nillsson Lee). Jonas is a Unsplash contributor (see nr 1 in this list), but not all of his pictures end up there so go have a look at what he puts up on Cupcake. There’s an archive that I found somewhat difficult to use, but perhaps that was because of a slow connection. Visit Cupcake.
- GETREFE is a place where anyone can sell their pictures, but they also have a selection of free photographs available. Any picture you select is put in a shopping basket, and to download it you have to enter your details in order to check out. All a bit too annoying if you ask me, but if you happen to find exactly the free picture that you need, be my guest. Visit Getrefe.
- Updated MAY17: with the next one, the title of this article is no longer correct. Yinan Chen is a travel/photographer/webmaster who travels around the World taking scenic and landmark photos. All these are collected on GOOD FREE PHOTOS, where you can find them in no fewer than 92 categories, of which 67 are about countries. You’ll also find some exotic categories such as fossils, astrophotography, textures, or historical battles. All in all, close to 20.000 pictures, a good place to go have a look for free pictures. Visit Goodfreephotos.
- Updated JUL17: Brian Syuki from Focus Fitness contacted us to ask if we could add his free resource for health & fitness pictures to this list, and we’re happy to oblige. The pics on Brian’s site come in 7 categories: exercises, diet, weight loss, food & drinks, fitness, yoga, and running. If you need good-quality stuff related to health and fitness, look no further, you have found your home. Visit Focus Fitness stock photos.
Quite a list, huh? I’ve noticed that some pictures will appear on two or more of these sites, but that only makes them easier to find, I suppose. Also, all the websites in the list were up and running at the time this post was writen, but I offer no guarantee that they will be available at any point in the future. If you find one that’s been closed I’d appreciate if you could let me know via the comments below so I can remove it from the list. Likewise if you know of other websites where you can get free good-quality pictures, leave a comment and I’ll check it out. Have fun!