Any successful website, blog or social media account needs eye-catching imagery.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available, the issue is that most of them are either very expensive or under the jurisdiction of extremely complicated licensing laws.
Once you do find a resource that offers free stock images, the majority of these sites host the same, similar stock photography and clichéd ‘arty’ photos.
Here at Verve, we think a lot about visual content and following on from the success of the recent 21 Blog Writing Tips From The Experts article which now has well over 2,000 social shares (and counting), it made perfect sense to put together this post…
For my own benefit, I wanted a ‘go to’ list of sites that offered royalty free stock images for commercial use. There did not seem to be much available that wholly offered what I was looking for. There are articles that list ‘free stock image’ sites, but I found that 99% of these did not clearly state the licensing rules with regards to commercial use of the images.
All of the photographs featured on the sites on this list are free from copyright restrictions and can be used on your web sites, blogs and for any other commercial use.
The list is split into 2 sections and an overview of the license for each site is included within block quotes along with a link to the full license details (if applicable).
If you find this post useful in anyway, please do share it on Social Media (buttons to the right). Social shares allow us to grade the good content from the great and ensures future content is even better!
After many hours of research, here are my 27 recommendations for sites with royalty free stock images for commercial use.
Most of these sites are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. The sites not covered by Creative Commons Zero have also been made available for commercial use without the need to attribute the site in any way (although Im sure they would appreciate a mention).
An incredible source of over 250,000 free photos, vectors and art illustrations. This site is categorised and has search functionality so it is very easy to find what you want, fast.
To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images. You are free to adapt and use the Images for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although absolutely not required, a link back to Pixabay would be nice. Full terms here.
Gratisography contains high-resolution images captured by Ryan McGuire. The site utilises a 1 page design; as there are no categories it can be difficult to use if you are looking for a particular genre of photo. That said it is my ‘go to’ site if I am unsure exactly what type of photo I require and in need of some inspiration.
All photos published on Gratisography are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Substantial array of high-resolution downloads that are organised by category. All pictures on the website were captured by Thomas Mühl. There is also an option to download all current photos as a .zip file for a donation of €10.
All pictures on snapographic.com were captured by Thomas Mühl and are free of Copyright Restrictions (CC0 1.0 Universal). Attribution is not required but would be appreciated.
A stunning selection of high-resolution photos put together by Dave Meier. Currently a relatively small selection of stock on the site (but what they do have is incredible), I recommend subscribing to the mailing list to receive new photos straight to your mailbox every month.
All photos published on picography are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Collection of photos put together by designer Jay Mantri. 7 new photos are added every Thursday and you can subscribe for reminders once new stock is added.
All photos published on Jay Mantri are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Beautiful selection of stock images put together by Matt Hobbs and his family. There is always something breathtaking on the homepage and I love the simplicity of the categories. New free stock photos added every week, e-mail subscription available.
All photos published on Public Domain Archive are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
What really makes Unrestricted Stock stand out from the rest is the free stock vectors and icon sets they offer. Their mission is to provide the world with high quality images, video and vectors at no cost and with no usage restrictions..
SplitShire offers delicious, free stock photos for personal & commercial use. The site is owned and maintained by Daniel Hanescu. Daniel is a web designer, graphic designer and photographer who like me, was looking for some cool photos for projects (and having difficulty). I love the look and feel of the site and particularly the mood of the photos on show.
Hi, I’m Daniel Nanescu and I love photography so much that I give my shots away for free. Yes it’s true, we Italians are highly generous people.
I want to personally thank you for stopping by my site SPLIT SHIRE, where I share all of my personal shots to the public for free. It might sound like I’m a little crazy, but anyone who has ever done any graphic design work, which is what I also do, knows it is so hard to find great pictures. Full terms here.
Free high-resolution images/photos for personal & commercial use, new content added weekly. Hand-made with love by Leeroy Advertising Agency in Montreal & its network of photographers.
All photos published on Life Of Pix are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Pic Jumbo was created by web designer Viktor Hanacek. The site hosts a varied selection of genres, from weddings, to food, to animals. My personal favourites are within the abstract category.
You can use them for many different things. For webdesign, sliders, apps, backgrounds or any other commercial use. You are not limited. One thing I would really appreciate is an attribution. It’s up to you, it is not necessary but greatly appreciated! Full terms here.
On a personal level, Unsplash is usually the first site I visit if I am looking for an eye-catching stock photo. 10 new images are uploaded to Unsplash every 10 days and you can subscribe to the updates.
There is no search functionality but there is a constant plethora of jaw-dropping photos featured on the homepage.
All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Created by Cole Townsend, it contains vintage photos from the public archives, free of known copyright restrictions. Outstanding selection of photos that pre-date copyright laws.
All photos on this site are not known to come under any copyright restrictions. Full details of the rights can be found here.
Not the best site on this list. Only about 50% of the images are of a high quality and you need to register before you can download (and even then they persist on asking you to like their brand on social media. All that aside the site does contain a very large selection of images.
All images are freely available for use in commercial projects. Full details and FAQs can be found here.
If I am looking for inspiration I generally go to Magdeleine. What I love is that as well as having the options to browse by category and search it is also possible to group images by their ‘dominant colour’. Not the largest array of Creative Commons Zero licensed images, that said, every single image on the site is incredible.
All photos published on this sections of Magdeleine are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Subscribe to Little Visuals and you will be sent 7 x hi-res images every 7 days. Don’t want to hand-over your e-mail address? That is fine too as the weekly images are also featured on the website.
All photos published on Little Visuals are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Death To The Stock Photo is not your ordinary stock photo site. It is also not the place to come to if you want to find thousands of free stock images.
The goal of Death to The Stock Photo is to bring you a variety of options that are available for commercial use for your blog posts, social accounts and mockups. Subscribe via e-mail and each month you will be sent a pack of 10 photos all linked to a particular category.
Death To The Stock Photo use their own license agreement. Photos are free for commercial use and the Terms of service with the full license details can be found here.
The majority of these sites are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (BY), this means that licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits.
The others, although not licensed under Creative Commons can be used for commercial purposes so long as the author is attributed.
In plain English, you can use the images on your websites, blogs and social media but you need to attribute the author and inform them of any changes to the original work.
A curated collection of free resources all for commercial use. The site utilises search functionality to find images based on your search term. These images are hosted on Flickr and will be covered by different versions of Creative Commons Licenses.
The Creative Commons License varies for each image, you should check the individual licensing rules that can be easily found before downloading.
Although this site does contain fantastic nature related photographs (animals, flowers etc…), for me it is better used as a great resource for textures and background images.
Free stock images created and released by Doni, Justin and Al under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Use them on your website, your blog, in a WordPress theme, on a mousepad… Wherever, just give us credit and it’s all good. Full details here.
Don’t be put off by the look and layout of this site. If you are looking for photos of cars this is the place to visit. There are currently over 100 different car makes (I do not have the time to count how many models there are!). Although the site could do with a revamp the categorised structure and search functionality makes it extremely easy to use.
This means they can be used for any purpose, even commercially but you must give appropriate credit to the original author
Note: This site has recently closed
In the same vein as carpictures.cc it is not the most aesthetically pleasing site on this list; however, if you need free stock images of a platypus or an armadillo then there is no better site than this.
The images on animalphotos.info are licensed by CC-BY-SA. This means they can be used for any purpose, even commercially but you must give appropriate credit to the original author
Stock Media is another useful source for generic stock images. Need a photo of some money, balloons or a random object? Give this site a look.
Superfamous is the Los Angeles-based studio of Dutch interaction designer Folkert Gorter. This site does not host one unattractive image, it is rammed full with outstanding landscapes and breath-taking scenes of nature.
The design work on this site is available under the conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means that you can use the work for your own purposes — including commercial use — as long as credit is provided.
Ok so Magdeleine has already been mentioned within the ‘FREE – No Attribution Required’ section of the post. Although the images referenced in this section do require attribution they deserve an extra mention as the quality of the images on show are of an incredible standard.
The design work on this section of the site is available under the conditions of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. This means that you can use the work for your own purposes — including commercial use — as long as credit is provided.
A lovely array of images, from nuts and bolts to sunflowers to police. I particularly like the ‘tag’ system that allows you to easily view all images related to ‘trees’, ‘bikes’ etc…
Images on this site are released under the Creative Commons License ShareAlike 4.0. If you use any of these photos you should link back to AJ Montpetit’s personal website (http://ajmontpetit.com). Full details here.
A selection of over 3,000 travel stock photos categorised by geographic location. Need stock images for an article about London, Australia or Japan? This is the first site to check.
Images are provided free of charge under a Creative Commons license – on a royalty free basis and the condition that a credit (printed use) or a hyperlink (online use) is made to this site “http://photoeverywhere.co.uk“
Large selection of pictures contributed by amateur photographers who want nothing more than to see their images on the internet. As you might expect the overall quality of the images does not complete with some of the other sites. A nice little touch is that in each photo gallery you will find tourist tips and ideas alongside the free photos.
bigfoto copyright is very simple. You can use all pictures free of charge in return for providing a link to the bigfoto website (http://www.bigfoto.com) on your own website or blog.
Cr103 is a somewhat untapped library of free abstract backgrounds, textures and design ideas.
You can use the stock images on this site in almost anyway you want, if you do use the images then you take all responsibility and liability arising from their use. If you use the images in a commercial application then you must credit this site as the source. Full details here.
Each of the 26 sites featured in this list have specific strengths and standout areas of expertise. Take a little time to discover which sites are your favourites and you will be armed with a whole arsenal of regularly updated resources to keep your work fresh and breathtakingly-beautiful.
Have I missed any? If you have any recommendations for me to make this post any better I would love to hear your comments below (where you can also find our newsletter signup to receive all future Verve blog material).
If you have found this post useful in anyway, please do share it on Social Media (buttons to the right). Social shares allow us to grade the good content from the great and ensures future content is even better!
At the time of writing, all of the images on these sites are freely available for commercial use, that said, I can not guarantee that individual sites will not change direction in this area. Where available I have added links to the ‘licensing terms’ for each site.