Best Stock Image Sites For Sourcing High-Quality Copyright-Free Images

Stock images have something of a mixed reputation – they’re often a bit cheesy (aptly illustrated by business people staring at a whiteboard, a group of women awkwardly laughing, etc.), and even when you find the right fit for the blog post you’re working on, you might end up downloading a low quality photo because the stock image site you used isn’t credible.

Used properly, though, stock free images can really bring your blog posts, case studies, and content to life. And if you know where to look, you can access some incredible work of art that’s capable of outperforming custom designed photos in terms of engagement and reach. Mentioned below are 8 best stock free image websites from where you can source high-quality photos for all your projects.

1. StockSnap.io

StockSnap offers a wide range of stunning high resolution and stock free photos. You’re also provided with a robust search feature that makes it easy to navigate through the several thousands of pictures available. Additionally, StockSnap tracks the overall number of downloads and views so users can find the most popular images on the site. Moreover, the vendor adds hundreds of beautiful pictures on a day-to-day basis and all of them are categorized under the public domain of creative commons. Hence, you don’t need to give attributions when you integrate them into your site.  

2. iStock

iStock is a microstock firm owned by Getty Images, the most popular stock photo agency in the photography industry. It offers a large selection of affordable pictures, and provides a vast collection of stunning, high quality stock photos that are exclusive to their organization, leading to millions of RF photos in the iStock library. All these images are searchable by file type, size, shape, file number, keywords, and more. A unique aspect of iStock is that they highlight a different contributing artist each month and offers a story of their art. Besides all that, iStock hosts an “image of the week”. Users can download the image of the week free of charge, along with the featured images from the previous two weeks.

3. Pixabay

Pixabay is home to more than a million public domain photos – not only images, but also vector graphics, illustrations, and even some videos. One aspect of Pixabay that is worth paying attention to is its collection of landscape imagery. If you don’t have a specific need, you can also go through the Editor’s Choice for some high-quality pictures. Once you hand-pick an image for your project, download the file by completing a Captcha and choosing a relevant resolution. If you sign up for a Pixabay account (it’s free to do so), you can remove the step that requires you to perform the Captcha. As for the resolution, keep in mind that print projects demand a much higher resolution than web-based one). If you’re searching for a stock free image website for your children, Pixabay is pretty safe to use. However, make sure to check the “Enable SafeSearch” box before letting the young ones browse.

4. Pexels

Pexels collects and presents free public domain images from all over the world. Anyone can upload pictures to this website, and Pexels’ highly-skilled curators will choose the best ones to make up its searchable collection of high quality images. You can use Pexels’ search bar to look for a specific theme, or browse by pre-existing themes such as locations, emotions and past times. The site is an ideal choice for app developers and web designers, with a vast collection of device-optimized images that are excellent for showcasing interface mockups. Though a few images stray near the cheesiness of stock imagery, the vast majority are original, high-quality, and creative. In addition, you’d find a special category for space photography on Pexels. It has some amazing pictures, but some of the material is from NASA. Therefore, if you are to use these images, you should be aware that they come from an organization that has laid guidelines on how their photography works are to be used.

5. Unsplash

In the past couple of years, Unsplash has grown from a normal stock image site into one of the best stock photo websites for free digital images. The majority of the credit for Unsplash’s success goes to its highly versatile team, who only feature the best on the image site’s homepage. Unsplash offers a big library that hosts over 300,000 pictures, and new hand-picked images are also uploaded to Unsplash’s database on a daily basis. If you’re looking for a site that doesn’t host cheesy imagery, Unsplash won’t be a disappointment. And with a functional search bar, you’ll be able to find the exact photos you need. All images are free with their own unique Unsplash licence. The site offers you the freedom to copy, modify, annotate, use and distribute all images without permission or attribution.

6. PikWizard

Bookmark this website if you need to download natural-looking images on a regular basis. It provides thousands of beautiful stock free images across a wide range of industries. The quality of these images is high – unusually for a stock free image website – and you’d find many images depicting individuals in natural poses. Another impressive category on PikWizard is of urban photography. If you’re looking for a stock photo that shows an incredible skyscraper in a cityscape, you’re unlikely to be let down by PikWizard. Also, if you feel like getting creative without navigating to another website or opening up your special drawing tablet, PikWizard offers links to a web-based photo editor. Most of the templates hosted on PikWizard are premium works of art, but the price is on the lower end. None of the images cost more than a few dollars. PikWizard images come with two licenses, CC0 and free. A free license means that the original creator retains the image’s copyright, but has allowed everyone to use their photo without charges.

7. Gratisography

If you’re looking for surreal and fun photos that are stock free and offer a breath of fresh air, look no further than Gratisography. It offers a collection of quirky images by the talented graphic artist and photographer Ryan McGuire. Because of Ryan’s brilliance, the images hosted on this website often have an edge, and make viewers feel outside if you’re sick of the dull stock photos. You won’t find a random guy pumping his fist in the air or women laughing alone with a plate here. And though Gratisography doesn’t offer as large a collection as other stock photo sites do, Ryan’s creativity makes up for the gap. Also, new pictures get added every week. You can subscribe to Ryan’s newsletter to stay updated, as well as follow his handle on Twitter. It is not necessary to give attribution to Ryan for any images you use from this site, but he’ll appreciate if you do.

8. Kaboompics

From décor to landscapes to fashion, this site has everything. With a robust search engine, Kaboompics makes it easy to find what you require. It is a site lead by a one-woman team – Poland-based Karolina. She is a web designer, a graphic creator as well as a photographer who set up the website for images people need to produce eye-catching content. A unique aspect of Kaboompics is that every image on the website features a color palette with free downloadable graphics. Also, Kaboompics’ growing database gives users the freedom to use images in any way they prefer, non-commercial or commercial. The only caveat is that you have to give credit as well as include a link pointing toward the website.

A Word About Image Licenses

Many of these images are copyright free or licensed under the public domain of creative commons. That means you can modify, copy, use and distribute them, even for commercial uses, without taking permission from the original owner. That said, some photographs may require attribution. The site will often mention what license an image falls under, and it is advised that you perform careful research as to how a particular photo can be used.

For instance, images carrying the CC0 tag can be used however a user likes. They can be integrated in commercial or personal projects, and can even be copied, distributed and modified, all without the need to give attribution or take permission. In contrast, photos that are “rights-managed” are secured by the original owner’s copyright. And once you pay for them, you’re entitled to use them once or twice for a specific project. That implies if you find that the rights-managed stock photo integrates well with another piece of marketing message or blog post, you might be required to buy an additional license to use it again.

Final Thoughts

As evident, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to stock image websites. By using any of the above mentioned resources, you’re sure to find high quality pictures for your project. However, always pick relevant, authentic, and non-cheesy images. If your selected image fulfills these criteria – it is likely a good choice – unless it’s overused and outdated.