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When you're creating your printed marketing materials, there's a lot to consider. One of the biggest factors in how successful your leaflet or poster will be is the use of imagery.
The thing is, stock photography can be an expensive outlay. If your budget is tight, or you need to churn out lots of different designs on a regular basis, stock photos can be a huge drain on your finances.
There are plenty of free stock photo websites out there, but many of the images are poor quality. Or are they?
As it turns out, that isn't always the case. We've rounded up this mammoth list of 35 websites offering free stock photos that you can use for commercial purposes.
Let's take a look...
First up, we have Pexels, a collection of images that are hand-picked from free image sources. These are available to use and modify with no need to provide attribution or credit.
And with at least 70 new images added each week, it's an ever growing directory. The search feature is useful, too.
This entry in our list comes with a sad story.
Little Visuals is a site that promises seven high resolution images emailed directly to your inbox every seven days. But unfortunately the emails no longer come. That's because, as the announcement at the top of the site indicates, the creator of Little Visuals has passed away. Nic was only 26 years of age when he passed following a cardiac episode.
Thankfully, Nic's talents live on in the design community, with his family keeping the page and all of the photos available. They are also raising money towards the Hand on Heart Charity in Nic's name – you can make a donation if you wish.
The Unsplash site is updated every 10 days with 10 new images. All of the photos on the website are free to use for commercial use. You don't even need to leave an attribution.
Death to the Stock Photo is a site that lives up to its name. No more cheesy models on plain coloured backgrounds with forced expressions upon their faces. Simply sign up to the free email newsletter, and you'll get a new pack of sublime images every month.
Death to the Stock Photo uses its own license. Take a look on their site if you are unsure how you can use the image.
Image source: Superfamous.
At the time of writing, Superfamous is undergoing some maintenance (albeit with a psychedelic holding page in place that swirls like a kaleidoscope when you move your cursor).
However, click the 'images' tab at the top, and you'll see that all of the photos are still available to download. These are offered under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, which means you need to provide credit when you use them.
Image source: Picjumbo.
Web designer and photographer Viktor Hanáček provides his own photos for download at Picjumbo. There's a search feature on the site, or you can browse the categories in the sidebar on the left.
Attribution isn't essential, but Viktor would appreciate it where possible.
The Pattern Library is a little bit of a variation on the free stock image theme. But, as the name suggests, it provides patterns which can be used as backgrounds for your marketing materials.
Their about page tells you that the patterns can be used freely in your design work.
Dylan Simel doesn't take his photos with the most expensive, high-tech camera on the market. He uses his iPhone 6.
Once he's edited his images (also using his iPhone), he shares them at Instastock – where you can download and use them for free with no attribution required. The site is updated with a new photo every day.
Think Mondays are boring? At Negative Space, they're the most exciting day of the week:
That's when they add 20 brand new free stock images for you to use as you wish, with no copyright restrictions or attribution needed.
There's also a handy search bar so that you can easily look for relevant images, and you can even browse by colour.
Image source: FancyCrave.
FancyCrave is another site which offers images free of copyright restrictions. A range of beautiful images that is updated daily, the owners ask that you leave attribution as a favour (although it's not essential).
Image source: Ed Gregory at Stokpic.
StockPhotos.io is a collection of images that are collected and curated. Only images that are in the public domain or are free for commercial use under the Creative Commons license are uploaded to the site.
When using the images, you are required to give proper credits to the author – which can be found when following the link to the source within the image details.
Image source: Goodfreephotos.
Good Free Photos is a website that offers, er, good free photos. The images are all public domain, so can be used without copyright restrictions. The owner does ask that you “consider giving a credit link” to the site.
There's a handy search bar to help you browse, while all images are usefully categorised so you can browse more broadly if you need to.
If you're looking for free travel stock photos, Made in Moments is the place to be. There are a number of paid images, but hit the 'Freebies' tab at the top, and you'll get the stuff that doesn't cost. All images can be used for commercial designs.
Image source: LargePhotos.
LargePhotos provides a wide range of free images that are helpfully divided into categories. The images are mainly inspired by the beauty of nature and the outdoors, often featuring breathtaking landscapes.
All of the images at LargePhotos are free to use without the need to leave a credit.
Image source: Good Stock Photos.
Good Stock Photos was born out of frustration. Steven, the site's owner, grew annoyed with poor quality free stock images and the expensive of having to pay for anything even half decent.
So he combined the two; good stock photography available for free. Steven takes all of the photos himself, but lets you use them for nothing (though he does appreciate a credit where possible).
Image source: KaboomPics.
Polish designer Karolina shares her gorgeous images at KaboomPics. The best thing is that you can use them for personal or commercial projects at no charge, though Karolina would appreciate a credit and attribution. You can browse by category or use the search feature to find the image you need.
You can also get an exclusive extra high-resolution photopack when you sign up to the KaboomPics newsletter.
High quality stock photos can be found at Stocka. You can download these and use them for commercial designs under the Creative Commons Zero license – which requires no attribution.
Many of the images feature products isolated on white backgrounds, though some of the later additions to the site are of colourful landscapes and animals. Definitely worth a look.
Image source: SplitShire.
In owner Daniel Nanescu's own words, SplitShire offers “delicious free stock photos for personal & commercial use”. There's not a lot else to say – the photos are easily navigable with the help of a search bar and categories.
If you want even more images, there's a premium feature which costs just $20 per year and includes additional images that aren't available on the site.
Image source: Gratisography.
Ryan McGuire is an abstract artist who provides some of his vibrant work for free at Gratisography. Bursting with colour (and the odd funny face), these photos are available under Creative Commons Zero license. This means they're free of copyright restrictions for any personal or commercial project.
You don't need to leave a credit either, though Ryan always appreciates if you do. His lively work is fuelled by coffee, so if you want to help Gratisography keep going, you can always donate him a cup of the good stuff.
There are some stunning images to be found at Life of Pix. This website adds new photos on a weekly basis, and shares works from a range of photographers. Browse the striking images by scrolling through the site, or use the search feature if you're after something in particular.
All of the images are available to use without copyright restrictions. There is no need to give credit.
If you're looking for free photos of clean cut offices, technology and study spaces, Startup Stock Photos is where you should go. All of the images here are available to download under Creative Commons Zero, so there are no restrictions and no need to attribute.
Image source: Photo Everywhere.
Photo Everywhere is a colossal collection of travel-inspired images, available to download for free. The only requirement is that you link to the site or print a credit to go alongside the image.
There's a useful search feature on the site, while the photos are also categorised by place.
Image source: Ryan McGuire at IM Creator.
IM Free, a division of website creation platform IM Creator, houses a selection of stunning images which are curated from a range of sources.
Each image in the free category at IM Creator is available to download and use for commercial designs. Read the license terms of the individual photo to determine whether you need to leave a credit or attribution.
Using StockSnap couldn't be easier. Simply use the search bar on the home page and you'll be given a selection of high quality images to choose from.
The other easy thing about StockSnap is the license terms: 100% free for commercial use, and no need to provide an attribution.
Jay Mantri is a designer who gives back to the design community. He uploads seven new photos to his site every Thursday. He releases them under the Creative Commons Zero license, encouraging you to “do anything” and to “make magic” with them.
A site that shares “beautiful travel moments”, Travel Coffee Book houses a lovely collection of photos from around the world. You can use them as you wish with no need to credit.
As you might have guessed, many of these contain travel themes, including some stunning landscapes. There are a fair few coffee images too!
Image source: AJ Montpetit.
Lock and Stock Photos is a collection of free stock images released under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 4.0 license. They are free to use in your commercial works, but you must give credit by linking to owner AJ Montpetit's personal website (http://ajmontpetit.com/).
Image source: DesignersPics.
DesignersPics is a project by Indian designer Jeshu John to provide high quality stock images for free. You can use any of the photos with no copyright restrictions. Jeshu says that he'd appreciate a credit, but it's not a necessity.
Picography houses a range of beautiful stock photos that are available for download under Creative Commons Zero license. That means that you don't need to provide attribution.
You can also use the search bar to find something specific.
Image source: ISO Republic.
ISO Republic is a site full of beautiful free stock photos. It operates under its own bespoke license, which lets you use the photos for personal and commercial projects. You don't have to give attribution, but it's appreciated when you do.
Searching for free stock photos is difficult, and then there's the boring part of figuring out how you can use your chosen image. Pixabay removes that tedium. It's a wonderful collection of over 400,000 images that are all free to use with no attribution in digital and printed designs projects.
Image source: Snapographic.
All of the photos on Snapographic were taken and uploaded by Thomas Mühl. They're free to download and use in your commercial projects with no restrictions – a credit is appreciated where possible.
You can easily search the photos through the categories, as the images are easily laid out in tiles for you to view. Click the image to see the bigger version before you download.
Public domain images are those that you can use without copyright restrictions or the need for a credit. Public Domain Archive is a repositry of public domain images curated by designer and photographer Matt.
You can browse by category or use the search function to find what you're looking for.
Unrestricted Stock is a website that offers exactly that; unrestricted stock photography, art and video for commercial use. You can do pretty much anything you like with it (with a few exceptions).
It's great for its array of abstract photos, hand drawn images and icon sets. You can also search the site using the function at the bottom of the page.
Image source: Stockmedia.cc.
Stockmedia is a collection of free stock photos, all of which can be used for commercial purposes in return for an attribution. If you're using online, you must link back to Stockmedia. In print, a credit which identifies Stockmedia.cc as the source should go alongside the image.
Have we missed any?
If you're looking for free stock photos, the collection of sites above should keep you occupied for years to come. But have we missed your favourite free stock image site off our list?
Leave a comment below if there are any more you like to use.
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