Images can make or break a website design, but the benefits high-quality photos can bring to your online business go way beyond the aesthetic.
Images can drive additional search engine traffic to your site. They encourage social media interest and sharing. They're useful for splitting up content and making it easier to digest. And they can help you build an emotional connection with your audience.
For online shops, images take on even greater significance. Visual information forms a large part of the buying process, and blurry, low-resolution product photographs are likely to result in lost sales and revenue.
To help businesses, startups and charities operating on a tight budget, I've put together the ultimate list of free stock photo sites. Now there's no excuse for having cheesy images on your website!
Free stock photo sites
The following websites all offer free stock photos, but their usage licenses may differ. Please check with each site before using their images in your projects.
Death to Stock
Death to Stock is one of the most popular stock photo sites – mainly because the images are so damn good.
It's an artist owned co-op that offers fresh and creative images you won't find anywhere else. If you don't want the same cheesy photos as every other website, this is the resource for you.
Along with their premium plans, which range from $12-21 per month, they also send out 20 free photos each month to everyone on their mailing list. That's 240 top-quality images each year, free, for life.
So what are you waiting for? Add some creative flare to your inbox and subscribe to Death to Stock today!
Launched in 2015 by Latvian photographers Igor Trepeshchenok and Roman Drits, Barnimages has quickly established itself as one of the best free stock photo sites around.
Like Death to Stock, Barnimages isn't a stock photo aggregator like so many others. Every photo on Barnimages was either created by the founders, their colleagues or photographers whose work they admire.
All of the photos on Barnimages are free for personal or commercial use, and no attribution is required. However, if you can afford to make a donation to support the site, you probably should.
Everyone knows about Unsplash. What started out as a humble Tumblr blog in 2013 has evolved into an industry-leading visual community with more free stock photos than just about any other website.
With more than a million images hosted on the site, you could be forgiven for thinking that finding the right image would take forever. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
Unsplash's internal search engine is the fastest way to find a picture, but if you have a little time on your hands then check out their Collections – groups of photos sorted by other users into themes like Watercolour, Christmas Traditions and Happiness.
Unsplash also has an iOS app, which helps you find stock pictures to use for creative work on your iPad or iPhone.
There's no need to credit the photographer when you use one of their images, but it's certainly appreciated if you do.
Reshot is the home of handpicked, non-stocky images that are yours to do with as you please.
In their own words, Reshot's mission is to provide " . . . the world's best emerging photographers with a beautiful platform for sharing a sampling of their best work for free use in creative projects. Creatives in need of visual content can freely explore and license some of the world's best imagery."
Reshot doesn't want to have more photos than anyone else; it just wants to have the best ones. Judging by the quality of the images on their site, they're on the road to achieving their goal.
I know what you're thinking: thanks Rob, but I don't really want to see photos of dead bodies.
Fear not, stock photo searcher. For the oddly named Morguefile website contains no images of the deceased (at least, I haven't come across any).
The name comes from the term "morgue file", which was originally a collection of old files and notes kept by criminal investigators to refer back to.
Created by photographers for photographers, Morguefile has been the world wide web's morgue file since 1996 and continues to go from strength to strength.
Photographer and designer Viktor Hanacek started picjumbo in 2013 when regular stock photo sites rejected his photos due to a "lack of quality". Nine years and 8 million downloads later, I think it's fair to say that Viktor has proven them wrong!
Picjumbo offers thousands of high-quality, high-resolution images which are free for personal and commercial use.
Well-organised categories make finding the right image a breeze, and they also have a separate "Design Resources" section where you can find product mock-ups, logos, UI kits and more – all for free!
In addition to thousands of free stock photos, picjumbo's premium plan gives you access to 100+ premium stock photo collections and fonts.
Negative Space is a well-organised library of thousands of beautiful, high-resolution images that are completely free for personal or commercial use.
The goal of Negative Space is to provide photographers with a platform to easily share their work with the world.
All images on the site are CC0-licensed, which basically means you can use them however you wish.
I love Magdeleine's homepage. Rather than display dozens and dozens of images like most other stock photo sites, they showcase one high-resolution photo each day.
Don't worry if you miss one, though – clicking the browse button will take you to their image archive, where you can browse through all of the free stock images on their site.
It's worth noting that attribution is required, so if you use one of Magdeleine's images make sure you credit the author somewhere on your site.
Pickup Image bills itself as the "largest collection of free photographs", but with "only" 4,940 images available to download, that's stretching things a bit.
Nevertheless, it's still a valuable resource for people who need good quality photographs for free. They also have a free online photo editor, which can save a lot of time.
Freepik is awesome. In fact, it's probably my second favourite stock photo site on this list.
Where freepik really shines is in the diversity of its offerings. Sure, it has lots of high-quality free stock photos, but the site is jam-packed with amazing vector illustrations and PSD templates, too.
Freepik's free resources are excellent and are good enough for most people. Their premium files, however, are on another level and are well worth paying for.
SplitShire started out as a collection of photos gathering dust on the founder's hard drive. Today, 2 million downloads and 6 million page views later, those photos are seen on sites like Huffington Post and CNN.
At the time of writing there are only 1,113 free stock photos on SplitShire – but every single one of them is gorgeous.
More images are added each day, and all images are free for use in personal and commercial works.
Bloggers love Gratisography.
Billed as "the world's quirkiest collection of free high-resolution images", Gratisography contains the kind of images that will get your content noticed.
From giant gnomes to people in bunny costumes, Gratisography goes where few other free stock photo sites dare to tread. And it's all the better for it.
Founded in November 2010 by Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger, Pixabay has grown into one of the largest collections of free photographs online.
In fact, Pixabay contains over 1.7 million free stock photos, making it one of the largest free photography resources anywhere online.
The site contains photos, vector graphics, illustrations, video and music files – all of which are completely free for personal and commercial use.
ISO Republic contains thousands of CC0-licensed images and videos, all of which can be used however you wish.
There's a wide mix of business photos, flat lay designs, people and places, as well as other creative scenes.
Kaboompics is one of the world's most popular sources of free images for lifestyle, technology and interior design bloggers.
Each month, over 70,000 people from 209 different countries visit Kaboompics in search of high-quality images they can use for free. It's hard to imagine many of them leaving empty-handed.
Images are logically organised in categories, and the innovative colour and orientation filters enable you to quickly and easily find the right photo.
StockSnap offers an ever-expanding collection of beautiful stock images for free. No tricks, no gimmicks, no fine print; just gorgeous images licensed under a single, simple CC0 license.
Hundreds of new images are added each week, and you're free to use them however you wish, with no attribution required. Use them on your blog, in a web design project, in a print brochure or any other creative project.
LibreShot (formerly Freepix) was founded by photographer Martin Vorel, a photographer and SEO consultant.
All of the images on the site were created by the founder and are free to use for commercial and non-commercial (personal) use, with no attribution required.
All of the photos on LibreShot are free, but you can buy prints of Vorel's stunning work on his other website, MinimalPhoto.
PDPics looks like it was built in 1995. It's ugly and cumbersome to use, it's often slow and it's not even mobile responsive. But it does contain quite a few images!
Not all of them are great. In fact, quite a few of them are downright awful. But if you can't find the image you need on any of the other free stock photography sites on this list (unlikely) it may be worth a shot.
Skitterphoto was launched in 2014 by two amateur photographers in the Netherlands. According to Google, the Dutch word "skitter" translates into English a . . . err . . . skitter. So I guess that clears that one up.
The site isn't as advanced as many of the larger stock photo websites featured in this list, but it does contain plenty of beautiful images.
All images are free for commercial and non-commercial use, and no attribution is required.
Pexels is a stock photo aggregator run by Bruno Joseph, Ingo Joseph and Daniel Frese. Bruno and Ingo co-founded Pexels together in 2014 and Daniel joined them in 2015.
Pexels' mission is to give designers, writers, artists, programmers and other creators unrestricted access to beautiful photos they can use in their creative projects. The Pexels team call it: "Empowering Creators".
There are hundreds of thousands of free stock photos on the site and every day more high-resolution photos are added. All photos are either submitted by their users or sourced from other stock photo sites.
Startup Stock Photos
If you're a writer, developer or entrepreneur looking for beautiful startup-focused images, Startup Stock Photos is definitely worth checking out.
The site was founded by web designer Eric Bailey in 2014 as a way to make the images he was taking every day accessible to all.
All of the photos on the site are shot in the same slightly grainy style, and many of them have a distinctly urban lifestyle feel.
Startup Stock Photos' images have been featured on thousands of websites around the world, including Mashable, Forbes, Hubspot and Shopify.
A word of caution: the site doesn't appear to have been updated in a long time; I don't think any new images have been added since 2016. As a result, some of the tech gadgets and devices featured in the photos may be outdated.
FreeImages is probably my least favourite stock photo site on this list, but I wanted to include it because it does have almost 400,000 free images at the time of writing.
My main issue with the site is how they merge free and premium images. It's pretty deceptive. In fact, you probably won't know an image is a premium one until you click through to the image info page.
It's basically an affiliate site masquerading as a free stock photo resource in order to attract visitors, which doesn't sit right with me.
Having said that, if you can't find what you're looking for elsewhere it may be worth checking out.
New Old Stock
I love New Old Stock. In fact, it's one of my favourite stock photo sites – even if I've never used a single image in any of my creative projects.
I know what you're thinking: if I love it so much, why don't I use their images? Well, it's because New Old Stock consists only of vintage photos from the public archives.
It's basically one long list of grainy black and white photos from the past. There's no search box. No categories or collections. No image filters. If the photo you're looking for was uploaded months or years ago, well, you'd better get scrolling.
Despite all the limitations, I still love the site. It's charming, innocent and serves no purpose other than to recapture the past.
Life of Pix
Life of Pix is a community-driven platform created by photographers for photographers.
Unlike many other stock photo sites, Life of Pix places a greater emphasis on the photographers themselves – evidenced by their "Photographer of the Week" contests.
At the time of writing there are 2,535 images on the site. That's far less than many other sites on this list, but some of the photos are truly gorgeous. Well worth a visit, in my opinion.
As a side note, the first thing I did when I came across this site was search for "tiger". There's only one image 🙁
Public Domain Pictures
The Public Domain Pictures website isn't the prettiest one to look at, but don't let that put you off. There are over 280,000 free stock photos on the site just begging to be used in your next creative project.
Browse by top images or latest pictures, or use the categories to find the perfect image.
The site is available in a number of different languages, and they also have a large number of photography tutorials on their YouTube channel.
Fancy yourself as a bit of a photographer? Upload an original image to the site and you could win $100 if yours is downloaded more times by premium members than any other photo!
Remember when everyone shared photos on Flickr (I do, which shows my age!)?
Well, the British Library still do – and what a collection it is! For history buffs like me it's a treasure trove of lithographic illustrations, sketches, manuscripts, oil paintings and historic photographs.
If you're looking for photographs of computers or mobile phones you'll be sorely disappointed, but if you need a grainy black and white photo or a portrait of an historical figure, this is one of the best places to look.
Over 1 million images have been uploaded to the British Library's Flickr account so far. Only another 13 million to go!
Burst by Shopify
On the Burst website you'll find a huge collection of stunning stock images for your blog or website, ranging from mental health images to photographs of animals and jewellery.
All images are completely free for personal and commercial use, and you don't even have to credit the author. So if you're looking for free stock photos for your website it's definitely worth searching on Burst.
If you're looking for free stock photos, vector graphics or videos, you owe it to yourself to check out Vecteezy.
Beautifully designed and intelligently organised, the Vecteezy website makes it eezy to find the perfect creative asset for your content. Whether you're looking for abstract background patterns, lifestyle photos or images of animals, there's a good chance you'll find it on Vecteezy.
If you want access to Vecteezy's entire library of resources you'll need to subscribe to their Pro plan, but there's more than enough free stuff on the site to warrant its inclusion in this ultimate guide to free stock photo sites.
Jay Mantri is an uber-talented photographer on a mission to help you create the most visually striking content possible.
He adds new images to his website every week, all of which are free to download and use for personal and commercial projects. All images are licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons license, enabling you to use them however you wish.
The website isn't particularly easy to navigate - well, there isn't really any navigation at all - so you'll just have to keep on scrolling to find the image you're looking for.
If you're in a rush then you'll be better off looking elsewhere, but if you have the time to scroll through Jay's back catalogue of images, you'll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful stock photography available anywhere online.
If you have a food-themed blog or you work with clients in the catering industry, your first port of call for food-related stock imagery should be Foodiesfeed.
It's stuffed with delicious (pun intended) photographs of yummy food, from burgers to bananas and berries to baguettes. If you're looking for images for your ingredients list, you're going to find it here.
At the time of writing there's no premium subscription, so you can download as many free food photos as you need. They're all licensed under CC0 as well, so there's no restrictions on how they can be used.
Freerange Stock was formed with the goal to provide high-quality stock photos for commercial and non-commercial use, for free. I guess you could say it's mission accomplished!
Freerange Stock boasts a community of over 750,000 registered users and countless images covering a huge range of topics. They also welcome contributions from budding and seasoned photographers, so if you want some additional exposure for your work, get yourself signed up!
One important thing to note: Freerange Stock have created their own image license, rather than the CC0 which so many free stock photo sites use. You can read more about it at Equalicense.
Last up is my favourite free stock photo site of all: Little Visuals.
There are only 84 images on the site, and no new ones have been added since 2013. But it's the story behind it that makes Little Visuals so special.
The site was a passion project of Nic Jackson. Tragically, Nic died suddenly from a cardiac episode in November 2013. He was just 26-years-old.
Nic's family have kept the site running in his memory, ensuring his images remain available and free for commercial use.
Together with the Hand on Heart charity, they managed to raise almost £5,000 to supply a handful of schools with portable defibrilators.
Nic would have been proud.
The free stock photo sites I use most often
There's a lot of choice when it comes to free stock photos, but too much choice isn't always a good thing.
To help you find the images you need a little more quickly, I've listed the five free stock photo sites I find myself using most often. In fact, I always search these sites before before using any of my credits on premium stock sites like Dreamstime or Shutterstock:
Suggest more free stock photo sites
There you have it. The ultimate list of free stock photo sites. Now there's absolutely no excuse for having cheesy photographs on your website.
I want this list to be a living, breathing collection of the best free stock photo sites on the web. So if you know a site that should be on this list, or if you own a free stock photo site, please let me know in the comments below and I'll do my best to add it.