Where to find free stock photos for your website & social media
When designing a website for your e-commerce shop, ordering printed marketing materials, writing a blog for your business, or creating digital ads, you need eye-catching images to succeed. But if you aren’t a professional photographer or you don’t have the budget to hire one, then finding free images to use can be a headache. To help you find the best images for your website, marketing and other projects, we’ve put together a list of some of the best sites that offer free images to use for small businesses.
Terms to know
Copyright & Ownership
Generally, images are copyrighted and owned by the photographer or creator. This is the reason you can’t grab any image you want off the Internet and use it for your business. Doing this could lead you to a lawsuit. That is why our list of free stock image sites is a valuable tool giving you access to millions of free, usable images.
Creative Commons Content
Some images on many of these sites are available under the Creative Commons CC0 License. Creative Commons is a nonprofit that provides free licenses for creators to use when making their work available to the public, giving up their copyright and putting their creations in the public domain. CC0 (CC zero) license allows users to distribute, edit, remix the material in any medium or format, with no conditions.
Royalty Free Content
When using royalty-free images, remember that doesn’t necessarily mean the images are free. It means that you can use the material where you want and you don’t have to pay the owner royalties. However, it’s likely you’ll have to pay a one-time fee for the usage rights. The cost of images is usually based on the file size. If you’re going to use the image many times and in multiple places, then royalty-free might be a good idea for you.
In our list below, all of these sites offer thousands, if not millions of free images to choose from. A “community” of creators generally provide the photos and videos for free. Most of the sites also offer subscription services that give you more options and benefits.
While the majority of sites don’t require it, giving attribution to the photographers or creators is recommended when possible, as they’re allowing you to use their work for free. Here are the 7 sites we recommend for stock photos.
Burst is our top recommendation because they are powered by Shopify, a Canada-based e-commerce company and e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. In other words, they understand business needs. Burst offers free hi-res photos for websites and commercial use. Their catalog features thousands of royalty-free stock photos shot by the company’s global community of photographers.
The site also features a special section just for business owners, where you can choose from over 20 popular online business ideas. The case studies are updated regularly and include supplier info, marketing tips, business model insights and free high-res images that you can use for your store and marketing campaigns. The Burst licensing agreement doesn’t require attribution for commercial use, and you can modify images the way you want.
Unsplash, another Canada-based company, boasts more than 2.5 million free high-resolution images. The images are free to use for most commercial, personal projects and editorial per the company’s license agreement. You can search for images by keyword or through dozens of categories.
Originally, all of the images were provided by a community of more than 200,000 photographers. The company launched Unsplash For Brands in 2019, which offers businesses the opportunity to be featured in Unsplash image catalog or they can use the site’s contributors to create original images that showcase their products.
StockSnap.io is one of the best free stock image sites for e-commerce businesses. You can search using their tag-based system, which lets you browse images by mood feeling, sense, or content. The site adds new stock photography every day and they track downloads and views so you can see the most popular images.
StockSnap releases all its photos under the Creative Commons – CC0. You can download, copy, modify, and distribute the photos without permission.
4. Freerange Stock
Freerange Stock has more than 750,000 registered users. It sources its images from in-house photography, acquisitions or commissions, photographer contributions, licensed images and CC0 images. You can search the site by keyword or category. All of the images are licensed for commercial use without attribution.
The company also is behind Vintage Stock Photos, a collection of stock photography sourced from old 35mm slides that are great for retro branding and projects.
Pexels provides millions of handpicked free stock photos for commercial and noncommercial use. The hi-res images are uploaded by the community’s photographers or sourced from other free image websites. All images are licensed under the Pexels license agreement. You can search the site through the company’s discover pages and tagged images.
Pixabay is a creative community that boasts millions of copyright-free images, vectors, graphics, videos and music. Australia-owned Canva purchased the site and now all of the content falls under the Pixabay license. You can copy, modify, distribute, and use the images without permission or attribution.
The search feature allows you to filter by orientation, size, category and color. However, the site may not have imagery you need if you own a niche business that needs specific photos. You can download content without registering but you may have to register for some higher resolutions.
Vecteezy began in 2007 focused on free vector graphics, and now they provide millions of stock photos, vectors and videos for commercial or personal. If you’re looking for illustrations, this could be the site for you.
They surpassed more than 100 million user sessions in 2020 with their large catalog of free images. You can also buy an inexpensive subscription plan that gives you access to unlimited images, editing and other premium benefits.
We know there are many more free stock photography sites out there. Are you small business that has a favorite stock image site? Let our readers know in the comments below.
Please remember to read the licensing agreements for any site carefully before downloading and using any images or content.