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Where to Find the Best, Free (and Legal) Stock Photography

17 OCT
Unsplash joshua-earle-64814

Photo credit: Joshua Earle, Unsplash

When you’re creating content, be it a website, blog post, advert or poster, having the right resources makes all the difference.

Good quality photography is essential when producing good designs. Unfortunately, great stock photos can be expensive. While it might be tempting to nab something off Google Image Search, using images without permission can land you in serious trouble. Also, it's just not really cricket, is it?

So, what do you do if you don’t have the budget to buy stock? Lucky for you, there are lots of beautiful stock images that photographers have kindly shared with designers for free. And because we’re such helpful little elves, here are the links to some of the best free and legit photo sites around.

Obligatory disclaimer: We’ve done our best to make sure these recommendations are trustworthy. However, you download stuff off the internet at your own risk. Always make sure your Antivirus protection is active and up to date, and always practise common sense.

Images you can use without accreditation

Unsplash

James Padolsy Unsplash

Photo credit: James Padolsy. Unsplash

Sourced from contributors around the web, Unsplash currently has over 300,000 free, high-resolution photos available to download, with more being added daily.

This ever-growing collection of photography can be for commercial and non-commercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash (although, you know it’s always a nice thing to do).
 

Pixabay

Pixabay Alexandr Ivanov

Photo credit: Alexandr Ivanov, Pixabay

My 8-year-old niece told me about this one as she uses it at school. Pixabay is a fantastic resource for community-sourced photography, vector artwork and video.

Wonderfully, all content is licensed under the Creative Commons CC0, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist - even for commercial purposes. The archive is broad and varied, and in true stock photo style, there are a couple of really weird pictures on there to enjoy.
 

Negative Space

negative space janko ferlic

Photo credit: Janko Ferlic, Negative Space

Another site which operates on Creative Commons licensing is Negative Space. This site offers free, beautiful pictures from photographers around the world. Negative Space’s collection feels decidedly artsier than many other stock sites' offerings.
 

Kaboompics

kaboompics

Photo credit: Kaboompics

Kaboompics, impressively, have over 5,000 of free high-resolution stock images, all shot by a single photographer. Karolina’s photos are particularly attractive, modern and stylish. You’ll spot many of the other free stock sites use her photos in their collections.

Kaboompics photos are free to use for personal and commercial projects.
 

Splitshire

Splitshire

Photo credit: Splitshire

Splitshire is the website of photographer Daniel Nanescu. Nanescu has uploaded hundreds of his own high resolution, original pictures (and several videos) for free download.

Splitshire has a wide selection of imagery across a range of categories. Highlights include some beautiful nature shots and plenty of good (read: not cheesy!) portrait shots.

All images are copyright free for personal and commercial purposes. On top of the great selection of free photography, there is also an option to pay to access even more.
 

Hubspot

hubspot

Photo credit: Hubspot

US marketing and sales company Hubspot produce lots of useful and free tools for marketers, including infographic templates, social media calendars and yep, you guessed it, stock photography.

In exchange for your email address, you can download and use over 550 royalty free stock photos. This collection was clearly put together with marketers in mind, so there are lots of very useful business-oriented photography.
 

Images you can use with accreditation

Freepik

kjpargeter freepik

Photo credit: designed by kjpgeter at Freepik 

Whilst Freepik also offers a stock of good photography (in particular images for backgrounds and textures), they specialise in producing and sharing free, editable vector graphics which is a godsend for both novices and the experienced designers strapped for time. Hundreds of new images are added to the site every day, offering a diverse range of imagery.

You’re free to use these images however you like, provided you give credit to both the image’s author and to Freepik. Alternatively, sign up for a paid account to use images without accreditation.
 

#WOCinTech Chat

WoCinTechChat

Photo credit: #WOCinTech Chat

I have to source a lot of stock photography for my work and it’s frustrating and frankly depressing to come across the same limiting stereotypes depicted over and over again. While most of the main stock photo sites do seem to be making more of an effort in recent years, it can still be hard to find truly representative stock photography.

#WOCinTech Chat is a grassroots initiative that aims to connect women and non-binary people of colour to career and skills-building opportunities in tech. To challenge the lack of representation in existing stock photography, the group have produced and shared a brilliant selection of photographs. These free collections feature a diverse range of female and non-binary people of colour working within the tech industry.

There are, understandably, some caveats for using these images. You must attribute credit and indicate whether you have made changes to the image. The site also details some more guidelines for appropriate use:

Our ask? That you use these photos to show a different representation of all women in tech. That you use these images in pieces about entrepreneurs, software engineers, infosec professionals, IT analysts, marketers, and other people who make up the tech ecosystem. Just as white women have been the default “woman” in technology and American society as a whole, we believe the underlying belief of what it means to be — and who can be —  a tech worker in the 21st century can benefit from this form of “disruption”.

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So, now you're armed with some fantastic tools, you’re ready to get out there and create something gorgeous. While you're here, why not check out some of our other blogs to help you with your project:

Need design help? If it’s time to call in the professionals, just give us a bell we'd love to discuss your next design project. 

 

N.B. This blog was originally published in 2016 and has been expanded and updated with refreshed content.