As a brand and website design studio, I spend a lot of time looking at images, trying to find those that will best match my client’s needs and brand identity. The right images are essential, and in such as visual society, sub-par images will turn off potential clients and can even lead them to undervalue your work.
Clearly, the right images matter, but without a big budget or on-staff photographer, you simply can’t use custom photography for every image you use. The answer? Copyright-free images. Stock image sites are an essential resource, but unless you get a great deal on tokens/credits (keep your eyes peeled for Black Friday deals), each image will set you back around £20.
To help you keep costs down, or to use as a placeholder until you find or create that perfect image, here is my list of my top 14 go-to free stock image sites.
14 Best Places to Find Quality Free Stock Images
Unsplash offers free high-resolution images in a huge range of verticals, and most of what you’ll find there don’t look like stock images; they’re natural, engaging, and because new images are being uploaded all the time, you won’t see that same image all over everyone else’s marketing materials.
Like Unsplash, Pexels is another site offering pictures licensed under Creative Commons Zero. That means they are free to use for commercial and non-commercial use, and you can modify them if you want. Pexels is also a great place to go if you’re looking for video.
Nappy is one you have to bookmark, especially if you’ve had trouble finding unique, diverse images before (and if you’ve looked, you’ve had trouble). Their images are beautiful, people-focused, and free.
Coverr is a video specialist and offers thousands of videos that provide high-quality imagery for whatever project you have in mind. On Coverr, you can easily find free videos for business and work, nature, fitness, lifestyle, and so much more.
#5 Negative Space
Negative Space has a large, growing collection of totally free photographs in a huge number of categories. Their collection isn’t yet as extensive as some of the other sites on this list, but the images are high quality, so it’s well worth a look.
#6 Death to Stock
Death to Stock is an artist-owned co-op that provides you access to unique images and videos to help you avoid using overused stock imagery for your projects. While not free, their monthly fee is just $12 a month (about £8.60), and you’ll get new, dynamic images to use each month. Try their 14-day free trial to get a look at what you can access.
Burst is run by Shopify and includes thousands of images taken by their global community of photographers. You can use their images in almost any application for free and have been created with entrepreneurs in mind. You can use them online, offline, in client work; you can even put them on your own products.
Picjumbo is another great resource for high-quality free stock images. They also offer a premium membership where you can access additional images each month and gain access to their exclusive premium collections.
#9 CreateHER Stock
CreateHER Stock is another essential for any creative or business owner. Created by Neosha Gardner when she failed to find a good source of stock photos of women like her, the site focuses on pictures of melanated women. You can sign up to access their free images, but their premium plan (starting at $10 a month) will give you unlimited access to their catalogue.
Freerange license their thousands of images under Equalicense, which basically means you can use the pictures for anything as long as the picture is not the product. Some of their images have that “stock image” look, but there’s plenty of great images on there, too.
Gratisography concentrates on the quirky side of life and provides both photos and vectors that are unique. It’s a great resource if you’re working with a brand that’s humorous, quirky, or lighthearted.
#12 New Old Stock
Looking for retro or historical images? Try New Old Stock. This site offers a special collection of old photographs that it gathers from Flickr. They stipulate that while they believe the images are free of copyright, they can’t guarantee it, so you may want to hold back from using the images for commercial purposes.
Kaboompics is an incredible resource for modern, well-lit, minimalist stock imagery. They are free to use, though Karolina, the “one-woman show” behind the site, would love it if you could attribute the images to her. Despite all being shot by one (super) woman, the site is super easy to navigate, and there are a ton of images on the site (does she ever sleep?).
Another single photographer website, FancyCrave offers stunning photography on a range of subjects, absolutely free. The website is not just about images; there are plenty of resources for the budding entrepreneur, too. It’s not quite as easy to navigate as some of the other sites on this list, but it’s a great site to keep an eye on if you use a lot of stock images for client projects.
With all these quality free stock image sites in your toolbox, you’ll be able to find a unique stock image for any need! Make sure you bookmark these sites or this blog post so you can always find the quality images you need, and share this with a business friend who also uses free stock images. Happy searching!