When I first started blogging, I ran into what seemed- at least to me- the most ridiculous problem. It wasn’t writing. I’ve been doing that forever. It wasn’t even learning the tech aspect. I tend towards scientific stuff anyways, so the tech stuff was almost like a big experiment to see what worked and what didn’t.
So what was my ridiculous problem? Where to find free images. Free photos. For my recipe posts, I was fine. I was (slowly) learning food photography. But what about all those other posts? I needed images for the backgrounds. I needed a cute image for the sidebar. Or for my header. Or clip-art for my free printables. Or a better font than the standard.
We all know you can pay for images. But that 99 cents here and two dollars there add up quickly. And isn’t feasible for most people. And god knows there are plenty of photos that cost $75 for a single use. Luckily, if you know where to look, there are TONS of free images, free photos, free fonts, and free clip-art all over the internet.
And I’m going to tell you exactly where to find them. It’s taken a few years to gather this list. And a lot of rabbit holes of “not really free” or “free but you have to attribute it to us”. Not to mention I’ve tested each of these sites to come to my opinion. I ran the same search “coffee beans” on every site just to see what popped up, how easy it was, if they were really free, etc. Here is the list of the best.
Oh, bookmark this page! I’m going to keep it updated. Also let me know about your favorite sites or if you run into any problems on any of the sites recommended below!
One last note…I’m not a lawyer. I’ve done my research and have years of experience as a blogger. I have zero experience in lawsuits. As always, check the specific licensing of each photo/clip-art/font you’re using.
If you’re looking for graphics, not images, I also did an amazing post: “Where to Find Graphic Designs (Including Free Graphics).
~~If you’re just starting out on your blogging journey, check out my post “How to Start a Successful Blog: The Ultimate Guide.” It has everything you need to know! Also check out my page dedicated solely to “Blogging Resources for a Successful Blog.”
If you know about licensing, feel free to skip this image. If you think it’s just some boring stuff you don’t need to know…please take the time to read this despite your feelings. I used to feel that way. Then a blogger friend got sued for multiple thousands of dollars. For using a picture she had permission to use.
Licensing isn’t that complicated even though it may seem so. Licensing starts with one basic fact: a photographer/artist AUTOMATICALLY owns their images/creations. If I take a picture of a recipe I made, I own it. I don’t have to fill out a form or ask permission, it’s mine. If I snap a picture of flowers, that flower picture is mine. While this is great (and right), it means you have to have permission to use other people’s photos and art.
An image having a “download” button next to it does NOT mean you can use that image, clip-art, photo, or font whenever/as often/however you want.
There are NO WORKAROUNDS. These are not allowed excuses under the law:
• I attributed the author. (or I linked back to the website, thanked the author, and attributed the author)
• I didn’t make money.
• I didn’t know.
• I took down the photo when I was told it was wrong.
• I have a disclaimer on the my site specifically saying that they might not be my photos.
• The photo is embedded rather than saved on the server (I hear this one a lot).
• Another business or blogger used the photo already.
If you don’t believe me, check out these stories by PR Daily, Roni over at She Knows, and Webcopy. I have also personally talked to a blogger who got permission to use a picture for a round-up. However, the original person didn’t own the photo. Yeah, she got sued. It was one of the worst situations I’ve ever heard of.
Despite this, it’s still easy to find free images you can use whenever/wherever. To do this, know your licensing.
License Type #1) Many free photos fall under Creative Commons Licensing (CC). If you run across funny symbols near a photo, they’re probably referencing various creative commons. Here is the Wikipedia article that easily explains the symbols.
• CC0 (Creative Commons zero)- this is the one I run across most often. This means the author “wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created.” This is public domain. You can use as much as you want, you don’t have to give attribution, etc. (Symbol is usually a zero or a CC0)
• CC-BY- You can edit, use it in commercial works, incorporate it in other works, etc. But you have to give attribution to the original author. Honestly, even though this is a fairly open license, I avoid these images. Simply because I have THOUSANDS of images and I don’t have the time to figure out if I need to attribute to the author of a small piece of clip art I’m using in a printable. (Symbol is usually a CC along with a man figure)
• There are other Creative Commons Licenses, but they are more restrictive. If you’re using something besides CC0 and CC-BY, you need to study licensing more before using images.
License Type #2) Public Domain Mark (PDM)– this is another license you’ll run across in the free photograph world. It’s symbol is a C with a slash mark diagonal across it. It means that it is free of known copyrights. You can use it the same as the CC0 above.
When using photos from specific sites, you need to know their particular licensing. Since I’ve learned these things the hard way, I’m going to be nice…below next to each resource, I’m going to explain exactly what you can do with each site’s content. Yep, really. One thing- licensing CAN change, so please double-check.
One final note on free images: double-check that they don’t include people’s faces or trademarked symbols. Even if you have permission to use the photo, the person or company IN the photo can come back on you. Yes, that’s completely not fair. I agree. Just keep it in mind.
Where to Find Free Images:
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission which helps keep my blog up and running but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
First and foremost– You always have the option of taking your own. I started snapping outdoor pics of flowers. And now I have tons of options for sticking on the background of pic images. But…for all those other many, many needs out there:
Design Bundles has a TON of freebies (and the freebies are of fabulous quality) and their licenses are great. (If you get more than 100,000 views or sell 10,000 units a month, you need a different license than the standard…but I’m not in the category yet so not a problem!) While most of the freebies, are graphics, there are some photos also. There are also mock-ups for various projects.
The Hungry Jpeg. First, they have a ton of freebies. Check out: “Free Graphic Design Resources and Downloads.” They add new ones all the time, so check back often. Right now there are over 600 free graphics, free fonts, free papers, etc. I just downloaded some butterfly graphics I didn’t have! Check the license…most are more commercial, but a few are personal use only. If the link takes you to their home page, just click freebies on the top menu bar.
Actual IMAGES-wise, there aren’t many, but there are a lot of mock-ups. That’s why I included them in this post.
Deal Jumbo is one of my new favorites!
1. The ton of freebies impressed me. Seriously…there are A LOT. A lot are fonts, but if you scroll through all the fonts, there are some treasures buried.
2. But the new watercolor bundle I got for just $12 really won me over.
3. And their license is fabulous.
(If you have trouble getting to the following pages on the freebie link, just click freebies in the bar on top…then go to the rest of the pages…my referral link only shows the first page).
Creative Market. First, they do 6 free goods every single week. Check out: “Free Goods of the Week.” They update every Monday, so check back often. They will have you make an account to download, but it’s free. I get the newsletter so I get a notice in my box every single week about the free goods. I love it!
Creative Fabrica. Creative Fabrica has quite a few freebies, and their license is pretty good. You can either buy a subscription and have unlimited use while you have an active subscription -or- purchase the items you want.
Burst– My new favorite! While it isn’t explicitly CC0, these photos are meant to be used for commercial purposes. The quality is amazing. (License is a bit long, but I didn’t find anything suspicious…but I’m not a lawyer). Their photos are also indexed on another stock photo site (Stock Up) I trust, so you should be good. [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
SnappyGoat– my first stop for general searches. Over 13 MILLION photos, clipart, etc. Everything is CC0/PDM. When you click on photo, it tells you where it came from, so you can click through to double-check license on that particular photo.
Pixabay– almost everything is CC0. Check each image before use.
Stockup– everything is either CC0 or PDM (hovering over the photo shows the license). (About page). Indexed about 15 other sites, including some of those below, so if you’re searching for a particular picture, this might be a good place to start.
FindAPhoto– everything is CC0. Along with searching by keyword, they have a color search. (Home page says everything is CC0, the photos I checked all individually were CC0 also).
Free Nature Stock– everything is open for use. Nature pics. (About page includes how and why- done by a single person who wants to share). [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
Magdeleine– everything is open for use. A more limited clearinghouse than some sites, but the quality if fabulous. I mean, though the roof, fabulous. A very few are attribution required. Just hover over the image- you want the CC0. Honestly, though, most are so fabulous I would happily attribute.
Creative Commons search– a search engine in which you can search various sources for photos. Decent quality, but make sure you double-check the actual image to make sure it’s CC0.
Photos Public Domain– everyone is PDM. Decent quality, quite a variety. Since they were all taken by this family, you’ll find photos here you might not find elsewhere. (FAQ page explains where they get the photos).
Kaboompics– everything is open for use. Honestly, this site is AMAZING. They have a color palette that works with the photos, unique categories, and more. When I do website re-design, I’ll probably go work on their site. And give them a donation because they’re so amazing. (License page). The work is so amazing I think the free stock photos are just a launching pad for their paid photography business. [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
Snapwire Snaps Free Photo Collection– everything is CC0. Their business plan results in a lot of extra photos. To interest people and advertise quality, they provide 7 free photos each week. The link is to the archive page updated weekly. Decent quantity, good quality. [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
RawPixel– absolutely fabulous quality and quantity. Note that they are a mix of free and premium photos. However, it is very, very easy to only view free and to limit search results to free. (License page for free photos). They also have an interesting project going on, “Public Domain,” cataloging pictures they *think* are public domain. Amazing variety, but can’t 100% guarantee allowed to use.
Stockvault– amazing selection and has a search function. However, you have to check each photo. Many are CC0 and Commercial (see their license page; basically you can use, just can’t redistribute as your own), but some are non-commerical use only.
Public Domain Archive– everything is CC0. And the photos are of absolutely fabulous quality. However, there isn’t a search function on the site. So while I browse and occasionally save for “in case of”, it isn’t a site I visit if I’m looking for a specific image. (Terms and Conditions page has the “yes, it’s free” info).
DesignerPics– everything is open for use. There isn’t a lot here…but you might find something. Done by a single person who wants to share.
Flickr Creative Commons– honestly, I don’t use them much. A couple of things to note:
• When doing a search, once the results pop up, there will be some options at the top. Change “attribution” to “no known copyright restrictions”. Once you click on a picture, check the licensing under it. You’re looking for ‘public domain’ or ‘CC0’. There are a ton of other photos, but make sure you attribute if required.
• People share a lot of CC images on here with people in them. Remember that just because it says you can use the photo, you still need the permission of the person IN the photo.
FreeImages– mostly open use. There are some restrictions, particularly about selling if the value of the product is because of the image being used. This makes sense, though. See the Licensing Agreement for details. Feel free to use as background for Pinterest images, etc.
Picography– everything is CC0. Not a ton of pictures, but good quality. They didn’t have any of coffee beans (that’s my testing search for all picture sites). (Terms page). [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
Jay Mantri, photographer– he’s constantly updating, but has a limited library. One man can only do so much. Also, there isn’t a search feature. The archive page has everything he’s posted. I included it just because there are some great pics. [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
Refre Free Photo Section– great quality and a lot of photos. Requires you to “check-out” through cart feature, though. [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
Life of Pix– decent selection (not extensive), good quality. Working in partnership with Adobe Stock, so trustworthy. (About page is very annoying- they’re good at photography, but their design overrode practical usage on this page-…but it’s clear photographers are donating images in return for exposure). [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
CMYK Brand– limited choices, but good quality.
Travel Coffee Book– limited choices, only travel, but excellent quality. No search function. But can click ‘download all’ button at top of page to preview all photos as thumbnails instead of having to scroll through them all.
MoveEast– limited choices, only pics from his travel, but good pictures. No search function. He’s very clear, though, that they are all CC0!
JeShoots– interesting collection, good quality. Everything I saw was free for use, but license page says some cost money. (About page). [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
Focus Fitness– limited choices, all in the fitness world. Everything is CC0. (CC0 notice is on the footer). [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp].
The Pattern Library– limited choices, but patterns you might not find elsewhere. (Says on home page that everything is free for use in designs).
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York– all their exhibits and pictures are CC0. They did this on purpose- they want to encourage creative freedom. If you’re looking for something unique, old paintings, something different, you might try them. This link is to the announcement page…partway down is a link to their current search feature.
Startup Stock Photos– all tech-related/office-related photos. All are CC0 (noted in footer). Limited selection, but if you’re looking for an office/tech photo, go here.
Requires Attribution -or- Other Circumstances:
While these photos are free, there are a bit more restrictions. I use them on occasion when I’m looking for exactly the right photo (size is an issue, for example) and can’t find it elsewhere. Honestly, I only use these sites rarely.
PicMonkey used to be free. It’s a service like Canva- you can use their images to set up templates/pin images etc. with additional words, borders, whatever you want. I love it. However, it’s now a pay service. I included it on this list as it has a free trial and is a very good place to start for people who don’t want to learn Photoshop yet to make Pinterest images.
Freeqration– literally millions of photos, many of them of absolutely fabulous quality. About half of the ones I checked are attribution required. (Terms page indicates most are CC0, I didn’t find that to be true).
The British Library (via Flickr)– while the images are free and no attribution is required, they’re mostly antique. If you’re looking for this, great! But has limited uses for the average blogger.
OpenPhoto– each photo is different, most at attribution required. Despite that, a decent variety that you might not find elsewhere. So if you’re looking for something in particular and don’t mind attributing, I would stop here. (About page has licensing information).
Fotor– each photo is different. Some require attribution. Some don’t allow modification. You can limit search by commercial and non-commerical. But can’t limit search to attribution/not, etc.
IM Free– all photos require attribution.
Free Digital Photos.net. Small size is free, but requires attribution. The larger sizes cost money.
Canva. While you can’t use the pictures by themselves, it actually allows you to design layered images: aka- mountain scene with words on top. So it’s a resource you could use if you’re trying to make pin images.
Death to Stock Photo. They’ll send 10 free images a month- great quality, but their choice on images. Or you can pay for premium service.
Creative Convex– have a free bundle you can download. You have to sign-up using e-mail. And you can ONLY use for non-commerical or products you’re giving away (such as a free e-book). You have to purchase license if you’re going to charge for end product. (License information).
BucketListly– travel photos and a lot of them. But no search function. Plus attribution AND non-commercial use are required. [indexed on StockUp…that doesn’t mean all images from this site are available on StockUp]
EveryStockPhoto– kind of a clearinghouse of various photos- pulls from different sites. So you have to check the license on every single one you use.
New Old Stock– interesting montage of mostly black-and-white. Note that they’re “free of known copyright restrictions.” They pulled them from old public archives, so you should be okay. But no guarantee.