When creating videos or eLearning contents, chances are you’ll need images. The problem is that finding good images can be a huge challenge, and the best ones often cost a fortune. Obviously, not everyone has a generous budget to cover the expense.
Thankfully, there has been a growing number of online stock image websites. Best of all, most of them offer free but high-quality images. Sound amazing? So, grab this article right now to discover some of those best places.
Things to Remember When Using Free Stock Images
Before going into details, there are some important things I have to tell you. Knowing them, you can avoid risks of violating image copyrights.
What are Stock Images?
To begin with, you may see or hear the word “stock images” several times. But what exactly do stock images mean?
Here is the best answer: a stock image is an existing photo, vector or illustration that can be licensed for specific uses.
Today stock images are widely available on the Internet, and using them is a good way to save tons of money. In some cases, you have no need of hiring a photographer or graphic designer thanks to stock images.
There are three types of stock image licenses as described below:
- Public Domain: Images are free to use for any purpose without any restrictions. In other words, they are free of copyrights. Attribution is appreciated but not required.
- Royalty Free: When you purchase a license, you can use images as many times as you want. There’s no time or usage limit. If yes, the number of times you’re allowed to use a particular image is mentioned in the license.
- Rights Managed: You have to pay to use images. Each license gives you the right to use the images in a specific way. The keyword is “specific”, which means if you want to use images for another use, you must purchase them again. In general, a rights-managed license has more limitations than a royalty-free one.
With this in mind, if you want to find free stock images, you should go with the Public Domain license.
Do Free Stock Images Always Mean Free?
The answer is NO! This is really true, especially on the Internet. Why?
As you may know, most of free images are released under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. Basically, CC0 is a legal tool which allows creators to give up their rights in their works, including copyrights. Consequently, everyone has the freedom to use images for any legal uses, regardless of personal, editorial, and commercial ones. Users can edit, copy, and distribute the images without asking for permission or linking them to sources.
However, using free images in this way comes with some restrictions:
- It’s impossible to use images in a way that recognizable people appear in disgraceful light or they may find offensive unless they give their consent. Otherwise, the use of those images can lead to copyright infringement. Mind that the same rule applies specifically to famous landmarks, for example, Eiffel Tower and Big Ben.
- Any suggestion for endorsement of products or services by recognizable people or organizations in images is forbidden. For instance, don’t use an image of NASA and put it next to your product image; then, suggest NASA would recommend the product.
Briefly, there are thousands of online stock images, and you can use them for free. But keep an eye on their license as free images don’t always mean that you have a right to use them for any use.
Now you have basic knowledge of free stock images. Let’s move to the next part to explore best free stock image sources.
Top 5 Places to Find the Best Free Stock Images
Below are 5 best sources to find free and high-quality stock images. Note that images in all the following sites (except Unsplash) are available under CC0. So the restrictions which I said earlier are applied to all of those images.
Pixabay is one of the best free public domain image websites. It’s also considered as the biggest free image collection on the Internet. By November 2017, Pixabay offers over 1.1 million free photos, illustrations, vectors, and videos. All of these contents are high quality and well designed.
Also, the site lists top 100 photographers who get a huge number of views and downloads of images. Hence, you can quickly find their impressive images and learn more about them.
- A huge collection of free and high-quality images, vectors, and illustrations.
- Offer a powerful search feature. You can even use symbols to search.
- Provide four image size presets, ranging from small to large.
- Discover best images with the Editor’s Choice feature. Those images are curated by the editorial team.
- Support 26 different languages.
- Don’t allow to edit image size before downloading.
- Need to login if you wish download images with large sizes.
- Have sponsored images from Shutterstock, which sometimes distracts you.
Pexels claims that all of their photos “are nicely tagged, searchable, and easy to discover”. We couldn’t agree more. There are currently over 40,000 free stock images on Pexels. Each month, at least 3,000 new high-resolution photos will be added. Note that these images are chosen from photos uploaded by users or sourced from other image websites. So, no wonder many images on Pexels also appears in other image stock sites like Pixabay.
Moreover, Pexels provides an interesting feature called Photos by Colors. Just pick another color or type your desired color. Then, the site brings amazing images which include the selected color to you.
- Offer special search features like Popular Searches and Photos by Color.
- Download images in many resolution presets or type your desired dimension.
- Create your own image collections to share with friends and download later.
- Contribute images to the site and win prizes.
- Interactive with others by “Like”.
- Support 2 languages: English and Deutsch.
- Lack unique images because many images are hand-picked from other sites.
- Have sponsored images from Twenty20.
Unsplash supports a library of over 300,000 free high-resolution images. Out of them, more than 50,000 images are inspired by best photographers. Unlike Pexels and Pixabay, Unsplash is no longer in the public domain, but the experience you’ve got remains unchanged. That is, you can use images for free and for any uses. You don’t need to ask permission from anyone or provide credit.
The Unsplash homepage shows trending and new images, plus the photo of the day. Therefore, you’re sure to feel surprised at what you’ll get every time you access this site.
- Offer a large library of free gorgeous images, including types of wallpaper.
- Search images according to topics and filters.
- Organize images as collections. There are about 53 collections available.
- Submit your own images.
- Don’t include ads from other image sites.
- Lack dimension presets to download images.
- Don’t support vectors and illustrations.
StockSnap gives you hundreds of high-resolution images. These images are arranged into different categories, and this site now has more than 30 categories. With a powerful search tool and a lot of filters, it’s easy to find desired images in minutes.
Besides, the Trending feature lets you know images which attract the viewers most. This helps you easily decide which images are better to use. For those who want to upload their own images, StockSnap also makes this available.
- High-quality images with many categories.
- Easy to search images by views, downloads, popular searches, topics, and categories.
- Create your own favorite collection.
- Find relevant images with the Relevance feature.
- Provide image information.
- Lack preset dimensions to download images.
- Include ads and sponsored images.
NegativeSpace have some different aspects compared with above sites. The name itself also relates to the negative space concept in design and photography. Simply put, a negative space implies a blurred area which allows viewers to focus on the subject. This is how the team envisions themselves and attempts to create a community of passionate photographers.
All images on this site have been taken by photographers from the NegativeSpace community. They are free of cost and free to use under the Creative Commons CC0 license.
- An ideal place for photographers to share their work.
- Provide beautiful and high-resolution free stock photos.
- Search images by tags.
- Organize images in categories like Abstract, Architecture, Business, and Black & White.
- Submit your own images.
- Don’t support image size presets. Also, you can’t custom image size before downloading.
- Poor search filters.
- Include ads from Adobe and Shutterstock.