The internet is full of incredible, inspiring photos and images. Beyond the fun of browsing these pictures, you should be using them to enhance your designs, blog posts, social media and presentations. Almost anything you create can benefit from a picture. Here is a huge list of 31 royalty free stock photo services that you can use to add professional quality images in your next project.
Warning: Royalty free in many cases does not me free to use. Almost all images you find on the internet are likely copyrighted. You don’t want someone copying your creative work. Please don’t infringe on the copyrights of these easily accessible stock photos.
Please verify the terms or use for images from these stock photo services before using them. Even if a photo or graphic is not copyrighted, it is always good karma to mention or link to the creator.
Free stock photos, but don’t steal
Here are the three best websites to find absolutely free photos. For these you will see the term “Creative Commons”. Check out this excellent description of creative commons terminology.
1. Flickr – The best place to find unique photos from professionals and amateurs alike. Most of these images are copyrighted. For free images, go to the creative commons section. It is full of images that are free to use. Make sure to see very cool public domain photos from the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library.
2. Historical Stock Photos- A large collection of historical images that are now available to the public domain for free.
3. Google Images - Google image search makes it incredibly easy to find images of almost anything. Again, the use of many of these images is restricted. Just be prudent when using them.
4. Creative Commons Search - Use Creative Commons Search for more than just photos. You can also search for music, videos, writing and even code.
Top stock photo sites
Stock photo sites are royalty free, but not entirely free. These sites allow you to purchase a professional image once and use it for multiple times without having to pay a royalty each time. When using or joining these sites, make sure to review the terms of service for exact rules and regulations.
5. Stock.Xchng - This community where creative people can share their photos has approximately 400,000 images available. Most of the images are free, but you will want to contact the creator to make sure it is okay. Stock.Xchng is also now part of Getty Images (see below).
6. Fotolia – Fotlia has around 15 million images, vector art and videos in its archives. Images start from only $0.75 on a pay as you go model. If you use a lot of images, then it is worth a monthly subscription starting at just $75 for use of up to 5000 images.
7. iStockphoto - Millions of high quality images are available here. Each image has a different credit value. You can purchase “credit packs” or a subscription.
8. BigStock - Millions of low cost stock images are here too. BigStock also uses the credit approach for payment toward individual pictures. Their credit packs net out to a $0.99 starting price.
9. Alamy – Alamy says it is the largest stock image website with over 27 million images. Purchase images individually so that you don’t have to worry about wasting unused credits. They also have a cool iPad app.
10. ShutterStock – Shutterstock is the largest subscription-based stock photo agency. Thousands of photographs, illustrations, and vectors are added to their exceptionally high quality collection every day. Shutterstock is best for hi-res images for advertisements and print. It is a little more expensive with 1 hi-res image starting at $19, but well worth it for incredible images.
11. Corbis Images – Purchase image CDs that can be used for unlimited commercial use royalty free.
12. Getty Images – Most professional marketers know the Getty name. They are the leading provider of digital media worldwide with a range of assets – from royalty-free stock photography and editorial images to video, music and multimedia.
Specialized Stock Photos
13. Arabian Eye – Some of the most incredible imagery comes from the Middle East. Arabian Eye is a specialized resource for Middle Eastern pictures run by Corbis Images.
14. VectorStock - A lot of stock photo sites now include vector images. However, Vector Stock specializes in only royalty-free vector backgrounds, textures, icons and images. So they have access to some truly unique vector art.
15. Vecteezy – Vecteezy is another vector-only resource. Very cool, leading edge graphics can be found here.
16. Sweet And Talented – Do you want to include a picture of Angelina Jolie on your site? Or pictures from Harry Potter? Sweet and Talented is a great resource for photos of movie stars, musicians and celebrities.
17. PhotoEverywhere – Choose from over 3500 free travel stock images on this website. PhotoEverywhere focuses on well-known tourist destinations from cities like San Francisco to Caribbean beaches to the Scottish Highlands. I especially like that they offer panoramic images.
18. bigfoto.com – bigfoto.com offers completely free images from around the world. Just make sure to include a link back to the creator or their website.
19.Trip Album – This site is in French, but is very easy to navigate. Trip Album has incredible photographs of exotic places in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
More stock photos for great prices
20. Dreamstime – Dreamstime is quickly becoming the most popular source of photographs for advertising agencies, magazines and media companies. The reason is that they have a very focused selection of memorable images that start at just 20 cents.
21. everystockphoto.com – Everystockphoto.com is a combination image search engine and blog that lists millions of photos from many sources.
22. freerange – As a free-to-join membership site, freerange makes it very easy to find exceptional photos. The cool thing is that photographers are rewarded for giving away their images for free by getting a share of freerange’s ad revenue. So you get free images and the photographer still gets paid. Win-win!
23. Depositphotos – Images start at just $0.50, but their monthly subscription programs bring your costs way down.
24. Thinkstock – Very high-quality professional images that come in packs starting at $99 or through subscription programs starting at $199 per month.
25. Photl.com – The unique feature of this website is that these photo images are not widely circulated and are contained only in photl.com base. Download up to 40mb worth of images daily.
26. 123RF – 123RF is a fantastic image search engine. Many of the images are free for the low-res pictures, which is perfect for most blogs or websites.
27. morgueFile – morgueFile is a haven for creative professionals. Very cool imagery can be used free as long as you aren’t using it commercially (like re-selling it or claiming that it’s yours).
28. Epictura – Epictura is a bank of 11 millions stock images perfect for corporate communication. They edited and compile stock pictures from Corbis, Pixtal, Fancy, Denkou & PhotoAlto and thousands of agencies and photographers.
28. RGBStock – RGBStock is a smaller site, but completely free for use on your blog or website.
29. Pixmac – Pixmac has millions of stock images. Prices start from $0.92 per image using a credit purchase model.
30. Jupiterimages – Jupiterimages has compiled over 2.5 million royalty-free stock photos and illustrations from Getty Images and other premium-quality collections.
31. StockLib – Last but not least, StockLib is a subsidiary of Epictura. They have over 11 million royalty-free stock images from as low as $1 for use on your blog.
There are hundreds of other royalty free stock photo websites around. These 31 recommendations should be plenty for your project though. These sites offer unimaginably huge selection, but I bet you can find other very focused niche stock image sites if you need to dig deep. What sites do you use or recommend?
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this list are affiliate links. However, my recommendation of these stock photography websites is not based on my financial gain. These are the sites that I use and fell they are worth sharing.