Content with images is 94% more likely to be shared and has better SEO value than words-only content. Plus, no one likes reading a giant wall of text. But you probably don't have the budget to purchase or the time to create original images for every piece of content you publish.
That's where free stock photos and images come in, and here, we're going to present you with the best 20 sites to find them.
What Makes a Great Website for Finding Free Stock Photos and Images?
Finding images that are free for commercial use isn't as hard as it might sound, thanks to a number of sites that aggregate photos, illustrations, vectors, and more. These sites usually let you search and filter by keyword or category, making it easy to find what you're looking for. The best free stock image sites all meet the following criteria:
They must contain images that can be used without payment for both commercial and personal purposes.
We looked for sites that have at least 500 photos, but we favored ones that offer thousands of images.
A lot of free stock photo sites essentially offer the same pictures. We looked for sites that offered unique images so your content can stand out.
The 20 Best Sites for Finding Free Stock Photos and Images
Flickr for the broadest range of stock photos
Unsplash for searching collections of similar images
Pexels for supporting photographers who are engaged with a platform
Pixabay for illustrations
GIPHY for the broadest range of GIFs
Gfycat for high-quality GIFs
StockSnap for new stock photos
Google Images for advanced searches including reverse image search
Gratisography for quirky images you won't see anywhere else
Canva for adding simple enhancements and overlays
Burst for eCommerce companies
New Old Stock for vintage photos
USA.gov for historical photos from the U.S.
PikWizard for editorial photos
Freepik for vectors
Stockvault for textures
Startup Stock Photos for photos of startups
Foodiesfeed for photos of food
Picography for scenic photos
Kaboompics for different shots of the same object
Best free stock photos site for the broadest range of stock photos
Flickr is a photo sharing social network. The site—which boasts more than five billion images—brings together professional and amateur photographers from around the world.
The photos on Flickr are known for containing rich metadata, including geolocation information, EXIF data, tags, and more. So if you want to find photos taken in France, select the World Map under the Explore dropdown, and click on one of the pink dots that pop up in that country. If you want to find images of golden retrievers, simply type the term into the search bar in the upper-right corner of the Flickr homepage, and thousands of results will come back. Plus, Flickr lets you search by trending photos and most recently added photos. You can even explore galleries and search specific photographers' collections by clicking on their usernames.
Keep in mind that you can't use every photo you find on Flickr for free—especially for commercial use. But it's easy to figure out which ones are usable. Run a search for an image, and then click the Any license dropdown menu and select Commercial use allowed.
If you get sick of seeing ads as you browse Flickr, you can upgrade to an ad-free experience for $5.99/month. The premium subscription also comes with unlimited storage (free users get one terabyte of storage).
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Best free stock photos site for searching collections of similar images
Unsplash has nearly 700,000 images from more than 125,000 different photographers. The site is easy to use: Type a keyword into the search bar at the top of the page, and browse the results to find the best images for your purposes.
What sets Unsplash apart from other free photo sites is its Collections section. Users of the site are able to create Collections—like "Christmas Traditions," "Autumn," and "Milkyway"—by curating photos they come across. If you want several similar photos of a specific theme, this may be your best option.
Best free stock photos site for supporting photographers who are engaged with a platform
Pexels offers hundreds of thousands of photos that are free to use for both commercial and personal purposes. You can search by popular photos, trending photos, and popular searches (i.e., what other people are looking for).
If you want to find a photographer whose photos you can use regularly, Pexels is probably your best bet. The site has a number of contests for photographers; they've even gamified photography by ranking contributors based on how many views their photos have gotten over the last 30 days. Since aspiring photographers are likely motivated to win such contests, Pexels is a great site for finding amazing photographers who are engaged with the platform. They can't win contests or climb the leaderboard if they don't contribute photos to the site, so you can expect them to always have fresh photos available.
If you're a Photoshop user, you'll want to give Pexels' free Photoshop plugin a spin. It lets you access all of their images directly from the Photoshop interface.
Best free stock photos site for illustrations
Pixabay hosts more than 1.5 million photos, illustrations, vector graphics, and videos—all of which are free to use. Click Images next to the search bar to search for images by type, or you can search more granularly by becoming familiar with Pixabay's advanced search options. Pixabay lets you search by photographer, by orientation (i.e., landscape or portrait), and even by camera. The site also features an Editor's Choice curation section, which highlights the best images chosen by the Pixabay team. Click the Explore dropdown menu in the upper-right corner of the site to see their selections.
If you need a professional-looking illustration—i.e., a hand-drawn image or a computer-generated graphic—you should begin your search here. Royalty-free illustrations can be tricky to find on many free image sites, but Pixabay has loads of them. Just click Images, select Illustrations, enter in your search terms, and that's that.
Best free stock photos site for the broadest range of GIFs
GIPHY offers more than one billion GIFs that are easily searchable and shareable. If you want to add some moving images to your content, you'll have plenty of options with GIPHY.
Of course, you'll get all the GIFs you'd expect to be able to find, like TV clips, sports highlights, and commercial snippets—and timely ones at that. But GIPHY also has a community of artists who create original content and upload it directly to the site.
It's worth noting that the copyright law surrounding the use of GIFs is a bit murky; courts, for the most part, haven't really weighed in on the matter.
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Best free stock photos site for high-quality GIFs
Gfycat is the place to go for high-quality GIFs. According to the Gfycat team, the GIFs you'll find there are 10x faster than the average GIF. They also contain millions of colors—compared to the average GIF that supports a 256-color palette. Gfycat GIFs are compressed, which enables them to support high-quality GIFs as long as 60 seconds.
In particular, Gfycat has a ton of gaming GIFs (click the Gaming button in the upper-left corner of the site). The site also has a Reactions section that groups reaction GIFs by categories (e.g., "I Love You" and "Happy Birthday").
Best free stock photos site for new stock photos
StockSnap hosts thousands of high-resolution images that are all free to use for commercial use. While some sites that offer free images can get a bit stale after a while, StockSnap adds hundreds of new photos every week.
StockSnap offers an intuitive search experience. You can search for photos by date added, most and least viewed, most and least downloaded, and most and least favorited. You can also search trending photos. If you find yourself to be an enormous StockSnap fan, create an account for free. That way, the photos you favorite will be stored in one central location.
Many StockSnap searches will return results from Shutterstock (not free) at the top of the search results. They're labeled as such, but it's easy to miss. This is the case on many of the sites on this list, so keep your eye out or you'll end up clicking away from the site without even realizing it.
Best free stock photos site for advanced searches including reverse image search
Google Images brings the power of Google's search engine to photos. You can use standard Google search operators in your image search, and then you can further filter by file type, image size, color, and date. You can even do a reverse image lookup: If you've found an image you want to use, but you don't know its copyright restrictions, you can search using the image to find the original source.
A simple Google Images search will mostly yield pictures that you're not allowed to use commercially. You'll have to modify the filters: On the Google Images page, click Tools > Usage Rights, and then select Labeled for reuse or Labeled for reuse with modification if you want to modify the image before using it. But remember: It's always important to check the license on the page the image actually lives on to be sure you can reuse it for free.
Best free stock photos site for quirky images you won't see anywhere else
Gratisography doesn't have thousands of pictures for you to browse through. What it does have is some of the quirkiest images you will find on the web—images you won't be able to find anywhere else, like a young kid spray painting and an alarm clock that looks like it's on the moon.
The site is pretty bare bones. Photos are organized into nine different categories: Animals, Business, Fashion, Food, Nature, Objects, People, Urban, and Whimsical. But if you're looking for an odd image that will bring your content to life, this is the place to start.
Best free stock photos site for adding simple enhancements and overlays
Canva is a web-based graphic design tool that makes modifying images easy. The company offers a library of upwards of one million free images you can use for any purpose.
If you're planning on enhancing the images you find with simple text overlays or tweaking the transparency or vibrancy of photos on a regular basis, Canva will help you streamline the process. Find photos, and then use Canva's built-in design tool to enhance them on the spot.
Best free stock photos site for eCommerce companies
Burst, which is powered by leading eCommerce platform Shopify, offers thousands of free images you can use to strengthen your content, including a large selection of business-oriented photos (e.g., retail, eCommerce, money, and product). The site serves up 28 different categories, several of which are broken down into subcategories to make it even easier to find the images you need.
Browsing, searching, and downloading are standard fare, but as an added bonus, Burst and Shopify offer advice on how to turn your online business ideas into reality and tips on how to make your Facebook marketing campaigns more effective.
Best free stock photos site for vintage photos
New Old Stock publishes vintage photos from the public archives. If you think old photos—like a group of men sitting outside a storefront in the late 1800s or a British dispatch rider in France—would match your brand, spend a few minutes scrolling through New Old Stock to see if anything catches your eye.
Unfortunately, the site's search functionality leaves much to be desired. And unlike most free images sites, New Old Stock doesn't offer any way to filter photos. If you're feeling lucky, though, click the magnifying glass in the upper-left corner of the site, type in a search phrase, and you may strike gold.
Best free stock photos site for historical photos from the U.S.
USA.gov provides a powerful search tool that enables you to search for images of U.S. history and U.S. historical figures, as well as state-specific photos.
If you're trying to find photos from Connecticut, for example, simply type
connecticut in the search bar, click the magnifying glass, and you'll get images of downtown Hartford, the Thames River Bridge, and Sleeping Giant State Park, among countless others. And because the images are all government work, they're all in the public domain.
Best free stock photos site for editorial photos
PikWizard offers thousands of photos you can use to engage your readers—including more than 9,000 images of brick walls. The site's search tool lets you filter images by trending, most recently added, most viewed, most favorited, and most downloaded, so it should be relatively easy to find the images you're looking for—whether or not that's a brick wall.
PikWizard has a unique search filter that serves up editorial photos and nothing else. To access this feature, click Filter next to the search bar, and make sure the Only editorial box is checked.
Best free stock photos website for vectors
Freepik serves up an eclectic collection of stock photos, PSD files, and icons. But the site also has a massive collection of vector graphics, all of which are free to use however you'd like, as long as you give proper attribution.
Most images become less vivid and more pixelated when they're expanded. Vector images, on the other hand, can be scaled to any size without compromising the integrity of the image.
Freepik offers 42 different categories of vectors (e.g., Education, Music, and Wedding), so you won't have a problem finding something that meets your needs. You can also search for vectors by most popular and most recently added.
Best free stock photos site for textures
Stockvault offers more than 120,000 free photos that are broken up into 11 different categories and even more subcategories.
What sets Stockvault apart is the number of textured images they have—over 13,000. The site offers 14 subcategories of textures, including Light Effects, Metal & Rust, and Dirt & Mud Textures. Click Categories > Textures, and select the type of texture you want.
Best free stock photos site for photos of startups
Startup Stock Photos is a repository of images of startups and the startup life. The site was started by a small team of photographers who decided to share photos they were already taking.
One catch: There's no search tool or browse feature, so you'll do lots of scrolling and Load More clicking. But if you need a photo to represent startup life, it'll be worth the few minutes of scrolling to find what you want.
Best free stock photos site for photos of food
As the name suggests, Foodiesfeed is the place to go when you need to find a food-related image to spice up your content—like an image of a delectable sunny side up egg or a cup of coffee that looks happy. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you'll be able to filter content by the three most popular tags: Top View, Healthy, and Close Up.
The site has more than 1,000 photos—not a ton, but unless your food photo need is very niche, you should be good to go.
Best free stock photos site for photos of nature
Picography doesn't have a large number of images—just over 500—but if you're looking for spectacular photos of nature and other scenery, this is your spot.
Picography boasts a dazzling selection of images of the world around us—like a snow-capped mountain at sunset and a mountain reflecting over a lake—all of which are free to use however you'd like. The site also has some cool street scenes that are worth checking out.
Best free stock photos site for different shots of the same object
Kaboompics has thousands of images and all the standard functionality of a stock image site. Just click the Discover free photos button at the top of the page to get started. They also have a Least downloaded filter, which can help you find stock photos that won't show up on everyone else's site too.
If you want to give your content some allure with several different shots of the same object or scene, Kaboompics has what you need: The site organizes some images by photoshoot (e.g., A Woman in Pink Boots and Blue Jeans).
Which Site Should I Use?
If you're publishing content on a regular basis, you'll likely get the best results by using a combination of our recommended sites. Just be sure that you keep your branding consistent: Using too many eclectic images can muddy your brand and make it hard to stand out from the crowd.
A Note on Copyrights
Why can't you just scour the web for an image you like and publish it? Because creators own the rights to their images, and if you publish one of them without their approval, you may be guilty of copyright infringement. In a worst-case scenario, that could land you a $150,000 fine for each violation, and possibly even jail time. Of course, you'll receive a cease-and-desist letter first, telling you to take the images down, but even still, you'll waste time and effort removing them—in addition to the time and effort you wasted finding them in the first place.
But some creators are happy to share their images with others. Creative Commons offers a number of different licenses that creators can use to enable other people to leverage their work freely. Of course, it's not all or nothing: Some licenses allow for personal use while others allow for commercial use. Some licenses require you to attribute images to creators while others don't. Some allow you to adapt or modify an image while others require you to use it in its original form. When using an image licensed through Creative Commons, be sure to read the fine print and abide by the terms.