Whether you’re blogging for yourself or a client, I’m sure you know the importance of images.
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On a high level, gorgeous photos help bring your blog’s brand to life. Photos also break up text, making your content skimmable and shareable.
But where to find these photos? Image licensing is a tricky beast and stock photos are expensive.
It’s no secret that for today’s bloggers, there’s many websites offering free, high-quality stock photography.
While lots of these websites are wonderful, the sheer volume of images available on them can be overwhelming to mine through. These sites tend to be generalists, offering a smaller number of photos across a broader range of categories. If you’re looking for something unique, specific or offbeat, you might end up searching multiple sites to find that one perfect image you need.
Luckily, there are a handful of free stock photo websites targeted toward a specific niche or category. If your blog caters to foodies, history buffs or creative freelancers/marketers, it might be worth checking out one of the websites below.
Note: Each website has its own licensing rules; check before downloading and using any photos. Also, different rules may apply if you want to change an image or use it commercially. You’ll also need to verify whether any of the photos you select require attribution.
Gratisography is a great place to find free, high-resolution images that are quirky, offbeat, and just plain fun.
All images are taken by visual artist Ryan McGuire, with new pictures added weekly. Images can be used for personal or commercial use, and no attribution is required.
You can filter by big bucket categories (e.g., Animals, People, Nature), or do a custom keyword search. Pictures range from whimsical (ex. piglets donning party hats) to wacky (ex. a man mowing the lawn wearing just his undies and a beer helmet).
If you or your client approaches content with a sense of humor or satire, then Gratisography should definitely be added to your stock photo toolkit.
If you’re looking for free vintage stock photos, New Old Stock is a good place to start.
Free of known copyright restrictions, these photos have been thoughtfully curated from participating institutions on The Commons on Flickr. (Note: It’s a good idea to double-check the institution’s rights statement, which can be found by clicking on the link for the image’s original Flickr posting provided for each image.)
Browsing New Old stock, you’ll find a variety of beautiful, vintage stock photos from the world’s public archives—great for historical topics, blogs, and societies/organizations.
Whether you’re looking for antique images depicting city life, farming, or transportation (e.g., automobiles, trains), this website is a great one to bookmark for sourcing snapshots from bygone eras.
As the name suggests, FoodiesFeed offers free, high-resolution food photography — perfect for food bloggers and food-related businesses.
Its collection of food photography is available for personal or commercial use, and images are grouped into broad categories like Coffee & Drinks, Cooking & Baking or Grocery & Ingredients. The numerous display ads are a bit annoying as you scroll, but the array of appetizing imagery makes it worth the inconvenience.
In addition to its collection of free images, FoodiesFeed offers a few Premium packages, which grant you lifetime access to hundreds of more photos, regular updates/notifications, and thematic photo bundles.
No stuffy suits, phony smiles or post-meeting high fives here — Startup Stock Photos offers free business stock photography for the modern creative professional.
Founded in 2014 by Sculpt, an Iowa-city social media marketing agency, Startup Stock Photos caters to creative freelancers, agencies and the startup community.
Its collection of photos features plenty of casually clad workers (think flannel and beanies), either working solo on MacBooks or participating in a brainstorming session at a coffee shop or downtown warehouse loft.
Many big names have used images from Startup Stock Photos; their client list includes Mashable, Forbes and The New York Times (among many others).
Here you’ll find beautiful images related to fashion, food, and interior design—often pairing modern elements with rustic accents (ex. an iPhone and laptop on a flannel blanket in the grass).
Images are free and can be used for personal or commercial use.
As free photo licenses can be more complex than they appear at first glance, you must choose a site that gives you not only the perfect photos for your blog but also the safest ones from a legal point of view.
This handy list of 27+ best (and safest) free stock photo sites is a great way to find them, as all the sites listed have been carefully reviewed in terms of library offer, image quality and legal safety.
Death to the Stock Photo (DTS) is a free email newsletter sharing monthly original, professional photo packs. Images are free to use and edit. Photos have a specific style — think hipster coffee shop meets Portland hiking — but are simple enough to use in a variety of ways.
DTS is my favorite place to find photos to pair with blog posts. Every photograph is gorgeous and high quality. I download each pack straight to my computer and use my own tagging system. Since most of my blog imagery contains graphics, I don’t need a specific photo (i.e. an apple on a wooden table). DTS gives me ideas for images I might never have thought of, and it’s all in one, curated place.
Flickr is one of the largest photo-management apps in the world. You can store your own shots or share them with the world. Thousands of photographers on Flickr allow free use of their work.
Search for anything you want, from “cat napping on a tree” to “writer in a cafe.” After searching, click on the “Any license” tab and choose “Creative Commons.” If you want to change the image or use it commercially, select the appropriate license from there.
To be safe, I always link back to the photographer’s website or Flickr portfolio. If you’re averse to linking out, just select “no known copyright restrictions”.
Flickr groups can help you find photos, too. Free Use Photos, for example, has more than 4,000 members and almost 8,000 photos available for free.
Unsplash is run by freelance design marketplace Crew. It’s like Death to Stock in that it releases collections every 10 days to use as you wish. The difference is all photos are available online, so you don’t have to sign up to receive or download folders of images.
Photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero. This means you can “copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.”
Browse Made with Unsplash for inspiration.
10. Negative Space
Here’s another site that allows you to search for exactly what you want. It adds 20 photos per week and you can search and sort by category, copy space position and color. Negative Space is particularly helpful for designers and anyone making social media graphics.
You can also buy premium photos in themed packs. You “pay what you want,” and the company gives 50 percent of sales to charity.
Photos released on Negative Space have no copyright restrictions.
If you’re looking for free photos, StockSnap is the easiest site to navigate. It offers hundreds of images and adds more every week. All photos are free from copyright restrictions and attribution isn’t required.
StockSnap also offers many different ways to explore available photos. Its “trending” and “views” section show what’s popular, or you can sort by date to see what’s new.
Photo quality is mixed (I found a lot of weird filters), but the selection is extensive.
Web designer Daniel Nanescu created SplitShire “With the simple aim of giving life to photographs that would have gone into oblivion without any utility.”
SplitShire offers free stock photos for commercial use. Browse its photo collections if you’re looking for something specific, like the ocean or dogs. Save time and buy the entire 500-image library at once for $9.60.
13. Life of Pix
Montreal creative agency LEEROY created Life of Pix with its impressive network of photographers. It organized photos into galleries like “animals”, “people” and “textures.” New high-resolution photos are added weekly, without copyright restrictions.
14. Ancestry Images
For more than just photos, Ancestry Images offers historical prints and maps. If you’re a history or genealogy buff, or a local blogger, this site offers resources beyond your typical stock photo.
Search is rudimentary, but a quick test brought up a dozen images from my home state in the 1800s.
You’re welcome to use any of this site’s images for non-commercial purposes, as long as you credit Ancestry Images.
Organized by location, BigFoto is perfect for travel bloggers. If your recent trip resulted in grainy photos, use BigFoto to download images of almost any attraction. BigFoto uses photos by amateurs, but they’re high quality and well-organized.
Photos are free to use, even for commercial purposes. The site asks for a link back to BigFoto.
Pexels provides high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. All photos are nicely tagged, searchable and also easy to discover through their discover pages.
Burst is a resource from Shopify that provides free stock photos for entrepreneurs. Some photos are licensed under Creative Commons CC0 while others fall under Shopify’s own photo license.
Pixabay offers a large collection of free stock photos, vectors and art illustrations. All photos are released under Creative Commons CC0.
FoodiesFeed offers thousands of beautiful realistic free food pictures in high resolution. It’s the perfect stock photo site for food bloggers.
Canva photos is an extensive collection of high-quality photos and images to help both designers and non-designers with their designs.
Pikwizard is a great new stock photography website that has over 100,000 high-quality images. 20,000 of these are completely exclusive and there is no attribution required with Pikwizard.
Start using these images in your new blogging website.