Free Stock Images: The Top Sources

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Five Sources for Free Stock Images on the Web

free stock images
Credit: Ezra Bailey

The Web is a wonderful resource of imagery. However, not every image found on the Web is available for public use off the site where it has originally been found. It's considered bad etiquette (and can be construed as theft) to re-use images without permission on another website. Does this mean that all images found online can't be used somewhere else? Absolutely not! There are many high quality sources of free stock images on the Web, images that can be downloaded and used for either personal or professional uses. In this article, we're going to take a look at the top five sources for free stock images that you can use on a blog, website, newsletter, or other Web project.

Images abound online if you know where to look

There are a plethora of gorgeous images online available for both public and private use on the Web, and there's no need to take an image that doesn't necessarily belong to you. Use these sources of free stock images for your next project and get ready for compliments!

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Stock.XCHNG/Free Images

Free Images

What We Like

  • Large number of free stock images.

  • Decent library of non-free images available for purchase.

What We Don't Like

  • Somewhat clunky search system.

  • Not as well-known as other image-search sites.

If you need a truly gorgeous stock photo that is of the highest quality, you will want to visit Stock.XCHNG, now known as Free Images. All you need to do in order to use the site is register (for free), then log in. Search for something using words that are somewhat vague in order to get the widest range of results; i.e., instead of using "teacher receiving classroom grant" try just "teacher" or "classroom". Once you find something you like, you can download it to your computer and resize it as necessary. Over 350,000 stock photos are available here on a wide variety of subjects, and if you're a photographer, you are invited to submit your photo to the database as well. Premium photos are available here for a small fee, but most people will find that the free photos suit their needs just fine.

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EveryStockPhoto

EveryStockPhoto

What We Like

  • Huge library of stock images.

  • Very specific search capabilities.

What We Don't Like

  • Somewhat antiquated user interface.

  • Lots of non-free images in the mix.

EveryStockPhoto is a stock photo search engine. This means that they look at hundreds of different stock photo websites and sort images by license, so not all the photos that you will see in your search results will be free (however, you can filter your results to include only freely available, public domain images). All photos are presented with a host of useful information: what kind of license they offer, if they are public domain, how big the photo is, different attribution, if it costs money or not, if it's free for commercial or private (or both), and the original source. This is a fantastic resource for anyone who needs a very specific kind of stock image, simply because there are so many possible sources from which to choose from.

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StockVault

StockVault

What We Like

  • Great images supplied by users instead of centrally curated.

  • Support the artist directly through donations.

What We Don't Like

  • More limited selection.

  • Mix of free and non-free images.

StockVault differs a little bit from the other sites in this list. It exists as an online community where photographers, designers, and students can share their work for public and private use. Search for a photo and you'll see both premium and free for use images. A free image comes with quite a bit of information: who took the original photograph, a brief bio of that person, the option to donate to that artist if you particularly enjoy the photo, usage guidelines, and file dimensions. The site offers a bit less in total number of images than others in this article, however, the photos are of very high quality and definitely worth a look.

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FreeFoto

FreeFoto

What We Like

  • Avoid license fees with linkbacks.

  • Easy-to-use system.

What We Don't Like

  • Somewhat cumbersome user interface.

  • License fees in lieu of attribution.

FreeFoto offers one of the largest collections of stock images available on the Web today. These stock photos are available for both private, commercial, and non-profit use,and are easy to download. They do differ in one important way from the other sites on this list: if you use one of their photos, they ask that you link back to the site with proper attribution. Both commercial and non-profit clients can purchase their photos (at different pricing levels) if they do not wish to provide a link back.

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MorgueFile

MorgueFile

What We Like

  • Free licensing model with attribution requested but not required.

  • Great selection of high-quality imagery.

  • Well-known site that's been around for a long time.

What We Don't Like

  • No central curation of imagery.

  • License model can sometimes be challenging for commercial re-use.

MorgueFile offers gorgeous,high quality stock photos that have been contributed by a number of artists and photographers for free use both commercially and privately. The images are free to use in creative projects, but ownership of the image is not implied by using the image (this means you can use it, but you're still not the owner. A link back to the original owner is always appreciated.). These photographs tend to be in a very high resolution making them ideal for websites and other online projects.