50+ Of The Best, Most Beautiful Websites For Free Stock Photos (Because Risking Your Biz For A Free Photo Is Silly!)
I’m a hopeless sucker for pretty, free photos. Especially of chic office spaces with colorful, curvy chairs, elegant white desks, and gleaming Macs.
Every time I spot an image like that on Pinterest, I think about how ridiculously perfect it would be for my next blog post.
But, alas, you won’t see those photos here.
Why? Because those photos — which seem so casually and easily available — actually aren’t free to use.
They belong to somebody, somewhere, and that person or company has legal rights to the exclusive use of that photo.
It makes no difference whether they were taken by Penny Q. Smith for her obscure personal blog about thumbtack art or were published on KateSpade.com…if I used them, I’d be breaking the law.
(And could easily be served a crippling $8,000 in copyright infringement fines.)
My business does well, but I don’t have large sums of money laying around to throw at random things like, oh, stiff copyright penalties. Do you?
IMAGE COPYRIGHT LAW IN SIMPLE TERMS
According to copyright law, you are financially liable for using copyrighted images on your website (or for other graphic art, such as the cover for your free e-book).
It doesn’t matter if:
- You link back to the photo source and give attribution to the photographer
- Your website isn’t for business use/you make no money from your blog
- You did it innocently
- You take the photo down after receiving a DMCA takedown notice
- The picture is licensed to your Web developer/designer
- You have a disclaimer on your site
- The photo is embedded instead of saved on your server
- The photo isn’t full-size
- You found it on Pinterest//Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/etc.
- Another business or blogger used the photo
Unless you’ve received express permission or have legitimately purchased usage rights, you can’t post copyrighted photos. Period.
Grabbing that perfect image for your next blog post may seem harmless, especially if you’ve seen it used all over the web, but it can hurt you in a big way. Don’t you dare do that to yourself or the business you love.
WHERE TO FIND BEAUTIFUL FREE STOCK PHOTOS
While the standard advice to avoid all this trouble is “just take your own photo,” that solution is unrealistic for many businesses. Taking photos is time-consuming! Plus, you can’t always capture exactly what you want.
(And you know that standard free stock images aren’t a good option either; they’re overwhelmingly cheesy and uninteresting.)
I realize what a hassle it is to find an excellent free stock photo, so below I’m sharing the “best of the best” in free CC0 image sources. They are my personal favorites: all have gorgeous photos, and yes, almost all are 100% free to use commercially.
I’ve included just a few extra CC photo sites that require attribution, can’t be modified, or have special licensing restrictions for commercial use; I’ve marked them, but be sure to double check them yourself as the terms may change.
Bookmark/Pin this page, as I’ll keep adding to it!
4. Jay Mantri
5. Little Visuals (no longer updated)
13. IM Free (attribution required; some may have modification restrictions)
14. Lime Lane Photography (can’t modify the images)
15. Live Loud Texas (no longer available)
*Jan. 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
17. Life of Pix
21. New Old Stock
*Feb. 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
23. Snapwire Snaps
*May 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
*June 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
30. Negative Space
*August 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
31. ISO Republic
32. Franken Fotos
33. Designers Pics
*October 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
*December 2015 / EDITED TO ADD:
38. The Stockpile
41. Creative Vix
43. Barn Images
*January 2016 / EDITED TO ADD:
*April 2016 / EDITED TO ADD:
49. Rawpixel (email required)
50. Creative Convex (email required)
52. Titiana Foto (in German)
*October 2016 / EDITED TO ADD:
54. CreateHER Stock (email required)
55. OneLeft Media