Updated May 2016
We all know how important it is to have relevant and interesting images in your content, but when you don’t have an image of your own to use, buying a great photo isn’t always an option.
Thankfully, there are lots of places to get free legal stock photos. (Please don’t tell me you’re going on Google Images and grabbing whatever you find…)
Image sources on this list offer free images for commercial and person use, without any attribution required. I’ve removed sites that require attribution, but it’s still best to check because occasionally an individual image on one of these sites may do so. And sometimes free signup to the site is required, and I indicate when.
I’ll do my best to keep this up to date, but please let me know in the comments if you find another great site, or if a site’s incorrectly listed or no longer exists.
BTW, I’ve got my own free images you can download.
Indicates site requires free registration
(in alphabetical order)
As of Dec 2015 I was getting a page unavailable message.
Like the name says, images of food or food-related objects/people. Lots of good, tasty pics.
Worth signing up for. Over 300,000 photos and illustrations which you can download in various resolutions. Automatically shows you related images, which is a handy feature. (Known for years as Stock Xchng, the name and interface changed when Getty Images bought them out – but everything’s still free)
Not a lot here and lots of poorer quality images, but some potential for backgrounds or cropping out bits.
Not a huge collection, but I like the fact that multiple versions of a shot are sometimes included.
Some nice shots, though thumbs are small. But as of May 2016 I’m getting load errors trying to download the images and once I got some dubious popup ad.
A lot of links lead to their website creation tool, but if you can navigate around those, they have a fair number of categories and some of the images are quite good.
The interface is a bit hard to read – everything’s small, including the thumbnails – and there are lots of so-so images, but still plenty of gems.
Life of Pix
A collection of images from a Montreal design firm and its network of photographers. Updated weekly.
I use MorgueFile a lot for the SHS site because they have a lot of very good photos, but keep this in mind: you MUST alter the image in some way. You can’t use images as is. For example, I found an image of a guy reading a book, and I photoshopped a tablet in place of the book.
Very nice photos, but not a huge range of free ones.
Over 500,000 photos, vector art, and videos – typically great quality. And you’re able to choose resolutions when downloading. Unless you register for free, you have to fill out a captcha each time you download.
Short ad pops up asking you to look at their online image editing software, but you can just click No Thanks and continue with the download.
Sites from Individual Photographers
One of my favourites, this site features a wide range of topics with unique and striking images by photographer Ryan McGuire. You’ll want to buy him a coffee.
A growing collection.
This site’s owner, Nic, has since passed away, but his family have kept it running. The images were sent out weekly and you can download them by week as a zip file.
Large collection from photographer Daniel Nanescu. Interesting option – pay a small fee to download over 500 pics at one time.
Sites That Regularly Send Photos To You
Unsplash (10 photos/10 days)
Little Visuals (7 photos/7 days)
Death to The Stock Photo (30 days)
Vintage Photo and Illustration Sites
Amazing collection of vintage graphics – covers, posters, postcards, illustrations. The user interface, at least on the free section of the site, is a bit awkward to use.
Old Book Illustrations
As the name suggests, these are engravings and other illustrations, mostly from 19th and early 20th century. The site is easy to navigate, but if you’re a history buff, you may find yourself wandering in here for some time…
Old Book Art
Found another great one…