A well-chosen photo placed in the right place can do as much as a thousand words, but finding the right photo can be a challenge. Although a photo specially made for your project integrates better and makes your project look more professional, a well-chosen stock photo can do the job as well because today we can find stock images for almost anything.
Still not as large as the paid sites such as Shutterstock, iStock, Fotolia, 123RF etc. where we can find almost anything, a few completely free websites are catching up from behind.
Although there are many, I will mention only the best 8 of them. I’ve selected only those with a large number of photos that are completely free under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. These also have a good search function and I’ve mentioned this because there are a few more good smaller websites but with a bad search function or even without it at all.
About License Agreement
A Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license means that the creator has provided the image to the public domain, therefore the image can be used freely for personal or commercial purposes, and can be modified, copied, or distributed without permission and without the obligation to quote the source of the image or the creator.
Some sites even under CC0 may have additional requirements like for example can require attribution (link back to the source/creator) or may have a limitation for sale and redistribution. Regarding the sale and redistribution limitation it means that you cannot sell the photos as they are or redistribute them on similar sites unless it is an integrated, inseparable part of a product. In other words you can sell for example several website templates or a custom packaging design that contains those photos.
Because things may change for the following websites I encourage you to double check them to be sure that the copyright agreement is still as presented here.
A very popular website with a very large number of free quality photos that are nicely arranged by categories. The website also has a couple of great helpful search filters like size, color or orientation.
All the photos are released under CC0, but with the sale and redistribution limitation and also with some restrictions to use the photos like for example unlawful, defamatory, or immoral purposes. See more at Pixabay license.
Another popular site with a large number of free high-resolution photos and also with a great community. The website it’s very simple to use, uncluttered and also has an accurate search function. So it’s a great resource with a large collection of free photos that should be in your bookmarks.
Everything here is also released under CC0 but without the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service. See more at Unsplash license.
3. Visual Hunt
Another website that grow rapidly with a large number of high quality photos gathered from several free stock websites. This website also uses an infinite scroll function that makes it easy to navigate and also has an useful color filter.
Most of the photos fall under the CC0 license but to be sure you should check every image under the “download for free” button to be sure everything is green. If red then attribution is required and if orange then it’s not for commercial use. See more at Visualhunt license.
A really great website that beside the many high quality photos nicely tagged it’s also easy to navigate with an infinite scroll function. Pexel grows rapidly by adding every month at least 3,000 new high resolution photos from several free stock websites.
All the photos from pexels are also under CC0 license with the only restriction that identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or in a way that they may find offensive, unless they give their consent. See more at Pexels license.
Great website with a lot of high quality photos and with a very good and complex category arrangement that will help you find easily what you are looking for. This website also has an infinite scroll which makes navigation a pleasure.
The license is simple as all the photos here fall under the CC0 with no other restriction added. See more at StockSnap license.
Another great source of free high resolution photos with many naturally looking photos that don’t look like usual stock photos. The website has many useful tags that makes searching through photos really easy.
As they say “the licenses are very simple” and all the photos are licensed under the CC0 license. See more at ABSFreePic license.
Fewer photos than previous websites but with a constantly growing photo database and with really awesome photos at a very high quality, colorful and creative. The website has a few very useful filters like colors, orientation or their unique photoshoots filter.
The license is as they say “clear and simple” the same as CC0 with the only limitation of sale and redistribution. See more at Kaboompics license.
If you need high resolution food photos you definitely must know this site as it has exclusively only high quality free photos related to food. It also has a few popular tags that makes the search easy.
The license is simple as all the photos here fall under the CC0 with no other restriction added or as they say “use the photos as if you took them yourself”. See more at Foodiesfeed license.
Additional, Flickr may also be an useful resource
When you need free photos you can’t forget about Flickr that is another decent source of free photos. The search function is also improved with a few good filters like orientation, size or color although you’ll get on the search result page quite a few unrelated photos. Regarding the license, this exact Flickr link will show you after searching only CC0 photos because on Flickr there are photos with different licensee that may not be for commercial use, have certain limitations or require attribution.
Like I said before, although there might be many other similar websites with good quality photos, those websites above are my best preferred ones (at least at the moment) based on the quality and number of photos and also based on how easy the website is to navigate or to find the desired photos.
Anyway all of those websites (not only those included here) make our lives easier and we should thank them all for their wonderful free services.