The best free stock photo sites

Why should I use a free stock photo website?

When you’re designing websites, creating marketing collateral or doing anything else design related, a good stock photo will do wonders for your finished product. Often, you don’t have the budget, time, or skills to capture the photo you have in mind. If you have a big budget, you can explore a premium stock image website such as iStockphoto or Shutterstock. However, if you’re not willing to fork out big $$$ a free stock photo website will become your best friend.

Finding a good stock photo (or a few stock photos) can be challenging if you don’t know the best places to look. A google search for “Free Stock Photos” or “Free Photo Websites” will bring up mixed results. Many sites will show a combination of some free photos, some royalty free photos, and a lot of paid images. It can be difficult to sort through the entire mix to find an image you can use for free. This is why you should turn to a truly free, and royalty free, stock photo site.

What is the difference between a free stock photo site and a paid stock photo website?

Paid stock photo websites rely on people or businesses paying for the specific images (or a membership fee) to use their high-quality photographs and stock imagery. Often, these website memberships or image purchases come at a high price, but there is a huge market of options available.

Free stock image websites exist thanks to on-page advertising and often less experienced or up and coming photographers. Fortunately, this means you can find some great images for free, from largely undiscovered talent. There are thousands of photographers who upload their images to free stock photo websites knowing it will be beneficial for small businesses or individuals while providing them with exposure and experience at the same time.

Free stock image websites allow you to use their photos often under Creative Commons Zero licensing, which means creators waive their copyright and other related rights to the asset. This allows you to use their free stock images (or other creative assets) for commercial purposes, absolutely free.

What are the best stock photo websites?


Canva is an Australian-born creative website with free high quality stock photos as one of its services. Canva has over 1 million photographs and stock imagery available for use, through either its free service or the Canva Pro service. These photographs have been compiled with graphic design in mind – as this is a core service of Canva. So every photo is great for use on most graphic design projects, such as posters, social media graphics, flyers and more.


Pexels is a great stock image website (if not the best stock photo site) to find a high-quality stock image and other royalty free images.

Pexels is a free stock photo website based in Germany. It was created by two brothers with a background in computer and software technology. The photo website aims to provide free photos that are more authentic and modern than some other free photo websites.

Pexels stands out with its search function – which is easily filterable and multiple useful parameters make it easy to find the image you need. All photos on Pexels are nicely tagged, easily searchable and has a great variety of royalty free images.

Pexels also has a branch for free stock videos – a great resource for when you’re needing something beyond a simple photograph.


Pixabay is our next pick for free stock photography. Pixabay has a large collection of free stock photography, vector image, and art illustrators. This website is also German-based, created by Hans Braxmeier and Simon Steinberger, who both have a background in computer technology.

Pixabay is also crowdsourced, which means users upload their free stock images to be used. Over 1.4 million files are uploaded to the website under Creative Commons Zero license. CC0 does still mean there could be privacy and property rights, but Pixabay has a dedicated photographer and image editor who reviews submissions for quality and legality, creating a more curated collection. This is a great positive if you’re worried about CC0 license usage.


Unsplash has a large collection of free, high-resolution stock photography. The team at Unsplash looks through submissions and features the best stock photography on their homepage. All photos are released for free usage under the Unsplash license.

Unsplash was born from a Tumblr blog that offered leftover photos from photoshoots, for free. It was then developed and is managed by the owners of Crew – a platform connecting clients with freelance designers, web developers, and small studio services. The site now has over 500,000 free photographs and stock imagery with 10 royalty-free photographs being uploaded every 10 days.

Photos on Unsplash are high quality image, modern and authentic. The site uses its own custom license, which replicates a Creative Commons Zero license but removes the right to compile its photos (avoiding a competitor using its free stock images).

Where can free stock photos be used?

Most free stock photos sites allow use for commercial purposes, but it is always good to check, especially if you plan to use the photo for advertising or marketing as copyright restrictions might not allow you to do so. Generally, we like to use stock photos for blog posts, and social media posts. They can also come in handy when showing someone an example of the photo you are trying to recreate – or even find on a paid stock photo site.