Every badass pro website 100% needs kickass royalty free images.
Great images are essential when trying to grow anything online. Internet marketing genius Jeff Bullas found that quality images are responsible for 94% more views on posts with them than those without them.
More views mean a bigger audience for your stuff, and of course, more $$ if you've got something to sell!
There’s no getting around it – these days, images play a major part in how the world moves.
The problem is, almost every image created within the last three decades gets copyright protection. That means unless otherwise specified it’s illegal to use them freely or without permission (almost anywhere).
The easy/obvious way to get around this is to just buy images from people who sell stock photos. But it can get hella expensive if you're paying for hundreds of images across your site. Good news for you – we've got your back as always!
We’ve gathered a list of 23 places you can find the best royalty free images that don't suck to use for any website you can imagine.
Check out our video below for the shortlist, then read on for even more spots to get some spiffy shots for your site!
24 places to get free images for websites
Pixabay is a website where a whole community of creative folks offers copyright free images, music, and art, free of charge.
Not only do they have over 1.5 million free images for websites, but they're also flexible when it comes to choosing how to download images. You can download JPG images at up to 4 different sizes according to how/where you plan to use them.
- It’s super easy to search for any image you might be looking for
- Easy to download your image at whatever size or quality you’re feeling
- Accepts donations given to the creators if you want to share the love
- Low API rate limits (only really applies to developers trying to grab massive amounts of images automatically)
Pexels offers royalty free images shared by talented creators. Of course, they've got a healthy amount of free pictures to use for your site and as an added bonus, their homepage makes for a captivating downward scroll if you want to procrastinate a bit (guilty as charged).
- Offers free stock images for commercial use and free videos too
- Beautifully designed interface
- Allows for size customization
- Difficult to find search results for specific keywords
- Images rarely come with words
Unsplash is another solid collection of HD images from photographers and creators around the world. They have their own custom license, which allows for almost unlimited use of the copyright free photos offered on the site.
That alone makes them one of the best websites for royalty free images. On top of that, the site is simple to navigate and their search engine does a killer job of pulling up results you'll love.
- Solid image categorization and tagging for accurate search results
- Equipped with an IOS app to help with finding creative photos for apple products
- You get the size the creator uploaded
4. Negative Space
Negative Space is a completely free high-resolution stock photo website featuring up-and-coming photographers. New images are added every week, so there’s always something new to discover.
Plus, they always offer user incentives and rewards to their community.
- Offers a one-month free trial of Shutterstock plus 10 free photos for all users
- Email subscription that lets you know when new photos for you to discover and use have landed on the site
- Most of the images are of Great Britain since the site is based in the UK
Pikwizard is a great website for royalty free images of people in natural, normal settings. Best for those looking for a sense of realism in their images (think restaurant websites, coaching websites, professional services websites, etc).
- Hosts a large selections of natural looking, never-tacky photos
- Has a built-in online image editor
- Images are protected under either a CCO or Free licence (photo use is limited)
Gratisography is a website with quite a boatload of goofy and funny free images to use. Created by photographer Ryan Mcguire to be a hub for photo sharing and resource sharing, the passion that drove him to set this bad boy up comes through.
Translation: this free images website is nothing but quality.
- Images here are unusual, so you’re always likely to find something worth staring at
- Website images are curated by one dude, which gives this place a tasty niche flavor
- Their selection is on the smaller side
Picjumbo is a supersite for both high-quality images and staying connected to a creative community. They have a large selection of copyright free photos which are 100% free of charge – No registration required.
They’ve also got a newsletter, and free, unpublished images are given out to premium subscribers.
- They’ve got a blog, forum, and newsletter for staying connecting with the creative community
- Some reviews say it can be difficult to unsubscribe from their list (definitely hate that)
Life of Pix is a beautifully designed site to get free high-resolution photos. The interface is one-of-a-kind – tight fonts, big images, creator spotlight. Just click on the ‘about’ page when you get there and you’ll see some of the museum-like magic we’re talking about.
This site is really a visual work of art in and of itself! They also have a partnership with Adobe Stock where users can access lots more stock images – though you’re going to have to pay for any of those.
- Simply designed and easy to use
- Has an absolutely stunning user interface
- Can create a profile and join the creative community
- Every week, a “photographer of the week” is chosen
- Their gallery is rather limited
Kaboompics offers high-quality photos in a ton of genres from various creators. The sites’ creative vision was burst from the head of Polish web designer Karolina who clearly wanted to take out her frustration with other royalty free images websites by making a better one.
They’ve got a particularly awesome ‘textures’ section on their site. The best part is, their copyright free photos can be used in just about any way you want.
They do request that proper credit is given to the owners – which isn't ideal for some website image uses but is more than fair for something like an image used in a blog post.
- Has a color filter option when searching for photos and they suggest complementary colors to your chosen color (super helpful for finding images that fit your website color scheme)
- They have their own license (similar to a Creative Commons Zero, or CC0, license) which does not permit redistribution
10. Adobe Stock
Adobe’s free stock photo website offers photos, vectors, and videos too. Their collection is vast, and their goal is template accessibility for all.
All images on the site are covered by Adobe’s Standard License, which only prohibits free redistribution. There are some exceptions at times, so always double-check before doing any business.
- Free videos and high quality vector graphics
- Creators who add images are paid for their contributions
- Very Limited access without a subscription
11. Big Stock Photo
Big Stock Photo is a paid royalty free images website, but they’ve got tons of high-quality stock images and videos at fairly affordable rates.
They’ve got some cool search words to choose from in their categories too, in case you’re looking for something new you haven’t even thought of yet!
While you’re going to have to pay for these, they offer a free one-week trial for any first-time subscribers and lastly, their customer service is excellent, so you’ll easily straighten out any confusion along the way.
- Specializes in images and illustrations
- Great customer service
- More costly to purchase vector images
12. Getty Images
Probably the biggest name in resolution stock images, Getty offers a huge range of royalty free media, including some highly exclusive finds and eye-catching conceptual pieces, too.
Their massive group of photographers operates around the world so they've got insanely high-quality images of pretty much anything you can think of.
And while you'll have to pay for most of their photos and images, they do offer thousands of free pictures to use on your sites.
- Loaded with a huge library of high-resolution photos
- Massive variety of images types
- If you can purchase exclusive rights to an image if you want to be 100% sure no one else can have it
- Their paid media is pretty damn expensive (the quality is there, but might not be worth it if you're just starting out)
13. Yay Images
Yay Images has got over 6 million high-resolution stock images – all at affordable prices. They’ve also got graphics and videos of the same breakneck caliber.
One of their most helpful features is the on-site photo editing software. When altering your images, Yay sends you a link to paste into your URL so you don’t have to download, edit, then upload images all over again (that’s super clutch)
All the images also come with royalty free licensing, so they can be used however you like.
- All plans come with unlimited streaming features
- The system is unusual and unique, yet effective
- The visual image search is not very accurate
- There are no uploads or downloads available
- Higher prices for single downloads
- Not a free website
14. Can Stock Photo
Another site that generally makes you pay, this one's a “cheap royalty free images but they're kinda low quality” model.
Can Stock Photo selection is pretty large though a bit limited compared to other sites.
Overall we'd probably look elsewhere first but if you find something that you really vibe with here send it!
- Thousands of new images added every day
- Easy to use, and photos can be downloaded without a subscription
- High def videos run on the pricier side
- Fewer images available than on other sites
A cool website with fire templates for sprucing up your free stock images. While they have a free stock photo library of their own, Canva's real edge comes from the fact that they're a super easy-to-use image creator and editor.
Find something cool on another free image website and upload it here, find something in their library, or start from scratch and create something amazing! If you want some extra creative control, go with Canva.
- Has a graphic design tool which increases creative control
- Available for free with an option to get more features with premium
- Their design tool lets you create business cards, banners, thumbnails, and more
- The free image gallery doesn’t have as many options as some other free stock photo sites
16. Envato Elements
An unlimited subscription is available at Envato Elements – a multifaceted home of high-quality images.
Aiming to be a one-stop shop for any and every creative asset you might need for your site, Envato has got a ton of options, tools, and templates to help you find and customize sweet royalty free images and graphics.
- Free downloads and access to some editing tools with their free membership
- Paid subscriptions are unlimited and paid only once a year
- Almost no access to images without a subscription (they have a free subscription but still, don’t make me sign up bro)
Photocase is an unconventional gallery with extraordinary royalty free images for standout websites. These folks host over 5 million signature photographs. photographs, everyone hand-picked by their team of creative individuals (bless them for doing all that work for us)!
That kind of hand-crafted experience makes this site a one-of-a-kind treasure trove for specialty photos you won't be able to find anywhere else! Photocase also allows for the usage of sensitive or controversial images at an additional charge.
- Hand selected, curated images
- Offers discounts to those subscribed to their newsletter
- Big focus on local content
- It's paid and there aren't any unlimited subscriptions, so you could end up paying a lot if you want a ton of shots from them
18. PX Here
PX Here has got high-quality and completely free Creative Commons Zero copyright images. Here, you can source a diverse selection of copyright free images on this site.
The quality isn't quite up to par with some of the other sites on our list, but every now and then you'll be able to dig up solid gold.
- Has a vast collection of diverse images, all 100% free for commercial use
- Reports of a poor support team
- Images are a little generic and tacky
- Seems impossible to delete one’s account or one’s photos
Freepik’s a solid spot to get high-quality and royalty free photos, vectors, PSDs, and icons.
Their site's easy to navigate, simple to use, and serves up just a smattering of options as you're searching (great if you want to work fast, not so great if you want to find something really special.
It has also got a helpful community of contributors and supporters.
- Offers copyright free PSDs
- Images can be quite generic
123RF's a site where you can snag both low and high-resolution images and audio. They’re a middle ground between the more robust stock websites like Unsplash or Getty, and the simpler sites with smaller collections, like Freepik.
They’ve also got live chat and phone support if one should need it.
- Great customer support service
- Flexible subscriptions for both low-res and high-res images
- Must have a subscription to play, although it’s super affordable
- Limited search filters for images
iStock provides users with a healthy range of varied-resolution copyright free photos (this site clearly eats its spinach!). It's run by the very professional team over at Getty Images, so there's a ton of quality to find here.
iStock offers fair prices for their subscriptions, with a diverse gallery of photos and images covering just about any concept. It’s a particularly great stop for graphic designers and smaller ad companies in need of a ton of low-resolution photos that won’t break the bank.
- The bang is worth the buck
- Users are able to rollover unused credits
- Not a good sight for general browsing, go in knowing what you want
- Limited amount of high-quality print media
Millions of high-quality images uploaded from all over the globe can be found at the one and only Alamy.
New images are uploaded by the tens of thousands daily, and they've got a fair share of panoramic images, videos, vectors, and films – which makes this one of the best websites for royalty free images on the web!
- Thousands of images from all over the world
- User submissions are accepted (so the variety of options is there)
- Images tend to be expensive
Foap is a new website concept that allows iPhone users to sell their photos on an online marketplace. – which means you can purchase copyright free photos for as low as $10.
What’s especially cool is that you can request specific photos for photographers in the Foap community to take. So if you want something custom but don't have a ton of $$ this website is worth a closer gander!
- A unique platform for finding new and custom photos
- Purchases give you complete ownership over images
- Photos only – no audio or video
- Due to the high image quality, some prices are kind of high
Shutterstock is perhaps the most well-known place to get royalty free images for websites. This powerhouse has close to 300 million free stock images for commercial use and counting. Aside from photos, you’ve got illustrations, vectors, and videos available here too.
- Multiple licenses available on purchases
- This one’s one the more expensive side
Best websites for free stock photos FAQ
What are royalty free images?
When it comes to images and photos, the term ‘royalty free’ refers to a specific type of creative asset license where you, the person who wants to use the image or photo, don't have to pay ongoing royalties to the original creator and copyright owner.
Generally, it's used by websites that make you pay for images, though in a broad sense any images you get for free that you're allowed to use without paying royalties can be considered royalty free.
Any image acquired under a royalty free license can be used in any way the license allows. The most important takeaway surrounding royalty free images is that while the license may be owned, the actual image property is not owned. To own the image completely, you’ve got to get the copyright (by agreement or purchase).
What is a public domain image?
Public domain images are available for use by anyone for anything without having to pay a dime. This is because the copyright on a public domain image either doesn't belong to anyone (usually because the creator is anonymous… dead), or it's already expired.
In essence, the copyright of a public domain image either belongs to no one in specific or has already expired.
With public domain images, you're free to not only use them as is, but you can also alter, recreate, or manipulate the base image any way you want without worrying about the creator giving you grief about it.
Although it’s not at all required, the original source of any public domain image is usually credited as a part of the general “don’t be a dick” rules of the internet.
What is a creative commons license?
A creative commons license allows copyright owners to distribute their work freely by way of the licenses’ parameters.
Creative Commons is a set of standard license agreements that allow the usage of copyrighted work without needing to contact the original owner for permission. There are several kinds of these licenses, including:
- The Attribution Licence (most accommodating. Allows for maximum dissemination)
- The Attribution-NoDerivs License (Same as the former, but cannot be shared in any altered form and credit must be given to the creator)
- The Attribution Non-Commercial License (basically the same as the last one except it doesn’t allow for commercial use of the work)
Most importantly, a creative commons license protects a piece of work based on the same set of rules, no matter where that work is used.
Can I use Google images for free?
Google images are usually not free to use. Most images found on Google are protected by copyright, which means someone already owns them and could come after you if you just slap them on your site.
That being said, if you do a Google image search, tap that “Tools” button then select “Creative Commons” or “Commercial and Other” under “Usage Rights” for results you should be able to use (probably double-check just to CYA).
Of course, the whole point of our above list is to help you find some, so check those out first!
What’s the best way to add my free images to galleries on my WordPress site?
Here are a couple of our favorite WordPress gallery plugins to display a bunch of images in beautiful and user-friendly ways on your site:
How do I choose good stock photos?
Here’s a quick rundown on what to keep in mind when choosing good stock photos:
Know Your Purpose
No matter how good that yellow daisy looks, sometimes you just need a red rose.
The absolute first thing to consider before choosing a stock photo is where you’ll need to use the photo on your site and what message you need to convey – super important to have a vision before you try to execute!
Have a vision of purpose before executing. This is essential when it comes to searching through the millions of possible options you'll find on the free photo websites above.
- Text or No Text A lot of stock images you'll find won't include text, but in some cases it's pretty common eg if you Google image search “how to build a website”, you'll find some generic stuff that says “how to build a website” in it.
When it comes to free images for websites, the “text or no text” choice really depends on whether you want to take a more abstract approach or not.
If you do go with any text in your image, just make sure it stands out well against whatever the background is so people don't have to stress and strain to read the word(s).
AND if you find a killer photo that doesn't have text, check out Canva's image editing tools – they'll let you overlay text on anything. 🙂
- Get the Right Color Contrast Tagging onto the last point about making sure text in your free images stands out, it's definitely important to make sure that the colors of your images work well with your page/website.
This means choosing images that stand out a bit on your page to catch the eye but aren't wildly different from your overall vibe (check out our website color schemes post for more info on nailing your website's colors).
- Size and Shape Image placement will influence which image size is ideal. Each social network has a different ideal image size:
- Twitter 16:9 (regardless of size)
- Instagram 1080 x 1080
- Pinterest 1000 x 1500
When getting that perfect blog post feature image size, go for an aspect ratio of 2:3 (600 x 900, for example). A vertical image, like what we just suggested, will stand out more and look damn good too.
In practice, Facebook and Instagram use more squarish images. Pinterest uses a fixed width for its images, but the vertical aspect is up to you. Just like with feature images on blog posts, add some verticality for that extra pop! Once selecting your ideal situation, make cropping adjustments to help optimize the chosen image.
- Human Faces There’s been a ton of research on the effects of human faces in images and as it turns out, the general consensus is that human faces tend to give people an overall positive experience of your site – especially when it comes to trustworthiness.
Smiling faces may also increase a sites’ conversions. That being said, when choosing a human photo, use an actual photo of someone over a generic picture. It’s more engaging and further withers the boundary between the consumer and the product (site)