The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

Joel Lee (MakeUseOf) compiled this list of 15 different sites so you can get free stock images that fall under the Creative Commons Zero license or similar. About the author: Joel is a writer from Philadelphia and the Tech Explained editor. In his free time he dabbles in fiction, photography, and game development. MakeUseOf is a technology website, focused on bridging the connection between users, computers, devices and the Internet through education. Feature image courtesy of Tupungato via Bigstockphoto


Stock images are in high demand these days, what with all the personal blogs and startup landing pages that make up such a large portion of the web. And while some stock sites are subscription-based, there are some out there that are royalty-free.

But free stock sites can have big flaws. Some of them have restrictive licenses that prevent you from making modifications, others don’t have good quality control so you really have to dig a while before you can find high-quality, high-resolution images.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get free stock images that are curated for quality and resolution? You can! Check out these following sites. You’ll never have to look anywhere else and you’ll never have to pay a cent again.

1. MorgueFile

MorgueFile is home to thousands of free reference images. In terms of library size, it’s up there as one of the largest repositories on the web. The search engine could use improvements, but overall, MorgueFile is a great resource for general purpose images.

License: Custom. You are free to adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. You may not sell or redistribute images as is. You may not claim ownership of images. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

2. Pixabay

Pixabay has some of the best stock images I’ve ever seen, even when compared to the handful of paid stock image sites I’ve used. And in addition to photos, you’ll also find illustrations and vector graphics. It’s a must-bookmark site — perhaps even better than MorgueFile.

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

Note that you may see Shutterstock photos in some areas — these are sponsored and not free, so be careful that you aren’t deceived by them.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

3. StockSnap

StockSnap is an amazing repository, possibly even better than Pixabay because it has better image sorting filters. With hundreds of new photos added every week, StockSnap will never be stale. And did I mention the photos are absolutely gorgeous?

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

4. Unsplash

Unsplash adds 10 new photos every 10 days, and every image added is absolutely stunning. There’s no overall theme here, but the cool thing is that if you make anything using an image from Unsplash, they may feature you on the Made With Unsplash catalog.

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

5. RaumRot

Despite the strange name — it means “room red” in German — you’ll love this site if you hate how most stock sites have images that have that weird but distinctive “stock photo” look to them. RaumRot aims to be the exact opposite of that: non-comformist and 100% free.

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

6. Negative Space

Negative Space is a great place to go if you want images that feel like traditional stock photos but aren’t as sterile and soulless. There are hundreds of selections across a dozen or so categories, and new images are added every week.

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

7. Foodies Feed

Foodies Feed is the premier spot for 100% free food photos. You’ll find everything from breakfast to desert, from beer to whisky, from bread to fish, and even interior shots of restaurants and eateries. Perfect for food blogs and food magazines.

License: Custom. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. You may not sell or redistribute images or sell them on other stock sites. You may not claim ownership of images. No attribution required.

Note that you can get access to the Foodies Feed Dropbox folder for just $9, allowing you to easily download all 900+ images en masse.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

8. SplitShire

SplitShire is the work of a single photographer: Daniel Nanescu. His photos are sorted into a dozen categories, but you’ll rarely find two that are anything alike. Every image is unique and magazine-esque, and updates come at a rate of about one new image per day.

License: Custom. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

Note that you can download all of SplitShire’s photos as a single ZIP file for the very affordable price of $9.60.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

9. Gratisography

Gratisography is the work of a single photographer: Ryan McGuire. His shots have a very unique quality and polarizing style to them, meaning you’ll either love them or hate them without much middle ground. New images are added weekly.

License: Custom. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes, unless those purposes are pornographic, criminal, defamatory, or degrading. You may not sell or redistribute as stock photos. No attribution required but requested.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

10. Life of Pix

Life of Pix is a collection of works provided by the Advertising Agency in Montreal’s network of photographers. In the hundreds of photos available, most of them involve nature and cityscapes — a few are appropriate for business contexts, but most feel like “personal blog” material.

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

 

11. IM Free

IM Free is a curated collection of images sorted into a dozen different categories, but mainly useful for cityscape, nature, and people photos. As such, you’ll really love it if you’re involved with any kind of lifestyle magazine or blog. Otherwise, the pickings are slim.

License: CC-BY 2.0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. Attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

12. Superfamous

Superfamous is the work of a single photographer: Folkert Gorter. His photographs are nothing short of spectacular, mostly covering high-up landscape shots but not always. His style almost feels illustrated and abstract, perfect for magazines and posters.

License: CC-BY 3.0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. Attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

 

13. FreeStocks

FreeStocks is a small collection — only about one to two hundred photos in all — but they’re absolutely perfect for blogs, magazines, and even social media profile images. Very stylish and cozy.

License: CC0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

14. The Noun Project

No photos here. Instead, The Noun Project is an initiative to create universal icons that can convey the concept of nouns without any language involved. They can come in handy when combined with photos from the aforementioned stock sites.

Images are available in PNG and SVG formats.

License: You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. No attribution required for CC0 images, attribution required for CC-BY 3.0 images.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

15. Game Icons

Like The Noun Project, Game Icons is a massive collection of abstract images that double as icons and avatars — except these are slightly more illustrative. Again, useful when combined with photos from the aforementioned stock sites.

Images are available in PNG and SVG formats. The site also has a built-in tool that lets you select any color for the icons at the time of download.

License: CC-BY 3.0. You are free to use and adapt the works for personal and commercial purposes. Attribution required.

The 15 Best Sites for Free High-Resolution Stock Images

What Do You Use Stock Photos for?

Free high-resolution images are hard to come by, and when you do find them, they tend to be poorly composed, low quality, or otherwise boring. None of the sites above will disappoint in that regard. Never again will you need to pay for stock imagery.

Just to be safe, make sure you brush up on the Creative Commons license that all of these sites use. Also, if these aren’t enough, supplement with these direct-to-email stock image services. If you’re still unsatisfied, you may need to subscribe to a paid stock image site.