Any web or graphic designer will tell you that finding a beautiful stock image that works with their design is essential to creating a strong marketing piece. Stock images have also come a long way from the very basic, over-used ‘men in suits shaking hands’. Photographers are a lot more creative now and there are some absolutely beautiful photos available for any kind of project.
While there are a large number of paid stock image websites (some with great images, some with those over-used, bland images), independent designers sometimes benefit from having access to free images to better meet a limited budget. And just because they are free, doesn’t mean that they are small-sized images or ‘bottom of the barrel’ selections. The sites below have just amazing photographs, from simple still-shots of items to majestic landscapes to abstract patters, all for free!
A short note about licences.
The majority of these sites list their free photos under Creative Commons, which in most situations means you can freely use the images, but give credit to the image’s creator. Please use responsibly and make sure you tell others.
New(er) to the scene of free stock images is Solate.tk. They provide hand-picked high-res images with an emphasis on finding the most unique and high quality images. The majority of their images come curated from Flickr, with some coming from user submissions.
Their unique ‘you find what we show you’ forces you to see their available photos in order of newest to oldest with no chance to filter, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking since their photos are often quite beautiful. They also work on a ’10 new photos every 10 days’, so you know when they will be updated. Unsplash also has a subscription service where they email you those photos.
Raumrot is a site featuring hand-picked photos, mainly from one photographer, specializing in faded or sharp color pallets. They also have pre-picked sets of photos for those looking for a theme among your designs.
When you’re looking for something very specific for a stock image, sites like FoodiesFeed are great. This site, as guessed by its title, focuses on free stock images of food and cooking. Its broken into categories and each category can also have sets of photos within, so if you like one photo from a set, there’s another one that may be a different ratio or slightly different angle.
Another blog-format selection of great photos, it features everything from landscapes, to urban to animals. The photos seem to come mainly from Europe, so if you’re looking for an old-world look, this may be the place for you. The only downfall is you have to keep scrolling to visually search for images to use. You can, however, sign up for a monthly email with the new images, and just keep track of what they have on your own.
Some other stock image sites of mention: