The 12 Best Places to Find Free Stock Photos

Whether you’re building a website, creating a flyer, refining your presentation or just looking to spruce up your project, chances are that you are going to need some great photography. Of course, photographers cost a ton and might be out of your budget, and you might not have the time, equipment, or skills to take the best photos for our own projects.

But there are enough websites out there which offer great images for free. By popular demand, here’s our AppStorm roundup of the very best places to find free and legal stock photos online.

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Stock.Xchng

The original, minimal and free stock photo site.

The original, minimal and free stock photo site.

In your quest for great online images, this is the first site you should be heading to. Stock.Xchng — known as SXC to most people who use it regularly — has some of the best images you will need for almost any search. It’s got a robust search engine, complete with advanced search to filter your options further. And at last count, it had almost 401,700 images in its database.

Stock.Xchng is owned by iStockphoto, so often the top line of the results will be a series of paid images. Everything below, though, is free: all you need to do is sign up and Stock.Xchng will open up its treasure chest.

Pixabay

Photos, clipart, and more for free.

Photos, clipart, and more for free.

One of the newer stock image stores on the web, Pixabay has three propositions that make me go back to it often. First, the ability to search for or filter images by their orientation — it’s a simple feature but one that most others lack. Second, the Leaderboards, where Pixabay highlights the most downloaded, most voted and most viewed images of the last 30 days. This is usually great to find yourself a new wallpaper, and also a way to learn about new photographers.

Best of all, Pixabay doesn’t require you to sign up — just enter a captcha code and download the image, available in different file sizes so you don’t have to waste bandwidth on an unnecessarily large photo. It’s got featured paid images from Shutterstock, but that’s hardly worth fussing about.

Lorem Pixel

A smarter way to get dummy images

A smarter way to get dummy images

If you are building your own site or just need images for any sort of layout, then it’s the dimensions that really matter, not what the photo is all about. And Lorem Pixel was made for such “dummy image” needs. The app has a placeholder generator that lets you define the height and width (max: 1920 pixels) of an image, choose a category (abstract, animals, business, cats, city, food, nightlife, fashion, people, nature, sport, technics, transport) and whether you want colour or greyscale. That’s it!

Now, copy and paste the image Lorem Pixel generates out of its database of over 600 million images into your project. Or, if you want to simplify it even more, you can also insert a dummy image in HTML through a “cheat code” URL:

http://lorempixel.com/<height>/<width>/<category>

Isn’t that nice and simple?

PlaceKitten

placekitten

Just what the internet needs: more cats. No, seriously.

PlaceKitten is very similar to Lorem Pixel, but the only difference is that all the images on the site are of cute little kittens. Hey, who doesn’t like to look at a furball? Much like LP, all you have to do is insert that “cheat code” URL:

http://placekitten.com/<height>/<width>

Making life easier (and cuter) for developers, one cat at a time.

Unsplash

We can't believe they're free, either.

We can’t believe they’re free, either.

Unsplash takes a completely different approach to the world of stock photos. Here, it’s not about “finding” the right image — in fact, there’s not even a search bar on the site. Instead, the site’s editors pick out 10 great images every 10 days. All the photos are high resolution and are CC0, i.e. no rights reserved in the Creative Commons licensing policy, which means you can do whatever you want with them.

The high quality of the photographs used makes them an instant no-brainer to use for your stock needs — even if it’s a dummy image, make it a great dummy image. This is also a great place to get desktop wallpapers, one for each day of the week with a few to spare.

Death To The Stock Photo

Killing stock photos with better stock photos

Killing stock photos with better stock photos

Following the paths of Unsplash, Death To The Stock Photo is a project by two photographers who were bored and disgusted by the unoriginal, uncreative stock images found on most sites. So they set about curating a monthly newsletter of high-resolution lifestyle photography that is delivered to your inbox, and you can do whatever you want with those images. They are planning to launch a site soon, but right now, it’s newsletter only. But that’s fine with us, considering how nice the shots are.

Oh yeah, and signing up for the newsletter gets you a bonus free image pack.

Icon Finder

The individual icons and sets of icons you need.

The individual icons and sets of icons you need.

Your search for a great icon ends here. Really. If it’s not on Icon Finder, you can just stop looking because chances are, it doesn’t exist.

Currently housing over 313,000 icons in almost 1,500 icon sets, this portal will get you the right icon every time. Just make sure you have the filter set to ‘free’ and the right licensing based on your needs. Icon Finder even lets you sort the icons by size, which is quite necessary at times since 512px icons are hard to find.

Open Clip Art

Clipart, if you really need it

Clipart, if you really need it

There has been no looking back ever since Microsoft PowerPoint first introduced us to Clip Art. We can argue over whether it’s really great to put clipart in your documents and more, but face it: people use it all the time. And the best place to find the perfect clip art for your needs is Open Clip Art.

I particularly like this site because it gives you an SVG of the file, along with the option to download a PNG. The search isn’t as great as we would’ve liked, but with a total of 44,600 clip art images in the database, you would be hard pressed to find a similar collection elsewhere.

Flickr

Say what you want about Yahoo!, but the new Flickr is great

Say what you want about Yahoo!, but the new Flickr is great

Yahoo’s done quite the great job of late keeping their name on the radar. Their perhaps most popular property, Flickr, has recently gotten a great new redesign, enough that many of us are going back to storing our pictures on the service. But even pre-update, Flickr has long been the world’s biggest photo-sharing community, and there are plenty of users who upload their images with a Creative Commons license. Finding those free-to-use shots is easy with Flickr’s advanced search, which lets you specifically choose CC-licensed content, and further refine that by whether to use it commercially as well as whether to modify, adapt or build upon.

It may not be just about stock photos, but it certainly is still one of the best places to find great, free photography.

500px

The Flickr alternate to beat

The Flickr alternate to beat

If Flickr can do it, why can’t 500px? The increasingly popular alternate to Flickr, 500px has a beautiful catalogue of photos and a robust search engine to let you narrow down images based on the different types of Creative Commons licenses — just choose the option you want in the drop-down filter in your search results. In fact, 500px has set up a custom page to let you understand those licenses and browse images stored under each license.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia for pictures. And audio. And video.

Wikipedia for pictures. And audio. And video.

If they can share the world’s information, surely they can share the world’s images. The Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikimedia Commons is one of the largest repository of free images you can grab, but do check out the attribution notes under each one. The photos are free, but you often have to give the right person credit for them. Including video and audio files, the database currently stands at 18 million media files.

Google Image Search

The place everyone goes to find images. Just make sure you're supposed to use them.

The place everyone goes to find images. Just make sure you’re supposed to use them.

Of course, apart from all these options, you can rely on good old Google to do the job as well. Head to the Advanced Image Search (by clicking on the Gear icon in the top-right corner of your search results) and scroll down to the drop-down titled “usage rights”. You can choose images that are free to use or share, to modify or to use commercially, as well as combinations of those options.

Want even more? Here’s a list of the best artwork and photography from museums and more around the world.

That’s all for Now!

This is by no means an exhaustive list. So I’d like to hear from you. Which of these sites were useful to you? Which stock photography sites do you usually visit? Drop a line in the comments below.


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