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December 3, 2014

The Only Guide to Image Sources You’ll Ever Need (Part I)

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Internet has been quite the game changer, hasn’t it? As a fast-paced medium requiring different elements for content than print journalism or academia, it’s caused a shift in common practice. And it’s often left writers and editors scratching their heads in confusion – or balling their fists in frustration.

Ethically locating images to post on your website or blog has likely come with some unanswered questions – or at least some kind of uncertainty.

A standard Google image search might yield some amazing results, but are those images safe to use? Sometimes it’s hard to answer that question. And licensing agreements on websites offering free images can be hard to interpret. Plus, you always want to avoid using a clichéd stock photo that screams “this image was free!”

To help ease the often confusing process of locating high-quality, interesting photos for your needs, I’ve compiled the only list of free image sources you’ll ever need. These 56 photo sources run the gamut of creative, abstract, literal, and just plain useful. Enjoy.

As always when using images on the web, you’ll need to be mindful of restrictions regarding usage and licensing. There are categories below for no attribution needed commercial use, personal use only, and attribution required commercial use. I have done my best to ensure that everything is properly categorized, but due to changing restrictions, you’ll always want to refer to the specific terms of use for any image you plan to use.

No Attribution Needed Images – Personal or Commercial Use

The following sites are free to use without restriction (this includes commercial use) and no attribution is required:

1. Cupcake

Offering free “do whatever you want” photos, Cupcake is a hot spot for original, high-resolution nature photos. Photographer Jonas Nilsson Lee created this website as a treat for those in need of free images. While the site isn’t searchable, the photos are archived and recent additions are on the homepage.

2. Death to the Stock Photo

If you’re looking for quality, don’t ignore Death to the Stock Photo. The quality is brilliant and you only need to supply your email address to receive high-resolution photos by email every month. Their motto is “This isn’t just a mailing list. This is a movement.” We would have to agree.

3. DesignerPics.com

Searchable and categorized, Jeshu John’s DesignerPics offers a new hi-res image every day. The site is a work in progress and offers John’s own creative work.

4. Foodie’s Feed

Foodie’s Feed offers high-quality food photos on an easily navigable site. There is a useful search function and helpful categories, which makes looking for specific food photos even simpler.

5. Freeimages

This site offers an impressive collection of royalty-free images. Be sure to check the licensing information for yourself before you use any of the photos, as the information is a little complex.

6. FreeMediaGoo.com

This site offers unique categorizations and media. Besides the free photo offerings, there are also “textures” and “digital backgrounds.” The site is not yet searchable.

7. Freerange Stock

Only about half of the images on Freerange Stock are of high-quality, but there are many options to choose from and the site is searchable. A free registration is required.

8. Gratisography

Combining beautiful images with ease of use, Gratisopraphy offers high-resolution images and is updated weekly. Photos are courtesy of Ryan McGuire and are as unique as they are pristine.

9. HubSpot

While this isn’t exactly a photo source in the sense that the others on this list are, HubSpot will provide free-use, business-themed photo packages if you offer your email address. Good to know!

10. Imagebase

With 6 categories and many options, Imagebase is a wonderful combination of simplicity and quantity. There are enough images that you will have some choice when it comes to something simple and generic.

11. ISO Republic

Founded in 2013 by designer and photographer Tom Eversley, ISO Republic offers stunning images in the following 6 categories: architecture, nature, people, textures, urban and various. The site is searchable.

12. Jay Mantri

Everyone can appreciate the beauty and simplicity of Jay Mantri’s work and website. He offers 7 new photos every Thursday. The site is not searchable.

13. Jéshoots

Jan Vasek’s offerings are categorized and searchable – and useful nonetheless. Although there aren’t as many offerings as some of the other sites, the website is simple to use and worthy of a look.

14. Life of Pix

New photos are added to Life of Pix weekly. The collection is composed of high-resolution options and is growing quickly. The site operates without a search function, so it might take more time to search – but the outstanding image quality is worth the extra time.

15. Little Visuals

Although Little Visuals hasn’t updated in a while, there are still some great landscape and abstract shots in the archives.

16. New Old Stock

Cole Towsend’s site offers vintage photos captured pre-copyright law. Check it out if you’re in need of some unique, old-timey photos for your website or blog.

17. MMT

MMT is Jeffrey Bett’s collection of outstanding and gorgeous nature photos. The site is not searchable, but is well worth your time to explore.

18. MorgueFile

MorgueFile asks that you give attribution when able, but it’s not required. The site offers a useful search function that also yields matches from iStock, Getty, Dreamstime, DepositPhotos, and Fotolia.

19. Moveeast

This site offers Asian inspired, urban photos, which are both distinctive and high-quality.

20. Old Pictures

If you need something era specific, check out Old Pictures. This site is home to various pictures from 1850-1940 and is categorized.

21. Pexels

This site is great for niches and is search-based. The results yield high-grade images that are useful in many situations.

22. Pickup Image

Searchable and categorized, Pickup Image offers many impressive nature photos and is linked to Foodie Live. The site has over 40 contributing creatives.

23. Pixabay

Pixabay offers over 280,000 photos. The site is user-friendly, offering a simple search function and many categories for your niche-photography needs. The site is available in 20 languages, which is a testament to its many free image contributions.


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Adrienne Erin writes weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter or visit her blog Design Roast to see more of her work or get in touch.

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