If you’re looking for free stock image libraries filled with non-cheesy stock photos, then you’re in the right place – Nobody likes cheesy stock photos!
Yet why does everyone keep using them? In this post we share some awesome libraries for finding free stock images… and how to search for them effectively.
And we’ll bust some myths about stock image libraries too!
A common misconception is that to find high-quality stock photos you have to pay high-prices. That’s just not true. Part of the problem is knowing where to go to find great stock images …those that stand out and catch our attention (and don’t cost a lot!).
In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite and the high-priced stock image libraries are full of cheesy photos, so you never can tell!
To help you skip to awesome free stock image libraries, we compiled a list of the best ones. We’ve also included some handy tips for how to search for stunning images.
No more cheesy photos! Some of these stock image libraries you may recognise – some of them are lesser known, and many are our own private favourites.
But ALL of them are packed full of great stock photos that will make you stand out!
What about Licensing?
Many of the sites listed offer images or photos that are free from copyright restrictions. Some are licensed under Creative Commons or Public Domain usage.
This means that in many cases you can copy, modify, use or distribute the images for a range of purposes including commercial use.
It also may mean that permission is not necessary, but some images may require attribution. We have indicated some of the use restrictions below, and included links to some of the usage guidelines. But we recommend you check the licensing restrictions for each stock image library and for each individual image yourself to be sure.
Of course, all of the libraries we have featured are Free or have Free options, so be sure to check how you can use the images for each.
And by all means, if you want more choice and less restrictions, you can upgrade. Many of the libraries have affordable options for upgrading.
Let’s take a look at the Stock Image Libraries and get you started searching for stunning images!
7 Awesome Free Stock Image Libraries
Here are our top picks for FREE Stock Image Libraries:
We love the concept of Freepik because it is a paid library yet a very cost-effective one. The Freebies themselves are good enough to get you hooked into signing up!
If you only need a few images per day, and you don’t mind including attribution lists, then it might be worth taking advantage of their free membership.
Here are a few things to know about Freepik:
- Freepik has a huge range of all sorts of stock imagery from modern feminine flatlays, to bright and quirky images, to beautiful food photography, corporate stock imagery, textured backgrounds and more.
- You can use the images for personal use with attribution. Or you can pay for a premium account (starting at $9.99 per month) to use for commercial and non commercial projects without the need for attribution.
- If you are using a free account, you must attribute the author with the link provided.
- The Free account gives you only 5 downloads per day. If you only need a few images per day and don’t mind including attribution links, take advantage of their free services!
If you already love image libraries like iStock and Shutterstock you will LOVE Freepik. It’s very much like those other more traditional stock libraries with some quality images… but free (or cost-effective with a premium account).
Examples of “Personal Use” for Freepik Images
We thought we would add some examples of the types of projects you can use Freepik images in that can be considered “Personal Use Only”.You will need to give attribution to the images as outlined above. This includes:
- Inspirational quotes
- Personal instagram
- Personal Blog
- Invitations – Wedding, Birthdays, Events
Please Note: Sometimes Personal Instagram accounts or Personal Blogs attract an audience of followers and can eventually become monetized. So it may be better to avoid personal use only images from this library (or use another where the license holds up if you transition over into commercial/business – like the ones below). Or be prepared to remove them if your personal account becomes part of a business or personal brand. It happens!
See how stunning Freepik images are for creating designs? You can take one stunning invitation template, locate some gorgeous stock images from FreePik and end up with all of these options to choose from:
Unsplash is somewhat of a pioneer for free stock photos, and as such, is one of the most popular Free Stock Image Libraries around.
Here’s a few things to know about Unsplash:
- It’s 100% Creative Commons Licenses – so all of the images are free for personal and commercial use.
- Unsplash is known for epic travel photography, effortlessly styled flatlays, stunning landscapes (including aerial landscapes), and cook book style food photography.
- You’ll also find images that are moody, hipster, modern and more! Unsplash is not your typical stock photography. No cheesy photos here!
- You can copy, modify, distribute or use the images without gaining permission or giving attributions. Although of course you are welcome to, if you want to give credit to the photographer. Unsplash encourages it, stating “Even though credit isn’t required, Unsplash photographers appreciate a credit as it provides exposure to their work and encourages them to continue sharing”. A credit can be as simple as adding their name with a link to their profile or photo.
- They send out 10 photos every 10 days by email so it’s a handy subscription to keep you motivated with visuals.
Unsplash is perfect for everything from small Instagram posts to big visual projects. Enjoy!
Click here to find out view the license information for Unsplash.
Pexels might not be as polished as Unsplash but there are still some gorgeous images to be found in this free image stock library.
Here’s a few things to know about Pexels:
- Although it’s not as polished as Unsplash, it has loads of similar style epic travel photography images.
- You may need to be a little more creative in your search terms to find really good images
- It’s also a Creative Commons Zero License, so the images are free for personal and commercial use (no attribution required).
Here are a few examples of the amazing images you can find in Pexels (note the cactus pot):
….and here is the cactus in one of our Easil designs. It catches your eye!
Click here to find out about the license information for Pexels.
#4 New York Public Library Creative Commons
If you love vintage and retro you will loooooove these images from the New York Public Library.
Here’s a few things to know about the New York Public Library Creative Commons:
- Most of the images are scans of originals, so they will need to be cropped or you can use the border to keep the “vintage photograph” feel.
- You’ll have to put in a little more effort with search here. There’s no great browse facility.
- There’s not a huge range of images that can be used for free, so you will need narrow down your search via ticking the box in the search bar for “public domain images”.
- Spend some time searching, and you’ll find some gems. There are some truly classic, beautiful and historically significant images in this collection!
Hot tip: Use filters in Easil to adjust colors in vintage photos:
Click here to find out more about the license information for the New York Public Library.
Pixabay, like Unsplash, is one of the most popular free stock image libraries.
Here are a few things to know about Pixabay:
- The images are not as polished as the other libraries but they do have some interesting and unique stock photography.
- You can search for free photos, vectors, and illustrations.
- Pixabay is a good choice if you are looking for Textures and Background images with a difference.
- Pixabay’s images are released under Creative Commons CCo into the public domain.
Click here to find out about the license information for Pixabay.
Rawpixel is another Free Stock Image libray worth checking out. Their tagline is “Safe to use images, PSD mockups and vectors”. Their goal is to avoid typical stock photos, and instead offer high-quality content.
Here are a few things to know about Rawpixel:
- They offer plenty of free images! Choose from thousands of high quality, model released free images, PSDmockups and EPS vectors.
- You can download up to 100 images per month from their free collection (subject to the restrictions in the terms) and use them for personal and commercial use.
- You need to register in order to download images.
- Rawpixel has one worldwide royalty free commercial license.
- Search is made easier due to a handy “favorite” feature.
- The free image library is very good and quite extensive but if you need more, you can upgrade to access “premium images”.
Click here to find out the license information for Raw Pixel.
Last but definitely not least we had to mention our (wink, wink) personal favorite … EasilStock. Easilstock is a styled stock library that doesn’t feel like stock photography!
Here’s a few things to know about EasilStock:
- Easil Stock images are modern and fresh and cover everything from food and hospitality to blogging and entrepreneurship… even DJs and Beer!
- It’s Free to Plus and above members of Easil. Here’s an example of one of our collections.
- You can use the images for personal and commercial use at no extra cost.
- Choose from beautifully styled desks, relaxed scenes, open books and styled “sets” featuring everything from healthy avocado to fresh native flowers and mangoes!
- Browse the extensive EasilStock library along with the thousands of pre-designed templates, to create bold and beautiful blog headers, website banners, pinnable images, social media posts and more!
Tips for Searching on Free Stock Image Libraries
Now that you’ve seen our top 7 picks for free stock image libraries, it’s worth adding a few tips for searching for the best images. Try some of these:
1 Use Detail.
Add color, size, descriptive words. Experiment with what works. The more detail you add, the more unique the photos in your search returns will be.
Adding words like man, woman, light/dark, bright, moody, retro, colorful, running/walking/swimming…. all help result in better searches.
2 Think Symbolically.
Instead of the actual word or item, search for something that symbolizes that topic.
For example if your post is about ideas, you could search on “light bulbs”. If it’s about summer you could search for “icecream”.
3. Take a Different Perspective.
Think in terms of visual angles. Use the word “drone” in your search (or “aerial”) to get stunning photos from above.
Or maybe words like “close up” or “red background”. Even “white space” can find images that have space for text (or just space for …. space!).
4. Search by Date and Time
Whether it’s black and white, retro, vintage or even a specific era like the 1980’s – use terms that define the time period that would suit your photos. You can uncover some real gems using search terms like this!
5. Use Related Image Searches
Once you find an image style or an image that you like, search on related images. Most stock image libraries will make this easy for you.
Usually there is a selection of images below your chosen image with the prompt to “see more like this image” or “see more images by this photographer”. This is a great way to dig deeper and find an image that is perfect for your project!
Over to You
What free stock image libraries do you love? Tell us in the comments below.