Finding imagery is one of the big problems we face on a day-to-day basis when building websites for clients. Imagery really makes a website, and bad imagery destroys it. Often clients do not have preexisting material and often they expect us to provide them with images. In some cases, we would suggest using a photographer if they have specialist equipment, interesting jobs or products or we feel it would really make a difference to the appearance of the website. In other cases, the client either does not need this service, does not want this service, or unfortunately does not have the budget for this service.
That's why we have decided to create this HUGE guide on places you can find free stock imagery.
Often in those cases, clients might say something along the lines of "can't you just get them off of Google". Most of the people saying this are unaware, but it is actually illegal to use images without being licensed to do so. So that leaves us with two options, first, to find images that we are legally allowed to use, and second, to see whether they require a paid license for commercial use.
As we always try to source images for free first, and this is a recurring task, we decided to make a list of resources that our clients may use to find images. You should check the licenses of these free images, in some cases you are required to attribute images to their original owner, and sometimes link back to the original. Some people are tempted to ignore this rule, but we are bound to it by our insurance policy, so you should be aware of that potential too.
Some of these sites don't have a search function, in those instances, you can use Google to search. Go to Google, type in site: then type in the domain name (without a space after the colon), then leave a space, and then type in your search term. It would look like this:
or skip to videos
Flickr - Advanced Search (Commercial use allowed)
This site offers images under the creative commons license. You can do an advanced search which will allow you to search by license, but also, usefully, you can search by colour and file size amongst other variables. Commercial Use allowed or commercial use and modifications allowed.
New photos are added every week, they are categorised, and there is a search feature.
A nicely laid out collection of pictures with categories and a search function. The images are displayed one at a time so you can really see the quality.
Categorised and with a search, a nicely laid out website with multiple images on view at once.
Be careful on this site as not all images are free, they are however well marked up. There's a useful search field and categories too. It also has a really cool "test drive" feature which might inspire your design.
Death to Stock Photo
This site has both a free and premium version. It does not have a search bar, but they will email you new photos every week. It gathers them into projects, which is great if you're looking to keep a theme throughout your website. I really like this approach.
This site looks dated and has no search function. Images are categorised though, which could help you to find the photo you're looking for.
Free Foto has some good photos and is searchable, but you should be aware the bottom images are often adverts for paid photos. There are plenty of free ones there to look through though.
Annoyingly this site sometimes redirects you to Shutterstock via their search bar. Use our link above to reach the site search which should give you access to the free images.
Free Stock Photography
This site has some free stock photos, which are categorised, and it tells you a count of how many in each category, but unfortunately there is no search.
This site search appears to be broken, but you can still navigate by category. Things aren't really categorised that well, I would suggest using a Google Site Search to find photos. Here's a link to one we created earlier: Google Site Search.
This site appears to search other websites, which is pretty neat if true. I would be careful just in case some of the images need to be paid for, which is why this site is so low down this list.
A mixture of artists and a mixture of licenses, but you can find some really cool, one-off items here. Or an artist who could draw up something for you.
A reasonably nice site with a search function and a nice browse feature which works well enough.
Some good free photos here. They are mixed in with premium photos, but it's marked up reasonably well.
Coffee Cup Photos
This site is basic with the license on it, or to skip straight to the photos go here
- Free Range stock
- Morgue File