Best Free Stock Photo Sites: Pixabay vs Unsplash vs FreeImages

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If you’re looking for images online, the selection, quality and price are better than ever. There are dozens of websites which offer royalty-free photos at no cost to you. You can create content for your company’s blogs, websites and other marketing materials without breaking the bank. There are many places to search for images and deciding which websites are worth using and what each offers can be tricky. Luckily, we’ve used and reviewed some of the best free stock photo sites on the web, so you can get to downloading picture perfect images in no time.

Are Stock Photos Really Free?

Yep! Thanks to contributors who share their work for others to use. How do free stock photo sites make money? If they do, it’s either through asking for donations, placing banner ads on their sites or by offering up better photo options in search results that are on paid stock sites (and the site gets paid for the referral if the user buys the image). If you’re feeling stuck and not finding a good photo, you might want to buy a photo for as little as $3 per image. If so, we recommend checking out our review of the Best Stock Photo Sites review first to see our recommended service and our Stock Photography Comparison Chart which has each site side by side to compare features and pricing.

Best Free Stock Photo Sites

Some online free stock photo services have contributors or are photographers themselves. Some require you to set up an account or sign up for their newsletter and they email you pictures. For instance, StartupStockPhotos.com has a blog roll of photos for startups, so if you’re in the startup industry, this might be a great resource for that niche. Death to Stock Photos is a widely popular service for their highly artistic themed photo packs sent to your inbox on the first of each month. For the sake of this review, we picked out the best free stock photo sites specifically for all businesses which have a large number of photos to choose from and a convenient way to access and search for them (for free). Without further adieu, let’s get to our favorites (all three of which we use regularly).

Pixabay Review

#1

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Pixabay is our top pick (and our personal favorite site for images here at WeRockYourWeb.com). Founded in 2010 in Germany, Pixabay has more than 750,000 photos, videos and illustrations in their collection. In fact, they even have photos from our number two pick in search results. They have over 33,000 active image authors and the founder himself has contributed 20,000+. You can search by orientation, size, color and more making it easy to find just the photo you need.

Pros

Cons

  • Illustrations and videos in addition to photos
  • Select the size you want
  • No need to create an account to download images
  • Image properties including resolution, date created, date uploaded and camera type and more included for each photo
  • Users can like and save photos (so popular photos show up first)
  • Photos are tagged so you can search for other various relevant terms
  • Large database means more photos to sift through
  • Some photos require attribution

Unsplash Review

#2

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What started in 2013 with a handful of photos uploaded to a Tumblr account has quickly become one of the most used stock photo sites. Known for their uncheesy, more lifestyle photos Unsplash curates only the best quality images used by everyone from designers to brands including Apple. They even have stunning aerial photography and astronaut selfies from NASA. The only major downside to Unsplash is their relatively small database of photos (so there’s a chance they won’t have what you’re looking for or that it’s used by someone else). But they are consistently adding more images and you might try searching for broader words to help (ex. “office” instead of “computer screen”).

Pros

Cons

  • High-quality lifestyle photos
  • No account required to download images
  • Create an account to “follow” photographers, like pictures, add favorites to collections and submit your ow photos
  • Clean website, clutter and ad free
  • All photos are attribution free
  • Newer company so not as many photos to choose from
  • Limited search capabilities
  • Only one size option for downloading

FreeImages Review

#3

Visit Website

FreeImages rounds out our top three for best free stock photo sites. Just like their name implies, they supply free images to over 2 million registered users around the world. They’ve been an alternative to other paid stock photo sites since 2001, so their photo collection is massive. However, from our experience, we’ve found that more isn’t always better. They have some pretty amateur photographers resulting in some pretty cheesy photos making it more of a challenge to find something that looks professional (and not like it was taken on a point and shoot in 1999). However, because they have so many pics and have such a great search feature we still use them from time to time for harder to find photos.

Pros

Cons

  • Huge database of over nearly 400,000 photos (and illustrations and clip art too)
  • Search by most viewed, newest, most downloaded, orientation, resolution, camera type and color
  • Photo details include ratings, reviews, time taken, exposure level, ISO and more
  • Photos are on the cheesy and lower quality side
  • Can be difficult to differentiate between free and ads for paid images in results
  • Some photos require attribution
  • Must create an account to download

Funny Stock Photos Video

Every week or so I come across a photo that makes me laugh out loud and I usually end up sharing it with our team. This video from BuzzFeed shows some of those in a compilation of 21 ridiculous stock photos that really exist (and you might come across in your photo hunt).

Other Free Images for Websites

While there are dozens of free stock photo sites out there, we chose only to review the best (since most of them provide many of the same photos in results anyways). There are a handful of specific sites like vintage stock photos or background only stock photo sites, but we opted only to review those who have a more comprehensive portfolio to choose from (and often you can find vintage and background photos within these services).

Tips For Using Free Stock Images

When searching for a particular photo to use for We Rock Your Web’s marketing materials, I’ll often use more than one stock photo site. Depending on the photo, some free stock photo sites might have better options than others. In the process, I’ll notice some of the same photos in their database of results. That’s because their free stock images have creative commons licenses (meaning they are available for anyone to use without photo credit or compensation). So, in theory, anyone has the option to “own” and distribute them. If you think of it that way, then free photo sites are just curators and search engines of this creative commons content. We highly encourage you to check out and use other Stock Photo Sites if need be too.

Where do you go to find stock free images for websites?

Sadie has acted as the email marketing coordinator and web designer for one of the world's largest travel companies and managed social media for dozens of major brands. She has a breadth and depth of web and marketing knowledge that reaches far and wide. She loves all things Mac and keeping up with all the latest web trends.

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2 Comments on "Best Free Stock Photo Sites: Pixabay vs Unsplash vs FreeImages"

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Simon
Simon

Thanks for your great and thorough review! Just one thing: None of Pixabay’s image and videos require attribution. They are all released under CC0.

Cheers, Simon

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