Best Free Stock Photo Sites: Pixabay vs Unsplash vs FreeImages & More

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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?

They can be! 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 you buy the image).

Best Stock Photo Sites ReviewedIf you’re feeling stuck and not finding a good photo, there are plenty of “paid” stock photography sites with images available for as little as $1. Head on over to our review of the best stock photo sites which includes a comparison table you can use to compare pricing and features for each provider.

How Do Image Royalties Work?

Curious how different image royalties and licenses work? We’ve got an article explaining royalties and how contributors get paid.

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 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). That means these two candidates weren’t included, but you might find them worthwhile nevertheless.

  • Startup Stock Photos 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.

Without further adieu, let’s get to our favorites (all three of which we use regularly here at We Rock Your Web).

Pixabay Review

#1

Visit Website

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

Visit Website

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, although attribution is often appreciated).

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 encourage you to check out our comparison of paid stock photography sites if you can’t find that one image you’re looking for in the free options.

Where do you go to find free stock images for your website or campaign?

About The Author:

Sadie has over 15 years of experience in digital marketing, graphic and web design, social media strategy, email marketing and more. She is a 4th generation small business owner and has worked with a wide range of brands from fortune 500 companies to startups and entrepreneurs.

Sadie is a self-proclaimed Apple/Mac guru and keeps up with all the latest tech trends at conferences including South by Southwest. Sadie has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin's Moody School of Communications and a concentration in Business from the Red McCombs School of Business.

Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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3 Comments
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Lesley
September 1, 2018 2:18 pm

Some images on Pixbay are for – Editorial use only

Simon
April 10, 2017 2:26 pm

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