Where to Find the Best Free Images for Your Content

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[Original article was published on 05.10.2015]

Text dominated blogs are no longer enough to wrestle the attention of millennials away from Snapchat and onto your blog. In today’s world of visual micromoments, content marketers need to think with their eyes if they want to survive.

In the not too distant past, content marketers were limited to either professional stock photography websites or terrible free stock photography websites. The former came with an enormous price tag and the latter came with truly awful images. Thankfully, things are changing.

The web is now awash with websites offering free or freemium stock images that look exceptional. In this blog I’ve pulled together my favourite providers of free stock images to help you give your content a visual edge over your competitors.


Copyright and Licences

Before we get into the good stuff, a little word on copyright. The vast majority of websites listed below release images under some sort of Creative Commons licence.

This alternative to traditional copyright allows creators to release their work for usage by others under certain conditions. Two of the most popular are explained below.

CC0 1.0 – This licence (also known as Creative Commons Zero) enables the creator to waive all interests in their work and place it in the public domain. Others can then build upon, enhance and reuse their works without restriction and without the need for attribution.

CC 2.0 – This licence is one step down from the Zero licence. Creators can use CC 2.0 licences to permit others to share and adapt their work so long as the original creator is given appropriate credit.



Pixabay {pixabay.com}

Pixabay is my absolute favourite free stock photography website. It releases images under a Creative Commons Zero licence and has an absolutely humongous library covering everything from chess and cheese to thoughts and thimbles.

If you can think of something, chances are Pixabay has a photo of it somewhere in its 450,000-image strong library.

Each image is available in a number of sizes and can be accessed via a quick CAPTCHA test or by registering on the site. The largest version of each image is only available to those who are registered.



StockSnap {stocksnap.io}

While Pixabay is my favourite website, StockSnap is usually my first port of call. Like Pixabay it releases images under a Creative Commons Zero licence so you are free to use the images in any way you please without the need for attribution.

While its library is substantially smaller than Pixabay, the quality of its images is typically far better. Shots are beautifully composed and far more artful than your average stock photo which makes them very particularly for design work.

My only complaint is that images can only be downloaded at their full size and that’s about as minor as complaints come.



Flickr {www.flickr.com}

Few people think to look on Flickr when they’re searching for stock photography which is a shame since it’s packed full of stunning images released by very generous users.

When creators upload images onto Flickr they can choose to release them under a range of Creative Commons licences. Users can then search for the subject matter they are looking for and filter results by licence type.

Images are typically released under a CC 2.0 licence which means you must give appropriate credit to the original creator. In case you’re wondering, appropriate credit just means a small byline like the one above.


Death to Stock

Death to Stock {deathtothestockphoto.com}

Death to Stock was one of the original website to offer quality free stock images. The brainchild of photographers Allie and David, Death to Stock was launched to help cash-strapped creatives with their designs.

Instead of a searchable library, Death to Stock emails a curated package of 10 photos to users every month. If you want access to the full library, it’ll cost you a $15 per month.

While a subscription-based service isn’t the most practical for content marketers, the images you do receive are astoundingly beautiful.

Images are released under Death to Stock’s own licence which they publish here. Weighing in at close to 2,000 words and written in true Legalese, it’s a monster of a document.

The short version is this: users may use images as they wish so long as they do not redistribute them or use them in a way which defames or embarrasses the creator.



Unsplash {unsplash.com}

For a while, Unsplash was the source of free stock images. And while it’s been surpassed by prettier websites with larger libraries, it’s still packed with outstanding shots.

The website releases 10 new images every 10 days and the entire back catalogue is available online. Like Death to Stock, Unsplash’s smaller library means it has no filler content. Whether it’s a mirror-still mountain lake or cityscape shrouded in mist, every single shot is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

All of Unsplash’s images are released under Creative Commons Zero.


Further sources found by the linkbird editorial team…


Libreshot {libreshot.com}

Libreshot offers free images licensed under public domain – CC0 license. All photographs are taken by Martin Vorel. Images are divided into categories but it is recommended to use a search box. No attribution required, but Martin will be very grateful if you provide a link to his website LibreShot.

A big part of the free image collection is from Mongolia, Czech, Thailand and from various other European countries.



Librestock {librestock.com}

LibreStock is a meta search engine that scans and indexes the stock photos from 20+ different websites. It provides one of the biggest searchable database of free high-quality stock photos on the internet.

All the photos indexed on LibreStock are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.



As you can see, there’s a wealth of resources out there for the inquisitive content marketer. These websites have made my working life substantially easier, slashing my time commitments and shrinking my media budget. I encourage you to take a look for yourself and see what each site can offer your campaigns.

Learn more about how to use images for Content Marketing:

linkbird Webinar

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David Vallance

David Vallance

David is the senior copywriter at Digital Impact. He works with clients to define their brand voice, craft compelling content and tighten up their on-site copy.

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  • Stuart Miles

    My web-site provides 30,000 images, free of charge for any use. Don’t hesitate to visit here – http://BusinessImagesFree