Where Graphic Designers Go to Find the Best Free Stock Images

Choosing strong optics sets the stage for the overall success of a design. To help you do the same, we reveal the graphic designers’ super secret list of all our favorite places to find the best free images and photos.

Ever spent hours and hours looking for that perfect free stock image for your website or project?

Only to keep running into that cheesy corporate picture of a bunch of people showing ‘team spirit’ by clasping their hands together in an uncomfortable looking huddle (has anyone ever done this with their team?)

Or, always a personal favorite, the beauty with the perfect teeth, wearing a headset and smiling maniacally (I’m not fooled, no one working at a call center can look that happy).

I know your pain. Finding the perfect free stock image is hard.

The good news is that in the last few years, tons of different sites have surfaced offering original, high-quality, and free images.

But only if you know where to look.

I’ve compiled a list of our team’s all-time favorite, often little known, super secret (no, not really) places to source free, do whatever you want, images. Take a look, and here’s to better stock imagery!

 

Our criteria are strict but simple:

  • Photographs must be free for both personal and commercial use (modify, copy, distribute, perform the work) without asking permission
  • Photographs must not require attribution
  • Photographs must be high-resolution
  • The site should offer photos that are unique, with individual style and flair that sets it apart (either in the subject matter or in the photographer’s style)

 

Our super secret list of the best free images website

Barn Images (http://www.barnimages.com)

Type of photography: Landscapes, architecture, travel, people, and more
Size of collection (approx): 3300
Searchable collection: Via search bar and Stock Up
Updates: Every weekday
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

With a vast collection that ranges from scenic background imagery to useful lifestyle snapshots, Barn Images is a great resource for all kinds of content creators.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---BarnImages

Life of Pix (http://www.lifeofpix.com)

Type of photography: Nature, scenic, city scenes, everyday objects
Size of collection (approx): 280
Searchable collection: Via Stockup
Updates: Weekly
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Life of Pix has an ever-growing collection of extremely high-resolution photography.

There’s a nice mix of wildlife and scenic images mixed with city landscapes and day-to-day modern life close-ups.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---LifeOfPix

IM Free (http://www.imcreator.com/free)

Type of photography: Nature, cityscapes, people, and objects
Size of collection (approx): 5150
Searchable collection: Via search bar on website
Updates: Unknown
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

IM Free claims to be a source of all kinds of web design resources, from web templates to icons, and all kinds of free photos. It collects high-quality photos from a number of sources.

The photos are organized into general categories, the largest of which are nature, cityscapes, and people.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---IMFree

Free Nature Stock (http://www.freenaturestock.com)

Type of photography: Nature landscapes and the occasional close-up
Size of collection (approx): 930
Searchable collection: Via Stock Up
Updates: Daily
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

If you need a nice landscape shot, or a floral close-up, Free Nature Stock is your go-to resource. These photos make great background shots for websites or social media images.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---FreeNature

Gratisography (http://www.gratisography.com)

Type of photography: Funny, whimsical, and quirky take of everyday objects and landscapes
Size of collection (approx): 288
Searchable collection: Via Pexels (not complete) or Stockup
Updates: Weekly
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

If you’re looking for free images that are a little different and unusual, Gratisography is the place to go.

From the close up of a cat’s nose to a guy using a tin can telephone, you’re sure to find something that will set your visual content apart.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-Gratisography

Coffee Travel Book (http://www.travelcoffeebook.com)

Type of photography: Landscapes and cityscapes from exotic places
Size of collection (approx): 228
Searchable collection: No
Updates: Every few months
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Coffee Travel Book is a collection of CC0 travel photography from around the world. Visitors can submit their travel photos to be featured. This collection is great for illustrating inspirational travel articles or social media content.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Coffee-Travel

StockSnap.io (http://www.stocksnap.io)

Type of photography: Landscapes, people, objects, and more
Size of collection (approx): Unknown
Searchable collection: Via search bar
Updates: Weekly
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

StockSnap.io is another high quality curated CC0 photo repository. Contributors can create an account and offer up shots of their own to be featured.

The collection is searchable, and filterable by date, views, downloads, favorites, and “trending.”

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Stock-Snap

Jay Mantri (http://www.jaymantri.com)

Type of photography: Landscapes, objects, texture, slice of life images
Size of collection (approx): 377
Searchable collection: Via Pexels and Stockup
Updates: Infrequently
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Jay Mantri is a talented photographer and frequent contributor to Unsplash. On his website he offers up many of his shots for free.

There are a lot of landscapes, abstract or texture shots, and shots that include a fair amount of negative space, making them perfect for web designs or featured images.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---JayMantri

ISO Republic (http://isorepublic.com)

Type of photography: Architecture, nature, people, textures, urban
Size of collection (approx): 224
Searchable collection: Via sortable image category
Updates: Weekly
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Perfect for blogs and eCommerce stores, ISO Republic has a fantastic collection of photographs that have been contributed by a large community of worldwide photographers.

There’s an easy to use and helpful category based sorting system, and the photographs are very high in quality, making them perfect for use as hero images or blog post featured images.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-ISO-Republic

Photo Collections (http://photocollections.io)

Type of photography: Nature, landscapes, and close-ups of objects and animals
Size of collection (approx): 460
Searchable collection: No
Updates: Every few weeks
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

This minimalist photo site organizes the photos into “collections,” such as Nature and Animals, which can be accessed via the arrow menu on the left side of the page.

A lot of the photos have a dark or desaturated feel to them.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Photo-Collection

New Old Stock (http://nos.twnsnd.co)

Type of photography: Vintage photos of…everything
Size of collection (approx): 420
Searchable collection: Via Stockup
Updates: 5 new photographs added daily
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

When we’re looking for vintage style images, our first stop is always New Old Stock.

With a fascinating collection of real vintage photos (they’ve been publicly archived), these images will add authenticity to your project.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-NewOldStock

Foodie’s Feed (http://foodiesfeed.com)

Type of photography: Food
Size of collection (approx): Unknown
Searchable collection: No
Updates: Unknown
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Perfect of any food-related blog or site, Foodie’s Feed has a growing collection of extremely high-quality stock photographs featuring cuisines of all flavors from entrees to desserts.

We particularly like way the food is styled and presented, as well as the use of trendy overhead photography shots.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-Foodies-Feed

Unsplash (http://unsplash.com)

Type of photography: Landscapes, city scenes, everyday objects, and people
Size of collection (approx): 637
Searchable collection: Via Pexels (not complete) or Stockup
Updates: 10 new photographs added every 10 days
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

With 10 new photos added every 10 days, there’s always something new to choose from on Unsplash.

Their photographs are well known for their quality, exceptional lighting, and Instagram-style effects and filters.

Pro tip: Get all Unsplash photos delivered straight to your Dropbox using Stokkr

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-Unsplash

Picography (http://www.picography.co)

Type of photography: Landscapes, city scenes, nighttime photos, and objects
Size of collection (approx): 215
Searchable collection: Limited search on site, and search via Stock Up
Updates: Monthly
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Picography offers a limited selection of their high-quality photos for free on their website, and an even larger collection for paying members.

There is a wide range of landscapes, city scenes, people, objects, and animals, making it a useful collection for all kinds of creatives.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Picography

Splitshire (http://www.splitshire.com)

Type of photography: People, landscapes, abstracts, everyday scenes and objects
Size of collection (approx): 501
Searchable collection: Via Stockup
Updates: Unknown
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

With a collection of high-resolution photographs ranging from portraits to technology, Splitshire is perfect for bloggers, social marketing gurus, website owners and of course, your humble designer.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-Spiltshire

Kaboom Pics (http://kaboompics.com)

Type of photography: Lifestyle, technology, landscapes, fashion, architecture, food, everyday scenes, and objects
Size of collection (approx): 874
Searchable collection: Yes or via Stockup
Updates: Unknown
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

With almost too many photographs to choose from, it’s a good thing that Kaboom Pics have its own search functionality, complete with a comprehensive tagging and category system.

There’s a large collection of quality photos, with a particularly intriguing selection of lifestyle shots that will set your project apart.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images-Kaboom-Pics

Negative Space (http://negativespace.co)

Type of photography: Technology, objects, and people
Size of collection (approx): 948
Searchable collection: Via search bar, Stock Up, and Pexels
Updates: Frequently
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Negative Space is a great free photo source for creatives because of their large collection of iPhone, Macbook, and other technology and web design images.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Negative-Space

Epicantus (http://epicantus.tumblr.com)

Type of photography: People and travel photos with some close-ups of objects
Size of collection (approx): 635
Searchable collection: No
Updates: Monthly
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Epicantus is a free photo website with original photography by Daria Nepriakhina. Her subjects are mainly people and places and are useful for bloggers and businesses alike.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Epicantus

 

Cupcake (http://cupcake.nilssonlee.se)

Type of photography: Landscapes, cityscapes, texture, and people
Size of collection (approx): Unknown
Searchable collection: Via Pexels and Stock Up
Updates: Infrequently
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Cupcake is the personal free photo repository of Nilsson Lee, a frequent contributor to Unsplash.

The photographs available here are extremely high quality and all seem to have a similar desaturation effect over them to tie them together.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Cupcake

Moveast (http://moveast.me)

Type of photography: Travel photography, cityscapes, people, and objects
Size of collection (approx): Unknown
Searchable collection: No
Updates: Every few months
License: Free for personal and commercial use
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated

Moveast is a great collection of travel and “slice of life” shots by a Portuguese photographer. They are great unique shots, especially for giving content a touch of charm from a distant land.

Graphic-Designer-Find-Free-Stock-Images---Move-East

 

Bonus: Free Stock Images & Photos Search Engines

When I’m looking for a specific image, having a search engine that indexes from some of the best free stock photograph sites can be a life-saver.

Below are two search engines that we use frequently to find the best of the best with the click of a button.

Pexels (http://pexels.com)

Type of photography: Hand-picked from free image sources
Style of images: Artistic
Size of collection: 1800
Updates: 5 new photographs added daily
License: Free for personal and commercial use.
Attribution: Not required, but appreciated if the original source is used

An absolute time saver if you’re looking for something specific, Pexels is a search engine that hand-picks and indexes images from some of the free sources above.

They pick only the best, highest-quality pictures, as well as making sure that all images are free for both personal and commercial use, with no attribution required.

The site has an easy to use search function, with a large library that’s updated daily.

Stock Up (http://www.sitebuilderreport.com/stock-up)

Type of photography: Indexed from multiple free image sources
Size of collection: Unknown
Updates: Daily
License: Need to refer to the source for individual usage guidelines
Attribution: Need to refer to the source for individual usage guidelines

Stock Up is another search engine for free stock images, only it indexes and tags photos from multiple free photo websites rather than handpicking them individually.

This gives the site a wider range of photos to search from, but it also means that licensing and attribution requirements differ depending on the source.

So make sure you check each individual source before using the image.

Currently, Stock Up indexes the following sites (some of which are featured above): Unsplash, Life of Pix, Jay Mantri, Startup Stock, Splitshire, MMT, Public Domain Archive, Refe, Magdeleine, Kaboom Pics, Good Stock, Skitter Photo and New Old Stock.

A great alternative to Pexels and I usually use both when searching for a specific image to cover all bases.

 

Conclusion

With so many sites offering high-quality, unique and free stock images there’s no excuse to use the cringe-worthy stock images of old.

Perhaps most important of all, these sites all offer their images free for both personal and commercial use, making them highly flexible to use legally.

If you simply don’t have time to go through each site to find that perfect image you can always use a stock images search engine.

Or, you can use our unlimited graphic design subscription service and we’ll do all the hard work for you!