Beautiful photos can help your website, blog, presentation, or any other project stand out. Buying stock photos from an image bank can become very expensive, however, particularly if you are a small business or student. Here is a list of the best websites for free stock photos freshly updated for 2021.
Note: New image banks are created all the time and we have already updated this article for 2021. But please let us know if we forgot an image bank or if one of the websites below stops working.
1. Wunderstock: A wonderfully elegant free stock photo site
Wunderstock has everything we would like to see in a free stock photo website and more. Namely, it offers fast searching, stunning photos, and a minimalist layout that does not get in the way. Wunderstock features its own database of 300,000+ public domain images. But unlike competitors, it takes things a step further and automatically extends your search to Flickr Creative Commons. It also has a built-in editor that is surprisingly smooth.
Wunderstock states that it is made by creatives to support other creatives in their work. We think they’ve done a great job executing on this mission.
2. Pexels: Another great source for free images
Pexels is another great resource for free stock images. Like Wunderstock, their website features a very simple minimalist design that does not distract from the photos. The overall content quality is very high. New images are added all the time.
Pexels also has an API for developers and very strong multilingual support.
3. Burst: A great resource for startups
Burst is a great free stock photo bank for businesses and startups. Why? They have many images of topics that are missing on other sites. You’ll find everything from credit card transactions to yoga on the beach. You can also find a variety of other topics such as nature and portraits as well.
Some people might not like the dark design.
4. Unsplash: A site that focuses on quality
Unsplash offers a large collection of free high-resolution photos and has become one of the best sources for stock images. The Unsplash team has a strict editorial policy that accepts only the best and most beautiful photos. The disadvantage of Unsplash is that it is only available in English. The images do not have very many keywords, so sometimes it can be difficult to search. Many images featured on the website are sponsored content and feel too commercial in nature.
Unsplasha also has a great mobile app.
Pixabay is a great collection of images uploaded by contributors under a public domain license. The site works wonderfully and has great navigation, sorting and search features. One of the features I like about Pixabay is the ability to filter your search by images in portrait or landscape orientation. Although Pixabay has a wide variety of photos, some feel too “stocky” and dated.
6. FoodiesFeed: Food photos only
Looking for beautiful photos of food? FoodiesFeed is a free image database that offers only food photos. It is perfect for food bloggers (you can’t take photos of everything you cook) and food influencers.
Gratisography by Ryan McGuire offers free high-resolution images that you can use for your personal and commercial projects. New images are added weekly and are free of copyright restrictions. What I like most about Gratisography is the personality and the photographer’s unique style. Some might find the ads on the site distracting.
8. ISO Republic
ISO Republic offers a wide range of photos, including stunningly beautiful landscape and nature photos. All photos are available under a public domain license (CC0). New photos are added all the time.
9. Creative Commons Image Search
Creative Commons recently launched their own image search tool under the name CC Search. The site offers access to more than 500 million CC images. Although Flickr Commons is the best-known source for this type of content, there are hundreds of other databases and archives with CC-licensed images. Just a few examples include RawPixel, Behhance, the Smithsonian, and NASA.
We recommend CC Search for science and academic applications because it has the best access to museums, cultural institutions, and research databases. It has a wide variety of historical and cultural items not available on Flickr.
Compfight is another Flickr search tool. Although a bit dated, we like that it lets you browse hundreds of thumbnails at once. One important note– Compfight searches all of Flickr by default. You need to remember to limit your search to Creative Commons in the left-most column. Otherwise you could accidentally use an All Rights Reserved image. Compfight does show safe images by default, which we think is a good thing.
Compfight lets you search Creative Commons photos listed on Flickr. It’s pretty easy to use and automatically generates the HTML code to insert the image credits. It can be a bit buggy at times, so you’re better off going directly to Flickr.com. There you can do an advanced search for Creative Commons photos.
Kaboompics offers elegant and modern free photos by Karolina, a web designer from Poland. You can search images there by popular categories like abstract, city & architecture, fashion, food, landscapes or do a keyword search.
Morguefile is a long-standing website is a great searchable database of free images. It also has some great filtering options to really find the photos you are looking for. One neat feature on Morguefile is the ability to make a “photo request” if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
PikWizard is a very professional free photo website, full of high quality images depicting various popular themes. It belongs to Wavebreak Media, a stock video and photo production company run by Irish videographer and entrepreneur Sean Prior. The hundreds of thousands of images come from a variety of providers, most of whom are well-known stock media producers.
14. Life of Pix
Life of Pix offers hundreds of thousands of very artistic and high-quality photos on a variety of popular subjects. All files have been provided by photographers and are completely free to download and use.
Albumarium is a website with a very interesting approach to the world of free images. All images are organized in albums (hence the name Albumarium). Instead of searching for photos, you search for albums. This is very helpful if you are looking for more than one image on the same subject. Let’s say you need 3-4 photos to look like they were taken by the same person. Or maybe you want them to look like they were taken in the same environment. Albumarium is exactly what you need.
Skitterphoto features photos taken by three photographers from the Netherlands. Since the platform’s launch in 2014, one photo has been uploaded every day. Users can search or browse by category.
SplitShire features about a thousand artistically and very professionally styled photos from founder Daniel Nanesou’s personal archive on various current topics that you can download for free and use in your work. We love the style and variety.
18. New Old Stock
Feeling retro? New Old Stock features vintage photos from various historic archives on Flickr. The images are optimized for quick use, cropped and edited to improve quality.
19. Free Nature Stock: The wilderness awaits
If you are looking for nature photos, Free Nature Stock is the place to go. A new photo is added every day, all taken by Adrian Pelletier. I prefer to browse the site’s archive, as you can see more images at once. We’re constantly mesmerized every time we visit Free Nature Stock.
20. Jay Mantri Stock Photo Archive
Jay Mantri posts photos for others to “make magic” from. Seven photos are added per week. The site has gradually grown into one of the largest image banks on the web.
21. Rawpixel: (Mostly) Free Stock Photos
Rawpixel provides thousands of unconventional, authentic, high-quality images to creatives from qualified contributors. The site does have some restrictions. Users are limited to 100 free downloads per month, which can be lifted by upgrading to a paid plan.
Libreshot is a must-see among free stock photo sites because it features thousands of fine art photos by SEO consultant and photographer Martin Vorel. His images are of very good quality and also cover various topics.
23. RGB Stock
Rgbstock is a website that provides over 100,000 stock photos for free. It was started in 2010 by a group of amateur photographers and graphic designers led by Jay Simmons. The library, built from files submitted by users and vetted for quality, includes several popular and evergreen themes and mixes artistic shots with more commercial images.
They have a custom license that allows free use for commercial work, and restrictions similar to those of royalty-free images: a sensitive use clause and a prohibition on using photos in products for resale. They warn about the need for model releases and other important legal issues, but point out that it’s up to you to check.
24. Fancy Crave
Fancy Crave contains thousands of files, all strictly curated and arranged in thematic packages, with a strong focus on travel photography and generally a very modern style and professional look. Premium packages are also sold on the website.
Like Compfight, Foter uses the Flickr API and is a search engine for more than 300 million Creative Commons images from various sources. Users can search images by keywords or browse them by category. Images can be obtained by downloading or via the provided embed codes in various sizes.
Magdeleine has only curated high-resolution photos that you can use on your blog or website. Most of the photos on the site are submitted by the community and only the best are selected to be displayed in the gallery.
27. Foca Stock
Foca Stock offers you an extensive collection of free photos, videos and templates that you can use for personal or commercial projects. The site also offers a brilliant online photo editor that lets you create custom social media graphics for free.
Other stock photo resources
These websites are also worth a look:
- Moose Photo Creator from Icons 8: create your own stock photo with interchangeable elements to create your own 100% unique stock photo. For example, you can choose a scene or background and then add objects and people.
- Generated Photos: a collection of portrait photos generated with AI technology. Very useful for product mockups or user personas.
- Stocksy: Stocksy is one of my favorite image databases. I use them when I can’t find a free image on one of the sites above. They have a diverse collection of stunningly beautiful photos. Their prices are not the cheapest, but still affordable.
We hope this list is helpful to you. Here’s one last piece of advice: don’t forget that you can shoot your own photos, too! This is especially true if you have a blog or business in a very specific industry. You’d be surprised how many photos you can take in a few hours. And you don’t need a fancy camera – a smartphone is more than enough in 2021!