Design & UX
Article
By Daniel Schwarz

25 Sublime Sites to Download Free Stock Images in 2017

By Daniel Schwarz

Mountain stock image from SplitShare

As a designer, it’s no doubt that you require free stock images on a regular basis. Whether you’re a graphic designer, a web designer or a user interface designer, photography is a mighty tool for capturing depth and emotion. And let’s not forget about big headers and hero images, which are oh-so-trendy!

We originally wrote this article way back in 2009, but since design trends have evolved, stock photography has gotten much less-cheesy, and the needs of designers have changed, we thought it’d be a smashing idea to update this article with some of the newer options that are available today.

Let’s take a look at our top 10 best free image sites in 2017 – and 15 more worth a look.

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1. Magdeleine

  • Credit Required: some no, some yes
  • Searchability: average
  • Style/Genre: gloomy, ambient and emotional — mostly nature

With a focus on nature, Magdeleine tends to curate images that are dark but soft. Expect a lot of unsaturated tones and an underlying ambiance of loneliness. You can switch between a light and dark background, and also narrow down your search to show free CC0 images only (no attribution required whatsoever).

Magdeleine — ambient and emotional free stock images

2. Free Nature Stock

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: pretty decent
  • Style/Genre: unedited, nature-themed images

Royalty-free nature stock images, updated daily. They’re completely unedited, ready to be Photoshopped by you. Apply a filter/mood/ambience of your choosing. Hashtag #nofilter!

3. SplitShare

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: average
  • Style/Genre: bright, uplifting, trendy

SplitShare might be the complete opposite of Magdeleine. Every image is bright, uplifting, colourful, and includes a variety of fully-edited stock images that you’d consider trendy today (MacBooks, double-exposure, etc). You’re really going to want to take a look at their Top Photos section!

SplitShare — bright and trendy free stock images

4. New Old Stock

  • Credit Required: no, but you should double-check
  • Searchability: not bad, it’s hidden in the top-left corner
  • Style/Genre: black and white, sepia, vintage, etc

New Old Stock is about black and white, vintage, sepia, and generally old or old-looking stock images — they’re curated from Flickr, so double-check the license before use to make sure they are in fact free to use!

5. FancyCrave

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: decent
  • Style/Genre: various themes

With two new images every day, there’s always something to discover on FancyCrave. Plenty of categories, minimalist layout, a strong contender.

FancyCrave — two new images everyday

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6. Skitterphoto

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: pretty accurate
  • Style/Genre: anything and everything

Skitterphoto has quite a large database of free stock images, so there’s no specific style or theme here, but I did notice that it’s a useful website for finding closeup shots of things. Many of the images have been edited in Photoshop already, so they look quite snazzy.

7. Unsplash

  • Credit Required: nope, all images have a CC0 licence
  • Searchability: very accurate
  • Style/Genre: anything and everything

You’ve obviously heard of Unsplash, right? It’s pretty huge, with plenty of free stock images being added every day. They even have an API — if you’re a user of InVision’s Craft Plugin for Sketch or Photoshop, you might already know that you can insert images from Unsplash directly into your designs!

Unsplash — #1 for stock photography

8. Realgraphy

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: average
  • Style/Genre: no specific genre, but all images are unedited

Realgraphy is probably the largest website dedicated to unedited stock photos — you won’t find a filter in sight. Ideal for serious designers.

9. Foodies Feed

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: unexpectedly efficient
  • Style/Genre: food, food and more food

Foodies Feed is dedicated to free stock images of…well…food! Despite its niché nature, the search results are quite efficient (search for “Steak” and you’ll see!). Foodshot is another alternative.

Foodies Feed — stock images for food

10. Real Light

  • Credit Required: no
  • Searchability: unexpectedly efficient
  • Style/Genre: bright and bold — singular objects and posed shots

Real Light is terrific for finding singular objects or posed shots worthy of an e-commerce site. Imagine your old-school stock photography website, but with a little less cheese!

Tip: many of the of the resources listed here can be found on Zoommy App, a desktop app that collects CC0 (Creative Commons Zero) and Public Domain images from over 50 sources! It’s really come in handy for me this last year!

15 More Websites to Find Free Stock Images

11. Startup Stock Photos

A very popular website for business, startup and entrepreneur-themed stock images, however it isn’t updated often enough so many of the photos are overused. It’s a nice backup though!

12. Jay Mantri

Jay Mantri is known for its wonderful photography, however it’s updated at random, so unfortunately I couldn’t include it in the top 20. Definitely a resource you’ll want to bookmark though!

13. Boss Fight

A Pinterest-style layout of free stock images with no specific theme, Boss Fight is useful for scanning through multiple photos at once (if you don’t quite know what you’re looking for). It should be noted that Boss Fight isn’t being updated anymore.

14. Streetwill

Streetwill offers a large collection of stock photos of everyday urban life — architecture, food, transport, streets, people — but from a variety of cultures and countries around the world.

15. Freestocks

What I like about Freestocks is that there’s often multiple variations of a single stock image, for those situations when you find a suitable photo, but wish it was taken from a slightly different angle!

16. Travel Coffee Book

Stunning, unedited travel photos — updated frequently.

17. Photo Collections

Similar to Travel Coffee Book, Photo Collections displays travel-themed stock images alongside nature and animal closeups, although, many of these use filters to create a calm ambience, unlike Travel Coffee Book which offers unedited photos.

18. Freelyphotos

High-quality, bright, and sometimes edgy, Freelyphotos offers stock images that create impact. All free of course — CC0.

19. Visualhunt

Visual Hunt is a huge database so many of the search results might seem random and not as high-quality as the other options, however there are a few hidden gems so it’s worth bookmarking.

20. Pexels

Similar to Unsplash, Pexels became a huge contender in the stock image space in 2016 and 2017. They offer videos as well, which really sets them apart! You’ll want to bookmark this one!

21. Pickle Jar

22. Realistic Shots

23. Skuawk

24. MMT Stock

25. Public Domain Archive (more than 30 pages of stock images!)

Very important note: please remember to check image licenses before use, as many websites and photographers provide photos for personal and/or commercial use on the basis that you provide credit to the owners of the images. Every website and possibly every photographer on each website will usually have different requirements, so it’s important to respect them.

Which of these free image sites stood out for you? Are there any here that you’ve been using for a while, and/or can personally recommend? Are there any that we’ve missed? Let us know, as we’ll be looking to update this article again in the future!

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