As Graphic Designers, the hunt for royalty free stock images that don’t feature smiling corporate zombies shaking hands is a daily struggle. High-quality images that represent your client’s brand naturally is crucial to cultivating any identity. Stock photos for web design, illustrative imagery to compliment a blog and captivating social posts all require unique and interesting photography.
Luckily, photographers are sharing their breath-taking work more and more since the rise in popularity of free stock imagery site, Unsplash. These images are free to use across the web and in print promotions because they are released under the Creative Commons license (however, always double check attribution rules for each website.).
Whether you want to use the images in their raw form or manipulate them for your professional projects, these sites all feature a huge range of photos for all sorts of content. Real life images of people without the cheese and stunning scenery shots minus the tacky gloss are finally yours to use as you please. The freedom to add patterns and textures [link to blog] is yours for the taking, so you can stamp your own mark and experiment with your designs. Add illustrations, cut down and merge these photos to your heart's content. Here is a list of our favourite 30 sites that offer gorgeous stock imagery to enhance your designs completely free.
StockSnap categorises all of its beautiful images in useful categories to help designers find what they’re looking for with ease. Each week, hundreds of free stock photos are uploaded onto the website for consistent, fresh imagery. There’s also a trending feature for you to browse the most popular stock photos of the moment, and they email you their favourites every week to your inbox.
The most well-known website to offer an extensive range of free stock photos is Unsplash. Thousands of unique stock photos are available, ranging from sublime mountain landscapes to a couple catching up over a coffee. “Do whatever you want” is their tagline, and it encourages graphic designers to take advantage of the wealth of images available.
Photographer Ryan McGuire is responsible for capturing the stock images for Gratiscography, which specialises in funny, colourful images that are packed with personality. The funky and unusual photos capture humanity and nature at its most obscure, and are perfect for injecting fun into brands.
4. Negative Space
With up to 20 stock photos added weekly, negative space is rapidly increasing in popularity as more and more designers discover the treasures it offers. Seasonality is a massive part of how they curate the website and so it’s perfect when searching for client’s projects that align with summer, Christmas and spring, for example.
Web designer Daniel Nanescu created Splitshare after battling in the fight against cliché stock imagery for years. Now he regularly updates his site with categorised images ranging from everyday “things” to blurred landscapes.
6. Little Visuals
Sadly, Nic who was the owner of Little Visuals, passed away and so the site no longer uploads new photos. However, his website still serves as a beacon of hope for graphic designers as its legacy provides a range of outstanding stock photos all under the Creative Commons license. Nature photography from unusual angles is what makes these royalty-free images so alluring.
7. Life of Pix
Creative and design agency LEEROY, who are based in Canada, are to thank for the incredible collection of high-resolution stock imagery on Life of Pix. Their sister site, Life of Vids, also offers a great range of free videos to download for more animated design.
8. Death to Stock Photos
The name alone voices this website’s hatred of poor quality, cheesy stock photos. Death to Stock Photos sends out ten brand new photos by email on a weekly basis. They even offer editing tips if you want to adjust the photos to suit your style.
9. Superfamous Studios
LA-based Dutch designer Folkert Gorter has given Superfamous Studios as a gift to the creative world. Fascinating imagery of architecture and spanning views is available to download as long as credit is given in your work.
Picjumbo offers a Premium service as well as a fantastic group of stock images which are completely free. Iconic landmarks down to business themes are yours to browse as you please, with a feed of their latest photos ready to view too.
11. IM Free
IM Free prides itself on being a comprehensive collection of free website templates and images for web and graphic designers to explore. Some of these images may need attribution, so do double check, however, the expanse of industries they cater for is very impressive.
12. New Old Stock
New Old Stock offers up an abundance of vintage stock images; all of which are incredibly versatile for web design, blogs and print. From antique cars to aged items, the strong theme of this website is its biggest allure.
13. Get Refe
Get Refe fills the void of natural looking desktop and mobile images which were missing from the stock photo market. Lifestyle, food and business help build the repertoire of striking imagery and make this website a go-to for designers.
The Creative Commons Zero act has granted designers another gem in the form of freestock.org. The food and lifestyle sections of this website are especially renowned and each image is marked with a hashtag for a more direct search.
15. Snapwire Snaps
Snapwire gives designers the gift of 7 free stock images every 7 days, so when inspiration is running dry there’s always more on the way! Turning mundane situations into beautiful photos is what they do best, and there are hundreds to choose from.
16. Jay Mantri
Jay Mantri wants designers to make magic with his array of free photos. Considering the enchanted hue of his imagery, that won’t be hard. New photos are posted every Thursday for designers to use, with a strong emphasis on travel, nature and landscapes.
17. Tookapic stock
There’s a massive selection of free photos and premium images on Tookapic. The useful tool lets you filter down to the free ones and the Curated Collections segments categorise images for more concentrated themes.
An assortment of photographers including Dave Meier all contribute to this sleek and professional stock photo site. The search bar makes it easy to narrow down your choices, and a sample of free photos are delivered to you by email each month.
19. MMT Stock
Bright and superbly high-res images submitted by Jeffrey Betts can be found on MMT Stock, from defined florals to workspaces and computers. They’re all free for commercial use and ideal for any design project that needs a dash of colour.
20. Kaboon Pics
Kaboon features photos according to season, which proves useful when you’re wanting to find a photo fast. Everything from abstract architecture to mouth-watering food snaps can be downloaded for free.
Makerbook probably houses the biggest expanse of stock images for start-ups and small businesses who want business themed imagery without the awful, classic corporate feel.
The amount of free photos on Pixabay is nearing 1 million, and it remains a strong favourite in the graphic and web design world. Free vectors and illustrations are also available to compliment the stunning photography.
Another website which also offers free video footage alongside their stock photos; travel and technology are the favourite themes of Pexels. The leader board ranks the site’s most popular photos and even shows the most searched terms of fellow designers.
24. Free Images
With over 16,000 free stock photos in their collection, Free Images is one of the UK's leading royalty free sites available. Everything from intricate photos of clock mechanisms to glorious photos of foods can be found, giving a wide range of options to graphic designers.
25. ISO Republic
ISO Republic is so special because of the huge number of photographers that contribute to the stock photo site. It, in turn, has become one of the most diverse and inspiring places to find free imagery.
Re:splashed offers no less than 1163 high resolution free photos to use on web and design projects, be them commercial or personal. Nature, landscapes and abstract photography are the main offenders, each with amazing definition.
Stock Pic focus on creative lifestyle photography that gets sent by email every two weeks. Bright landscapes, backgrounds and fashion are hugely popular.
Bucketlistly plays on the wanderlust of its viewers by showing probably the most enviable collection of free travel photography from around the world. The free photos can be found in the navigation bar at the top, which are submitted by travellers themselves and given as a gift to designers who want some worldly charm in their work.
Cupcake hosts beautiful “do whatever you want” images drawing from nature, people and technology. Although you’re completely free to the photos, they love to see the results of their photos, so you’re welcome to showcase the work you create with their free images!
Rawpixel's mission is to bring designers the materials they crave. The website is a community of creatives who aim to connect, share and inspire through their concepts and imagery. The images range from delectable foods to poignant relationships that resonate immediately with the viewer. Even better? They've partnered with Hope for Children to help the world's younger generation grow to be the best they can.
The rise in free stock photos has been an absolute blessing to graphic designers and web designers worldwide. The fact that any photographer around the world can submit their beautiful photography for others to use is a wonderful gift, and serves as massive inspiration when paid services show their limitations!