Finding Free Stock Images For Your Site

Finding Free Stock Images For Your Site

Free stock images

As Gok Wan is so fond of telling us, looking good doesn’t have to break the bank so of all of the options in our mini series on website graphics, we think number three – free stock images – is going to be the most popular.

The Etiquette of Free

There are some things you need to bear in mind when you’re searching out free stock images online.

  • Is the image released under a Creative Commons license? And if so, what does that license allow you to do?
  • Does the owner of the image require attribution and if so, in what form? An attribution is a form of thank you so don’t forget it if you’re asked for one.
  • If you’re a business, is the image cleared for commercial use? Some are and some aren’t, so make sure that you check the usage guidelines.

Free Stock Image Sites


On average, around 43 million photos are uploaded to Flickr every single month and with the site’s recent redesign and offer of 1TB free storage space, that’s bound to rise as ex-users of the service are tempted back. Many Flickr users choose to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, which means that they are available for you to use, for free, as long as you abide by the stipulations of the license.

CompFight makes finding and using these images easy. Search for any image and, underneath the top two rows of paid stock photos, are several rows of free images. Click on any one of these and you get a pop up box that allows you to see what license the image uses and whether it is suitable for your use, download links for a number of different sizes, and a copy and paste bit of code to correctly attribute the image’s author.


Originally the paper-folders containing old notes and clippings that might be useful quick reference materials for journalists, the term ‘morgue file’ was also adopted by creatives as the file that held their post-production materials for dead jobs. Now, MorgueFile is an online resource containing free, high resolution images. In general, MorgueFile’s contributors allow you to use their images without attribution and in any way excepting in a standalone manner.


This collection of Creative Commons images is built to look just like Pinterest so, if you get on with that structure, this might be the site for you. When you click on an image, the site takes you through to its source and you’re able to download it and find the correct attribution details from there.


Stock.XCHNG is owned by stock media giants, Getty Images but was a thriving community of free sharing photogs long before that. You don’t need to register for an account to download and there are clear and concise usage terms alongside every free stock image on offer.


This site might only be a good hunting ground for you if your website is personal, educational or non-commercial as the majority of images I’ve looked at on there are limited to those uses. Check the Usage Guidelines at the bottom of the page before proceeding.


This site is full of unconventional photographs and you search through them in an unconventional way – by colour. Free to use for commercial and personal projects, the only limits are your creativity. Now… what can I write that makes the use of this picture of a creepy light up bunny statue possible? Watch this space!


You’ll need to register for an account to be able to download these high resolution free stock images, but once you have you’re able to use them for both commercial and personal projects.


No need to register an account for this service and images can be used for both commercial and personal projects.

Free Pixels

No need to register an account for this service and images can be used for both commercial and personal projects.

Free Images from Paid Sites

There is also another way to get your hands on free, high quality images and that is to keep track of what is being offered as the free photo/illustration of the month by the premium sites and download the ones you think you might find a use for in the future. I keep a folder of bookmarks in my browser of sites offering quality free resources and do the rounds every Monday evening to pick up anything useful. In this way, I’ve built up a nice library of resources. Some paid stock images sites also maintain a bonus library of free images that aren’t time limited.


At last count there was a library of 58,018 free images available through this service. All you have to do to access them is sign up for a free account.


There are 487 pages of images available on this site for free.


A good rummage around this site will uncover a good number of freebies. At the moment, there’s a “Free Images” lightbox linked from the front page, and then on each of the media pages there’s another free item. The featured illustration, video and music track change monthly, the photo weekly, but if you click through to the item itself you’ll find that there are more available.


This site provides a very limited library of 15 free images at any one time, however they update on a regular basis so make sure you check back every once in a while to see if anything interesting has been added.


You can find the links to Shutterstock’s free image and vector of the week right on the front page, but sign up for their newsletter when you register and they’ll send you a note every week to remind you to come and get it. My email tends to arrive on a Monday evening and acts as my freebie hunt prompt.


Drop in once a week and scoop up this site’s Image of the Week.


Another site offering a one week only free deal on one of its images.


The makers of ThemeForest have created sister sites for media content, including photos, and once a month they offer you a freebie.

If you know of any other great free image resources that we’ve missed, please let us know about them in the comments.

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