Visual marketing has always been the number one way to attract business. Your eyes can process up to 36,000 pieces of visual information per hour, so it's no wonder that companies and entrepreneurs need stunning imagery to capture and hold customers' and clients' attention. Whether you are creating videos or just adding images, you need high-quality images to help shape the visual representation of your brand.
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Yes, some stock photo sites can feel like they're a dime a dozen, and you end up seeing the same images site after site, creating a time-consuming and exhausting search. But there are sites out there offering free stock photos for commercial use that are high-quality, captivating, and unique.
If you're looking for the best free stock photo sites to help your business stand apart from the rest, read on.
Essential Things to Know Before You Use Free Stock Photos
It's vital that you read exactly what a photo site and the photo's owner are offering before you download and use free images. Some images require a one-time payment for commercial use, while others are completely free. The use licenses vary from site to site, so let's look at some terms you'll often see when looking for free stock photos.
Creative Commons is an international network and nonprofit organization that facilitates the sharing and use of creative works and knowledge through free legal tools. A Creative Commons license offers a standardized way of granting public permission to use creative works.
There are various types of Creative Commons licenses that have different rules for use and attribution, so when you find an ideal image that is under a Creative Commons license, be sure to check which one.
When creative work is in the public domain, it means that it is free and open for the public to use, as exclusive rights do not apply to the work. The ownership rights of these works may have expired, been waived or forfeited, or may be inapplicable. However, just because photos are free to view and download online does not mean they are in the public domain.
Royalty-free stock photos are often mistakenly thought of as wholly free, but that is not necessarily the case. A royalty is something that is paid for the ongoing use of an asset. If you paid a royalty for the use of an image, it would mean that you have to continue paying through the duration of your use.
Royalty-free images often require a one-time payment for the initial use of an image but do not require ongoing payments for the right to continue use.
The Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Finding the best free stock photos for commercial use can be a challenging task, but if you know where to look, then you're starting in a great place.
Unsplash offers a vast catalog of high-quality free photos through its Unsplash license. In fact, the above image was sourced from Julian Reinhart's Unsplash page — attribution wasn't a requirement for use, but the Unsplash license states that it is appreciated.
Pexels offers an excellent, well-organized collection of free images and a straightforward license that allows you to use all of its photos for free with only suggested attribution. Pexels also offers free videos, and its license allows you to edit photos to fit your specific needs.
Offering thousands of free images, Burst is specifically beneficial to the e-commerce business owner. Owned by Shopify, Burst has both fully free and royalty-free images that cover categories like work from home, mental health, women photographers, and technology.
Pixabay offers one of the most impressive databases of business and marketing-related free images. Its free photos are high-quality, and it also provides free vectors and illustrations for when you're in need of images for business presentations.
Nappy's free images zoom in on subjects that represent our world's diversity by focusing on individuals with brown and black skin tones. Its photos are offered under the Creative Commons CC0 license, which allows you to edit and use images for free for both personal and commercial use. It also has a great feature that will enable you to request specific images if you're not finding what you're looking for on the site.
Canva is a comprehensive graphic design site used to create social media images, attractive resumes, and a slew of other visual assets. Combine this with the free stock photos it offers, and it makes it easy to design a unique marketing image for your business.
Vecteezy offers an assorted collection of free stock images and videos. The site has several subscription levels that start with free images and progress into visual assets that you can access through a monthly subscription that allows for unlimited downloads.
The name says it all. FreeImages specializes in free photos, vectors, illustrations, clip art, and more. The website is easy to navigate, and its license allows you to use images for advertising, social media, and blog posts — nearly everything you could need images for. With literally millions of free visual assets to search, FreeImages is overall one of the best free stock photo sites and should be one of the first you use in your search.
Freepik is a great search engine for free stock images that covers free photos, illustrations, PSDs, and more. The images on the site are lively and eye-catching — offering distinctive subjects in their images that stand out. Freepik also occasionally offers discounts for its premium membership.
10. Stock Vault
Stock Vault offers a curated collection of images that may not be as large as other sites on this list, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. It also offers textured backgrounds and 3D renders, which many free photo sites do not have.
Picjumbo offers a variety of free images that require no registration and provides access to stunning premium collections that thoroughly cover holidays and overarching aesthetics and atmospheres that wonderfully capture specific feelings and moments. It also offers a premium subscription that delivers monthly images right to your inbox.
Rawpixel's goal is to have the most diverse collection of free stock photos, and it competes with the likes of Unsplash in that regard. It also offers public domain content and contributes to the Hope for Children charity.
Gratisography boasts that its license allows you to do "almost anything you can think of" with its free images. The free photos on Gratisography are whimsical and quirky — definitely eye-catching and ideal for curating a unique brand image.
14. Morgue File
Morgue File is all about straightforward simplicity. The free photos on Morgue File don't offer the artistry of other sites — instead, it offers free stock photos that speak frankly and directly to your needs.
iStock is one of the most well-known names in stock photography and is always ahead of emerging trends. It constantly uploads new free photos, and with them being associated with Getty Images, you know all the images will be of the highest quality. However, not all images are free, and its premium membership can get pricey.
Make Your Marketing Stand Out with Free Stock Photos
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