Where can I find good copyright-free images?

6 great sources for copyright-free images

(Now 8 sources!)

Although it’s extremely easy to grab just about any image off the web, it’s not always legal.

First of all, it’s completely false that any image you find by googling is free for the taking. You should always click through to the image and determine whether or not the source page owns the image and all its rights, or whether they’ve bought, borrowed, or stolen it from someone else.

If you find an image in someone else’s blog post, you should leave it alone unless they have verbiage that spells out attribution requirements, and/or provides creative commons info about the image. There are some exceptions, such as fair use of movie stills.

Your safest bet is to go to a site that sells or aggregates images, with their copyright info spelled out.

For free photos, these are my favorite sources:

MorgueFile – Free of charge, and copyright-free, but there appears to be no curation, so the imagery is of hit-or-miss quality.

Unsplash – I was just introduced to this one today (8/4/16), so I haven’t explored it in depth, but it looks like there are some nice images available.

Pixaby – Free and no attribution required. This site has quite a bit of very good quality photography – moreso than most other free sources. Here are a few examples:

sources for copyright-free images sources for copyright-free images sources for copyright-free images

They also offer illustrations, but the quality on those is generally lower. Still some nice bits here and there, though.

PhotoPin – Free of charge, but the search filter is iffy, and the images aren’t always copyright free; you have to click through to Flickr to find out whether they’re “creative commons” — which means you can use them within certain parameters – or “all rights reserved” — in which case you can’t use the image without explicit permission from the owner.

Wikimedia – A database of millions of freely usable media files, with an emphasis on historical and cultural subject matter. The image below is from here.

By Gustaf Carleman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Gustaf Carleman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For paid images on a tight budget, these are my favorite sources:

If you have a little money and less time, your best approach may be royalty-free images. These are professionally-shot and -curated image collections, so you save time, not having to sift through dreck to find good stuff.

sources for copyright-free images

Creative Market – Lots of good images, most ranging from $5 to $14. (Also a great source for fonts and illustrations.)

StockFresh – Prices start as low as $1, but are usually good quality and the site has good search function.

www.istockphoto.com – Huge selection and good quality; excellent search function; most images $36 and up. (They used to be a lot cheaper before Getty bought them out, but this is still inexpensive compared to the old days of rights-managed photo buying.)

Disclosure: Clicking on Creative Market, StockFresh or iStock links above earns me a bit, but I honestly use and like all these sources.

5 thoughts on “Where can I find good copyright-free images?

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