Using Free Photos

By John Repplinger

Not everyone has the time, resources, or talent to make their own graphics.  So for those of us who fall into this group, below is a list of some incredible tools that will help you locate millions of free images that can be used legally.  You may not know that an artist who takes a photo or creates a graphic has the legal right to share or distribute copies of their work.  This legal right is known as copyright, and permission must be granted by the artist to legally use the image.

It is important to note that there are some limits to copyright, such as the Fair Use guidelines (details at  Nonprofit educational purpose is probably the most common copyright exception.  For example, students may use images for a class paper and instructors are in most cases allowed to use images for class instruction since it is for educational purposes.  Just make sure to cite where you found it so you don’t plagiarize!

Pexels – This site offers hundreds of thousands of high quality professional-grade photos.  All photos on Pexels are free for personal and commercial purposes, and each picture has been reviewed for high quality.

Pixabay – Over 1.5 million royalty-free professional stock photos and videos are shared by the Pixabay community.

Unsplash – Similar to Pinterest, the images on Unsplash can be browsed by keyword on a single ever-scrolling page of photos.  All of the 550,000+ images are free.

Flickr Creative Commons – With over 55 million images, Flickr is one of the largest photo-sharing platforms around.  Most Flickr users have chosen to offer their work for free under a Creative Commons license.  This means you are free to use the photos by attributing the artist, not changing the photo, and not using it for commercial purposes. Anyone can upload photos, so some of the images are not high quality.

Every Stock Photo – Over 29 million free photos from various organizations such as NASA and the Library of Congress.

Stock Vault – This is a free community where photographers and artists share their own high quality photos and illustrations.  There are thousands of high quality images that range from people, animals, plants, buildings, landscapes, textures, and even concepts.

Google Images – Major search engines such as Google can usually limit results to specific usage rights (e.g. free to use, share, or modify, even commercially).  These limits are typically found under the advanced search option. Bing is another search engine that offers this same feature.

Free Images – Browse through thousands of professional photos, some of which may require attributing the photographer.

Ancestry Images – Besides genealogical info, Ancestry Images includes historical maps, images, and prints, most of which come from around the 1800s.

Free Digital Photos – This site has thousands of high quality photos of people in settings that range from weddings to business, but the results can sometimes blend with the professional for-profit work.

Photo Pin – Photo Pin is an image search engine for the Creative Commons, and also suggests high quality for-purchase images.