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The web is an incredibly visual place and photography is an integral (and essential) part of pretty much any website these days.
Taking really great pictures, however, generally takes time and skill, so free photo sites like Unsplash are an incredible resource for bloggers or new website startups on a budget.
I used to use the free photo site Pixabay all the time (and still do), but I particularly love Unsplash because of the sheer quality of the photos. They just seem to have an earthier, more unique and creative feel.
Recent research also suggests our attention span on the web is down to around 8 seconds (apparently goldfish have a longer attention span at 9 seconds!). So this really hits home how important it is that everything on your website has impact.
Pictures really can be worth a thousand words…
As well as free photo sites like Unsplash, I’ll also cover some paid alternatives below, as well as some great image tools and plugins that might make your life just that little bit easier.
A Note About Photo Usage Licenses
Photo licenses can be an absolute minefield and you should never use a photo you don’t own copyright to, unless you are absolutely certain it’s OK to do so.
This is another reason free stock photo sites like Unsplash are so great.
Because their photos are generally licensed under Creative Commons Zero, which essentially means ‘you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer’ (although attribution is always appreciated).
Always check the terms of the individual free stock photo sites, though, to be sure of their terms (some do require a photo credit, for example).
Finding free photo sites with high resolution, high quality photos, which are also free to use, can, however, be a bit of a hassle.
So here are 9 photo sites like Unsplash (10 including Unsplash!), where you can pick up some amazing free photos. Most of the free photo sites featured distribute photos under the Creative Commons Zero license at the time of writing this post.
Free Photo Sites Like Unsplash
Photo: Gabby Orcutt on Unsplash
Unsplash add 10 new photos every day and the quality of the photos is exceptional. You can search for photos using the search box or browse through one of their curated collections.
Photos are all licensed under Creative Commons Zero, so you can pretty much use the photos as you like. These photos are taken by creatives for creatives, so expect high quality, artistic shots from stunning landscapes to enticing foodie images. You’ll also find a range of more generic shots themed around a host of categories – from money & travel to nature & sports.
Photo: Free-Photos on Pixabay
Until I discovered Unsplash, Pixabay was my go to resource. I still love it, but you do have to search around a bit more for the really good shots and this can be time consuming. Still a fantastic resource though, especially if you know exactly what you want.
Photos are fully searchable and licensed under Creative Commons Zero. Also includes videos, vector graphics and illustrations.
Photo: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography
If you’re looking for a high quality photo with some real character or something a little more off the wall, Gratisography is your man. All photos are taken by artist Ryan Mcquire, are of high resolution quality and released under the Creative Commons Zero license.
New pictures are added every week.
I love Pexels. It’s got a huge range of high quality, high resolution photos, including some amazing landscape shots. A great ‘all in one’ site that offers some of your bog standard stock photos, mixed in with some more creative shots.
All photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero license.
Photo: Bench Accounting, Stocksnap.io
I only discovered StockSnap.io recently and like Unsplash it offers some really unique, high quality photos to choose from. The site includes the best free photos curated from around the web, as well as contributions from their own network of photographers.
Photos are added daily, are easily searchable and fall under the Creative Commons CC0 license.
Photo: Viktor Hanacek, Picjumbo
Picjumbo was started by a designer who struggled to find good stock photos, so he took his own and set up Picjumbo. Photos include a wide range of subjects and are fully searchable.
You are free to use photos for your own use, but there are some restrictions. Also includes a Premium Membership, where you get access to more shots.
Photo: Ilya Yakover, Negative Space.
Negative Space offer a pretty extensive range of photos under the Creative Commons CCO License. Photos are easy to search for via the search box or within the clearly defined categories.
Categories include architecture, art and design, people, nature, food and drink, business and travel.
Kaboompics is a another great resource for high quality photos across a range of categories, including abstract, city and architecture, food and drinks, fashion and nature.
Photos are free for commercial use but can’t be sold or redistributed.
Photo: Christian Ispas, Snapwire Snaps
Snapwire Snaps add 7 new photos every 7 days. Photos are searchable and are distributed under the Creative Commons Zero license. Bit more of a mish mash of shots than some other sites, but still some decent images if you look for them.
If you subscribe, you’ll get sent the new photos automatically each week. Don’t get it confused with the main Snapwire site, which includes shots you need to pay for.
Photo: Jay Mantri
Jay Mantri offers some unique photos across a range of subjects, all of which he takes himself. If you like more abstract shots, this site could be for you.
All photos are distributed under the Creative Commons Zero license, with new pictures from Jay’s collection added periodically.
More Free Stock Photo Sites For You
The free photo sites above are by no means exhaustive, but these are my own personal favourites and some of the best and most reliable sites out there for high quality, high resolution, free stock photos.
Feminine Styled Free Stock Photos
If you’re a Mom blogger or online creative looking specifically for more feminine styled photos, I’ve written a separate post on that here. It featured 15 great resources where you can pick up free stock photos with a more girly, feminine feel to them – everything from styled desktop shots to shots with lots of white space for text or Pinterest!
Paid Stock Photo Site Options
Free stock photo sites are a fantastic resource, but, at some point, you may decide you want to take your photos to the next level with a paid stock photo site. The benefits of a paid service include:
- better quality of shots
- loads more choice
- less searching around sifting out the quality shots from the mediocre
- more chance of better finding images that fit your identity or brand
- less likelihood of a photo popping up as often on other sites, due to the sheer level of choice available.
A Note About Licenses on Paid Stock Photo Sites
Whereas most of the photos on the free stock photo sites above are licensed under Creative Commons, paid stock photo sites are generally licensed under Royalty Free. What this means is that you essentially pay a fee to use the photo, without having a tonne of restrictions placed upon you.
The following are a couple of popular options:
Features over 4 million quality images, with value that is hard to beat, especially if you’re a high volume user.
One of the top stock photo sites around, Dreamtime is more expensive, but it boasts 61 million high quality stock images. It also offers a free photo area, but the shots aren’t as good as the paid ones.
Recommended Image Editing Software
If you’re using stock images on your blog or website, you’ll also need an image editor to resize or crop them, add text overlays or simply reduce the file size (so they are not jumbo size, which can seriously slow down your blog). If you don’t already have one you use, I’ve listed some of my image editor favourites below.
The number 1 image editing software offers absolutely everything you could possibly need to get the most out of your digital photos. It used to be too expensive for most, but Adobe have recently introduced very affordable Creative Cloud subscription plans.
Whilst it won’t give you what Photoshop can, if you want a reliable free photo editor, Pixlr is a powerful online app that does the job well. I use this a lot.
Simple to use photo editing, collage making and graphic design software. Hugely popular for easily creating stand out Pinterest graphics. There’s a free version, but you get a lot more with the very affordable paid option. This is a great value tool for bloggers and affiliate marketers.
Similar to Picmonkey, with less photo editing opportunities, but more pre-made templates for web and print designs. Like Picmonkey, Canva is popular for social media graphics. Many people rave about Picmonkey being their go to tool for social media graphics, but I’m personally a big fan of Canva. Free and paid versions.
Image Compression Software For WordPress
Large image files can seriously slow down your site. This is not good from a user point of view, plus Google doesn’t like it either. So if you run a blog on WordPress, the WP Smush plugin will automatically reduce the file size of your images for you. If you’re not on WordPress, Photoshop will create low file size ‘web ready’ versions for you.