Many smaller businesses struggle with finding free image libraries that look good. Creating content is a challenge when you don’t have the budget for stock library subscription and don’t have the time to ask permission to use photos.
Many small businesses need to wade in the waters of relying on free Creative Commons content – but never fear. Just because it’s free, it doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
For those new to it, Creative Commons is the opposite of copyright. Images under the Creative Commons license means that anyone can use the images for free. However, there are six creative commons licenses which outline additional rules for how you can use every specific image: whether you need to attribute it, whether you must use it non-commercially, or whether you are not allowed to create a derivative work.
However, there is one killer license under Creative Commons which is useful if your job requires you create a lot of content in a hurry. That is the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. It means that you can use the content for free, including commercially, and not attribute it.
Here’s my list of sites that have stunning images, all of which are licensed under CC0 which means they are totally legal to use for whatever you want.
I’ve put them into categories to make it a bit easier to find what you’re after and I’ve put a ‘fave’ next to the sites I particularly love.
Straight Up Stock Photo Libraries
Start Up Stock Photos
Need some pictures of some cool kids with laptops in a warehouse doing some crazy Silicon Valley-style tech stuff? This site nails it, with loads of photos of tech start-ups. It’s in the name!
An iWatch, corn, a snowy wood. This site is beautiful site getting stock photos of thing you’d need fairly often.
Just watch out for the sneaky site design. Scroll down to get to the free pics as the ones at the top need to be bought.
Check out StokPic.com
This site is the arm of a web design site, where there is a wide variety of high-quality stock photos in categories like business, health, tech, food, sport, fitness. They’ve also got templates and icons too.
Check out I’m Creator
Plixs is a stunning stock photo site that you should totally bookmark. Beautiful shots of cities, surfers, snoozy dogs, cautious debutants and carefree goats. Get it in on it.
U Pic M
“U Pic M” is a CC0 site with a good variety of stock photos covering urban, landscapes, food and people looking into the distance.
This site is a good stock library for your day-to-day stock photo needs – ice-cream, a path in the woods, a garage, a photographer.
The other site I also want to highlight is Wikimedia – the media arm of Wikipedia. Now, not every photo is CC0, but it’s a great place to find very specific shots of obscure things.
Need a shot of a cat yawning or stretching? Or playing with yarn? It’s got it! Just check the attribution in the corner of each image to see if it’s CC0 or requires attribution.
Daily Life Shots
These beautiful photos cover urban life: whether ti’s a train tunnel, street art or a person wandering on a beach at dusk.
Skitterphoto is a stock image library that focuses more on daily life. Bicyclists, boxers, coffee and ducks are the essentials you’ll find here.
Snapwire Snapsis another beautiful Tumblr, with photos attributed via CC0. The shots are urban life – close up of flowers, a bored girl on a car trip, a lemon dissected on a bench, or a man tipping his toes in the water at dawn.
Je Shoots is a site from a photographer who wants photos to be free. This site is a sweet resource for urban environments and daily life shots.
MoveEast is a Portuguese photographer taking photos of his travels. Many of his photos are of urban crowds like music festivals, cycling races, sports crowds or magic shows. Ace shots if you’re looking for shots to show a city alive.
2017 edit: http://monisphoto.com/ has also got a great variety of images, too!
Pexels is great stock image library for beautiful landscapes, cityscapes, and animals.
Jay Mantri is a photographer taking incredible landscape shots and close-up shots of objects like wood, bedsheets and elephants, kindly releasing his work as CC0.
Unsplash is a site with series of very captivating photos of landscapes and nature. These would be beautiful for inspirational posters – or your computer desktop!
Little Visuals is a site that no longer updates, but is a stunning selection of landscapes and macro shots.
This site is a Tumblr of stunning landscapes and textures with high exposure.
Travel Coffee Book
Travel Coffee Book is a site documenting travel photos. Covering a wide variety of locations, which is a good site that might be of use if you need pictures of a particular place – but, sorry, it’s not searchable.
Life Of Pix
A man holding a firecracker, the mountains outside the view of a train dining car or the view over a foreign city. Life Of Pix is a stunning collection of urban and landscape photos that are a unique take on the world.
SplitShire is a collection of photos that fall more into the category of ‘art’. These would accompany beautiful powerpoints or ad campaigns – but cover a rich variety of areas, from automotive, technology, fashion to interiors.
This site would fall into the category of ‘art’ more than generic stock photos. Beautiful shots of a man eating fistfuls of cheezels, a set of torn up jeans or an old, tired security guard at the end of his shift. These are stunning shots – but might not be for your everyday post!
This site is a collection of stunning food based stock photos. This photographer and his girlfriend cook and take snaps of these mouth-watering meals and categorize them for you to use for free.
Scatterjar is a set of food photos free for creatives to use. These photos look like they were shot in Nanna’s kitchen with gorgeous, homely photos that are magazine quality. This is a stellar site to keep in mind if you need food photos.
Any others I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!