How To Find Free Stock Photos
Before I dive into the actual image sites it’s important to understand copyright and the image owner’s rights. My goal is to help you not only find quality images for your needs but also to help you be respectful of the owner’s rights.
As defined by Merriam-Webster, copyright is “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” Copyright refers to something created as soon as it’s created. It can be published or unpublished. The creator does not need to do anything special to have this right. It is theirs automatically once they create something.
I know you want to grab the attention of your audience. And likely want to do so without spending a lot or anything at all. That’s really why you’re here, but I want to make sure you think about what you agree to when you download an image. Quite simply, if you don’t have permission don’t use it. Finding FREE stock photos from reputable websites and understanding the licensing agreements for each is cumbersome. So, today I share 5 stock photo websites and breakdown their licensing agreements. Please note they do change and you want to stay up to date with their current licensing agreements.
Up first is Unsplash. This site offers a Creative Commons Zero license. This 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” or the site you found it on. Simply put, you are free to use the photos for your needs. The following image came from their site.
Another favorite is Morguefile. Their site is different, they allow for you to adapt the image, use the image commercially, and accompany the image with other content. However, you may not use it on a stand alone. “You can not sell, license, sublicense, rent, transfer or distribute this image exactly as it is without alteration, or if you don’t alter the image and leave it exactly as it is, then you must credit the photographer to use it. (Suggested credit byline: Photo by <photographer’s username> at Morguefile.com) You may also not claim ownership of this image in its original state.”
Another favorite is SplitShire. Their licensing is similar to Unsplash but they specifically list how you may use the images:
- Website or Mobile App
- Advertising Materials
- Image Placeholders for Bloggers or Websites
- Image Placeholders/Backgrounds in Templates for Sell
- Part of Template for Sell
- Social Media
- Magazines – Ebooks
- Book Covers
- Music Artwork
- Software Applications
- Personal & Commercial works
And, how you may not use their images:
- You can’t sell the photo as it is. The standalone version is given to you for free.
- No third-party stock websites.
- The use of SplitShire free photos is not allowed in projects that have inappropriate content such as but not limited to any material that incites or promotes violence, racism, any discrimination, prejudice or intolerance toward any individual or group, religion, sexuality, gender, political view.
The following image comes from SplitShire called Black & Red BodyPainting.
Another stock photo source is Pixabay. Their terms are “released under Creative Commons CC0. To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived their copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images and Videos. You are free to adapt and use them for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although not required, a link back to Pixabay is appreciated.
a) Images and Videos depicting identifiable persons may not be used for pornographic, unlawful or other immoral purposes, or in a way that can give a bad name to people, or imply endorsement of products and services by those persons, brands, organizations, etc.
b) Since Pixabay does not require a written Model Release for each Image or Video that shows identifiable people, We cannot guarantee that You will be able to use the Content for any purpose You like.
c) Certain Images or Videos may be subject to additional copyrights, property rights, trademarks etc. and may require the consent of a third party or the license of these rights. Pixabay does not represent or make any warranties that it owns or licenses any of the mentioned, nor does it grant them.”
The following is by msandersmusic found on Pixabay.
Another site, although with little less creative freedom, is Picography. Their terms include: you may not resell the images. You may sell templates with images. All of these photos can be used as editorial images. And you may use the images for commercial work but if there are models/property you will need releases for them.
The following image is from Picography by Dave Meier.
I hope this helps you consider how you will use stock photos in the future to preserve the owner’s rights as well as your own.
Do you have a favorite stock photo site?