Here’s the truth—you can get by running a large blog without having to pay an expensive monthly subscription for access to a database of stock photography. In fact, there are several beautiful, free databases of stock pictures that have a keen eye for creativity. The results will likely surprise you. Below I list several of my favorites.
I’ve left off a few leading sites because they not only require you to sign up for emails, but you can’t view them immediately without gaining access via your email account.
Burst was created by the leading ecommerce platform Shopify as a way to empower entrepreneurs with quality photos, especially the creative class. Their work is licensed under Creative Commons (CCO) which means you are free to do most anything you need with the picture, although crediting the artist is encouraged.
Creative Commons is an American non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. This is always your safest bet for finding free images! Do note that even Creative Commons recommends that you confirm the image is safe, as they usually just turn up images using other search engines.
This is probably one of my favorite sites for free stock photos as the quality is usually very high and the site states that no attribution is required. At most sometimes you’ll have to enter CAPTCHA to prove that you’re not a computer simply stealing images to create other databases. It is fair to be weary of claims to free images, but see this question and answer posed on Pixabay’s forum in regards to their diligence in ensuring photos are actually safe to use.
Pexels is another database of free stock photography similar to Pixabay. It has stunning, high quality pictures and it also claims that all of its images are under Creative Commons licenses and do not require attribution.
Unsplash is a database of Creative Commons photos whose tagline is, “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” It is owned and run by Crew, a freelance database agency. Their pictures are simply stunning.
Here’s another database that seems to pride itself in taking down the stock photography industry. They claim their photos are free, but you do have to offer your email in exchange for access. Their aim is “to be just like coffee for the modern creative.”
Here is another database that require you offer your email in exchange for access, but whose picture quality makes it worth it. They also have a premium option that claims they’ll give you photos that are exclusive to you, and have never been published anywhere before.
This is a fun database, as you’ll immediately notice that they are a silly take on stock photography. All images were done by one photographer though, so of course this means that this will be reflected in the selection available.
The Public Domain Archive is probably your safest best for making sure you have copyright-free photography. The nice thing about this database is that there is a nice category menu on the right side, but you’ll quickly come to realize the limited selection here as well after you get two pages in.
Disclaimer: Copyright laws should be observed carefully and users should do their own research to verify whether an image is legally allowed to be reproduced on a place like a blog or website. I make no final claim that any of these sources are properly set up in a way that legally gives permission for their use.