A high-quality image is an important part of any successful website and must be addressed with the same accuracy as textual content.
Images and photos have a direct impact on user experience and conversion rate. A proper use of image content can increase engagement and help to build visual associations with your brand and information.
Nevertheless choosing images for your website can be tough in terms of pricing. There are tons of stock image websites owned by huge players like Getty Images offering high-resolution stock images for whatever you need. But at the end of the day, it can become costly for your business to purchase stock images for your multiple articles.
The good news is that there is an alternative to search for free high-resolution stock images. These images are available for personal and commercial use. There are many free hi-res image stock websites offering premium quality photos to choose from. Yet, it can be tough to discover them. This is why we have collected a list of best free premium stock image websites to help you out.
And if you are not sure whether you should use images on your website we have collected valuable facts that will help you change your mind towards visual thinking just below the list.
List of free stock image websites
Below you will discover a non-prioritized list of free stock image websites. These websites offer high-quality CC0 photos and visual materials for personal and business use.
RawPixel offers free images for commercial use. Located in the UK and office in Thailand, RawPixel aims to create a community to power non-traditional stock photos.
The goal of the resource is to avoid typical stock photos in order to offer high-quality content. The benefit of the RawPixel is easy to use a favorite feature, but you will need to register in order to download images (really fast and hassle-free.)
Search: Yes (Including Favorite option)
StockSnap stock image website is managed by Snappa and contains only free images of highest quality.
All images on StockSnap are distributed under Creative Commons licenses and the list of images is getting updated on the daily basis. Easy to use search allows you to quickly discover trending and favorite images and sort them.
In order to honor image author StockSnap provides information about the author which also serves as an additional sorting mechanism. This makes discovery of similar style images easier.
Gratisography offers a collection of free stock images created by Ryan McGuire and made by Bells Design.
It offers a quick ajax search which allows you to quickly discover beautiful hi-res images. In addition to search, it is also possible to quickly sort images by several predefined categories to narrow results.
One of the interesting things is that there is no detailed description of an image available, clicking on the image will instantly download it. But I believe it can save you some time during the daily routine.
Sorting: By Category
Unsplash is a well-known free stock photo resource managed by Crew.co.
Thanks to the huge database, you can find almost any type of photo and even build your collections (Yes, you can create several collections and ‘like’ photos.) One of the benefits I like myself is an option to view photos either in a list or grid view.
The new option of Unsplash even allows you to follow other users to see what do they like.
Sorting: By Author, Favorites, Collections
This a bit different stock image resource curated by Cole Townsend and focused on vintage images. New Old Stock is a collection of retro stock images available for personal and commercial use collected from public archives.
There is no search or sorting available making discovery process an infinite scroll. Nevertheless, there are really cool pieces of art you could use when you need some inspiration. Simply scroll down and wait for a “click” or “tada” sound in your mind
KaboomPics is stock image resource managed by graphic designer Karolina Grabowska from Poland.
The resource offers high-resolution images collected in several categories and described with tags. The tag structure is very wide allowing you quickly navigate through image collection to discover great images.
At the moment KaboomPics has over 1500 free stock images to choose from and the number is growing on a daily basis.
Sorting: By Category, Tags
Pixabay is a huge resource of free stock images, vectors, and illustrations currently offering more than 590,000 materials for personal and business use.
All images on Pixababy are released under Creative Commons ensuring you are in a full compliance with the copyrights (no attribution required.)
The interesting part of the Pixabay is that it offers their own API for searching and retrieving images and videos which are released under Creative Commons. The API is well documented and if you have good coding skills you can easily make your own free stock image resource based on Pixabay collection.
Sorting: By Category, Tags
Fancycrave offers free high-resolution stock images from top photographers with around 2 new images appearing daily. You can discover images by simply browsing or using search mechanism. In addition to search, Fancycrave offers categories and tag system which is wide enough to use it for search.
Fancycrave is created and curated by designer & photographer Igor Ovsyannykov who aims to offer free stock image website that has authentic, emotionally driven and storytelling content. The very start of Fancrycrave was February 2015 when Igor decided to share his own photos from a trip around Asia.
Sorting: By Category, Tags
Foodshot offers free high-resolution stock images of food and beverages.
Although it is really narrow website this is a great resource once you need food photos of really good quality. Foodshot is curated by Foodscene and it is also looking for contributors for their stock image resource.
All the images on Foodshot are released under Creative Commons license which allows them to be used for personal and business purpose.
The downside of the Foodshot that it does not offer search, category or tag mechanism to quickly navigate across collection and discover the right content.
Sorting: By Category
PicJumbo is a stock photo resource that offers a comprehensive database of free images backed up by technical details.
In case, you are a designer who cares about shutter, aperture, iso, and focal length, you should give PicJumbo a well-deserved tryout.
PicJumbo has a piece of cake for web design businesses, like website builders, as they are offering re-distribution packages that allow incorporating their photos into products to please your End-Client.
The good option of PicJumbo is so-called ‘Related Images’ that allows you to quickly discover some nice photos that fit together well (something I am looking into all the time as well.)
Sorting: By Collection, Tags, Related Images
A library of free stock images with thousands of photos available for free download.
There is no registration required, simply browse the catalog or use search to discover awesome images and click download. The nice feature is to sort images by trendy, latest, views, favorites, and downloads which may help you not to start from scratch every time you need an image.
The interesting thing is associations available under the search which helps you to find related images in a smart way by presenting associated tags to your search query, try it out.
Sorting: By Collection, Tags
Images and engagement
Allocating right images and incorporating them into your content can be tough. You must be able to discover the right images that are able to deliver the same story you have in your article. They must drag user attention and raise interest in your content so you can have an opportunity to deliver your information.
Our brain processes tons of information and 90% of it is visual, this is why average visitor of your website will intuitively scan your article for visual content – something that he can catch on. Visitors who discover visual content will likely spend more time and will be more interested in your article. The data shows that blog posts with images are likely to receive 94% more visitors than those without images. Images have a direct impact on engagement and encourage visitors to interact with the content.Articles with images receive 100% more mentions on social media. Click To Tweet
If you care about engagement then you should know that articles with images receive 100% more mentions on social media. This means that you will receive more Facebook ‘Likes’ and Twitter ‘tweets’ which will, of course, promote your content and brings more traffic to your website. Even simple presence of images in Facebook post and Tweet can significantly increase content reach. In fact, almost 50% online marketers state that using images is critical for the success of storytelling.
And it’s not only about images, as they also impact visitor’s attitude towards other types of content. Articles with images have 65% more chances to be remembered after few days than those who were based on a pure text.
Social media image size guide
Taking into account the importance of visual content for social media it is crucial to follow requirements of the most popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It is highly recommended to ensure that your images are aligned with the standards and will look good on different social media.
Depending on your content, target audience and goals you may want to focus on specific networks or aim to cover as much as possible. Remember that images from your articles can be automatically parsed to social networks and you don’t want to get important parts hidden. Below you can find a quick image size guide that will help you create images that suit social media just perfect:
- Facebook – 1200 x 628
- Twitter – 1024 x 512
- LinkedIn – 800 x 800
- Google+ – 800 x 1200
- Pinterest – 735 x 1102
- Instagram – 1080 x 1080
All these sizes could look confusing in terms of time spent preparing each and every image, but there is good news – services like Pablo can help you create engaging images in the right sizes in no time. And in the case of Pablo, it is worth to mention that it is connected to various stock image websites offering you more than 60,000 images to choose from.
Stock image licenses explained
With all the information about image usage and impact on your business there is last, but not least, topic to cover. Licensing is an important part when you are working with external content and even more important when you are looking for free content. This is why it is important to understand the very basics of stock image licensing.
All the stock image websites within this article allow using images and graphic materials for personal and business use without any restrictions. These images are typically available under Creative Commons license type – one of the most popular public copyright licenses used when an author gives other rights to share, use and build on the top of their work. By using Creative Commons licensed images you can ensure that you are in a full compliance with the copyrights to stay safe. In fact, having knowledge about Creative Commons allows you instantly look for resources which offer free stock images under Creative Commons.
At the same time, I’m sure you will discover more stock image websites and their image licensing may vary. This is why it is beneficial to understand the basic principle of image licensing, especially if you have decided to purchase stock image instead of using free images. Images from paid stock websites can be divided into 2 main groups – Royalty Free and Rights Managed.
Royalty Free type allows you to use images on any resource without significant restrictions as long as it complies with the licensing terms. This means you can use them in any application, web resource, size and an infinite period of time. It is important to understand that even Royalty Free license type contains word ‘free’ it does not mean you can use those images for free. You will still need to purchase Royalty Free license for each image, but you will have to do it only once in comparison to Rights Managed.
The Rights Managed is the most advanced license for stock images which can put restrictions on specific industry, a period of time, medium and so on. For example if you decide not to use images in print you don’t need to pay for it – instead, you will have to pay only for including those images into your website. Images under Rights Managed are an exclusive piece of content available for a high price and ensuring that for a certain period of time you will be the only one who will use it.
Even there are tons of free stock image websites available it is sometimes hard to discover free high-quality images. In this article, we have collected the best free image stock websites in our opinion able to power up your website. We have taken into account a variety of content, quality, usability and update rate. All these factors have a high impact and ensure that chosen websites can become regular resources for graphic content materials in your daily content management routine.
In addition, we have covered basic principles of using images and looked into marketing research data in order to understand the importance of graphic content. We also learned basic principles of stock image licensing which will allow you to ensure that your content is in full compliance with the copyright laws.