This post is partly selfish to alleviate some guilt I’ve been feeling. I’ve used some images from one of my favorite royalty-free sites and I didn’t source them (more on this below). I didn’t have to; there isn’t a specific attribution mandate to do so. But even still, I like to give credit where credit is due.
Before I share my list, please take note of these two things:
1. Always check the legalese for usage specification, limitations and attribution policy. And know that even for royalty-free images with Creative Commons Zero licensing, there are still situations in which you could get yourself into trouble. For example, associating a specific product to a specific person who has not officially endorsed it. Or using the image in a hateful or embarrassing manner.
2. There are pros and cons to using free stock photos. For one … free. A lot of the photographs and images are really quite beautiful and you might wonder how people could possibly give their artwork away for free. But then you realize it’s a gift. And maybe free publicity on their part, and that’s okay. The downside is that everybody has access to use the images. If you start using royalty-free images, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll notice those same images in other places. If you’re okay with this, read on.
What: Free hi-resolution photos
This site has a great mix of people, landscapes, nature and retro photography. Submit your email address and subscribe to get 10 new photos every 10 days. Two images for the Snowbird Creatives home page sliders came from Unsplash (and I’ve seen them elsewhere!). I hope to one day photograph my own images for the home page but for now, I am gratefully using these images:
What: More than 660,000 stock photos, vectors and art illustrations
This site is great because it offers vectors and illustrations in addition to photographs and the search function has filters to whittle down your results to something more tangible.
Source: Gerd Altmann, https://pixabay.com/en/users/geralt-9301/
3. Stock Snap
What: Hundreds of images that are added weekly
If you sign up, you’ll get images sent straight to your inbox. You can see what images are trending and which have been downloaded the most to help you when deciding what to use or not use.
Source: Kai Oberhäuser, http://www.ko-foto.de
What: Daily upload of image(s) by a sole photographer
Daniel Nanescu recently quit his day job as a graphic designer to work full time on his SplitShire site of two years. In a recent blog post, he mentions a desire to upload five or more images a day — a benefit we reap from his career change. Thanks Daniel!
Source: Daniel Nanescu, http://www.splitshire.com/road-into-the-woods/
What: Free hi-res images, added weekly
This is the second site on this list centered around a sole photographer’s work and it’s definitely worth your time visiting. “Whimsical” is the term photographer Ryan McGuire calls his work and it’s a refreshing take on the “stock photo.” Submit your email for new picture alerts and to give your ideas for an upcoming shoot. Not guaranteed to be created, but cool idea. I’ll have to keep watching and waiting to see if my “bubble wrap + star lanterns + unicorns” picture ever surfaces. It’s really the little things in life.
Source: Ryan McGuire, http://gratisography.com/#whimsical
This list is a small sampling of sites offering royalty-free stock photos and images. But before you use any of them, make sure to check the legalese for attribution and usage parameters and be okay with the fact that you’ll likely come across other folks in the interwebs using the same free images as you.