Choosing the right stock photo for your online content is important because it’s the first thing people see before clicking on your article, course, or link. In this article, I will list the best 25 websites that I have found for royalty-free stock photos.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so at the end, you will find all the major websites that I’ve compiled over the years for where I turn to when I need that perfect photo.
What is Stock Photography?
Stock photography is the trading of a photo per license agreement from the creator to the end-user. The license is used to provide proper credit to the original photographer or person who created the image. Stock photos can be fully copyrighted, require special requirements, or free for the end-user to use at their discretion.
The websites listed below may contain other multimedia besides photos, such as backgrounds, vectors, textures, color palettes, video, and audio. These individual websites will have specific licenses for the assets that you can use.
Also, please note that some sites pull information or sell other photos from websites such as Shutterstock, iStock, Getty Images, and Public Domain.
A Word About Licensing
It’s important to understand a bit about licensing and rights before you begin randomly downloading images off the internet. Doing so could lead you into some serious trouble and hefty fines if you don’t follow the rules or laws provided.
Since I am not a lawyer nor claim to be one, I suggest that you head over to the Creative Commons website to study the different license types that you will typically see when dealing with stock photos. You must do your diligence when using photos to make sure they are not copyrighted, you are giving attribution when required, and that you are obtaining commercial licenses for work that you are selling.
Some common definitions you may see are:
- Copyright - the exclusive right given to the creator of a creative work, to reproduce the work, usually for a limited time.
- Public Domain - the state of belonging or being available to the public as a whole, and therefore not subject to copyright.
- All Rights Reserved - a copyright formality indicating that the copyright holder reserves, or holds for its own use, all the rights provided by copyright law.
- Royalty-Free - material subject to copyright or other intellectual property rights may be used without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use, per each copy or volume sold for some time period of use or sales.
- Creative Commons - one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted “work”.
If you are unsure about whether to use an image, the best piece of advice I can give is to either not use it or to consult professional legal advice.
Without further ado, here are the 25 Best Websites for Stock Photos.
One of the largest and oldest websites for finding and sharing photos online is Flickr. They have been the leader in photography over the years, and so there is a massive collection of images that you can peruse through.
Most people don’t think of Flickr as a place to get stock photography from, but you can search by license and find other photographers who will allow you to use their photos for your content. Sometimes you will need to provide attribution, sometimes you can use or change them at your discretion, and sometimes they are copyrighted.
If you search for a keyword, you can filter the licenses in the search engine. You can also find the license when you click on one of the photos to see all the information provided, including the photographer, tags, and sometimes even the camera information that was used.
The Envato ecosystem is one of the best places to find all kinds of stock goodies, hands down. It boasts one of the largest websites in the world to find stock photos, music, video, graphics, templates, online courses, and more. This makes it one of my first go-to’s whenever I need any asset for my content.
Envato Market is where you will find all of their products, including royalty-free stock photos. Prices for these photos start around $2 and can climb up to $100, but they are well worth it. Also, because most people try to find free photos online, which are usually the same across multiple platforms, you will have an edge up on your competition by purchasing a high quality, high-resolution image.
If you plan on using a lot of photos in one month, then consider signing up for Envato Elements. This subscription service allows you access to thousands of stock photos and more, including video, graphics, fonts, templates, and so on. They are always uploading new material to the database and so this service definitely pays for itself each month with the number of assets you get.
3. Adobe Stock
Speaking of leaders in digital assets, we gotta talk about Adobe Stock. This is also a subscription provided by the biggest company in photography and graphic design software. They offer professional photos, videos, templates, vectors, illustrations, and even editorial media for the most popular news items of the week.
One great thing about Adobe Stock is that it works seamlessly with all of its applications. So if you are using Photoshop or any other program to create your online content, then you can easily import Adobe Stock assets right into the software. This gives a very streamlined workflow when time is of the essence.
The Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository for images, audio, and video files. They provide a searchable database for public domain and freely licensed media content. It’s also a great place to find new and old photographs.
If you have never been to the Wikimedia Commons, I suggest you take a moment to look through the website and see what they offer. You will find different things here that you might not find on a typical stock photography website, such as images specific to nature, science, societies, engineering, and more. This makes it a great place to find that perfect photo if you need images for educational content.
You will also find old photographs that you can search by date, even going back as far as works created in the 31st Century B.C. Though these are just photos of ancient art and objects, you can also find old paintings, black and white photos, and other artwork by the year it was created.
Wikimedia Commons is definitely a unique place to find stock photography to use, especially if you are referencing any time in the past or need an image of something specific to an industry such as engineering, music, science, history, and more.
If you don’t use Shopify, then you might not be familiar with their stock photo website Burst. But let me tell you, this is another great resource for free images that you can use on any platform you like (it doesn’t have to be just Shopify!)
Burst has a very smooth user interface and photos are grouped by collections which makes it super helpful when you need something specific but don’t know exactly what keywords to type in. It seems each collection has subcategories that you can keep clicking on to get granular with what you need. This makes it one of the more fun sites to look through when trying to find that perfect image.
If you have ever searched for stock photography on the internet, then you have probably come across Shutterstock before. Not only does it offer a plethora of high-resolution images to choose from, but a lot of free stock photo websites will link to Shutterstock photos to make a commission off of you using their free service.
This is actually a common practice, and you will see other websites in this list link to Shutterstock to buy higher quality photos. Generally, you can find what you need on a free stock photo website. But if you can’t, you can usually find what you are looking for on Shutterstock for a price.
Their large database of photos and easily navigable interface makes it no wonder that they are one of the absolute best websites to find photos online.
7. Getty Images
Getty Images, like Shutterstock, is another large platform with high-quality photos that you can purchase. A lot of websites also reference Getty Images and so you will see free websites promote them often.
The prices for the photos on this site are on the higher side of some other websites, but the quality is superb, to where most of the higher resolution images can even be used for print. Something you won’t find on other websites. That might be something you will want to consider if you’re doing any physical marketing.
iStock is run by Getty Images and provides a more reasonable place to find photos for the price. While Getty Images provides ultra-high-resolution images for a more expensive rate, iStock bridges the gap by providing standard stock photos at an affordable rate.
This site will also let you buy images either by the credit or by subscription, so it really caters to anyone who is looking for a single photo or would like to continually download photos on a monthly or yearly basis.
iStock is a heavy hitter in the digital asset field and not only provides photos but also illustrations, video, and audio. So if you need more than just photographs for your content, make sure you swing by this site and check them out.
There’s a lot of free stock photo websites out there, but Pexels is one that I use the most. If it’s a beautiful, high-quality image that I am looking for, then this is one of my first stops.
Pexels interface is spotless and shows only the best images on the main page. Though you might not see as many options as some other websites, you will definitely see the greatest options for selecting a photo.
Once you click a photo, you will also see similar photos based on the tags used. They are also sponsored by Adobe Stock so if you don’t find the right photo in your search, they will show you other options on the Adobe Stock website that you can choose from.
Pixabay is also a place that I frequent often and have throughout the years. Sponsored by Shutterstock, they offer great free photos to download and also give recommendations to Shutterstock on images you are trying to search for.
One thing I like about Pixabay is you can typically find decent graphics and illustrations for free also while searching. There have been times when I’ve been searching for photos but will also come across an illustration that I may use or save for later.
Ask anyone who knows about stock photography and they will most likely recommend Unsplash at some point. This website also provides a clean interface with gorgeous photos right on the front for you to immediately start browsing.
You will need to sign up for a free account to use the images on this site, but it is well worth a couple of minutes it takes to create. I’ve used hundreds of images from this website. It’s simple and gives thousands of similar options when searching, and so you can get lost for hours looking at all the beautiful pictures.
Freeimages is another free stock photography site that provides a great search engine, large collections of images, and an easy interface to get around. It’s sponsored by iStock and boasts hundreds of thousands of photographs to browse through.
Though it’s very similar to other free stock photography websites on this list, I felt inclined to add it here because it offers some photos and illustrations you won’t find elsewhere. Many photographers will submit their work to as many platforms as possible but typically won’t get to them all. And so it’s important to have a couple of different websites to check out when searching because not all websites will have all the same photos to choose from.
Like other stock photography websites listed, Kaboompics offers a wide variety of images to choose from. However, there are a couple of things that set this website apart from the others, and I wanted to add it to this list.
For starters, the website is gorgeous. It’s very easy to navigate and the branding of the site makes it enjoyable to get around. It also provides an assortment of related images, information about the photographer, and extra information about the camera and settings used to take the photo.
The other thing I love about this site is that it offers color palettes directly on the photo page. A color palette is nothing more than a handful of colors selected from the photograph and put into a nice table, but it is super useful when creating branding for your content, website, or product. What’s best is that this website will show the colors, the HEX values if needed, and you can even download the color palette along with the photo. Give this to your graphic designer when you submit your photo and watch the digital smile come across their face!
14. Death to Stock
Death to Stock is a website that tries to break the mold of a typical stock photography website. They provide authentic stock images by using a special team to curate the photos and then providing them on a monthly basis per subscription.
Though you won’t find as many photos on this site as others, it almost guarantees you unique images those most other content creators won’t have access to. In an age of stock photography almost being a joke, with staged business-men handshaking and some random person overlooking a sunset, Death to Stock gives you a place to find a photo that will set you above the rest of the competition.
Librestock is an interesting website that will scan other websites and index them on their own site. This means they are constantly looking for the best photos across the internet and putting them in one convenient place.
Once you do a search for a photo, you will see the images displayed and where they came from at the bottom of the thumbnail. If you click on the photo, it will take you out of Librestock to the actual website that photo resides on. This makes it easy to get all of the most popular photos in one place and also gives you ideas of other websites out there such as StockSnap and Gratisography which you might have never heard of before.
16. Life of Pix
The power of Life of Pix is that this site highlights it’s photographers on the main page with their corresponding image. This is actually more useful to have than you might think because photographers are usually placed on the page of the photo rather than on the main page itself.
While searching for my own images, I’ve often gone back to certain photographers who I enjoy and have a certain style that I’m going for. So if you are in a niche, say hiking or traveling, then you might find a certain photographer that you like that produces really well-made photographs of landscapes. With Life of Pix, you can compare the photos and photographers right on the main page or in search so you can immediately see what type of images that photographer has. It will also let you search by category or by a certain color if you are trying to match your brand or niche.
17. Jay Mantri
Jay Mantri’s name seems to pop up everywhere. And for good reason.
His personal photography site offers professional, beautiful, and high-quality images free to use under the CC0 license. He makes it easy and very clear that he just loves taking photos and that you are free to use them as you wish.
I’d still make sure to always verify licenses and any changes that may have happened since writing this post, but this is a website you should definitely check out!
This is also a stock photo website by a personal photographer but under the name LibreShot. This site states that all photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Public Domain and free to use with no attribution.
Though it’s a personal photographer's website, it is set up like a professional stock photography site with a search engine and different categories to look under. There are actually quite a few photos to check out and since this is the photographer’s own site, you’re more likely to find unique images here than you would find on a typical, larger stock photography website.
This is an absolutely amazing website and a must-have if you are into travel photography or can use photos from different locations around the world. Fancycrave offers photo packs, which is an assortment of images based around a location or topic. This makes it useful if you need to display various photos on the same subject.
There are plenty of free images that you can download, or you can sign up for their subscription to access all the photos on the site. At the time of writing this, there are hundreds of photo packs available in ultra-high-resolution for download.
If you are producing any content around the food or recipe niches, then you will want to check out Foodiesfeed. This is a niche-specific website that has thousands of amazing looking photos around many different foods and drinks.
Some photos may be the same as other photos that you see on other stock photography websites, but having a dedicated website like this just for food makes it easier to find the right photo. I think it would be great if there were more sites like this that cater specifically to a certain niche or industry.
21. New Old Stock
Another cool niche-specific website is New Old Stock, which specializes in vintage photographs. This site is a great resource for images that can be used for history, science, nature, or social events. It has a simple interface but has a lot of images to look through and even has photo packs that you can get for cheap.
Nappy says that its site produces “Beautiful, high-res photos of black and brown people” and it does a great job of it. This site is clean and elegant and caters to a certain demographic of people that aren’t always featured in major stock photography websites.
The website has hundreds of great looking photos and lists different categories of active lifestyles, food, places, work, and more. If your market is geared towards people of color, you will want to stop by this site to see what they offer.
23. Styled Stock
Styled Stock is also a website that is aimed at a specific demographic and provides “Feminine Stock Photography”. Unlike other stock photo websites that can feel plain and boring, Styled Stock does a great job of adding a feminine touch.
It’s website, branding, and photos are all based around women. With its lighter colors and more pleasing, visual content, you can see how it can benefit those who have niches or markets with women as their main demographic.
Canva, like other websites not listed here, is an online graphic design editor with built-in stock photography. Though you can’t just pull up the site and download a photograph right away, you can use its large royalty-free stock photo gallery to use in your designs.
I am a big supporter of Canva because this software plays an important role in my business and brand. With it, you can easily create eBooks, PDFs, thumbnails, presentations, and so much more. It’s much lighter than using a program like Adobe InDesign and it provides hundreds of templates to choose from and gets you up and running in no time.
With the software comes a stock photography database that you can pull directly into your designs. This makes it streamlined and efficient when you need to quickly create a YouTube thumbnail, or if you have to grab multiple images at once for your Powerpoint presentation.
25. Your Own Collection
One place that you might not think about going for images is right in your hands! Though this is a blog post about stock photography websites, I don't want you to underestimate the power of using your own images.
With smartphones getting better and better cameras with every upgrade, it's easier now than ever to capture shots that are unique and customized to your style and audience. Using photographs that you've shot yourself ensures that the image is truly original and you don't have to worry about what license to use or whether or not the image is copyrighted.
The Complete List
Below, I’ve compiled a list of all the stock photography websites that I have accumulated. I’m sure there are hundreds more, but this should get you what you need if you haven’t found it in this list already!
- Adobe Stock
- Ancestry Images
- Burst by Shopify
- Can Stock Photo
- CreateHER Stock
- Death to Stock
- Envato Elements
- Freerange Stock
- Getty Images
- IM Free
- Image Finder
- ISO Republic
- Jay Mantri
- Life of Pix
- MMT Stock
- New Old Stock
- Pickup Image
- Realistic Shots
- Scatter Jar
- Startup Stock Photos
- Styled Stock
- Superfamous Images
- Travel Coffee Book
- Unrestricted Stock
- Visual Hunt
- Wikimedia Commons
As you can see, there are a lot of options for stock photography. I’ve tried my best to let you know about the ones that are the most popular and ones that I use the most.
Hopefully, you can find that perfect image you are looking for!