52 Sites With Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Stocky
  by:  |  Jan 6, 2016

If you ever had to put together a flyer, brochure, or do any kind of commercial printing, you probably found yourself looking through hundreds of stock photos.


52 Sites With Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Stocky - bad stock photo example
Many “stocky” stock images feature unnatural lighting and improbable situations.


The abysmal quality of most stock photos has become kind of a running joke in the graphic design and print industry for good reason. Take a look at any of the stock pictures on offer from the biggest paid image sites.


52 Sites With Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Stocky - Cat and Dog
How much would you pay for this?


Maybe it’s how contrived everything looks, or the sterile, unnatural lighting. Maybe it’s how out of touch with reality the subjects seem, or how hopelessly outdated many of these images are.


52 Sites With Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Stocky - useless
Many paid stock photos are poorly executed.


As is the case with a certain popular pastime, it’s not easy to define what makes a stock photo stocky– but you’ll know it when you see it. Even the ones that aren’t silly have this quality.


52 Sites With Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Stocky - Contrived
Even well-executed stock images tend to look contrived, reflecting badly on most brands.


Why is this bad?


The “stock photo look” when used in a marketing context, has become shorthand for insincerity. This is the last thing you want your brand to be associated with. You want to connect with your audience. Pictures with an obviously contrived “stocky” look tend to work against this.

This isn’t to say they’re entirely useless. They’re perfectly fine and completely expected in a product catalog, for instance. But even in these cases, it’s usually better to supplement or replace these with”real world” photos of your products and services, to give everything a sense of authenticity.


What can you do about it?


Most enterprises should ideally, be able to create unique, context-specific, professional-quality photos for their marketing materials, either in-house, or through a contracted photographer.

Of course, this is not always practical given the time and expense that have to be dedicated to doing this — which is why we fall into the trap of settling for bad stock photos in the first place.

Fortunately, paid stock photos are not the only answer. There are millions of free-to-use images online, available under different licenses available for anyone to use. The catch is, most of them are not the same as what you’re probably used to.

Or are they? I’ve compiled 53 sites with millions of available free-to-use stock photos, suited for nearly every general purpose marketing context you can think of. While you have to do some digging, many of the available images exceed the quality of stock photos you would otherwise have to pay for.

Disclaimer: While most of the photos available in these sites are “free-to-use,” use of these images in a standalone manner (as part of a portfolio, or to be sold unaltered) is generally prohibited. 

52.) New Old Stock


Available licenses: Public domain

Notes: Vintage, high quality photos.


51.) Picjumbo


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Pictures are sent to your email.


50.) The Pattern Library


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Curated and maintained by Tim Holman and Claudio Guglieri.


49.) Little Visuals

Little Visuals

Available licenses:  Creative Commons Zero

Notes: Images sent to your email. Unfortunately, Nic, the site curator died last year at just 26. The site will be updated soon with previously unpublished content.


48.) Unsplash 


Available licenses:  Creative Commons Zero

Notes: 10 new photos available every 10 days. As of writing, Unsplash has a book out on Kickstarter.


47.) Gratisography


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Updated weekly by photographer Ryan McGuire.


46.) Getrefe


Available licenses: Free-to-use


 45.) Jay Mantri 

Jay Mantri

Available licenses:  Creative Commons Zero


44.) Public Domain Archive

Public Domain Archive

Available licenses: Public Domain


43.) Made in Moments


Available licenses: Creative Commons License Zero

Notes: Most pictures have a travel theme, but don’t let that keep you from using them in a different context.


 42.) BucketListly Photos


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Created by Pete R.


41.) Magdeleine


Available licenses: Creative Commons Zero,  CC Attribution 2.0

Notes: Features a new free photo from a different photographer daily.


40.) Foodiesfeed


Available licenses:  Creative Commons Zero

Notes: Better food photos than what your friends post on Facebook, for sure.


39.) Picography


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Requires a security check via CAPTCHA before you can access the site.


38.) Death to the Stock Photo 


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: By Allison Lehman and David J. Sherry. Subscribe to get free photos every month. Use them however you want.


37.) Photo Pin


Available licenses: Creative Commons License Zero;  CC Attribution 2.0;  CC Attribution 3.0;  CC Attribution 4.0

Notes: Has a useful attribution feature. Just copy and paste the code provided with each photo to correctly attribute them.


36.) Foter


Available licenses: Creative Commons License Zero;  CC Attribution 2.0;  CC Attribution 3.0;  CC Attribution 4.0

Notes: Pics are arranged according to useful categories.


35.) Wikimedia Commons

wikimedia commons

Available licenses: Creative Commons License Zero;  CC Attribution 2.0;  CC Attribution 3.0;  CC Attribution 4.0; Public Domain

Notes: Be sure to double check the licenses as these may not necessarily be tagged correctly.


34.) Stokpic


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Formerly a passion project, and now one of the most popular places online for free stock photos. 600 new photos per month.


33.) Kaboompics


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: A project by a Polish photographer.


32.) Titania Foto

Titiana Photo

Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: A wide selection of nature-related photos.


31.) FancyCrave

fancy crave

Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Two new professionally-shot pictures per day. Photo packs are also available.


30.) Paul Jarvis

paul jarvis

Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: By internet celeb web designer Paul Jarvis. Not the most versatile pictures, but you might find one you need.


29.) Bing Image Search

Bing Image Search

Available licenses: All of them!

Notes: You cannot access this option in —the feature isn’t readily accessible until you’re in a results page. Google does not have a specific search by license function as of writing.


28.) morgueFile


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Images here were intended mostly for marketing materials but were unused for one reason or another. Great if you need a conventional “stocky” look, but not so great otherwise.


27.) Startup Stock Photos


Available licenses:  CC Attribution 4.0

Notes: Very useful for the bloggers who need stereotypical startup images.


26.) Superfamous


Available licenses:  CC Attribution 3.0

Notes: Plenty of geometric, abstract and nature-related photos.


25.) Raumrot


Available licenses:  CC Attribution 2.0

Notes: Appeals to the “modern creative”.


24.) Pixabay


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Half a million free pics of varying quality.


23.) Compfight


Available licenses: Various

Notes: Sources images from Flickr.


22.) everystockphoto


Available licenses: Various

Notes: Relatively poor interface compared to the other choices. Draws from NASA, Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, RGB Stock, stock.xchange, Morguefile, imageafter, freerangestock, photl, photoXpress.




Available licenses: Restricted use

Notes: One of the most popular sites for free “conventional” stock photos. Also has plenty of non-stocky stock photos as well.


20.) Tinyography


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: All captured via iPhone.


19.) SplitShire


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Updates daily. You can pay a nominal fee to have all the photos sent to your email.


18.) Travel Coffee Book

Travel Coffee Book

Available licenses:  Creative Commons Zero

Notes: Most photos have a travel theme, to no one’s surprise. You may also submit your photos under CC0 licenses as well.


17.) DesignersPics

Designer's Pics

Available licenses: Creative Commons Zero

Notes: New pics daily.


16.) Streetwill


Available licenses: Public Domain, Free-to-use

Notes: Vintage pics, mostly urban and nature themes.


15.) Photo Collections


Available licenses: Free-to-use


14.) Barn Images


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Nothing to do with barns. High-quality pics with various themes.


13.) Life Of Pix

Life of Pix

Available licenses: Free-to-use, Public Domain

Notes: Created by LEEROY, a Canadian creative agency.


12.) Moveast


Available licenses: Free-to-use.

Notes: Themes are mostly about travel.


11.) ISO Republic


Available licenses: Free-to-use.


10.) Snapwire Snaps


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Seven free images you can use however and whenever you need, weekly.


9.) Jéshoots


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: A project by Jan Vasek.


8.) HiResStock


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Pics are free, but donations are encouraged.


7.) IM Free

IM Free

Available licenses:  CC Attribution 2.0

Notes: All pics intended for commercial use.


6.) De Vetpan Archive

De Vetpan

Available licenses:  CC Attribution 2.0

Notes: This Dutch photographer’s Flickr page contains plenty of useful high resolution pictures available under CC2 licenses.


5.) Albumarium


Available licenses:  CC Attribution 2.0; Creative Commons Zero


4.) Cupcake


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: NOT just about cupcakes. Most popular themes are covered.


3.) Snapswell


Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: All images taken with a camera phone. New images every week.


2.) Free Nature Stock

Free Nature Stock

Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: Created by Adrian Pelletier. As the name implies, the content is mostly nature-themed photos.


1.) Realistic Shots

Realistic Shots

Available licenses: Free-to-use

Notes: By Henry Reyes. While all photos are free, donations are encouraged.


A word on image licenses.

Before you start looking into these sites, be sure to take some time to understand the implications of different creative commons licenses.

“Free-to-use” means the site has released them to the public but has not otherwise specified a specific type of license to cover them. This often means you can use them any way you wish, but not as part of your portfolio, nor could you otherwise claim you created them. Please check each pages’ terms and conditions before using a photo.

Images in the Public Domain or Creative Commons License Zero licenses can be used in any way you choose without attribution.

Other Creative Commons licenses require attribution, bar alteration, or disallow use for commercial purposes. CC Attribution 2.0 means the creator requires credit while CC Attribution 3.0 means you need to indicate if changes were made, and give credit to the original creator.  CC Attribution 4.0 allows the image to be transformed and used in any way provided appropriate credit is given.

Be sure to perform your due diligence before using any picture you find online.