Photo fail? 15 no-fail stock photo sites

December 1, 2014

It’s happened to all of us. You have a photo that works perfectly for your project but there’s a problem: You don’t own the rights to it. Next step, you try Flickr. Again, no luck. Sometimes – gasp – you have to buy a photo!

What are your options? No surprise — there are a lot. Here are 15 stock photo sites to familiarize yourself with, just in case your own photo resources come up short of your artistic vision.


Free Images:

  1. Pixabay: Operating under Creative Commons (CC) licensing, Pixabay offers over 2.5 million photos that are free to edit, use, and share without copyright worries. Aside from a few exceptions, photos can be used commercially. Your job is to credit the original owner of the work in the way the license specifies – and voilà!
  2. Foter: A popular go-to for blogs and other website images, Foter provides you with an embed code when you’re ready to paste an image into a blog or website. This code is all you need in order to attribute CC-licensed work.
  3. Freerange Stock: Images from this website are available for commercial and noncommercial use. Like the website suggests, all photos are free, and you are encouraged, though not required, to give the photographer credit. Their license specifies what you can and can’t do with the usage of their photos.
  4. MorgueFile: Photos are available for both commercial and non-commercial use. There are over 3 million photos to choose from, as well as an online classroom with photography tips.
  5. Picjumbo: Photos are free and available to use in many ways, with few exceptions. Photo attribution is recommended, but not required.
  6. Little Visuals: Signing up for Little Visuals provides you with seven photos emailed to you every seven days. These photos can be used freely.
  7. Everystockphoto: As the website’s name suggests, there are plenty of stock photos! Here, the photos are licensed through Creative Commons, General Public License, public domain, and a few custom licenses. In order to use the photos on this website, Everystockphoto recommends that you visit the licensing website and familiarize yourself with the license that is attached with the image you want to use, and go from there.
  8. rgbstock: All images on this website are free for its members. The image license provided is rgbstock-specific. This website also has a forum where you can ask questions or chat with other members.
  9. Unprofound: Photos here are free to use in multiple ways. Its search tool allows you to search for images according to color – just click on one of the red, green, blue, or other colored boxes at the top of the homepage!
  10. Free Images: A subsidiary of Getty Images, Free Images has over 410,000 images for you to browse. These photos are free with a diverse range of ways to use them, as long as you abide by the license rules.

Paid Images:

  1. Getty Images: Getty Images provides photos that are categorized as either royalty-free or rights-managed. With royalty-free licenses, prices are based on photo size and you only have to pay for the photo once. In contrast, a rights-managed license means that photo usability is restricted, and prices are determined based on how you want to use the photo. This is done through the use of calculator tool, and when you identify how you want to the use the photo, such as where it will be distributed, how people will see it, how long you plan to use it, etc., then you will be given a price.
  2. Stockvault: Known for its 50,000 stock photos, this website aims to share photos that are functionally “somewhat” stock free. “Somewhat” stock free means that the photos are cheaper than photos that are royalty-free, but there are restrictions on how you can use them.
  3. FreeDigitalPhotos: Images on this website are both free and priced, depending on how you use them. Images are free when you don’t want to edit the photo posted as it is, but payment is required if you want to change the size of the image or not make attribution.
  4. Dreamstime: Most of the images posted on Dreamstime are available through royalty-free and editorial licenses. An editorial license is for photos that represent real-life social, cultural, and political events. The website outlines the restrictions for using editorial-licensed photos. Dreamstime provides access to over 26 million images, and offers download/price plans that enable you to choose how many downloads you’d like at a price that works for you.
  5. iStock: iStock, owned by Getty Images, offers photos that are available through a standard royalty-free license. Here, you can browse through photos according to license type, editing feature, and image size.

Do you have other recommendations? Please share in the comments!

–Rachel Dobson, Fall Intern

Photo credit: Elger van der Wel / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA