Inspiring high quality photos are essential for successful web design. Photographs grabs your visitors attention and creates a special look and feel for your website. There are literally hundreds of stock photo websites with millions of free photos out there.
Here are my five favorite sources with free photos and royalty free images for your next web design project:
Together, these five websites account for more than 10 million free photos.
1. Unsplash – The Undisputed Champion?
With over 2 million free high-resolution photos from over 200 000 photographers, Unsplash is the crème-de-la-crème of free stock photo websites. Founded as a Tumblr blog (yes, it’s true) back in 2013, they have grown into the industry-leading free photo community. Every photo is hand-selected and only top notch professional photographs are accepted. These free images are perfect for your web design and for presentations, artwork, mockups and more.
- Since Unsplash is super popular, you’ll find the photos on lots of other websites too
- No illustrations, icons or videos – just photos
- Limited sizing options with no custom size option available
2. Pexels – Adding Diversity To The Mix
Pexels mission can be described in two words: “Empowering Creators”. They are committed to provide a diverse selection of free photos by including LGBTQ+ and people of different color and background. With over 3 million free images, you are likely to find the photos you are looking for.
- A strong focus on diversity and representation
- Smart search filters with Orientation (landscape or portrait) and Color
- Thousands of videos in addition to all the free photos
- Custom sizing option for free downloads
- The activist approach might annoy some people
- No illustrations or icons
3. Pixabay – The Flea Market Of Free Photos
If the name Pixabay makes you think about a shady place where everyone was allowed to share everything, you’re not completely wrong. Wikipedia let us know that “the overall quality of the photos on the service has been described as ‘mediocre for the most part’ and ‘variable’ but covering a ‘wide range of subjects'”. With that said, Pixabay is a good place to find rough diamonds and more realistic photos.
- Not all photos are super stylish
- Includes illustrations, vectors, videos and music
- The name brings nostalgia from the 2010s
- Uneven quality
- Feels a bit like a flea market some times
- No custom sizing option for downloads
4. Elegant Themes – The Web Design Machine
Even though Elegant Themes isn’t a pure stock photo website, they deserve an honourable mention. With over 800 pre-made web designs, their free photo library is growing rapidly. This is how it works: Each week, Elegant Themes releases new free layout packs with custom photos and icons included. If you use the Divi theme for WordPress, you can simply import the layout together with all the images to your WordPress media library with one click. But, and here comes the best part, in the bottom of each layout pack blog post, you can download the full-res images for free and use them as you want – regardless if you have a Divi license or not (yes, I even double checked this with the Elegant Themes support).
- Unique photos that’s not found on the big stock photo websites
- Icons and illustrations included
- Could be imported together with professional WordPress layout packs
- Hard to search for and find images (you have to browse the blog)
- A small collection of photos compared to the giants on this list
- No custom size options for downloads
5. Gratisography – The Rebel Of Free Stock Photo
When you enter the world of Gratisography there’s no doubt that you are in for a different ride. The focus is on “quirky” and “whimsical” photos. Or in their own words: “Different is what we do best.” The focus is images you just won’t find anywhere else instead of traditional (some might even say boring) corporate stock photos.
- The website is cluttered with sponsored (not free) Shutterstock content
- No sizing options at all for downloads
The Free Photo License Explained
Are these photos really 100% free to use? Yes, but there are a few minor limitations. The different websites have slightly different policies and they should not be mixed up with Creative Commons. Here is the general do-whatever-you-want license explained.
- Download and use photos for free
- Use them for commercial and non-commercial purposes
- Publish them without permission
- Publish them without crediting the photographer (but it’s appreciated if you do)
- Sell unaltered versions of the photos
- Imply endorsement by people or brands in the photos
- Make identifiable people appear in a bad or offensive way
- Publishing the photos on other stock photo websites
That’s all for today!
Thanks for reading this far. I hope you enjoyed my five favorite websites for free photos and images for web design. Did I miss your favorite photo website? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to subscribe on YouTube for more lists and tutorials on web design.
Ps. Are you curious about where to find the image in the top of this post with the handsome guy holding a Polaroid camera? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that’s me, the author of this post, and that particular photo is not free. 😉