Crappy stock images can...
...hurt your brand image.
They can provide a bad user experience, destroy conversion rates and cheapen the value proposition of your business or offer.
Not only that, the process of finding copyright free, high-quality, high-resolution free images can be a time-consuming, laborious task. They’re either too tacky, expensive or simply way overused.
Worse is that the majority of the images on the Internet are subject to copyright restrictions and are protected by law, which means you can't just download any image you fancy and slap it on your website.
So a question I get asked often is:
Where can you find free high-quality images you can publish on your site that won't leave you liable for copyright infringement?
If you want to stand out from the crowd and become the go-to resource in your niche, it’s essential to use high-quality images that elevate your brand.
After all, Google is now looking for you to become a brand….
…and the impact and effect of brand credibility can solidify your position and expertise in an overcrowded market to create a competitive advantage.
Executing a successful visual content strategy is an important element to engage your followers and fans.
According to HubSpot, 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text AND and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text.
And after analysing 100 million articles, OkDork and Buzzsumo suggest that twice as many people share posts with at least one image in the post.
Today I have something that will help you stand out from the crowd:
65+ places to find beautiful, copyright-free, high-resolution public domain images… all for FREE.
Whether you’re a graphic designer, web designer, blogger, small business owner or an entrepreneur, you’ll never be short of places to find free high impact, high-quality great-looking images again...and won't have you tripping over the fine print.
Understanding Public Domain Images
Public domain images are defined as images for which there is no copyright protection. Either the copyright has expired or it never existed in the first place.
They're available to anyone and can be free to use for any purpose whether that's personal or commercial use.
Often an image can be in the public domain because the author has forgone his or her copyrights.
The main features of public domain images is that they're completely free to download and no attribution is required. It's the best way to avoid any copyright issues.
In other words, the images are completely free to use and you can modify them any way you see fit.
Having said that, you are responsible for publishing images on your site.
Some websites carry free images that have other creative common licenses attached to them.
In such cases, attribution is still required depending on the license type or the photographer retains the copyright.
To avoid any legal penalties and copyright infringements, you're still advised to do your own research and abide by any restrictions.
It's best to read the terms and conditions listed on these websites.
For this post, I have selected sites that:
- explicitly state that the images have been placed in the public domain using a license under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication
- state the photos are free to use with no attribution required
- have no known copyright restrictions
- explicitly state that public domain images are available on the site
Let’s dive into the top websites to find awe-inspiring public domain images (in no particular order):
The Public Domain Project is becoming an all-important resource where you can download thousands of historic media files and images for any creative project.
All the content is made available by a company called Pond5, an entity that brands itself as “the world’s most vibrant marketplace for creativity.”
The Public Domain Project offers over 64,000 images, all free of charge for unlimited use. The site also offers hand-picked favourites from their expert curators.
All content is sold through a single, simple royalty-free license, which provides the right to use the content worldwide, in any type of media for as long as you like.
The site has a prominent search bar on the homepage, which means you can start browsing for content immediately but you do need to register for a free account to download the images.
Pond5 provides a description of the image or media type, the license type, the number of views and downloads, the source of the image and whether the image is exclusively part of the Public Domain Project.
It also gives you the option to download different sizes of each image, being small, medium or large.
Pixabay has a selection of over 380,000 public domain and high resolution images.
No registration is required and you can use any Pixabay image without attribution in digital and printed form, for any purpose.
Pixabay is available in 20 languages and has also has free vectors and drawings too.
You can explore the site by category and all the images on Pixabay carry the CCO 1.0 public dedication license.
Launched in 2008 in partnership with The Library of Congress, Flickr Commons has two main goals:
To increase access to publicly-held photography collections and for the public to contribute information and knowledge.
You can browse or search through content under each type of license.
It’s great resource for finding creative commons and public domain images from all over the world including a large number of high profile libraries and museums.
The British Library recently posted more than a million public domain images on Flickr for anyone to use, remix or repurpose.
Unsplash have an incredible collection of free high-resolution photos and has become one of the best source for free images and public domain photos on the web, submitted by different users.
Similar to the layout of a Tumblr page, Unsplash doesn't feature any elaborate search navigation or bar so you can't search for specific images. Nevertheless, the images range from landscapes and urban shots to portraits and animals.
All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero and release 10 new photos every 10 days.
Public Domain Pictures has a large repository of high-quality images you can download for free.
Amateur photographers upload their images to the site, which is maintained by its users. It's easy to browse for images by categories and tags including popularity, rating and date.
Some photos do require a model or property release and are only available with a premium membership to the site (if you want larger images).
Free Stock Photos is another fantastic source of free stock photos and clip art.
Their collection contains over 15,000 free images available in a variety of licenses, including public domain and creative commons.
All their images are completely free to download and use but you do need to check and abide by the image license and usage terms listed on the photo download page. No registration or membership is required.
All images on this site have been released into the Public Domain, Creative Commons CCO, unless stated otherwise.
You are free to download and use the photos for both personal and commercial purposes, however, you may not claim the copyright as your own.
New photos are added everyday and while photo credits and links aren't required, the authors would appreciate it.
PD Pics is a repository of thousands of public domain pictures contributed by their in-house photographers.
You can easily browse by category making it easy to search and find any image you want.
You are free to adapt and use the pictures for personal or commercial use without attributing the original author. Although it's not required, a link back to PDPics.com is requested.
The pictures and images on PDPics are bound by Creative Commons Deed CC0 1.0.
StockSnap.io adds hundreds of high quality resolution images on a weekly basis.
The site has a great search feature whereby you can search for photos by date, what's trending or see how many views, downloads and likes each photo has.
All images on StockSnap fall under the Creative Commons CC0 license 1.0, which means you don't need permission to copy, modify or distribute any photo on the site, even for commercial purposes and no attribution is required.
If you're seeking images of animals, plants, food, architecture and desktop wallpaper photos, then Phototeria is the place.
You can easily browse the site by each of the main categories.
All the images on the site are in the public domain but the site does mention that if there's a person on the image, not to use it.
11. New Old Stock
New Old Stock is a site that carries a large collection of vintage stock photos.
The images are believed to be available in the public domain and free of known copyright restrictions based on the institutions participation in the Flickr Commons and the rules of Flickr Commons.
All photos are at the very least available for personal and non-commercial use but it is advised that you check the institution’s rights statement and that you link back to the original flickr photo and mention the institution by name.
Designer Ryan McGuire releases new high resolution photos every week. All pictures are free of copyright restrictions and you can use them for both commercial and personal projects.
You just need to click on an image to download it and while attribution is not required, Ryan would appreciate it.
Founded in 2011, The Public Domain Review is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to promoting and celebrating the public domain in all its richness and variety.
From classics works of art to absentminded doodles, there are hundreds of public domain images to choose from. Each image contains a description about the body of work.
Public Domain Archive is managed by Matt Hobbs, a web and graphic designer and photographer.
He created the site because there was no one place to go and find tons of high quality public domain images. So he created a repository where he archives high quality public domain images that he finds across the web.
Matt adds new images every week and are released under CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.
This is a community-driven site whereby all the images have been released into the public domain by the its members. Images range from food, buildings, animals and people to flowers, windows and places.
Users are free to download and use the photos for any purpose but does warn that they don't come with any release from people as well as copyrighted subjects such as buildings, logos, brands, etc.
No attribution to the site is required but it's encouraged that you do.
Picdrome has hundreds of images in a range of categories including architecture, food and drink, nature, sports and technology.
All images are free of copyright and licensed under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication. They're free to download for personal, educational and commercial use, without restriction.
Web and graphic designer Matt loves everything vintage and created Viintage out of frustration.
He set out to create a website with zero advertisements and a simple layout to put the focus back on vintage images.
There are thousands of amazing vintage images available and the goal is to have over 1 million vintage public domain images available. The site also has a premium membership option.
18. Little Visuals
The owner of this site has since passed away but you can still sign up to get 7 hi-resolution images zipped up in your inbox every 7 days. All the images are released under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication and are free to use anyway you want.
19. Good Free Photos
Good Free Photos is a large free stock photo site with thousands of public domain photos including landscapes, objects, animals, plants, textures, and many other free photos.
All photos are categorized by location for travel photos, species for animal and plant photos, and types of objects for other photos and you can search by keyword. All photos are released under the public domain license so you can use the photos for whatever reason you want.
The owner of the site is the original creator of these images and dedicates all images into the public domain. No registration or payment is required and there are no annoying watermarks. 1 Million Free Pictures is a repository of 100% free pictures.
While no releases have been obtained for the images that contain people, works of art, property or trademarks, all images are free to download for any purpose. No attribution is required but the owner would appreciate a backlink to the blog when using any of the images.
Wikimedia Commons has a regularly updated extensive collection of over 25 million freely usable media files including public domain images. While most images can be used freely, some do have certain restrictions. You can browse and search for photos by author, location, topic, type and license.
Be sure to check the copyright status because Wikimedia Commons doesn't guarantee the correctness of the licensing for each image. Anyone can contribute to the site.
The Public Domain features a wide variety of different images ranging from abstract art to historic images that dates back to 2005. It's a blog-style format managed by a guy called Mitch Featherstone. All images are in the public domain and are 100% free.
Skitter photo publishes a new photo everyday. All images are licensed under creative commons public domain dedication and can be used for both commercial and personal use. The three skitter photographers that all reside in Groningen, The Netherlands. No login is required - just browse and hit download.
The site is a free photo community and you can also share your self made images with other photographers.
As the name implies, all images are licensed under the Creative Commons Public Domain License CC0 and you can do what ever you like with them.
25. Life Of Pix
New photos are added every week on Life of Pix, which is hand made with love by LEEROY advertising agency in Montreal.
All images are donated to the public domain and have no copyright restrictions and can be used for personal and commercial use. You can also search for Vector images and videos.
26. Jay Mantri
Jay has a beautiful collection of photos, 7 of which he adds every Thursday. All photos are free and operate under creative commons. Do anything and make magic.
The site has a great variety of public domain images. Some of these photos are in the public domain or U.S. government works and may be used without permission or payment. However, some images may be protected by license or copyright. It's advised you should read the disclaimers on each site before using these images.
You can find photos from a range of different US government departments such as NSA, NASA, Peace Corps and the EDA.
PDPhoto.org is a repository for free public domain photos. The site is run by Jon Sullivan and many of the images are travel-oriented.
Most of the images have been placed in the public domain but some aren't. You will need to read the license under each image.
29. Snapwire Snaps
Get 7 hand-picked photos every 7 days. All free to use as the images are licensed under creative commons 1.0 public domain dedication. Each image lists the name of the photographer and website along with a clear link to download the photo.
Best Stock Photo has a range of high quality photos that are licensed under a variety of creative commons licenses including CCO 1.0 Public Domain Dedication.
New photos are added every week and photos can be downloaded without the need to register. For the non public domain images and depending on the type of license, proper attribution is required, along with a link to the license and you must indicate if changes were made.
Nice collection of illustrations scanned from old books. Most of these vintage pictures are originally wood engravings or woodcuts and if you're looking for nineteenth century or Victorian clipart, you might just find it here.
The website states that all illustrations in their galleries belong to the public domain and as such, they're free to use for personal and commercial purpose. However some texts (original and translations) that do not belong to the Public Domain are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, which means attribution is required.
You can also download high resolution images in a set of 10 as a zip file.
32. Divvy Pixel
Divvy Pixel is devoted to curating the best public domain photography covering a variety of different themes. New images are added weekly and the site offers easy one-click downloads.
The site is a search engine that pulls images from a variety of sources to find free public domain photos and allows you to rate, tag, collect and comment on photos.
The site is a large collection of free public domain clip art. However, the site does warn that users should research the copyright and public domain status of the images for themselves as they can't guarantee the copyright status of any of the images.
Freetems is a source of public domain content including images, graphics, music, videos, ebooks, audiobooks and software. All content is free for any kind of use and without attribution.
The site carries over 5000 public domain images and clip art but you do need to be careful if some photo contains logos and products.
37. PD Poster
PD Poster has a large catalog of public domain and vintage art posters, which is free to download and can be used for any purpose. The site has a handy search feature and there's also a free guide on how to make use of public domain images. At least 10 new images are added every day.
Public Domain Vectors offers copyright-free vector images in popular .eps, .svg, .ai and .cdr formats. Although it's not required, they would appreciate a mention of their website.
Cupcake is a site run by 27 year old Jonas Nilson Lee from Sweden. He has an amazing array of high quality resolution images, which are licensed under the Creative Commons license CC0 1.0.
The site has a range of public domain images covering different topics and themes. Each image lists the name of the photographer and the license type.
Five new photos are added daily and you can search by popular images that include people, vintage, technology and summer to name a few. All the photos are completely free to be used for any legal purpose and no attribution is required.
You have the option to sign up to receive 10 new photos in your inbox every 2 weeks or search by a range of categories to find the perfect image. Attribution is not required under public domain images but it would be appreciated by the site owners.
43. Negative Space
Negative Space is an awesome site where each photo is posted with their raw file as well as jpg. 20 photos are added every Monday and the handy search feature means you can find images by category, copy space position and colour. No copyright restrictions as all images operate under CCo.
44. Barn Images
Barn Images also offers you a collection of free high-resolution stock photos that are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. The site features a photos of the week section and you can search by tags or categories.
Like most of the other sites, stocka adds new photos every week. All images have a white background and the site covers a range of themes and categories including beauty, gastronomy, medical, jewellery, nature, toys and technology.
As the name suggest, Free Nature Stock carries a large collection of nature and outdoor shots. The site is owned by Adrian Pelletier. His photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero and you are free to use the photos however you want.
One new photo is added every day.
Web designer and photographer Daniel Nanescu has an awesome array of public domain images on his site, SplitShire. You can easily browse by category and covers a variety of themes and topics including interiors, food, fashion, nature, people, abstract, animals and still life.
All photos are free of copyright restrictions and are available for personal and commercial use. Attribution is not required but appreciated.
48. Pic Dan
Tom is the creator of Pic Dan. The site has images covering a variety of topics including animals, Christmas, nature, food and drink, people, roads, sunlight and technology. You can navigate the site by tags, category or latest posts.
Attribution is not required for images in the public domain however, Tom would be grateful.
49. Image After
Image After is a large online free photo and texture collection, describing itself as the raw base for your creativity. You can download and use any image or texture from their site and use it in your own work, either personal or commercial.
50. BING Images
You can search for public domain images using Bing. Go to Bing Images, enter a keyword or topic, then click on "license." A drop down menu appears and then select "public domain."
51. Pickup Image
Pickup Image mainly stocks nature and outdoor images and has a large collection of free high quality premium stock images, public domain photos. No permission is necessary to copy, modify, and distribute the images even for commercial purposes. Each image has a brief description and explicitly states if it's in the public domain.
You can also view the number of views and downloads of each image and you can click on your preferred size to download.
52. Can We Image
The site doesn't offer free photos itself but rather it searches and displays results from Wikimedia Commons. On the search page, you can tick to only see results for public domain photos like the one below.
As the site explicitly states, you can download free high resolution photos without attribution in one easy click. Photo categories include architecture, business, food and drink, technology, people and wildlife to name a few.
What's great about this site is it's easy to view images by its license type. As of May 2015, 71% of photos on the site are in the public domain. All images are available for instant download and the site also houses graphics, fonts, patterns and icons.
The website brands itself as a site with "hand-picked free photos for your inspiration" and has a wide variety of images from people, nature and architecture to animals, food and the downright abstract.
The site makes it easy to browse for only CCO-Public Domain images or attribution required photos and each image states the name of the photographer along with resolution and file size.
A free high-resolution photo is added every day and each image is easy to download with one click.
FreeJPG is a curated image bank of photos for personal, commercial and editorial use. The site has over 6000 images and each photo is tagged, making it easy to search the entire website, especially if you have an idea of what you need.
Each image clearly states whether it's in the public domain and shows the number of views and downloads. You also have the option to rate each image too. Showcasing a variety of topics including nature, landscape, religion, texture, people, science and technology, there is always something new to choose from.
All pictures on the website are free of copyright restrictions as they've been placed in the public domain under creative commons 1.0. The images are captured by Thomas Mühl and there is an option to purchase a ZIP file of all the website's images for a small fee.
You can also sign up to the newsletter to receive the latest photos in your inbox.
Lots of urban and outdoor shots on Picography but there are also images of food and interiors. All photographs are provided free of charge and under the Creative Commons Public Domain CC0 licence.
Each image has a brief description of the camera settings used and the location of the photo.
59. Realistic Shots
Realistic Shots has free, high-res stock photos made by Henry Reyes. 7 new photos are added every week. Photos range from landscape, travel, technology and closeups.
All photos published on Realistic Shots are placed in the public domain licensed under Creative Commons Zero.
60. Don't Erase
Don't Erase is run by George Yanakiev. Since George doesn't know what to do with all the photos he takes, he decided to give some of them for free.
All images are free of known copyright restrictions and can be used any way you want (CC0).
A new photo is published everyday on Good Stock Photos that features over 200 photos. It's a project of Spark Up Arts, a design firm headed by Steve who capture the images.
The site doesn't explicitly state it's images are under the public domain but Steve does mention that all photos are free to use however you want and there's no need to credit him or the site.
62. M M T
All images are placed under the public domain with a CCO license. Jeffrey Betts is the guy behind the camera and the site features plenty of nature, macro, still-life and abstract images. New photos are added every week and have easy one-click downloads. No registration or sign-up is required.
63. je shoots
24 year old designer Jan Vasek is the author of jeshoots. He clearly states that all his images are copyright free and are placed in the public domain via creative commons public domain CCo.
The site has a handy category drop down menu to search browse and search for photos that includes food, drink, lights, nature, people and urban scapes.
If you're looking for clipart and images, this is the place. All images and clipart is released under creative commons CC0 public domain dedication. There's also a doodling feature too.
Photographer's from all around the world donate their images to Burning Well, which is a repository for public domain images. The site does look bit outdated but there area good range of images to be found.
Browse for images by keyword search, newest or popular images.
66. Image Base
These images are free to use for anything you want including commercial, non-profit, business, print, web, screen, film or personal use.
The goal of the site is to be a resource for creatives, designers, developers, and artists etc that need high quality stock photography. Images available include people, objects, nature and even PowerPoint templates. Attribution is not required but it is requested.
WPClipart is marketed as an ever-growing collection of artwork for school kids that is free of copyright. There are also photos and clips that work great for commercial use, book illustrations, office presentations and more.
Over 61,000 images are available on the site that are in the public domain. Download images in three main available formats (png, webp and jpg).
The website is a journey of a Portuguese guy moving east that that decided that every photo should be used for free. All images are licensed under creative commons CCo public domain.
It's great to see so many images that are placed in the public domain. There's some fantastic resources from many wonderful designers, photographers and publishers so there's no shortage of sites to bookmark.
Still, despite the growing number of images being placed in the public domain, there's a few things to keep in mind:
- You do need to be careful of using images that include people, trademarks, public property and works of art. You should check that a release has been obtained or that you obtain one yourself.
- Even though attribution is not required for images in the public domain, you may still want to consider adding one. A lot of work goes into sourcing, creating and managing these images so the authors would appreciate an acknowledgement or link back to their website.
- Using public domain pictures doesn’t mean you own the photos. You can’t sell or publish them as your own work.
- Public Domain Sherpa
- Creative Commons
- The Public Domain Manifesto
- Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States
Do you purposefully source public domain images and if so, what websites do you use?
Have I missed any?
Please share in the comments below.
To make it super simple for you:
I’ve put together a list of all of the above websites as links in an easy to follow checklist....without the text and images.
This makes it simple to save, bookmark and refer back to (for quick, easy access) when you're looking for your next public domain image (PLUS a BONUS site not listed in this post) without waiting for all the words and images to load. Click here to access.