free stock picture website

Best Stock Photography Resources

What Are the Best (Free) Stock Photography Websites?

I get asked A LOT about where to find quality stock imagery for websites and social media. Let’s be honest, “good” in the realm of stock photography leaves a lot to be desired. That said, in recent years a few “good” websites for free stock photos have popped up. Some are free, and some have you pay a nominal fee (either monthly or yearly). Here’s what I recommend, and why. Also, BONUS for those of you who get to the bottom of this post (or cheat and scroll…); I’ve included some tips and tricks for getting the most out of free photos.

// Free Stock Photography Websites


Pexels was the first free stock site I came across years ago. I’m pretty sure I cached their photo gallery in the early days, but today they have a more robust offering. What I like about this site is that it’s clean and easy to use. Easy search at the top, good “similar photos” algorithm (related photo recommendations), and EASY free downloads. What’s more is they now offer the photo in a variety of download sizes.

Pexels also joined the bandwagon (although later than some), with the addition of free videos and clips. These are great for giving motion to a home page header, or use as a parallax section background.

Cost: Free (though I recommend an account so you can save favorites and create collections)
Known for: Lifestyle, plants and food


Similarly to Pexels, Unsplash features prominent search feature to help you find anything you’re looking for. Unsplash, however, has a lot more categories up front, which I find a bit overwhelming. They’re also the preferred picture site of Squarespace, and have a new partnership with MailChimp (as of November 2020), so you may run across images you’ve seen before on websites (although that can be true of stock in general – see tips section below for thoughts on avoiding copycatting). Currently, Unsplash does not offer videos.

Cost: Free (though I recommend an account so you can save favorites and create collections)
Known for: Travel/urban scapes, partnerships with some well-known digital platforms


Pixabay is very similar to Pexels from a website perspective (great search, less categories), but one feature I LOVE from pixabay is their vector offerings. With vectors (which is line-based art), you can download and manipulate the image as you need (using Adobe Illustrator). From changing colors to using the vector as a base and expand or simplify based on your needs. I do this a lot, they’re starters for logos – I mean, why create the wheel when you can modify it?

I also like their image download page. You get the a lot of information and features, such as the license type (which tells you whether you can use the image commercially or not), image format (JPG, PNG, SVG, MP4 etc.) and author details.

Cost: Free (though you can buy your favorite artists a coffee!)
Known for: Vectors! Nature/wildlife, people, very structured images


I don’t use picjumbo often simply because the site feels really commercial. That said, they do a great job of curating collections of photos. Collections are really nice if you have a theme on a website and need stock to populate headers, or you’re creating a brochure or longer booklet and need accent photography.

Cost: Freemium (you can download free images, but they “encourage” you to donate what the image or images are worth to you.)
Known for: Collections, travel

// Paid Stock Photography Websites

There are a number of websites that offer photo subscriptions, and others that operate on a “credit” or pay-as-you-go model. I prefer subscriptions for the platforms I use most, and currently have two for my company. The other photo platforms are ones you’ve probably heard of, and I use them infrequently.


I love this site. While you can download photos, it was the first site I purchased a license for because it gave me more peace of mind with using photos on larger commercial websites, and they offered what I thought was the most cost effective model. They also limit their PSD and vector graphics exclusively to their Premium customers, and request attribution with the free version. Attribution can sometimes be a challenge (think background and header photos), so that alone was worth the fee. I pay about yearly for unlimited access to photos, videos and VECTORS (which you can tell is a favorite format).

A lot of their images are actually designed, which makes it a great resource for social media. Freepik offers images in multiple formats, video, illustrations, vectors and PSDs. Lot’s of options for a reasonable price.

Cost: Freemium but worth the subscription (which is about $10/month) for unlimited access
Known for: Vectors, PSDs, more “designy” graphics


I purchased a subscription to this because I needed some specific imagery that I wasn’t finding on other sites (more true-life rather and obviously stock). I like Depositphotos’ model because you get a determined number of photos per month, but unused downloads roll-over month to month so I don’t feel like I’m wasting money. They certainly have the types of stock you find on the websites above, but as mentioned I am able to find more “camera roll” types of shots too, meaning they’re less “stock-esque” and cliche.

Cost: Flexible subscription plans and on-demand purchase options
Known for: Vectors, PSDs, more “designy” graphics

Other Paid Stock Photo Options

// Tips & Tricks for Free Stock Photos

Download the right size asset for the job

Most people think bigger is better. But if you’re using the photo on the web, you don’t need the giant size unless it’s going to be a leave background feature image. The bigger the photo, the larger the file. The larger the file, the longer it takes to appear on your website. People are impatient and if you don’t scale down your photos, they won’t wait (because you competition knows how to properly scale photos!)

I use Optimizilla to optimize images for the web. It’s an awesome free resource that compresses and removes irrelevant data from images so they’re optimized for digital applications.

How to Avoid Using Common Stock Photos

Some free stock websites have “download counts” or at least “views” and “likes” so you know how popular a photo might be around the web. There’s no magic number to avoid, it really depends on your usage and needs. My rules is if the image is one I have seen before, I try to avoid using it in a prominent location (such as on a home page). If it really fits the need though, you may decide to use it anyhow.

Create an Account to Save our Favorites

Love a photo but don’t need it right away? Creating an account helps save space on your local computer. Also, most of the sites allow you to create “collections” which can often be shared with a client before download all. Also a helpful way to save space.

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