Royalty free stock photography can be used for personal or commercial projects. At many websites, these photos are completely free to use, but there are also a variety of places to purchase royalty free images. When you purchase a royalty free photo, you only pay for the licensing once, and you are not required to continue paying fees or royalties. You can find collections of these images at a number of different websites.
Founded in 2014 with a mission of "Empowering Creators," Pexels offers a great range of royalty free images in a clean browsing format and without complicated licensing restrictions. The images on Pexels are available under the Creative Commons Zero license, which means they completely free to be used for any legal purpose. They can be used for personal or commercial reasons and do not require any attribution. The only restriction is that images including identifiable people can't be used in an offensive manner. You do not have to sign up for a membership to use Pexels' images.
They offer over 30,000 stock photos with new images added daily. Their selection includes nature and animal images, work and school photos, artistic and holiday photos, food and drink, fashion, pets, and a wide range of other topics and industries. You can search for specific items or browse from popular photos or searches.
Morguefile has been around since 1996 and has become one of the most popular sites to get free stock images. The community surrounding Morguefile is very active, and there are a number of high-quality images available on the site.
Unlike other sites, Morguefile doesn't automatically allow you to use the original images you download for commercial purposes. If you wish to use the images on a blog or for commercial use, you must either credit the original author of the image or alter it in a way that makes it unique.
Each image displays the general licensing offered with the image, as well as a more in-depth summary of the license. There are no fees associated with downloading on the site, and you don't need to be a registered member of the site to download images.
Stock Free Images
Stock Free Images is another excellent choice to find for royalty free photos. This site is wonderful for anyone who needs a broad range of professional-style images that are vetted for quality. Many of the other sites offering stock images don't provide this type of screening.
When you check out the terms of service, it's apparent that there are two downsides to using Stock Free Images. First, you have to become a member at the website to download any of the images. Second, not all of the images here are free. While there are plenty of free images to choose from, there are some premium photos in the mix that you will have to pay for if you want a non-watermarked image. These issues may not be very important to everyone, but they are something you should consider.
The free photos at Stock Free Images do require attribution and/or a link back to the original photo. It also has some limitations on usage. If you use free images for printed materials, you cannot exceed 10,000 printed copies. Images that you purchase cannot be used in more than 500,000 printed copies.
Pixabay, like Pexels, also operates under the Creative Commons Zero license, so their images are free to use for any application or purpose, whether business or personal. The only restriction at Pixabay is that images cannot be hotlinked. You'll need to download the image directly in order to use it. They offer over 920,00 photos, illustrations, and vector art to choose from.
You do not need to have a membership or sign up on Pixabay in order to download photos, and you can search or browse by category. Another great aspect about Pixabay is that they have an app, available for download on Google Play or iTunes.
This website is much more relaxed in feel than the other websites. The blog-style format of FreeDigitalPhotos.net is very easy to navigate, making this site perfect for people who want to spend as little time as possible finding their images. Holiday-specific photos are especially popular here, and the site runs special features for all the big upcoming holidays.
The photos here are free to use under one condition: you provide attribution to FreeDigitalPhotos.net wherever you post the picture. This doesn't have to be a link. If you want to use the photos without giving any attribution, the images can be licensed for a small fee. This site also sets restrictions on size. While many of the smaller photos are free, larger images must be purchased.
Wikimedia Commons is a source of thousands of free-to-use images from around the world. The images here are uploaded by individual photographers, and just about anyone can submit a photo. However, editors do scour the photos for the "best of" the submitted photos to feature them on the front page of the site. This is the site to visit if you are looking for quality images without licensing issues that won't require you to sign up for an account.
Below each of the photos hosted here, you will find specific licensing conditions as outlined by the person uploading the picture. In most cases, you are free to use and edit the photos you find here without attribution to the original photographer. However, there are some instances where you will be required to attribute the photo to the original photographer.
In some other cases the photos belong to a company or business and you must have permission to use the photos. Examples of these include logos, movie or television stills, or celebrity images. Always read the licensing terms for each individual photo before using it for any purpose.
You have to pay an initial fee for the images at iStockphoto, but they offer high-quality photos that are royalty free. The stock photos here can be used for business, commercial, or personal uses by purchasing the standard license. There are some restrictions, such as print limits of 500,000 copies, and the images cannot be used in a logo or trademark.
An extended license is required in certain cases. You must purchase an extended license to use images in digital templates that are available for resale, physical products that are being sold using iStockphoto images, and printed copies in excess of 500,000.
You will need to create and account and can then purchase individual images by purchasing credit packs or signing up for a subscription. The subscription option is a good choice if you require many photos as you can get a lower cost per photo. There are limits on the number of photos you can download depending on your subscription plan. When you join iStockphoto, you also have access to a free photo, illustration, and video download each week.
With over 47 million photos, illustrations, and videos, Bigstock has a large selection to choose from. Under their standard usage agreement, you can obtain royalty free pictures that can be used for nearly any business or personal purpose. Like iStockphoto, images cannot be used in logos or trademarks, and printed copies using a Bigstock image cannot exceed 250,000 copies.
An extended license is required in some cases, such as using the stock photos in physical items like mugs, t-shirts, or other goods that are for resale, use in product packaging, or use in software programs.
Bigstock sells images by subscription with daily or monthly limits, or you can buy packs of image credits ranging from ten to 25 credits to use for individual images. The site has many categories as well as an individual search feature and offers live chat help.
If you're looking for a unique variety of quality stock photos, you may want to check out Unsplash. There are no fees to purchase or use the photos, and no attribution or credits are required as they are offered under the Creative Commons Zero license. You can use these images for virtually any purpose.
Although the collection here is not as large as some of the bigger and paid stock photo sites, they are thoughtfully curated and made into great collections to browse. (You can use the search feature, too, if you're looking for something specific). This is a good source for artistic and themed photos, as well as nature and abstract images. You don't have to join to download images.
Find the Right Images
When using royalty free stock photography, you have plenty of options in today's market. There are many places that offer completely free photos that don't require royalties, as well as premium options for top-quality images. Whether you find free photos to help you stay on budget or utilize options for premium images, you'll aways save when you use royalty free stock images that don't require ongoing payments.