January 26, 2014

Nine Great Royalty-Free Photo Services

After an expensive dust-up (my bad) recently with the fine folks at Getty Images, I spent some time looking for good, royalty-free sources for photos that I could use on this blog, presentations and for my startup clients.


It’s surprising how many royalty-free services exist, although many of them seem to be more interested in facilitating the purchase of images from Getty/iStock, Shutterstock, Fotolia, etc.

Here are nine good royalty-free options, which are safer than pulling photos off Google Images.

Flickr: Although mostly neglected by Yahoo, Flickr remains a terrific resource for royalty-free photos that can be used depending on the Creative Commons license in place.

Gratispography, which offers downloads of free high-resolution royalty-free photos used for personal and commercial projects. You can’t search for photos but there is enough selection to either find something immediately useful or down the road. All the photos are the work of Ryan McGuire.

Unsplash: A cool service that emails you 10 new high-res, downloadable photos every 10 days. If you’re looking for inspiration or simply beautiful photos, giving your email address to Unsplash is a small price to pay. You can also submit photos.

Everystockphoto: A license-specific photo search engine that indexes and searches royalty-free photos, from a variety of sources such as Flickr. It also offers fee-based photos through Fotolia.

Creative Commons, which offers the ability to search through multiple photo sources: such as Flickr, Fotopedia, Wikimedia Commons, Google and Google Images, as well as image, sound and video sites.

Photopin: For bloggers, this is probably one of the best and most user-friendly services. Using the Flickr API to search creative commons photos, you can quickly discover a variety of potential photos. When you do a search, the top of the page features sponsored (aka fee-based) photos, so you need to scroll down for the free stuff.

Compfight: Another image search engine that use the Flickr API. Photos are available under the Creative Commons license to pay attention to the terms of use.

PicJumbo: A free photo site that can be searched using categories. There is a premium service for $6/month that delivers a pack of high-res lifestyle photos via email.

Pixabay: Leveraging the Creative Commons Deed CC0, Pixabay makes it easy to search for photos that can be used for commercial purposes without attribution. All it asks is a link to the Website. When you do a search, sponsored images from Shutterstock appear.

New: SumAll has opened up its collection of photos, icons, vectors and illustrations. There are some pretty creative images so it’s worth checking out.

Bonus: Many bloggers like to use clip art and graphics rather than photos. Here are a few good sources:

Clker.com offers free, public domain clip art that can be downloaded. It’s not the prettiest Website but it does the job by delivering a huge number of results when you do a search.

Open Clip Art: Similar to Clker, it provides an easy, if not design-challenged, experience.

Canva: A hybrid service that offers photos, graphics and the ability to create custom graphics for blog posts, presentations, social media, cards and documents. Many graphics and images can be used for free, while premium graphics and images start at $1. It is a great service for anyone willing to be creative and do some legwork.

PlaceIt: An interesting service that lets you place photos and image within “realistic environments” – e.g. putting a photo on an iPhone 5 screen. It’s another example of a user-friendly service that fits a specific need.

Are there any services to add? If so, leave a comment.

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