Are you a graphic designer in search of the perfect stock photos, but don’t have the budget to pay for them? There are some great free resources available online if you know where to look. These sites make it easy to find a wide variety of high quality, high resolution images to use in your next design project.
My personal favorite is Unsplash. One of the more popular free stock images sites, Unsplash has many contributors adding their own photography on a regular basis. Every day you’ll find 20+ new photos, so there's always a possibility for the perfect image you were searching for to pop up. What's especially great about Unsplash is that they have a wide variety of content that still manages to feel cohesive. All of their photos have a similar filtered quality, whether it's an image of nature or architecture. The pictures are very striking, they work great for cover pages and large features. The front page tells you they supply “free ‘to do whatever you want’ high-resolution photos”, which are licensed under Creative Commons Zero. Basically, you can modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or to Unsplash.
StockSnap.io has beautiful free high resolution stock photos. This site allows you to sign in and “favorite” images to keep track of and use later. The most popular images on this site are beautiful nature themes, landscapes, and scenery. There are also a lot of great zoomed in highly detailed photos. As the site says right on the opening screen, all photos are free from copyright restrictions, and no attribution is required to use them. The search filter is very simplistic, which is great for trying to find something fast. I've found that the best way to search on StockSnap.io is by only using one keyword, adding too many will give you more vague results.
Gratisography is a particularly interesting free stock image site. The images found here are definitely a little quirkier than the rest on this list, but they still have their own charm. All photographs on Gratisography are done by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design, which gives them all a cohesive look and feel. Many images are comical photographs of people, with some part over exaggerated to give them a peculiar look. Ryan also has wonderful images of people not modified, as well as a lot of city life photography and nature. This site is also free of copyright restrictions.
Negative Space uploads 20 new photos every week licensed under Creative Commons CC0. The site design is a little unconventional, but the images you can find are well worth it. The variety of images is somewhat limited, but they do have quite an abundance in nature and work related pictures. Once you search, a new menu pops up where you can specify the category better or look for a specific color image. Negative Space is another site where all photos and raw files are free and you can modify or distribute them however you would like without asking permission or giving attribution.
Snapwire is a tumblr based photography blog that allows you to create requests for photos from professional photographers. This service does require payment, and there's an obvious wait time, however, all images currently on the site are royalty free for you to use as you please. All the images look wonderful, and there is a lot of variety in the photos. Snapwire also has an app for iPhone and Andriod, where photographers can upload their work, contribute to the site, and be paid for their efforts.
We hope you've enjoyed this list of free photo resources. Do you have any other favorite photo sites you visit frequently? Let us know in the comments below. Also, check out our resources page for more great print and design tips.