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2021 Best 12 Free Stock Photo and Royalty Free Image Sites

by Andrew Shih
Best Free Stock Photo and Royalty free image sites

Last Updated on January 29, 2021 by Andrew Shih

Whether you are creating a personal blog, website, brochure, magazine, or digital art, you know it is important to find the right image that can resonate with your message and grab the reader’s attention.  In that past, a good image can be costly, with limited royalty-free images.  Fortunately, there are more and more websites that specialize in free stock photos.   Here is the list of top sites that offers free stock photos and royalty-free images.

Royalty Free Images & Free Stock Photo Sites

Pixabay Free Stock Photos

#1: Pixabay

PixaBay is by far my personal favorite go-to site for royalty-free images.  With 1.7 million high-quality free stock photos, it has one of the largest free image collections available.  There is even a searchable interface that works well and making it easy to find photos, illustrations, and vector graphics.  You have choices of downloading different image sizes.  It is Free, Simple, no hassle, and don’t even require email registration.   A nice bonus is many of the images also have vector graphic (SVG) files available, so the picture does not become pixelized if the viewer enlarges the picture.  However, if you want to download the SVG files, you will need to register for a free account.

Number of Images: Over 1.7 million

Categories:  Animals, architecture/building, backgrounds, beauty/fashion, business/finance, computer/communication, education, emotions, food/drink, heath/medical, industry/craft, music, nature/landscapes, people, places, religion, science/technology, sports, transportation/traffic, travel/vacation.

Different Downloadable Size: Yes

Vector Graphics: Yes

Image Search: Yes

Pexels free stock photos

#2: Pexels

Pexels has over 1 million free stock photos.  All the photos have no restrictions for commercial use and are royalty free, so you can use it for your blog and digital content creation without attribution.  Pexels also has a searchable interface to help you find images.  Another helpful feature is that you can specify and download custom size image that you can’t do elsewhere.

Number of Images: Over 1 million

Categories:  Pixel has a huge list of categories.

Different Downloadable Size: Yes, Small, Medium, Large, Original, Custom Size.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

PikWizard free stock photos

#3: PikWizard 

PIkWizard has over 1 million free stock photos in many categories for personal and commercial use without attribution.  When you download the royalty free image, PikWozard also provides a build-in wizard for you to customize the image that you won’t find elsewhere easily.

Number of Images: Over 1 million

Categories:  American flag, angel, animal, people, season, sport, background, birthday, black & white, flower, building, car, candlelight, cloud, skyline, coffee, computer, cornfield, desert, dinosaur, dragon, earth, eclipse, family, fire, food, forest, night, holiday, and much more.

Different Downloadable Size: No. Full image size.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

Built-in Image Editor: Yes.  The only one with built-in image editor.

CONS: You need to hover your mouse on the picture to find out if the picture is a sponsored picture or a free stock photo.

FreeImages free stock photos

#4: FreeImages

FreeImages has over 300,000 free images with a searchable interface.  While its collection is smaller than the Pixabay and Pexels, FreeImages maintains a diverse set of categories, including abstract, office, watercolor, shower, airport, planet, marble, worker, girl baby, cherry blossom, old house typing, nail, clock, food, and more.  The interface is fairly clean and easy to use, and it is a useful resource for free images.  

Number of Images: Over 300,000

Categories: Abstract, office, watercolor, shower, airport, planet, marble, worker, girl baby, cherry blossom, old house typing, nail, clock, food, and more.

Different Downloadable Size: Yes (S, M, L, XL, Full)

Image Search: Yes

Unsplash free stock photos

#5: Unsplash

Unsplash offers an impressive collection of over 1 million free high-quality resolution photos that is searchable and doesn’t require attribution.  There are many breathtaking and beautiful landscape pictures.  There is an extensive collection of categories including nature, people, business & work, travel, technology, animals, interiors, architecture, food & drink, athletics, health, work from home, current events, wallpaper, and more. 

Number of Images: Over 1 million

Categories:  Huge collection of categories including nature, people, business & work, travel, technology, animals, interiors, architecture, food & drink, athletics, health, work from home, current events, wallpaper, and more. 

Different Downloadable Size: No

Image Search: Yes

CONS: The one possible downside is there is no size selection when you download the picture.  You will need to download the full-size photos, typically a few MB in size.  Most likely, you do not need the image in full resolution and need to manually shrink down the size of the picture to optimize your page load time.

StockSnap free stock photos

#6: StockSnap.io

StockSnap.io is a hidden treasure for free stock photos.  You are free to download the image for both personal and commercial use without attribution. The photos are well categorized with subcategories.  StockSnap has many high-resolution images shared by photographers.

Categories:  Business, beach, people, love, flower, nature, food, wallpaper, computer, office, mood, city, season, black/white, coffee, design, travel, car, dog, fashion, book, fitness, friends, music, money, school, house, building, water, work, flowers, health, laptop, meeting, wedding, baby, art, party, beauty, sky, phone, technology, shopping, team, sunset, yoga, forest, road, abstract, sport, construction, light, sea, wine, and more.

Number of Images: Unknown

Different Downloadable Size: No

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

CONS: StockSnap shares a similar drawback with Unsplash that only a high-resolution picture is provided, and you will need to manually reduce the resolution of the picture if you need to reduce the file size to optimize your web page.

Burst free stock photos

#7: Burst

Burst is a free stock photo platform powered by Shopify.  This royalty free image gallery has thousands of high-resolution pictures that were created by Shopify’s global community of photographers.  It is built to help entrepreneurs, designers, bloggers,  All the photos are free for commercial use, and there is no attribution required.

Number of Images: Over 22,000

Categories: work from home, business, shop, women, Video call background, photographer, fashion, feeling good, retail, background, landscape, food, urban life, work from home, home, accessories, people, flower, beauty, money, holiday, jewelry, transportation, animal, nature, art,  fitness, education, love, technology, celebrate, travel, communication, recreation, season, mobile background, strength, wellness, office.

Different Downloadable Size: Yes.  2 choices – High or Low resolution.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

Flickr free stock photos

#8: Flickr

Flickr is another popular image site that has millions of images, and it also has the most impressive choices for downloading a specific image size.  However, not all photos on Flickr are royalty free images under public domain licensing with CC0.  Therefore you need to pay attention to your search criteria. 

Number of Images: Over 11 images under public domain license.

Categories: Not listed, but you can imagine it’s a lot.

Different Downloadable Size: Yes.  Most impressive size choices from thumbnail to X-large and original.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

CONS: The images have different licensing requirements.  Therefore, not all images are creative commons / public domain, and you will need to pay attention to your filtering criteria and review the licensing requirement.

StockVault free stock photos

#9: StockVault

StockVault has a decent list of free stock photos and royalty free images available for personal and commercial use without attribution.  The interface is pleasant to use.  The search engine works well and able to find relevant photos.

Number of Images: Unknown

Categories: Animal, transportation, art, construction, nature, industrial, objects, people, season, landscape, textures.

Different Downloadable Size: No.  Full-size image only.

Vector Graphics: Yes, but require a premium account.

Image Search: Yes

CreativeCommons free stock photos

#10: CreativeCommons

CreativeCommons is another image collection website where the creator has dedicated the work to the public domain and waive the copyright.  CC search is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone. CC search can search across 300 million images using open API across multiple sites.  While the search returns a lot of results, most of the pictures are not what I am looking for, and it can take a considerable time to sift through.

Number of Images:  300 Million.  It is a search engine that searches images across multiple sites.

Categories: Unspecified.  Many.

Different Downloadable Size: No.  Only full resolution.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

CONS: While the search returns a lot of results, most of the pictures are not what I am looking for and it can take a considerable time to sift through.  Therefore, it is not rank high on the list.

PicJumbo free stock photos

#11: PicJumbo

Picjumbo is another smaller free stock photo site with high-resolution royalty free images. 

Number of Images:  Over 3000

Categories: abstract, animal, architecture, business, fashion, food, holiday, live, nature, people, road, season, sunlight, technology, objects, transportation, vertical, wallpaper.

Different Downloadable Size: No.  Only full resolution.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

CONS: The free stock photo library is still relatively small, and you cannot choose different image sizes. 

Gratisography free stock photos

#12: Gratisography

Gratisography is a site that has a decent collection of nontraditional and evocative photos and images.    While the photo categories seem quite typical, the free stock photos on Gratisography has more unique images that you are not going to find elsewhere.  While Gratisography cannot compete with Pixabay and other top royalty free image websites, its uniqueness makes this website worth your attention.

Number of Images: about 1,000

Categories: Animal, business, fashion, food, nature, object, people, urban, and whimsical categories.

Different Downloadable Size: No.  Only full resolution.

Vector Graphics: No

Image Search: Yes

CONS: The free stock photo library is relatively small, and you cannot choose different image sizes. 

Create Royalty Free Word Cloud Image

WordClouds

WordClouds

Here is a bonus resource!  If you are tired of all the pictures, having a hard time finding an ideal picture, or simply need a variation, a word cloud image is a very appealing alternative.  You can create a word cloud for free with WordClouds.  You can easily import a text file or use a word list to create and customize your word cloud image; you can change the size, the gap between words, font, color, shape, and theme. It’s a very powerful free word cloud tool.

Create Royalty Free Icons with FlatIcons

Flaticons

FlatIcons

Another bonus resource!  FlatIcons is a valuable resource if you are looking for icons. An icon can be a useful addition to your digital content.  FlatIcons has over 2400 free icons and allows you to easily make customizations to size, color, background, rotation, shape, effects to help you create a unique icon.

Premium Stock Photo Sites

If you are venturing beyond the popular categories such as people, animal, nature, food, or travel, there are going to be time when you will have a harder time finding an appropriate image.   For example, if you have a specific keyword in mind such as affiliate marketing, blogging, freelance, or online teaching, finding an image will be a bit more challenging.  You probably have to workaround it by trying out similar keywords or settle for mediocre image. 

This is where premium image sites such as iStock or Shutterstock show their strength can save you a lot of time and offer professional images.  If you have been browsing for graphics on those free stock photo sites and royalty free images, you can typically see displays of nicer images from those premium images sites.  Clearly, this is a trade-off decision you will have to make between time & quality vs money.

Google Royalty Free Images

While it may be easy to use Google to search for royalty free images, it is not very reliable.  You should not use Google as the sole source of identify if the image is royalty free.  You should always verify the website and the licensing where the photo is hosted is licensed under public domain.

Conclusion

Personally, I’m very grateful for the artists and the websites that make these fantastic royalty free images. Without them, for bloggers and digital content creators like us, we will have a much harder time coming up with a compelling blog post and better serve our readers.

Likewise, there are good reasons why premium stock photo sites exist.  If you have more budget, the premium Image websites such as Istock or Shutterstock will save you valuable time. You will have a bigger pool of professional images that are more suitable for your target keywords.

I am sure there will be more free stock photo sites emerging, and this is not intended to be a complete list.  Some of the sites have much smaller free stock photo and royalty free images, require registration, or have too many distracting ads that simply aren’t worth your time to search for an image on dozen more sites.

Please comment below if there is a free stock photo or royalty free image sites that should be added to the list. 

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