In the face of copyright laws, there has always been this niggling question in many creative minds; “What if we could share some elements of creativity and use them as enablers for the greater creative movement? What if we could create things and put them into the ether for others to use as ingredients for their own work?”
That sort of thinking led to the birth of the Creative Commons movement in 2001 and opened up digital playspaces for sites that offer free images for citizens of the world wide web to use.
As a writer, it’s often helpful to have a rich source of images that you can use for blog posts, inspiration, etc. We scoured the web and found a ton of websites offering bountiful royalty-free photos. We have listed some of our favorites here.
A number of these sites even have their own WordPress plugins which enable you to add images directly from their databases to your WordPress blog without having to first download them to your computer. We think that’s pretty neat.
This was our first go-to site as Valley of Writers for stock photos, simply because we came across it before we did many of the others and grew to love it. We love the fact that it has iOS and Android apps so your photo inspiration is always close at hand. Unsplash features beautiful high-resolution photos. You can use images from this site with no attribution if you wish. You are also free to use them for commercial purposes. If you want to contribute photos to the community, you can sign up and start uploading to complete the circle of sharing.
Pexels is our new favorite stock photo site. The photo we used for this article is from there. It is very similar to Unsplash and also has iOS and Android apps. The big difference we’ve found is the emphasis that Pexels places on images of people of color. They also have videos, which Unsplash doesn’t. The beautiful photography on this site is, as with Unsplash, contributed by a community of creatives like you. As with any such site, you can do what you like with the pictures and videos you download but there are a few guidelines. These apply in general when using photos like this, but when not sure, check with the respective website.
Creative Commons Website
The Creative Commons website will search through various image collections including Flickr (Over 300 million images), Digitalt Museum (+185 million images), DeviantArt (+270million images), and give you results that match the Creative Commons license you have highlighted. The thing to be aware of with the images that turn up here is that some of them require attribution, some cannot be modified, some cannot be used for commercial purposes, etc, depending on the Creative Commons license they are published under.
Life of Pix
Another great source of free high-resolution photos and videos. There are copyright restrictions for personal and commercial use. New photographs added to the site every week. We like that this site has a fresh, rebel feel about it. They also feature a new photographer every week so you get to e-meet some real people on there too ;-).
All the images on this site are licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 License, which is a fancy way of saying you can do what you please with them – without of course violating the rights of recognizable people in the images. Be nice, you’re getting these photos for free. You can sign up for their mailing list and have their best photos delivered to your inbox every week.
Besides a ton of free photos, this site also has a premium membership which gives you access to their exclusive material, starting at $49 per month. The photos on this site are clearly tagged, making it easy to search for photos similar to the one that you may currently be looking at.
Pixabay is one of the biggest players in this field. Yes, we have put them at the end of our list, but we’re gangsta like that. Do not be misled. This site has a database of over one million photos, vector graphics, illustrations, and videos – all for free. You also have the option here, as with a number of the other sites mentioned above, of buying the photographer a coffee.