As a webmaster with dozens of commercial WordPress sites and blogs I’m always looking for royalty free sources of high quality stock photos and images to use in my articles: also use them in my SEO theme as headers and thumbnail images which are used on thousands of sites: these have to be public domain images with no copyright restrictions at all.
I have a bunch of royalty free image websites bookmarked, but can never seem to find the right stock photo sites bookmark when I need it: I have too many bookmarks, too many bookmarks :-)
Royalty Free Image Websites
Here’s my personal list of the top 5 websites for royalty free images for commercial use, sites I’ve used for years. My top 5 are Pixabay, NegativeSpace, Pexels, Unsplash, and StockSnap…
Note: I have no plans to add more free stock photo sites.
Pixabay Royalty Free Image Website
Pixabay – Over 1,000,000 Free Stock Photos
Free images and videos you can use anywhere. All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required.
Pixabay is one of the first sites I visit for images, really easy to use and a good selection of stock images. For example was adding an article about CoderDojo Programming Clubs and needed a relevant free image, found some Arduino Circuit Board images which I used.
Example Pixabay Images
NegativeSpace Royalty Free Image Website
NegativeSpace – Free High-Resolution Photos
All of our beautiful stock images have a CC0 license, so whether for personal or commercial projects, they are completely free to use!
Pexels Royalty Free Image Website
Pexels – Over 30,000 Hand-Picked Free Stock Photos
All photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. You can modify, copy and distribute the photos.
All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So, attribution is not required.
Unsplash Royalty Free Image Website
Unsplash – Over 200,000 High-Resolution Photos
Unsplash grants you an irrevocable, nonexclusive copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos from Unsplash for free, including for commercial purposes, without permission from or attributing the photographer or Unsplash.
StockSnap Royalty Free Image Website
StockSnap – Beautiful Free Stock Photos
All photos on StockSnap fall under the Creative Commons CC0 license. That means you can copy, modify, distribute any photo on the site, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission!
Other Free Stock Photo Sites
To the plethora of website owners who keep emailing for a free backlink from this webpage to their stock photo websites.
I run an SEO services business and understand how important dofollow backlinks are. In 15+ years as an SEO consultant I’ve NEVER received an email asking for a free backlink (I’ve received thousands of emails asking for free links) which resulted in me editing an article to add a suggested link: you are wasting your time asking for a free link to your stock photo website.
I ONLY add links from articles when it either makes sense from an SEO perspective (like the dofollow Pixabay, NegativeSpace, Pexels, Unsplash and StockSnap links above) or there is some other direct benefit like it gains me backlinks in return or the owner of the site employed me as an SEO expert.
If I add a 6th free images for commercial use website to the list it will be because I’ve added to the list of free image sites I personally use.
Guess you might like what you see on rawpixel.com :)
Have you heard about rawpixel? You’ve probably seen our images all over the place. We’re the leading stock photo contributor in the world. We’ve just launched our website where we give away the best free design resources out there. We’d be stoked if you could add us to this list.
Check us out on www.rawpixel.com. Looking forward to you joining our community of creatives.
I was tending towards free stock photo sites using the Public Domain Mark (PDM) and stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license so they can be used in commercial products with no limitations.
PDM images can be used for anything including selling them.
CC0 images are pretty much the same as public domain.
When I download PDM/CC0 images I don’t have to worry where I got them from etc… as I can do anything I like with them. For example I’ve added thousands of PDM/CC0 stock images to the Stallion Responsive Theme (used as WordPress headers and thumbnails for WordPress Blogs) and though I do attribute the source (add a list of the images original source in a txt file just in case of legal issues in the future), I don’t have to.
Rawpixel free stock photos have a custom license:
I couldn’t add your stock photos to my SEO theme and I’d have to keep track of where I got them from so I didn’t inadvertently break the terms of the license. So I’m afraid it’s not a free stock photo site I’ll use (too much hassle).
Had a little browse through the images, you have some nice (unique) stock photos. For those looking for stock photos for adding to a blog or something (part of articles) or promoting stuff on social media, Rawpixel is worth a look.
Thanks for the reply! You definitely made the point there. There’s a couple of changes to our website. First of all, we have images that are completely CC0 (this is going official soon) and you can browse them with the tag “cc0”. We have about 6,000 images at the moment with about 2,000 being original photographs we’ve released under Creative Commons with model releases and property releases intact, and the rest being illustrations and layer files (PSD). There’s no frill in using them in compliance with CC0. We also get a dedicated section on public domain illustrations that might pique your interest: https://www.rawpixel.com/category/53/public-domain.
The rest of the free images are under our own license which is practically almost the same as Creative Commons. You are not allowed to sell the images but if you want to use them in wordpress theme (not selling the image but selling the theme), website design, social media, article, designs for your clients etc, you can. The part about endorsement is the basically the standard in both paid and free stock sites. Read Pixabay’s explanation here: https://pixabay.com/blog/posts/pixabay-license-what-is-allowed-and-what-is-not–4/
I’ll let it up to you to decide whether you want to put our website on there or not but we do hope you check the site out again :D.
Tip at rawpixel.com
Been swamped with SEO work so not had time to look into the new image sections etc…
From an SEO perspective I understand why you’d like Rawpixel to be added to the Top 5 Sites for Royalty Free Images for Commercial Use articles main content.
I’ve added a follow link (passes SEO value) to each free stock photo site from the main article and if you click the PixaBay image for example it goes to a WordPress Attachment Page (loads the image in a larger format) and I’ve replicated the information about PixaBay including the followed link there: Google can and does index and ranks this content in it’s own right (like any webpage).
I get a nice trickle of free Google traffic from the image attachment webpages.
Each photo site gains two followed backlinks from webpages which aren’t overloaded with outgoing links: passes decent link benefit/SEO value. I could easily charge over $20 a month for links like those.
I receive regular emails from other stock photo sites asking for a free backlink because they see the value of followed backlinks. Got an email earlier today from Canva which doesn’t even have free stock photos, yet they thought their site was a suitable resource and asked for a free link: “I hope you like what you see and if it’s not too much of a bother, could you please consider including us on your site?”.
Although I didn’t add Rawpixel to the articles main content I did create a comment specifically optimised for Rawpixel relevant SERPs (has an optimised title and content) and included a followed link from within the comment with anchor text Rawpixel.
Each largish comment like the Rawpixel Free Stock Photos comment generates a Post like webpage with the comment content which Google indexes and ranks just like a standard WordPress Post. The above link is to an exact copy of the comments content including the followed link to Rawpixel. I tend to SEO everything I add to a site including the comment you are reading now which has the potential to rank for SERPs related to the comment title “SEO Value of Followed Comment Backlinks vs Main Content Backlinks” and this content: it’s why I tend to create long comments, they generate traffic.
Rawpixel has two followed links from webpages with relevance to what you want your site to rank for in Google.
I designed the WordPress SEO theme for supporting my own content and so I can take full advantage of user generate content (comments create webpages Google indexes and ranks), for example I just gave your last comment an SEO’d title Rawpixel Free Creative Commons Zero CC0 Stock Photos which when Google reindexes the site will stand a chance of ranking for relevant SERPs.
If you check your Rawpixel brand SERPs I’m sure the “Rawpixel Free Stock Photos” comment page shows up occasionally in Google for long-tail SERPs.
All the above means because I added a followed link from a comment and the comment is replicated in full on the comment page you already have two links with almost identical SEO value in link terms compared to having a Rawpixel section in the main content and link added to the main article: no difference SEO wise.
From a brand marketing perspective the main article is better, I also add Twitter share links to the WordPress attachment pages and randomly share them over half a dozen Twitter accounts with well over 100,000 followers, so more reach: just shared three of the stock phot sites images on https://twitter.com/marketing_404.
I was considering uploading a Rawpixel brand image (like the PixaBay one) to add to the Rawpixel Free Stock Photos comment and add a Tweet link to it, but you don’t appear to have a Rawpixel brand image with your name in the image: just a pink star which wouldn’t really work for Tweets. Seems like a branding mistake not to have an image with your brand name.
Thanks a lot for your awesome recommendation and you can bet we’re implementing a lot of what you have suggested. The star is the idea we’re still toying with ;). By the way, putting backlinking aside, I just want to let you know that we’ve updated rawpixel to include the followings:
1. Public Domain Section which houses only vintage illustrations from the public domain which we curate from many sources including our own vintage collection: https://www.rawpixel.com/category/53/public-domain
2. Public Domain filter on the Free & Search page, all photos under Creative Commons 0 will show up. There are 20,000 images at the moment, 80% our own images. What really makes rawpixel different is probably the fact that we do have the model releases on hand for images with recognizable people, unlike most other sites which do not require the uploaders to upload those releases.
Tip at rawpixel.com