As designers and visual communicators, we need to make sure to use photos to help tell a story and to convey a message. While it's best to use high quality original photos whenever possible, sometimes they just won't fit into the workflow. Either you ran out of time, don't have access to the subject matter, or you don't have the equipment or patience to take a really great photo.
Luckily, more and more Public Domain photo sites are popping up, where either all or a portion of the databases are completely free to use without attribution.
Here are the best ones I've seen so far. Share your favorites in the comments below!
I adore Unsplash. I know I shouldn't interject my opinion into this roundup, but I just can't help it.
This Tumblr-hosted site is simple and offers 10 new photos every 10 days, with themes surrounding nature, urban life, and a little food and technology.
Little Visuals provides 7 new photos every 7 days, and packages them in a nice weekly ZIP file. The types of photos are mostly landscapes, abstract urban and industrial, and some abstract nature. The photo groups sometimes have a theme, such as this photography theme pack from Week 7.
Pixabay provides a larger database of searchable photos, clipart, and vector graphics. They offer some suggested Sponsored Images but it’s easy to navigate to the free, high res, and interesting photos. The user-submitted photos are fun to rate and share, and multiple download sizes are available.
Hi Res Stock adds 100 new photos to their collection each month in these categories: lifestyle, food, furniture, abstract, technology, people, places, travel, fashion and more. The fun and bouncy minimalist site requires a registration but offers a ton of free (and premium) high quality photos specifically geared towards designers.
With a free member registration, you can download, share and lightbox photos on Freerange Stock. Photographers can also contribute to the site.
Gratisography is a site with photos all taken by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design. The website is beautiful and no registration is required to download the photos. While the database isn't searchable, it’s a pleasure to scroll through Ryan’s beautiful photos.
Pic Jumbo provides extremely high quality free photographs in a ton of different categories: abstract, animals, architecture, fashion, food, nature, people, sunrises and sunsets, technology, things, weddings, and more. All of the photos have a beautiful professional quality and excellent composition. The site has only been live since November 2013 and has become wildly popular due to its strong content.
Death To The Stock Photo is a project by creatives Allie Lehman and David Sherry. The site requires you enter an email address, but every month they’ll send you a great pack of photos to use anywhere and set you up with a free starter pack upon sign up.
New Old Stock provides a very interesting and unique concept: “vintage photos from the public archives, free of known copyright restrictions”. The photos and graphics are curated into a really great collection of mostly black and white, truly vintage photos.
Refe stands out from the crowd because all of the photos are taken on a mobile device. The quality isn't compromised, either. Most of the subject matter is European urban with some nature shots.
Inspired by Unsplash, Jay Mantri started his own public domain Tumblr hosted stock photo site. There's a great mix of abstract, domestic, and landscape photos in his collection.
Stokpic contains a large database of high quality photos, easily discoverable by categories such as animals, architecture, lifestyle, and more. You can sign up for their list and get 10 free photos every 20 days.
Life Of Pix (an initiative by LEEROY) is another great site with free photos that are copyright free, featuring beautiful photos from a network of photographers. Most of the photos have a landscape, architectural, or industrial theme and are high quality.
Share your favorite free stock photo sites in the comments below!