The Longest Curated List of Free Photo Sites (300, and counting)

It’s been well over three years since I wrote a blog post for the well-known Dutch online marketing site Frankwatching, about free photo sites. The article was read 250,000 times, which is quite substantial for a post written  in Dutch.

Apparently the article fulfilled a need. In the last three years, all across the web lists of free photo sites were published. Some of them short, like my initial article, some with 50, 70 or even 100+ free stock photo sites. When looking at these sites, you will find a lot of quality photography. Images that are original, authentic, different.

With all these sites around, why are still so many websites and presentations illustrated with dull, boring, cliché stock photos.  Why do we settle for less than using the very best pictures out there?

Maybe the issue for website designers, developers, content managers and online editors is that they do not know where to look for great pictures – or simply don’t allow themselves the time to find images that stand out. Or are afraid that they accidentally use pictures that are copyrighted after all and get a claim.

That’s a pity, really. Because there are hundreds of websites that offer great collections of pictures that are free to use.

So we decided to write another article about free photo sites. This time with a big ambition: to create and curate a list of at least 300 photo sites where at least part of the offering can be used free of charge.

We started from scratch, and searched the internet for websites with collections of photos of which at least a substantial part can be used free of charge, which is not necessarily the same as free of copyrights.

We used many of the existing lists as initial sources, but unlike many other sites we checked each and everyone to see if they were up and running and to check if they had at least a substantial collection of photos that can be used free of charge. In addition, we put a lot of effort into research, searching the internet for websites that were not listed before.

The result? 305 websites where you can find images in any category, style, originality and quality. There are stock photo sites, photo search engines, aggregators of photosites, communities and single photographer sites.

Together these 305 websites form the The Most Comprehensive, Curated and Rated List of Free Photo Sites!

The sites are featured in alphabetical order. Gradually we will review each of these sites. For now, we have given a short description of the site plus a rating.

We give each site a rating of 1-5 stars or rather, flashing cameras. This rating is based on a combination of quality and authenticity of the pictures and user experience of the site.

The rating should be interpreted as follows:

  Very poor site. Avoid.
  Poor. But still, maybe you will find here just what you were looking for.
  Good enough. Worth your while.
  Very good. Recommended without hesitation.
  The best of the best. Everything is 100% here. Unbelievable these photos are for free.

 

1 Million Free Pictures

Rating: 
Type: Photographer site
Free: Fully
Size: 10,000 photos

 

123RF

Rating:
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: 89 million of which several thousand free

 

4 Free Photos

Rating:  
Type: Marketplace
Free: Fully
Size:  Not revealed, several thousands photos

 

4 Shared

Rating: 
Type: Marketplace
Free: Fully
Size:  Not revealed, several thousand photos

 

500px

Rating: 
Type: Community and Marketplace
Free: Partly
Size:  Millions, of which several thousand free

 

A Digital Dreamer

Rating: 
Type: Photographer site
Free: Fully
Size:  1,000+

 

Aarin Freephoto

Rating: 
Type: Photographer site
Free: Fully
Size:  1,000+

 

ABS Freepic

Rating:  
Type: Stock agency
Free: Fully
Size:  1,000+

 

Abstract Influence

Rating: 
Type: Community
Free: Fully
Size:  1,000+

 

Aflo Images

Rating:
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size:  10,000+

 

Alamy

Rating:
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: 123 million of which several thousand free

 

Alana.io

Rating:
Type: Stock agency
Free: Fully CC0
Size: Unrevealed, several thousand. Note: site is down sometimes. Check back later.

 

Albumarium

Rating: 
Type: Community
Free: Mostly
Size: Unrevealed, several thousand

 

Alegri Photos

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: 3,000

 

All Free Download

Rating: 
Type: Marketplace
Free: Partly
Size: Several thousand

 

All The Free Stock

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Partly
Size: –

 

Amazing Textures

Rating: 
Type: Marketplace
Free: Fully
Size: Thousands

 

Amsterdam Picture Library

Rating: 
Type: Historical Archive
Free: Fully
Size: Tens of thousand

 

Ancestry Images

Rating: 
Type: Historical Archive
Free: Partly
Size: Thousands

 

Animal Photos

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Fully
Size: Thousands

 

Baj stock

Rating: 
Type: Photographer site
Free: Fully
Size: Ten thousand

 

Bara Art

Rating: 
Type: Photographer site
Free: Free to use
Size: Several thousand

 

Barn Images

Rating: 
Type: Photographer site
Free: Fully
Size: Several thousand

 

Best of Free Photos

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Free to use
Size: Around 1,000

 

Best Stock Photo Free

Rating: 
Type: Single photographer
Free: Free to use
Size: 1,000

 

Bigfoto.com

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Free to use
Size: Several thousand

 

Bigstock

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: Millions

 

Blend

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: Thousands

 

Bossfight

Rating: –
Type: Site seems to be discontinued
Free: CC0
Size: –

 

Bucketlistly

Rating: 
Type: Single photographer
Free: CC0
Size: 5,000+

 

Burning Well

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Public domain
Size: Ten thousands, however not maintained since 2006

 

Burst

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency (part of Shopify)
Free: Partly
Size: Thousands

 

Canva

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Partly
Size: 1,500,000+

 

Can stockphoto

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Some
Size: 18,000+

 

Carpictures

Rating:  (actually: 4 for content, which is unique; 2 for user experience)
Type: Aggregator (niche)
Free: Full (CC-BY)
Size: Thousands of car pictures, ordered by manufacturer.

 

CC Search

Rating: 
Type: Photo Search Engine. Indexing collections from 500px, Europeana, Flickr, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library and Rijksmuseum.
Free: Fully (CC)
Size: 10 Million

 

CC0.photo

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: Several thousand

 

Shutterstock

Rating: 
Type: Professional Stock Photo Agency
Free: Partly
Size: 198 Million

 

Cepolina

Rating: 
Type: Photographers
Free: Fully
Size: 20,000 photos of travel and nature

 

clker.com

Rating: 
Type: Stock photos and clipart
Free: Fully
Size: Several thousand

 

Compfight

Rating: 
Type: Photo Search Engine
Free: Partly
Size: Millions

 

Create Her Stock

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Fully
Size: 230

 

Creative Convex

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Fully
Size: Several hundreds

 

Creative Market

Rating: 
Type: Market place
Free: Partly
Size: Over 1 Million

 

Creativity 103

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: Thousands

 

Crestock

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: Millions

 

Cupcake

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: Tens

 

Daily Photoblog

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Non-commercial use
Size: Thousands, 1 new photo each day

 

DaveGH

Rating: 
Type: Images and Structures taken from 90s video game
Free: Yes, except for use in video games
Size: Thousands, not growing

 

Death to the Stockphoto

Rating: 
Type: Stock agency
Free: Fully, monthly subscription
Size: Thousands

 

Deposit photos

Rating:
Type: Stock agency
Free: Partly
Size: 80 Million

 

Designers Pics

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: Severals hundreds

 

Divvy Pixel

Rating: 
Type: Aggregator
Free: Fully
Size: Several Thousands

 

Dreamstime

Rating: 
Type: Stock Agency
Free: Partly free (Paid images are royalty free)
Size: 77 Million

 

Dribbble Free Photos

Rating: 
Type: Community. Several groups of free images, e.g.:
Dribbble Free Nature Photo
Dribbble Free Vintage Photos
Dribbble Free Workspace Photos
Free: Fully
Size: Several thousands

 

dustn.tv

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: Several hundreds

 

End The Echo

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Unclear
Size: Several hundreds

 

Epicantus

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: Several hundreds

 

Epicva

Rating: 
Type: Photographer
Free: Fully
Size: Several hundreds

 

Europeana Collections

Rating: 
Type: Art Collections, EU funded
Free: Partly, check https://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/rights.html
Size: Over 52 Million

 

(more…)

How to select great pictures for presentations

Powerpoint presentations have changed a lot over the last few years. And for the better. We see less text and more images on slides. Presenters have learned that slides with 11 bullet points, each of which has 3 sub bullet points, is not a presentation but a memo or report for which they should use Word. Over the years, we saw presentations get less text and more images. In fact, today it has become the norm to use full-size photos as powerpoint backgrounds, with no more than one line of text on each of them.

Very powerful indeed. But tricky too. There are lots of ways to ruin a picture based presentation. Luckily, there are even more ways to make presentations awesome. We will teach you how to select great pictures for presentations in three separate blogs.

First, in this blog, we will explain how to select great pictures for presentations. Photos that match the objective, the topic and the intention of your presentation.

Second, in part two, we will explain how to distinguish quality photos from pictures that, well, do not meet your standard. Or worse: photos that are detrimental to your reputation.

Third, in the final blog of this series, we will give an overview of photo sites that deliver quality images.

But let us start with the foundation of a modern presentation: selecting the best images to make your next presentation unforgettable. We’ll show you how in eight steps.

1. Before even looking at pictures: define your message and write your story

Before you even start looking for pictures, you need to define the central message of your presentation. What do you want to achieve? Are you selling a product or service? Pitching an idea? Bringing news, bad news even? Do you need to convince people? Or is the occasion festive?

This first step may sound obvious but you will see that defining the message helps extremely well when selecting the photos.

To take that one step further, once you have you central message, write out the entire presentation so that you know exactly which wording you will use. Only that way you will be a able to identify the images amplify these words. In stead of weakening them, or worse: being a distraction, so that you won’t get your message across at all.

2. Which emotions do you want to evoke?

It is important to realize that at the deepest level each belief or buying decision is motivated by one of only three emotions of your buyers:

  • – their passions
  • – their fears
  • – their hopes

We aim to be positive people so the fear part strikes us as rather cynical, but then again if you have to bring bad news to your audience, you are going to have to deal with negative emotions too. Your challenge as a presenter is to reinforce, even amplify the positive emotions while taking away the negative, blocking emotions from your audience.

Well-chosen, strong images will help you the achieve just that. How? First you need to know which emotions are relevant to the type of presentation you are giving. There are basically 10 tones of voice you can apply to your message. They are:

  1. be personal
  2. be honest, authentic
  3. be bold, convincing
  4. be humorous
  5. be seductive
  6. be confirming, reassuring
  7. be passionate, inspirational
  8. be rational, matter of fact
  9. be authoritative
  10. be creative, innovative

It is important to be consistent with your tone of voice. Do not mix them. As a rule of thumb two  is enough; one for the main emotion you want to address, and one you will use as ‘supporting’ emotion. Much like your major and minor at school.

So go back to section 1 to review your central message and the written text of your presentation. Compare this to the 10 tones of voice and decide which will match your story best.

To get you started some examples of combinations that work well:

  • – When selling business services: authentic + matter of fact
  • – When selling personal services (e.g. tax services): personal + reassuring
  • – When pitching an idea: convincing + authoritative
  • – When selling hobby products: passionate + seductive
  • – And so on!

So how does this relate to the great pictures for presentations you need to select? That is explained in the next section.

tuscan house and landscape

3. Which categories of pictures do I select from?

Once you have done these preparations, and with everything said in mind, here is how you link each of the emotions you identified to one or several types (or categories) of photography. In other words: we match the tone of voice with the type of image you want to use.

This is the first and most important step in the actual selection process of great pictures for presentations.

And the nice thing is: we have done all the work for you, all you have to do is look up the emotions below, and you will find the categories to use. These are links to categories on our own site. All pictures are free and can be used without any license restriction. If you don’t find the pictures you were hoping for, don’t worry, you’ll find links to awesome stock photo sites with tons of pictures more.

For your convenience we have put the categories in alphabetical order:

That was the hardest part!

Now that you have established which categories of photos to select from, you can easily narrow this down to whatever number of pictures you need. Just follow the remaining five steps.

4. Define your audience

Before you select the picture, consider your audience for a while. Emotions like humor, passion, rational and seductive may have a totally different ‘feeling’ depending on the person’s age, sex, education or country or region they originate from.

There are no generic rules here, but when you think about it you will realize that a 21 year old from LA is likely to have a different taste for fashion than a 51 year old living in Munich.

And what is considered a brilliant joke in Amsterdam may be bordering on insult in Budapest.

Another example: research shows that women respond more positive to light photos (‘high key’) while men relate better to darker pictures (‘low key’).

5. Match your brand and be consistent

If you are presenting for a company, an organization or a brand, you are likely to have a corporate or brand identity. Work with that. Select photos that consist for a prominent part of the same colors as your logo. Be consistent with colors: don’t let predominantly red photos alternate with blue images. Choose one palette and stick to this. Great pictures for presentations show consistency.

And please do not ever use black and white pictures. Because if you do, you will have to choose only black and white pictures to be consistent. This means you are missing out on the power and beauty of colors. Furthermore: your audience will be bored to sleep. Just don’t do it. If black and white were visually better, our eyes would render images in black and white only.

Matching the brand goes beyond choice of colors, though. You will want to match the image the brand has: young, mature, modest, quiet, outgoing, serious: you will know the right adjectives best. Match the pictures with the image.

6. Choose quality

Of course. You always go for quality. Why would we even mention this? Great pictures for presentations must be of the best quality. The thing is, we have become used to see hundreds of pictures each day. We hardly really see them anymore, in the sense that we probably spend no more than 2 seconds looking at them.

But quality photos have a much higher impact on your audience. In part two of this blog series we will dive deep in what makes a picture for a presentation great.

Much has been said and published about great photos by others. We recommend this outstanding article by Charlotte Lowrie, which gives an overview of different aspects of what defines the quality of a photo.

7. Make sure there is  some space for text

Unless you are going to present with pictures only, in which case you become my own personal hero overnight, you will need some space to put one line of text in. You will want to use a consistent font type and color, so make sure there is an area on the picture with a color that can serve as a contrasting background for your font.

By the way, make sure there are no  other texts on the photo itself. Texts are the first point the eyes are attracted to, distracting the audience from your message.

8. Don’t make me think

In conclusion, keep the pictures simple and self-explanatory. Great pictures for presentations always are. If you put a riddle on the screen, you’ll lose your audience. Still, in photography there is something called a stop factor, meaning that the viewer will stop to pay attention tothe picture. Try to find the balance between the stop factor and don’t make me think. Steer away from photos that are just ‘decorative’. Remember, authenticity is essential but unicity holds the key.

moon over greece

How to select great pictures for presentations?

In this post we have explained how to select great pictures for presentations in 8 steps. Follow the 8 steps above and you next presentation will be unforgettable.

Lightroom Mastery course

Bliss. This Windows wallpaper is the most viewed photo ever.

The standard Windows wallpaper of Windows XP called Bliss is without a doubt the most distributed and most viewed photograph ever.

‘Bliss’, default windows wallpaper of Windows XP. Photographer: Charles O’Rear

The name of the photo is Bliss, however Dutch users of XP may have noticed that the Windows wallpaper is called ‘Ierland’ in their version. Understandably, we have since then come to see this as a typical Irish landscape.

You have probably never given it a second thought, but this photo has a maker. His name is Charles O’Rear, an Irish name confirming our assumption the photo was taken in Ireland.

Charles O’Rear took this picture 1996 and sold it a couple of years later to Corbis, the stock photo company owned by Microsoft. I could not find out how much he was paid for it, but I doubt if it was more than a couple of hundred dollars. Too bad for him, because had he entered a royalty-deal of one 1 cent per sold XP-license, his bank account would now show a figure of at least 4 million dollar.

However. This photo was not taken in Ireland, but in Napa Valley, California, USA, not far from O’Rear’s residence. And indeed, as it now begins to dawn on us, ignorance is bliss, O’Rear is not an Irishman, O’Rear is a born American.

Once I found that out, I became curious about what we are really looking at in this picture and what the photographer saw around him. My idyllic idea about this place was that he could have pointed his camera in any direction and still get the same picture. I have lived in the west of Ireland for two years myself and where I lived this actually was the case – except maybe for the fact that the skies were grey more often than blue.

But this illusion was shattered too. In the first place by the picture below, made by the artist collective Goldin+Senneby in January of 2006, form the exacgt same point of view as O’Rear. Not only the weather conditions were quite different from the original photo. The soil had been cutivated and was turned into a vineyard. Quite appropriate, considering that O’Rear made his living primarily out of photobooks on wine.

After Microsoft. Remake of Bliss in 2006, by Goldin+Senneby

That left me with one question. How does the rest of the scenery in this place actually look? What do we see left and right of the photographer, and behind him?

Google Streetview brings us the answers. Below are four pictures taken by Nine Eyes, the camera on top of the Google cars that collect streetviews. This camera rises high above the care, giving a total different angle of the scenery in front of us. And the rest of the scenery is, well, less blissful than I thought it would be.

By the way, the coordinates of this place are 38.248966, -122.410269. In case you ant to have a look for yourself.

Bliss by Google Streetview

Bliss. What the photographer saw at his right hand side.

Bliss. What the photographer saw to his left.

Bliss. What could be seen behind the photographer.

Update August 29, 2011: turns out the photographer actually did earn a nice sum with the photo. Read all about it on NapaValleyRegister.com

Note:  This post about the most viewed photo ever was originally published on August 27, 2011 on the Dutch photography blog Picture This. The post was much quoted, shared and linked to. Nowadays, Bliss has its own entry in Wikipedia. It is still a fascinating story so we republished the blog post on Piles of Pics in May 2017.