Good, high-quality images add visual interest to your website. Another reason why photos have become so important is because web pages that include good photos get better engagement when shared on social sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The only problem is that Google may not always surface the best content that is free. Their algorithms, at least for image search, prefer pages from premium stock photography websites and the free listings thus lose out. If Google isn’t helping in your quest for images, here are some of the best websites where you may find high-quality photos for free.
1. unsplash.com (Unsplash) - This is my favorite website for downloading high-resolution photographs. Subscribe to the email newsletter and you’ll get 10 photos in your inbox every 10 days. All images are under the CC0 license meaning they are in public domain and you are free to use them in any way you like.
2. google.com (LIFE) - The Google images website hosts millions of historical photographs from the LIFE library. You can add source:life to any query in Google image search to find these images and they are free for personal, non-commercial use.
3. flickr.com (The British Library) - The national library of the UK has uploaded over a million vintage photographs and scanned images to Flickr that are now in pubic domain and they encourage re-use.
4. picjubmo.com (Picjumbo) - Here you’ll find exceptionally high-quality photos for your personal and commercial use. The pictures have been shot by the site owner himself and all he requests for in return is proper attribution.
5. pixabay.com (Pixabay) - All the images on Pixabay are available under the CC0 license and thus can be used anywhere. Like Flickr, there’s an option to browse photographs by camera model as well.
6. publicdomainarchive.com (Public Domain Archive) - This is an impressive online repository of public domain images that are neatly organized in categories. It contains only high quality photos though the collection is limited at this time.
7. commons.wikimedia.org (Wikimedia Commons) - The site hosts 21+ million images under some kind of free license or in the public domain. The images are arranged in categories or you can find images through search keywords.
8. superfamous.com (Super Famous) - Another great resource for finding high-res images for your websites and other design projects. The images are licensed under Creative Commons and require attribution.
9. nos.twnsnd.co (New Old Stock) - Here you will find a curated collection of vintage photographs from public archives that are free of any copyright restrictions. If you are trying to create a twitter feed like @HistoricalPics, this might be a good source for images.
10. freeimages.com (Stock Exchange) - This is one of the biggest repositories of free images and graphics that you can use for almost any purpose. You do however need to sign-in to download the images. The site, previously hosted on the schx.hu domain, is now part of Getty Images.
11. raumrot.com (Raumrot) - The site features beautiful, hi-res 300DPI stock photographs available for both personal and commercial use. The pictures are sorted by subject and available under Creative Commons.
12. gettyimages.com (Getty Images) - If you are looking for professional images for your website but without the expensive license fee, Getty has something in store for you. You can embed pictures from Getty Images for free on your website though in future, the embeds may carry ads.
13. pdpics.com (Public Domain Photos) - The website contains thousands of royalty free images that can be used in both personal and commercial projects but with attribution. Unlike other sites that merely curate content, the images found here have been clicked by their in-house photographers.
14. imcreator.com (IM Free) - A curated collection of outstanding high-quality photos on all subjects that are also free for commercial use. The images have mostly been sourced from Flickr and require attribution.
15. photopin.com (Photo Pin) - Flickr is among the biggest repository of photographs on the web and Photo Pin helps you easily find photos on Flickr that are available under the Creative Commons license. You get the embed code as well so you don’t have to host the images on your own server.
16. kaboompics.com (Kaboom Pics) - Karolina Grabowska, a web designer from Poland, has uploaded 550+ high-resolution photos (240-300dpi ) that you can use for all kind of projects included commercial ones. The photos are arranged in categories and tags or you can use the search box to quickly find images on various subjects.
17. morguefile.com (Morgue File) - The site hosts 300,000+ free images and you are free to use them in both personal and commercial projects even without attribution. The image gallery has a built-in cropping tool and you can even hotlink the images from your website.
18. magdeleine.co (Magdeleine) - Hand-picked and free stock photos that you can search by subject, mood or even the dominant color. Some of the images are copyright free and you can do whatever you like with those photos.
You may have found a great photo that is perfect for your project but there’s a probability that several other websites are using the same image. It will therefore help if you do a reverse image search using Google Images to estimate the relative popularity of that image on the Internet.
Also see: Sell your Instagram & Facebook Photos