This post originally appeared on Hootsuite’s (a great social media manager) blog.
Any social media manager or content marketer knows that one of the toughest parts of the job is finding the perfect image to accompany a post. We all know that images are one of the most important components for engagement, but unless you’re willing to pay significant costs for access to a database, trying to find great free social media images can be incredibly time-consuming.
To help you get rid of this headache, we’ve put together a list of 20 free stock photo sites that you can bookmark for easy reference whenever you’re having trouble getting the right picture.
Creative Commons Zero
Before sharing the list, it’s important to recognize what is meant with the different licensing and copyrights of images available. It can be hard to know if you are legally allowed to use or modify an image you find online for your personal or commercial uses, so the Creative Commons Zero license is especially valuable.
According to the Creative Commons website, the CC0 license “enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.”
In other words, you are free to use that great sunset shot you found under the CC0 license for any purpose, including your next Instagram campaign. Here are the best free stock photo sites we found whose images fall under CC0.
20 Free Sites for Awesome Social Media Images
Gratisography is one of the most interesting of the free stock photo sites due to the quirky style of photographer Ryan McGuire. All of the photos are high-resolution and royalty-free, ready for your use wherever you please. Sorted into the categories of animals, nature, objects, people, urban, and whimsical, there are new photos added weekly, which are also shared through McGuire’s Twitter and Facebook.
IM Free offers not only free social media images, but is a “curated collection of free web design resources, all for commercial use.” The royalty free collections include templates, icons, button makers, along with classic free stock images organized by themes such as technology, education, nature, and many more.
Pixabay offers over 490,000 free images for both your personal and commercial use. These are great to use as social media images, because Pixabay’s collection includes not only photos, but illustrations and vector images. As all images on the site are royalty free and covered under Creative Commons CC0, they may be modified and used commercially and in printed format.
With over 2,479,693 downloads since its 2013 launch, Picjumbo is a popular free resource for your social media images. Users can either click through the different categories of over 600 high resolution photos for free, or download a pack that includes all images as well as three Photoshop mockups, in exchange for a donation of $10 or more.
Unsplash offers ten new photos every ten days via an email subscription as well as simply on their website. All photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, “which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.” You can navigate the site by viewing the photos in their larger versions, but when browsing I usually find it easier to switch to the grid format.
The Morguefile was created in 1996, and offers photographs available free for the use in creative projects. The website does ask that photographers or artists are credited when using their free stock images as they aren’t in the public domain. As they emphasize altering their images when using them, this is a great resource for free social media images that can be used as backgrounds for text-based images such as quotes, store hours, etc. that you want to post to Instagram or Facebook.
Stockvault hosts over 35,000 royalty-free images, graphics, and designs from photographers, designers, and students around the world. As long as you stay on the “Free Stock Photos” rather than the “Premium Stock Photos” tab, you have access to a huge library of photos to use for your content and social media purposes.
Negative Space adds new free stock images every week, and all are listed under the Creative Commons Zero license. These free images are sortable by category, copy space, position, and color. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, for updates on new image additions.
Lock and Stock Photos was started by AJ Montpetit who firmly believes in a “sharing is caring” model and after benefiting for a long time from other free stock images sites, decided to become a producer himself. All of his beautiful photos are released under the Creative Commons Zero license, so no attribution is required (but is of course always appreciated).
KaboomPics offers a ton of great quality royalty free stock images that are available for use by personal users as well as commercial purposes. The thousands of free images are searchable by keyword, category, tags, or can be browsed.
FancyCrave’s easy to navigate website releases two new images from professional photographers everyday. When looking for free social media images, the extra colorful and vibrant nature of FancyCrave’s photographs are especially eye-catching for sharing and engagement purposes.
When researching resources for free social media images, I was told by more than one socially-savvy person that StockSnap was their favorite site. The free images can be sorted by date added, trending, number of views, number of downloads, as well as through keyword searches.
Startup Stock Photos has a concept that is pretty self-explanatory, with free stock images for “startups, bloggers, publishers, websites, designers, developers, creators, and everyone else.” The photos are especially great as free social media images when you are sharing links to content such as a professional blog post, where the most fitting visual is of someone on a computer or in a casual business setting.
Web designer Daniel Nanescu created Splitshire to offer a collection of stunning, easy to browse, free stock images. The images are sorted into helpful categories such as “Abstract,” “Still Life,” and “Technology,” which allows for a pleasant browsing experience. Nanescu’s photos which previously lived “on a hard drive gathering dust” are now, for good reason, being used on websites like The Huffington Post, CNN, as well as numerous books and magazine covers.
Life of Pix is a collection of free high-resolution stock images donated to the public domain by the Leeroy Advertising Agency in Montreal. With no copyright restrictions, the beautiful photos are free for personal and commercial use. If you need free social media images of the moving variety, their sister site Life of Vids offers royalty-free videos, clips, and loops for you to use to your heart’s content.
The free stock images on Pexels are curated from sites such as Gratisography, Unsplash, and Little Visuals, in the attempt to simplify the image searching process. All of the photos on the site are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero, making it easy to know that you can use any of the photos for personal or commercial use. The collection currently includes over 3,800 high-resolution free stock photos, with at least 70 new ones added each and every week.
Jay Mantri’s photographs are nothing short of breathtaking, and the fact that he offers them as free stock photos is extremely generous. While beautiful to scroll through in their large form, if you are needing to quickly find an image for your content or social media posting, I suggest changing to the archive view for a condensed appearance.
ISO Republic is a fairly new site, run by English designer and photographer Tom Eversley. The site’s mission is “to provide high-quality images to be used by designers, developers, bloggers, marketers and social media teams.” The categories these free social media images are sorted into, include architecture, nature, people, textures, urban, and everyone’s favorite, “various”.
New Old Stock provide the ultimate “Throwback Thursday” content with their hundreds of vintage photos from the public archives. The photos are fascinating and would be a compelling addition to any social media campaign. Offering hundreds of royalty free stock photos, New Old Stock’s collection showcases a wide variety of situations and subjects, perfect for a number of social media posting opportunities.
We have used a number of the free stock photos from Free Refe for our purposes, due to their clarity, quality, and diverse subject matter. Although there is an emphasis on photos showing “real life,” the images are anything but mundane. As their website states, “using great imagery helps portray emotions, increase sales, and conversions,” the free photos here are a must-bookmark resource.
The quest for perfect free social media images can seem daunting at first, but with these free resources hopefully the task has been made as painless as possible. Share your favorite sites for free stock photos with us, and let us know if we’ve missed any!