Featured images with no watermarks that are free. Click for info.
An old guy looks through binoculars Beautiful blue sea with long pier Cute bring down sits down Colorful ice cream spoons Pretty girls chilling out Tasty looking sweets
Alternatively search for others. Or find files for commercial use.

Best Websites for Royalty Free Stock Photos!

Do you want to know the perfect website where you can find all the stock photos you need for free? Well unfortunately there is no one “holy grail”. This is because the different websites have different photos on and therefore the best one is the one which has what you want.

Because of this we list our favourite 5 places to get free stock photos and encourage you to search them and eventually you should get what you are after. If you are a regular user then eventually the majority of people will use the same website time and time again, so you want to be pleased with the service. Top quality photographs are a must, a good quantity available is also very important.

5 of the best places to get quality images

Royalty free stock photos website

The images from this website are certainly the best quality out of all the sites listed here. To start downloading you need to first create a free account. Then login and click the ‘Free Images’ grey button near the top. Using the search function to find what you want. Easy to use, and a growing number of pics available.

SXC website

Nice easy website to use. Lots of pictures available, although a reasonable percentage aren’t very usable. The categorisation system is terribly poor so rely on the search function, however even that chucks up dodgy results. You need to create a free account to start downloading the images.

Pixabay website

Over 65,000 public domain photos, illustrations and vectors “licensed” under the Creative Commons CC0 deed. All of the images in their database are manually approved, which results in a very high standard of quality. Nice simple site to use with a search box at the top to locate what you are after. They also have a forum and a blog if you wish to get involved in the community.


You need to create a free account in order to download files. But once done it is a simple case of signing in and grabbing what you would like to use. Nice lightbox feature, lots of images completely different to those on other sites. Check the ‘New’ section for the latest uploads to appreciate the good quality.


A fairly young site compared to the others but the collection is growing at a very good pace. Simple to use and loads quickly as well. No account is required, locate the image you want and hit the ‘download’ button. Option to also signup for a monthly fee to get bonus content and other benefits.

If all of the above are no good, have a look at our own database of images. We are significantly smaller then our competitors, which is why we don’t list us in the above section, but we hope to catch up one day.

Once you find what you are after from the above resources. Remember to also stay on the right side of the licenses. Although they are being given away for free it doesn’t just mean you can do what you want. You will sometimes have to credit the copyright owner. And sometimes there is a limitation on how many times it can be used. Make sure you stay the right side of the law.

Other places

As you will know, the web is huge. And there are other places you can find files to download. However this page would end up massive. Here are a few words of caution on how you go about your hunting if the above businesses can’t meet your needs.

One thing to NOT DO is simply go to Google Images, do a quick search, and then take what you want. You are unlikely to know the copyright situation. And you could end up using something you have no legal right to, and this can lead to all sorts of trouble.

Questions and answers

Here is a question and answer section to hopefully help some frequently asked questions we have received over the years.

Can I use images I download over and over again?
It depends on what type of licensing the picture has. “Rights Managed” consists of photos that are licensed for a specific use, duration or size. Any such restrictions will be lined out in the license. To use these again, you would need to pay additional royalties.

For those that are “Royalty Free,” you can use them repeatedly after paying one fee. These are not in the public domain or free to use. You simply don’t have to pay royalties with these after purchasing the license, no matter how many times you use them.

No matter what sort of rights you hold, the photographer always owns the copyright, so credit should always be given when possible.

Can I use them for commercial use?
This would be an issue you would need to take up with the photographer or copyright owner if it isn’t lined out in the license. The majority are available for commercial use. That’s the beauty of them! However, some “Rights Managed” licenses will be more specific on how their photos can be used.

Where can I use what I download?
They are ideal for using in things such as web design, in blog post content, leaflets to promote your business, video stills and even as avatars. Be careful if you want to alter files to suit you. Sometimes you aren’t allow to.


In this section you will find solutions to problems people are experiencing in the community.

Struggling to find the free section on Dreamstime? Here is a quick guide on how to get to them.



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17 archived thoughts on “Best Websites for Royalty Free Stock Photos!”.

  1. Melanie says:

    I especially like that you explain clearly you can’t just take any picture you find on the web or through Google Images and paste it in your blog posts. I hear a lot of people doing just that and, as a content creator, it bugs me to no end. No one wants someone stealing their work. Thanks for the four great alternatives! I’ve used Stockexchange in the past, but will definitely check out the other sites.

  2. TMerski says:

    Thank you for mentioning Dreamstime. I hadn’t come across that one before, and I agree that it is definitely better than the others. One thing I’ve found with many stock photo sites is that the search function doesn’t return the best results all the time. I suppose that’s because the pic submitters label their work with all sorts of things to try to get more attention.

  3. RobP says:

    I’m really glad you pointed out that last site. I haven’t heart of it before now, but it is perhaps the easiest and most user-friendly of all of them. There are some really great graphics and photos on there too. I’ve already found 4 to use on my blog, and possibly one for an ebook cover.

  4. WTF says:

    These aren’t free! What a rip off!

  5. Chris says:

    How can you say these aren’t free. Every websites has thousands, in fact, tens of thousands of free photos to use. You need to check them again!

  6. Ryan says:

    Thank you for introducing me to these! Dreamstine is great and has a really nice collection of free images. Good to know for myself and my blogging friends – no matter how much I mention you can’t simply use google images as a free for all, most still do. Especially as a photographer I’m always irked when a friend uses a shot without referencing the photographer. This is the same.

    I’m also intrigued by Dreamstine’s “donate” option. Possibly a good way to get photos out there.

    These five sites will be replacing simply googling for images now!

  7. Very specific information. I have not used any websites for photos, as I am afraid to violate anyone’s rights. However, I see that you have explained that there are ways that these photos can be used.

    You have a very good list to draw from.

    Thank you for explaining the do’s and don’ts.

  8. Imagolution says:

    It’s difficult not to get lost in these photos, because there are so many great ones available. I love the holiday-themed photos offered by Pixabay right now. The dog in the snow is pretty hard to resist – I almost want to create a blog post around that photograph!

    Thanks for offering this info. I especially appreciate the fact that you included a mention about avatars; I never download avatars, because I am apprehensive about violating anyone’s ownership rights. Now, maybe I can get past that apprehension and download some cool avatars when I want to.

  9. plungedplummer says:

    I was browsing one of the suggested royalty free stock photo sites, dreamstime. I was very impressed with the quality of photos. More importantly the shear number of photos available is great. I tried to stump the site, by searching for obscure photos. The site did a fantastic job of having almost any photo I could fathom wanting.

  10. Ron says:

    Great list – thanks for these sites, I will have to check them out. We have been using Bing Images, and as Chris mentioned, they have a setting for images “free to use commercially.” Thanks again for sharing these sites!

  11. Chris says:

    Yep it is definitely important to check out licenses on what is available for commercial use and what isn’t. Otherwise it can get messy!

  12. maripereira says:

    Great compilation. Although I work at an Advertising Agency and we do have access to paid photo banks, I still need to use the free websites for my outside of work designs. I was familiar with some of these and will definitely check the others out. And I thought I should leave my contribution. Compfight (compfight.com) is a flickr database that’s filled with beautiful pictures. You can select what kind of license you’re looking for too! Even when I’m feeling uninspired, the website always helps me.

  13. espeons says:

    Thanks for putting together this list, I had only used three of them before so will definitely check out the others. I am an occasional photographer and have had my photos used without my permission before so I think there needs to be more awareness of licensing, and the fact there ARE free photos available so people don’t need to steal, really. I think people decide that, if they see something on the web, anyone is free to use it but that isn’t the case!

  14. I would like to suggest an other site for free stock photos: http://www.rgbstock.com with more the 90,000 totally free stock photos on line.

  15. mackit says:

    This is great information. I’m not at the whole blog thing but as part of a small business marketing plan, I will be starting one soon. While I appreciate the websites the explination of what to look for in terms of copyright is a huge help. I had no idea that some pictures could not be altered or that the number of times they can be used is limited. Thanks, the heads up is greatly appreciated.

  16. Hi all,
    Hopefully its alright posting this here but I have been working on a stock photo site recently where all the images are entirely free for people to use.
    The only thing users have to do is attribute the image back to its original owner.

    The site is undergoing some upgrades and improvements but it is ready to use today.
    PhotoShr – http://photoshr.co.uk