Top 10+ Best Sources of Beautiful Copyright-Free Stock Images in 2021

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Getting high quality images is an important task for all digital signage campaigns. Whether they’ll act as a simple backdrop to fill in blank space or as the face of your campaign, you want them looking right! This can mean relying and quality stock image sources to find good photos. Combined with a good digital signage software, you can set up campaigns in a jiffy!

Below are some of the best sources of copyright free stock images. Note that typically copyright free or royalty free doesn’t mean it’s also free of any cost. This is merely a general note as you browse through other stock sites. But for this article, we’ve focused on copyright free, royalty free, and cost free photos. The vast majority of them are also attribution free! With most of the following sites, be mindful of advertised content at the top and/or bottom of your search results. Typically it’s a bit easy to overlook, so this is just a heads up in case you open a premium picture unintentionally.

The largest stock image and video sites

Right from the start, let’s get some of the site names you’ve seen everywhere out of the way. The following stock websites are some of the biggest and we won’t cover any specifics for them as they’re overall good sources to check out.

Pixabay and Pexels contain more than a million high quality images in nearly all categories. You can also use them to browse thousands of videos that are free for commercial use. Unsplash is another big stock image website with over two million images.

StockSnap

According to StockSnap, it provides only stock images which can be used for personal or commercial purposes without any issues. While StockSnap doesn’t necessarily bolster a vast selection of photos, the ones they do have are exquisite. A common feature sought after in stock images are human faces. And with StockSnap, this indeed is the case as there are a variety of photos to fit that criteria. As you visit the site, right on the top you can see a few categories which are great for previewing if the site has what you need.

Three stacked macarons, a stock photo from StockSnap

Note that while you dig through StockSnap for photos, the first few images are a redirect to Shutterstock where you may need to pay for image licenses in the long run. Don’t make the mistake of assuming this is StockSnap’s doing and that it requires you to pay to use its photos.

Here are some numbers to put StockSnap into perspective:

  • People: Over 5,000 images featuring people in the frame. 
  • Travel: Over 3,000 images featuring travel and vacation landscapes.
  • Food: Over 1,700 images.
  • Nature: Nearly 10,000 images. 
  • Technology: Over 1,200 images.
  • Business: Around 1,600 images.

Picography

This particular site hosts many beautiful high quality images. However, the main downside is the number of available images. While other stock sites mentioned in this article work with thousands of images, Picography is moreso in the hundreds or dozens for specific terms. Also, while you’ll find the occasional face in the photos, it’s not the best site to go for if that’s what you’re after in particular. Still, Picography deserves a brief mention as, despite lacking in quantity, it offers quality. 

A smartphone snapshot of the sky from an airplane, a stock photo from Picography

Flickr

If you’re willing to put a bit more effort than usual into finding the right image or video to use, Flickr acts as a hit-or-miss solution. Firstly, the website allows anyone to upload content which automatically provides a greater selection than regular stock photos sites. Of course, this also means more low-quality images will show up in your search results. An additional challenge is that most images aren’t labeled for commercial use. And those that are, typically require some form of attribution. 

Flickr logo

Another note of caution stemming from personal experience is, even if you do find that perfect image on Flickr, reach out to the owner to notify them that you’ll use it. In many cases, people upload images to Flickr, not really bothering much with the permission settings which may result in their image being marked for free commercial use. Then, when they notice someone has taken the image and used it in an article, video, or campaign, they request it be taken down. Reach out to confirm and double-check just in case.

This is the primary flaw of Flickr when looking for stock photos: it’s a people-people interaction, where it’s possible someone will simply change their mind one day and take back the commercial rights permissions. On the opposite end you have the people-business interaction which you get when browsing professional stock websites.

PikWizard

With thousands of photos in its database, PikWizard is another likely option to provide you with images for your campaigns. While you can browse for specific terms, PikWizard has a unique search tool which allows you to browse through certain categories with greater accuracy. 

Here you'll find categories such as People, Science, Religion, Nature, Holidays, and Healthcare, among many others. All of these feature thousands of photos. PikWizard is a good choice if you favor images with people’s faces.

Nature in winter, a stock photo from PikWizard

For video content, PikWizard works well, too. Naturally, videos take more time and effort to create, so the database isn’t extensive, but it has quality! You can use that same search tool for videos. A final note for PikWizard, for both images and videos. Keep an eye out on images that are marked as premium as they occasionally occupy a random spot or two in your search results.

Freepik

This is an excellent site if you like to invest a bit of time and effort into your designs, especially for menus or offer-based images. Apart from providing free stock photos, Freepik also allows you to download images in their Photoshop form. This enables you to tweak the images further which is specifically useful when you’re working with templates or banners. You can also find a variety of icons on the site.

Note that it’s quite important to tweak your search settings and filters. Firstly, if you’re looking for free photos that don’t require attribution, tweak the filter to block out the premium ones for easier searching. Secondly, specify your search based on vectors, photos, icons, or PSDs. Another matter is that attribution is typically required. For signage, digital or static, this would mean including a line such as “Cover designed by…” or something similar. Take a look at the attribution requirements here to see if it’s something that works for you.

Topic-focused stock image sites

While most big sites out there offer photos across a variety of categories, there are sites which are more specific. This limits the reach and success of any site that does so, as it cuts itself off from other topics. Still, for you as a user, this might prove to be an advantage as the images tend to be better.

Startup Stock Photos is a site that provides free startup, office, and tech stock images. There doesn’t appear to be a search feature at this time, so scroll away until you find something you like in this category.

Foodiesfeed offers over 1,700 free high quality mouth-watering food photos. While this number may appear miniscule to the tens of thousands of food photos offered by giants like Unsplash or Pexels, Foodiesfeed offers an entirely different level of quality. Just a short scroll through the homepage is enough to make it a memorable source that seems to also suddenly make your hunger a bit more prominent.

Chocolate donuts, a stock photo from Foodiesfeed

Kaboompics is an intriguing site as it offers a multitude of options to browse for different versions of the same image. One could argue that this site would be good for chic fashion-related images. It also allows searching based on color schemes.

Foca is a collection of high resolution photos primarily focused on workspaces and nature.

New Old Stock offers vintage photos collected from public archives that are free of known copyright limits.

And there you have it! Some of the best sources of copyright-free, royalty-free, cost-free, and mostly attribution-free stock image sources out there. Someone should really come up with an abbreviation for that description. In the meantime stay tuned for an upcoming post on copyright-free, royalty-free, cost-free, and entirely attribution-free stock videos!