I'm always on the lookout for good free (or cheap) stock photography sites. If you've done any searching for free photos, you'll know that there are a lot of free photo sites on the web, most of them with a small selection of fairly poor quality images. You'll also know that searching for the right photo can suck up hours of your time.
In my travels, however, I've come across a few good sites; here's a list of what I consider to be some of the best out there:
This is, perhaps, the best free stock photography site on the web. The selection is vast (100,000+ photos) and the quality of the photos is generally very good.
Although the images in iStockphoto are not free, they are so cheap that it should be one of your first stops if you're searching for an image.
The selection of the photos is huge (115,000+ images) and the quality is excellent. Photos start at only $0.50 each (for web quality resolution). They also have illustrations and Flash movies.
The iStockphoto 'photo community' model has obviously proven popular. There are now numerous clones, the majority of which are professionally done and provide a huge collection of affordable photos:
This section of Microsoft's Office Online web site actually has a great selection of free stock photos.
Just make sure that you choose "photos" from the media type drop down when doing a search. For example, there are well over 1000 stock quality photos of "people".
This site has a huge collection (330,000+) of completely free photos which range from personal snaps to (almost) commercial quality. Try doing a search for a major city to get an idea of the quality and range of photos.
morgueFile has a decent number of photos across a fairly wide range of categories. The quality overall is good.
Pixel Perfect has over 2,000 stock quality images. Although the quantity is not huge, it is very well categorized, and the section on textures is very good.
This site doesn't have a huge selection of images, but what it does have is of generally high quality.
Unfortunately, you can't search for a particular keyword and there is no way to order photos by number of downloads (a great way to find the best photos on a site). However, it's worth a browse if you're stuck.
For those with a slightly larger budget, Photos.com has a subscription model where $600 buys you a year of unlimited downloads. They have a huge selection of high quality photos (for example, 16,000+ photos of "people").
When you consider how much time you can waste going from free site to free site looking for that right photo, it might be worth subscribing to a site like this in order to save yourself all that time and hassle.
Clipart.com has a similar deal for only $169 a year, but I've found the photos to be of generally mediocre quality with less selection (for example, only 251 photos of "people").
If, by some miracle, you do actually have a budget for photography, then Fotosearch is probably the best place to start. This site will run a search of 50 of the largest stock photography vendors - the quality and choice in the results is always fantastic.
Graphics N Graphic Design has a huge roundup of free stock photo sites - there are almost too many listed there!
Posted on: October 4, 2004 | 11 Comments