We’ve all heard the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And much like a work of art, photographs do not only paint a picture or set a scene, but they can also tell a story. When it comes to using a picture for your marketing or advertising purposes, images can be an efficient way to brand a business, product or service. Images can even be more effective when they are free!
Here we will guide you through the 21 best websites where you can acquire free images to use for your business. We will also explain the types of images and the legal terms that you should be made aware of to ensure that there are no permission fees or other costs and that the photos are truly free.
Key Terms to Know Before You Start Your Search
Where Can I Get Free Images for My Business?
The internet has proven to be the best source to find any type of image. All you need to do is to start a search and an endless list of sources and options will pop up. But keep in mind that not all photographers and artists post images for free or out of the kindness of their heart. They need to make a living too! And if you’re looking for “free” images, you’ll need to make sure that they are actually free images to use for business and that you are not using someone else’s creation without their permission. To do so would put you at risk of becoming the subject of a lawsuit.
But don’t fret! There are tons of actual free images out there for the picking. And to make the search a little easier for you, we’ve listed 21 of the best free image sites below.
Powered by the ecommerce platform Shopify, this free stock photo site provides users with a large library of high-res images to use for marketing and advertising needs. Popular with business owners, this option for free images to use for business also includes categories that help entrepreneurs focus on current trends in the market. The images offered are both free and royalty-free to use and can even be modified, allowing users to crop or edit as they see fit for their purposes.
This collaborative image design site offers three levels of service, including Canva Free, Canva Pro and Canva Enterprise. Although each level offers more tools and options, the Canva Free option alone boasts a large number of free photos and templates to help start a social media campaign, create logos or simply provide the right images from your online store or to meet your advertising and marketing needs.
Users that go to this site can search for images under a specific license type. Although some of the photos are protected by copyright, many are able to be acquired for free through creative commons or public domain. These can include attribution, share-alike, non-commercial, public domain and more. (A table of the types of licenses can be found further along this blog.)
If you’re looking for a site with some focus — particularly when it comes to food — then FoodiesFeed will help meet the need. There are a number of appetizing images covering every detail of food, from raw ingredients to finished dishes. This is a great website to inspire small business owners looking for an enticing image for their marketing or advertising needs. Just try to avoid visiting the site on an empty stomach!
The site name basically sums up this free image source covering major categories including architecture, fashion and beauty, animals and wildlife and more. The site is easy to navigate and browse the endless collections of free stock images for businesses.
All the photos on this site are licensed for commercial use without the need to give credit. That means you can use any image for any purpose without attribution. Images are organized by category, which can include “Food and Drink,” “Health and Fitness” and “Landscapes and Nature,” just to mention a few. Each category also includes a number of subcategories. For example, under “Health and Fitness,” you will also find images grouped under gym, sports and recreation, meditation, yoga and more.
Its website includes the banner tagline “Peace of Mind License Without Copyright Restrictions!” basically letting users know that the images can be used for commercial purposes. Business owners and entrepreneurs can use the free photos through the creative commons licensing. In addition to the common categories covering animals, people, nature and business, there’s even a category called “Whimsical.” A search here will lead you to subcategories that are labeled silly, funny, quirky, goofy and even happy.
Popular searches listed on the website of this free-image source include “business,” “nature,” “computer” and “design.” A blog on its site helps users when it comes to tips and tricks, trends and tutorials.
Photos are available in different sizes and orientations. The free stock images for business on this site can be used for either commercial or non-commercial uses, changes to the images are allowed and you’re not required to provide attribution. If there’s a specific style, aesthetic or even model you like, you can find numerous images that will meet your style needs. This site also provides free graphics for download. Kaboompics allows you to edit the photos to meet your needs. But you can't sell unaltered copies of a photo either as a print, poster or on a physical product.
One of the best sources for free images is a government site provided by the Library of Congress. The collection is huge and the images are under public domain. There are tons of very cool vintage photos if you are looking for a historical image. You can even conduct a search using the site's online catalog and look for photos by subject or theme. Subjects can cover historical buildings, the Civil War, maps, transportation and communication and every type of historic image ever taken.
A quick search on this site will display colorful, high-resolution photos covering cities from around the world, and diverse images displaying scenes from nature and the different seasons — all with an artistic flair and stunning presentation. The free photos on this site can be used for commercial purposes, and though not required, attribution is recommended.
Founded in 2014, this site offers hundreds of thousands of free photos, with new images added daily. Pexels helps millions of artists, designers, entrepreneurs and creators gain access to high-quality photos to use freely on their products, websites, apps and more.
A quick look at this site makes it clear that free business photos are one of the main categories on PicJumbo. High-res images are uploaded daily, many displaying images capturing scenes of entrepreneurs and small business owners hard at work.
The site boasts over 2.6 million high-quality stock images, along with videos and music. The community of creators that contribute to this site offer copyright-free images. The content provided is free for personal and commercial use. Just make sure to review the requirements of the individual images used, as some may include more specific terms.
With a library containing over one million stock images, PikWizard offers a mix of free and royalty-free images safe to utilize for commercial use without attributions. In addition, the site also offers a DesignWizard, image editor and blog.
Part of the appeal of this image site is that in addition to free images, users can also download graphics, backgrounds, design frames, patterns, texture displays and more. Design add-ons also include text and image effects as well as filters. This site provides all you’ll need to create the image and aesthetic you are seeking for your small business.
Often used as a favored resource for ecommerce businesses, the site’s easy-to-use category organization and image review simplifies the process of finding the right image. Images from Stocksnap.io can be used, modified and distributed without attribution.
Though this site may not have as large of a collection as the other free-image sources on this list, this well-curated site makes finding the right “free” image simple through its well-organized collections and categories. To date, the site has had over 21 million downloads and has hundreds of new images added every day.
This Canadian-based company offers more than 2 million images that can be used for personal and commercial use. In addition to the dozens of image categories, the site also has Unsplash for Brands. Launched in 2019, this service offers small business owners to use their catalog of images to support business products and create original images.
In business since 2007, this company initially focused on providing free vector graphics but has since moved on to become one of the most popular sites for free images. Vecteezy offers millions of images and is also known for its huge catalog of illustrations.
Along with its endless source of open content making the site a truly universal (and digital) encyclopedia, this site, created through a collaborative effort of its users, also provides a resource for public domain and creative commons images.
What Are Creative Commons Licenses?
When a work is created — a painting, video, story or photograph — it is protected under copyright. The creator must grant permission for reuse. But luckily, many creators are more than happy to share their work. One way that this is accomplished is through creative commons licensing.
A creative commons license is granted by a creator with specific terms for reuse. Some of these terms may include:
A need to acknowledge the creator, also referred to as attribution
No need to acknowledge the creator, or non-attribution
Personal use only
Commercial or non-commercial use
No altering of the image allowed
Types of Image Licenses
Using Public Domain Images
A number of free images online fall under public domain. But how can you figure out which images are in the public domain without risking getting into trouble? Here’s how:
The copyright has expired: If an image was taken before 1923, odds are that it is now in the public domain. In the U.S., a copyright expires 70 years after the creator’s death.
The copyright is relinquished: Some creators give up their copyright, allowing their photos to be used by others without attribution.
The material originates from the government: When it comes to content created by the government, it is considered public domain and can be accessed without the threat of liability. Examples of material that can be used can include photographs, speeches, treaties, etc.
Avoiding Lawsuits and Other Legal Issues When Using a “Free Image”
Fact is, the best way to get a free image is if you take it yourself. This makes you the creator and owner. But that may not be the best option for your needs. That’s why it is great to know that an online search for the right image is possible. However, even though there are countless images online that could be downloaded, make sure to follow the rules and ensure that the desired image(s) are safe to use for your intended purposes.
Downloading and using an image without the proper consent or utilizing it for business purposes without respecting licensing agreements can result in a lawsuit that can lead to a hefty fine and financial repercussions for your business.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Read the fine print and do not simply assume that the images are free for the taking.
Having a Plan for Your Small Business
One of the key ingredients to having a successful business is creating the right business plan. From organizing your executive summary, creating a company description, conducting marketing analysis or picking the right images to use for your advertising campaign or social medial drive, it’s important to have a plan in place and the right tools and apps to support it.
Download our free business plan template to help create the roadmap and illuminate your path to business growth and success.
Peter Mavrikis is an author and editor with over 25 years of experience in publishing. He has worked as the Editorial Director for Barron’s Educational Series, as well as Kaplan Test Prep, where he ran the test prep, foreign language, and study guide divisions. Peter has also written several books on history, exploration, science, and technology.