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Free Stock Photography Resources and Attribution Best Practices

By Nate McCallister / a couple of years ago
free stock photos

Quality photos will really give an air of professionalism to your content. I have spent a lot of time (too much, in fact! ) searching for quality stock images. There is an endless number of lists of “free” stock photo sites, but they are generally very limited or, dare I say, “SPAM-y.” (Even though some of these sites are “free”, any site that encourages you to accidentally click on ads, contains more premium content than free content and promotes irrelevant products is not cool to me and I’d rather pay than waste time there).

This list includes the sites that I actually have used and approve of. Although I frequently pay for high quality images, the following sites are full of legitimately free stock photos. Some of these photos will require attribution to the photographer and some of the sites will promote paid content and/or require you to create an account log-in to get started, but for the most part, it is worth it!

Karma Tip: Leave a tip if you find yourself using a site regularly and want to show your appreciation. Most of these sites have a PayPal option for it. If not, I wouldn’t worry too much because most of them probably make a killing with Adsense and other affiliates.

5 Tips for Staying in the “Free Zone”

If you have ever tried to get free stock images for your site, you have likely ran into the advertisement landmines that shoot you off the free site and into a premium one. There is nothing wrong with a premium stock photo service, but you are looking for free for now. I am assuming as such  since you are reading this.
Let's go over the 5 tips to ensure you stay in the “free zone.”

#1 Know if you are searching in the website’s search bar or a search bar for a 3rd party photo site.

The affiliate payouts for these sites (shutterstock and depositphotos) are big and the temptation for these sites to promote them is huge. Most free stock photo sites have this somewhere on the page (shown below)


#2 Know if You Are Clicking on Free Content or Sponsored Content. Sponsored content will not be free and will take you to a 3rd party site.#2#3 Keep Your Eye on the Domain.

If the domain is no longer the same as the site you originally went to, you are likely at a different site that is paid, not free.

#4 Avoid Search Engines

There are a lot of lists of sites that are good and actually free, but in general searching for free photos will take you to a lot of paid photo sites, and few actual free ones. This guide is legit at the time of writing so I recommend sticking with it for now and don’t worry about the rest.

#5 Know What Ads Look Like

Simple enough. They are generally found at the header, footer or in the margins.

A Collection of (Actually) Free Stock Photography Sites

Pic Jumbo

This one is pretty solid. They do have a premium package that they push that runs $6/month and promises 30+ images a month sent to your inbox. They also have a plugin that costs a one-time fee $11.99 that promises images at your fingertips at all times. The free content is solid

Attribution Required – No
Searchable – Yes


Quality images. The site does require a login, but you can get the ads removed by uploading 10 stock photos of your own. Also. be careful not to click on the sponsored images (from shutterstock), they aren’t free.

Attribution Required – Not for most images
Searchable – Yes



All images were taken by Ryan McGuire and are free of any copyright restrictions. Good man!

Attribution Required – No
Searchable – No

Morgue File

Very simple site. It doesn’t have as many images as some of the others on here, but it does cover a wide array of topics. They will promote a 3rd party site called iStock, but they do offer a discount to their clients for using iStock.

Attribution Required – No
Searchable – No


Historical, mostly black and white images that can be used for just about anything.

Attribution Required – No
Searchable – No

Jay Mantri

Seven new photos each Thursday. You may have to right click and select “save as” when downloading, depending on your browser.

Attribution Required – No
Searchable – No

Public Domain Archive

New photos added frequently. It isn’t searchable but it is simple and high quality. You may need to do a “save as” for these as well.

Attribution Required – No
Searchable – No

Attribution and Licensing Defined

Google Image Search brings results that are generally protected by individual copyrights. You shouldn’t ever use these images with the assumption that they are public domain and free to take.

The sites mentioned in this article have their licenses in pretty easy to find places on the respective sites. There is generally a description of the license on each page and a link to a description. Here are two of the license types you will find on the sites above:

Creative Commons Zero

Basically, this means the photos are free game and can be used in any way you wish without any type of permission or disclosure.

Creative Commons with Attribution

This means that you can use the photo however you want, but you have to credit the creator of the photo.

Attribution is very easy. If you use a photo, just add something like (“Photo by Jane Doe”) and be sure to include a link the site of the photographer.

About the author

Nate McCallister

Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.


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