Where can I get free photos and illustrations for my website?

I’d like a nice photo to use for the header of my website, where can I find something I don’t have to pay for?


I got this question from Tony down at TAMS Ltd who was looking for a new header image for his website. His template had a picture of a leaf at the top, but really wanted something that matched the theme of his website.

What Tony is after is called stock photography: Stock photography is a term that refers to photographs that can be licensed for public or commercial use, which are usually found on professional stock photography websites. These are photographs that can be used for any purpose in marketing, advertising, or design, as long as it is not illegal or harmful. Rather than fo through the expense of hiring a photographer to take unique photos, many advertising companies, graphic designers, web designers, and other professionals frequently take advantage of stock photography to fulfill their design needs.

There are different classifications of stock photography:

  • Rights-Managed Stock Photography is where the user actually buys the right to use the photo. He pays every time the photo is used and “owns” the photo for a limited period of time. This exclusivity helps make sure you’re using a unique photo, but that comes at a price.
  • Royalty-Free Stock Photography is where you pay once for a photo and can use it for multiple times, say up to 10,000 times. The photo can be purchased by multiple users, so you’re not assured exclusivity.
  • Free Stock Photography is where the image is available at no charge. A good example of this are photos covered by Creative Commons, a progressive licensing system that allows users to share, remix and reuse content legally.

It’s important to always recognise the source of your image and respect the licensing that comes with it, however, free photos ARE available if you know where to look, and there are also websites where you can pay a tiny fee for royalty-free images, a fee so small you won’t even notice. Here are some great places to check out:

  • Stock.xchng – This place is just awesome. A great source of free and royalty-free images
  • PD Photo – A public domain photo archive. You can find pretty much anything you want here
  • morguefile – A place to keep post production materials for use of reference containing free high resolution digital stock photography for either corporate or public use.
  • Stockvault -a stock photo sharing website where designers and photographers can meet to share their images.
  • ArtFavor – A collection of vector and flash clipart, photos, pictures and images
  • PixelPhotoDigital – A forum based collection of images you can use
  • Nations Illustrated – A great source for images of scenery around the world
  • Free Photos Bank – An excellent source of free photos
  • FreeDigitalPhotos.net – thousands of free photos. You can also buy print quality images from here
  • UnProfound – Colour coded stock photography
  • OpenPhoto – A great collection of stock photography
  • BuzzNet – Photos of fans, bands, crowds and parties
  • Majestic Imagery – A great collection of scenery and locations
  • ixuz.com – Interesting collection with a large proportion of travel photos
  • Diwiesign Studio – Photos with an industrial theme
  • PhotoCase – A collection of photographers and their work
  • Stockcache – Free Stock Photography
  • BurningWell – A public domain image source

That’s a good place to get started huh? Whether you’re after photos of Sector watches, Shocking tanks or chocolate bars, you’re bound to find whatever you want up there somewhere.

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