Copyright laws around what images can and cannot be used can be confusing, especially since most photos on Google Image search are not allowed to be used elsewhere. You should not just go on to Google, search for a photo and take it off any random website you want.
We regularly use a number of different websites to get free, high-quality images to use on our blogs, website, and presentations. These images are purposefully put on to these websites by the owners for anyone to use for free. There really are some nice people out there.
These websites can be especially useful for improving the look of your Google Site, adding a relevant image to fill space can really help to make your site look better. It can also be useful for Art students looking for images for their research or as backgrounds on their work.
What we like best about these websites is that the search isn’t generic like on Google Images, you can search for London and you will still get the normal ‘Landmark’ photos but also a whole range of other photos that still show off London.
Between the three sites we’ve listed below, there will be a whole range of free stock images that will be perfect for what you need.
Unsplash is our favourite stock photo site, it started in 2013 as a simple Tumblr blog uploading just 10 photos every 10 days to a public Dropbox folder, because of the high quality of the photos and the fact they aren’t like your generic stock photo, the site grew in popularity even getting the attention of Apple who used Unsplash to start the first ever “Shot on iPhone” campaign back in 2015.
The site consistently gives us great results when looking for simple, stock photos. Let’s search for ‘computer’, as you can see from the example below, Google provides us with images of actual computers and illustrations of computers. Unsplash gives us photos of people using computers or parts of computers. All the photos look professional whereas a good portion of the Google image search looks like just generic promotional material or taken on someone’s phone.
Unsplash lets you look at all the photos a photographer has uploaded, so for example, if there is a photo that you really like the style of and want more of, select the name of the photographer to see all their other photos.
Plus, as of writing, there aren’t any ads on Unsplash! They rely on money from investors and crowd-funding campaigns.
Pexels is another great option for free stock photos, it gives similar results to Unsplash as well as high-quality stock video footage for free too at https://videos.pexels.com/
Just like Unsplash you can search through all the uploads of a photographer, save and download any of their work.
One great feature of Pexels is that if you hover your mouse over the Explore button in the top right corner you can search using terms they’ve already set or simply by colour. Take a look at a search of Yellow here. Perfect for students trying to create a mood board based on a specific theme.
It’s worth noting however that it does also have a bit of advertising on it so you just need to make sure you keep an eye on whether or not the photo you select is on Pexels or on Adobe Stock instead.
Pixabay has all the same features of Pexels including Video but it also has free vector graphics and illustrations on it. The size of the library is quite small but the best thing about Pixabay, the one thing that the other two don’t have, is the ability to narrow your search by filters. You can search for just portrait images or just large images for large format printing. Do a search for ‘countryside’ and you get over 100 results but set a green filter on it so you get bright green grass and trees instead of gloomy stormy photos and it’s narrowed down to 15 photos. It’s not a perfect filter based on colours but it can be helpful.
Again like Pexels though, it does have advertising so just be sure the photo you select is on Pixabay and not Shutterstock or Adobe Stock.