One of the most effective ways to find design inspiration and resources is through stock photo sites. We’ve compiled some of our favourite free stock photo pages, so you can find public-domain images and illustrations to use, inspire, and enrich your designs.
Stock Photo Site 1: Unsplash
Unsplash is a well curated collection of beautiful photos donated by skilled professional and semi-pro photographers. The stock photo collection on Unsplash has been used to create some incredible designs (showcased here). There are fewer images than you’ll find on other sites like Pixabay (see below), but the quality is more consistent and better curated.
Unsplash’s search tool is the fastest way to find a picture, but if you have a little time on your hands, check out their Collections – groups of photos sorted by other users into themes, such as Street Life, Light and Shadow, and Into the Wild. You can create your own collections after signing up for an account.
Unsplash also offers apps for iPhone and Apple TV, plus an extension for Google Chrome. Each of these make it quick, easy, and convenient to find stock photos for creative use, making it simple to search for inspiration and resources on your chosen device.
As with all the sites we’ve listed in this blog, it’s not necessary to credit the photographer, but Unsplash notes that it’s nice to add a simple credit with a link back to their profile as a courtesy.
Unsplash updates its library with 10 new “do whatever you want” images every 10 days, which are more unique, higher quality, and more compelling than most stock photo sites out there.
Stock Image Photo 2: Pixabay
We’ve recommended Pixabay before, but its stock photo collection continues growing – stacked with over a million stock images; not only photos, but illustrations, vector graphics, and even a few videos. Pixabay’s selection of landscape photos is comprehensive and its Editor’s Choice is super useful if you don’t have something specific in mind – just searching for inspiration.
The Pixabay site is clean and intuitive, making it easy to navigate through its comprehensive library of free resources. The main search bar even allows you to filter your query down by factors like media type, orientation, colour, and minimum dimensions.
Once you’ve found a free stock photo you like, Pixabay offers resolution choices for your images and directs you to complete a Captcha for downloading the file. You can bypass the Captcha by signing up for a free Pixabay account.
While the stock photo quality isn’t as consistently high as Unsplash, Pixabay offers a valuable stock photo collection that’s easy to search and filled with free content.
Stock Image Photo 3: Negative Space
Negative Space is open to all photographers looking to contribute free photos, as the site aims to give amateur photographers a platform for sharing their work while supporting fellow creatives globally.
Users can subscribe to Negative Space’s newsletter for updates when new images are added, and because the content is refreshed frequently, it’s worth subscribing to get the latest news on new pictures and additions to the site.
Negative Space is based in the UK, so most of the photography features British scenes. Negative Space offers up new free stock photos updated weekly, offering copyright-free images for users to use, edit, and repurpose however they choose.
From virtual backgrounds to music, Negative Space’s continuously growing image collection of is simple to search, filter, and enjoy – offering popular hashtags and image colour filters to refine your search results.
With frequently updated images from new and up-coming photographers, Negative Space has some great free resources available. However, there are some copyright-protected images within its image library, so be careful.
Stock Photo Site 4: Pexels
Anyone is free to upload photos to Pexels and the site’s curators pick out the best shots to include in its collection of public-domain images. You can search for something specific, or browse its stock photo library by themes including pastimes, emotions, and locations.
Pexels is a particularly good choice for web or app designers, with an excellent set of device images ideal for displaying interface mockups. A few images teeter on stock-photo clichés (such as complex ideas spelled out with scrabble tiles), but the vast majority are unique and creative enough to use for your next design.
Pexels has a category dedicated to space photography, which looks amazing, but bear in mind that some of the material is from NASA – one of the organisations whose images should only be used in specific contexts.
These photos are carefully handpicked from a variety of free image sources to ensure that you’re getting only the best of the best. And thanks to its search functionality, turning up the right photo for your next project is super easy.
Photos are arranged by theme and offers UI mockups for designers – however, some photos are limited use, so be wary when using Pexels.
Stock Photo Site 5: Gratisography
If you’re searching for something a bit strange and quirky, Gratisography – a collection of stock photos from photographer and graphic designer Ryan McGuire – offers some great free resources and inspiration. McGuire’s photos often have a surreal twist, providing a breath of fresh air for those tired of cliché stock photos that have essentially become memes.
McGuire is noted as “whimsically creative visual artist, based in Ithaca, NY.” And while his photos are a bit weirder, such as monster feet slippers, Vespas, and bananas – they can bring a lot of personality to the right design.
Gratisography doesn’t offer as deep a content library as other free stock photo sites, but McGuire’s creative eye and concepts provide a wonderful change of pace, plus he adds new images weekly. It’s not essential to credit McGuire when you use his work, but I’m sure it goes appreciated if you do.
For a fun, quirky, and consistent stock image collection that is high quality and more unique than most stock photo sites – check out Gratisography. The site even offers a subscription that sends regular newsletters updating uses about the latest images and content added.
Stock Photo Site 6: Adobe Stock Free Collection
In October 2020, Adobe released over 70,000 stock photos, videos, illustrations, and templates free for personal, business, and creative use. The focus of Adobe Stock is empowering and supporting the creative community while making the means to create accessible to all.
Adobe’s photos are consistently high quality, plus the company pays its contributors and photographers. There’s a wide selection of filters that so you find exactly the right stock photo or simply upload an existing image to find similar pictures. Just be aware that some photos have limited licensing terms, which can impact usage and editing.
Need more inspiration and resources for your design? We’ve put together some PowerPoint templates that you can easily download, integrated into your designs, and customise to make your own. Download them free here.