I have always hated stock photos. I remember back in 2011 when I saw the post from the the hairpin about women laughing alone with salad. I felt relieved that what seemed to be a secret of crap which had perverted the internet forever was finally aired.
There are so many examples of stock photo wankery that I could write an entire post on it. It is actually quite difficult to describe but you absolutely know it when you see it. It frequently manifests itself in slightly out of focus, jaunty-angled photos of weirdly photogenic people.
Thankfully, there are now a plethora of sites which offer something different. They are genuine photos which you can use in your design projects. Sometimes it takes some searching but sometimes searching also means you might find a photo which captures a real intensity or the actual essence of what you are trying to convey.
I have curated a list of what I believe are 25 of the best resources on the internet for finding photos which aren’t examples of stock photo wankery.
10 free new photos sent to you every 10 days. There is no attribution required. Although there is no search capability.
Creative Commons Search
You can search an extensive range of free photos under the Creative Commons license.
Searchable database of online images from just $9.90 per month. No attribution required.
A mix of public domain and Creative Common licensed stock photos. The 25k+ images are searchable and free of charge.
Free searchable database with the ability to filter results based on your use or license needed.
Can We Image
Searches free images from the enormous repository of images on Wikimedia Commons. I like using this more than the Wikimedia Commons website as the search is good and it feels nicer to use.
Large database of free great looking stock images. A mix of licenses but attribution is generally required.
Free high quality stock photos. Attribution is required. The database is searchable.
This project by Michael Connors is approaching 20 years old. No attribution required for these free quality images from morgueFile. You can also find out what a morgue file is.
Paid but extensive database of stock images and vectors. Roughly about $3 per image depending on how you decide to pay.
Alamy must come close to their claim – I was looking for an image of sushi and found literally more than a thousand results. As a consequence it can take a little longer to find what you want. The images are free.
Death To The Stock Photo
No attribution photos emailed to you free each month.
New Old Stock
Free vintage stock images which don’t require attribution. The database can be easily searched.
Free high quality stock images, most of these are of nature or aerial views. Attribution is generally required. You are able to filter results but cannot search.
Good sized database of high quality photos. Attribution is not required but is much appreciated by Viktor.
Free high quality stock images with no attribution required. New images are uploaded weekly by Ryan McGuire. You cannot search the database though.
A great collection of free stock images available under the Creative Commons license so attribution is required.
A collection of high quality unique images from independent photographers. Prices are generally $10-$15 per image depending on the photographer. Well worth a look if you need something high quality. No attribution required.
Exclusive collection of unique high quality stock images from a range of photographers. Prices range from $10 – $100 depending on the size. No attribution required. Additional levels of licensing are available.
High quality, royalty free images which generally range from $19 to $49. The cool feature you can use on Snapwire is the ability to request a custom photo to be taken just for your project.
A unique marketplace which has a large collection of photos taken from mobile phones. Prices are around $3 to $5 per image. No attribution is required.
A massive database of free photos are available on Wikimedia Commons. Attribution is required as they are made available under a Creative Commons license. As mentioned earlier I prefer using the Can We Image interface to search Wikimedia Commons.
National Geographic obviously have a large collection of royalty free images. The downside is a single image can be quite expensive. It is worth exploring if you are looking for something specific though. No attribution required.
Large range of quality free images requiring attribution.
Filter & Format
Looking for something unique? Filter & Format have a small selection of images and sell only 5 copies of each image. The price you pay for this unique value is $100 per image. No attribution is required.