A great video requires the right tools to build it with. You need a customizable video maker, your message, and high-quality pictures or video clips to bring it all together. The Biteable video maker comes with over 1 million royalty-free images included right within the app at no extra cost.
So finding the perfect imagery for your Biteable videos is simple.
When you don’t have the Biteable media library on your side, you’ll need other ways to source high-quality, free images. Finding the right image is challenging, but finding the right image and ensuring you’re not breaking any copyright laws in the process can feel impossible.
The answer? Royalty-free images.
There are millions of royalty-free images available across the internet. You just have to know where to find them.
These pictures are often completely free to use, but not always. To keep yourself on the right side of the law, it’s important you understand the dos and don’ts of sourcing free photos from the internet.
We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of finding royalty-free pictures you can legally use in your projects, including a review of the best sites for free images.
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Understanding the dos and don’ts of royalty-free images
You probably know that you can’t just do a quick Google Image search and use whatever photos come up — that’s a quick way to get sued.
To avoid ending up in court, you need to make sure all the pictures you use are royalty-free. Remember, royalty-free doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no cost to you. It just means you can use the picture for your projects once certain permissions are secured.
For paid images, this usually means you pay a licensing fee as a one-off cost and can then use the image as many times as you want without giving attribution to the photographer or stock photo site.
Free images are typically licensed with Creative Commons copyright licenses or are a part of the public domain. Public domain images and images with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license are free to download and use commercially without attributing the source.
What is a Creative Commons license?
Copyright laws automatically give ownership and copyright protection to photographers around the world, whether or not the photographers actually want it.
In the age of the internet, these laws both protect photographers and simplify the copyright process. Can you imagine if every photographer had to apply for a copyright every time they took a picture? Yikes.
But many photographers choose to share their images for others to use. A Creative Commons license lets them legally control or revoke their rights of ownership.
Keep in mind that not all Creative Commons licenses are the same. It’s important to read the fine print.
Some Creative Commons licenses prohibit you from using the image for commercial purposes. Some require that you give attribution to the creator whenever you use the image (the Creative Commons Attribution license, for example).
The Creative Commons Zero license allows creators to “donate” their images to the public, no rights reserved. Pictures with a CC0 license are truly free royalty-free images. You can use them for any reason without permission, payment, or attribution.
Before you use any royalty-free image with a Creative Commons license, double check it has the right license for your purpose, and always follow the conditions of the licence.
Are free images really free?
Free images won’t cost you any money, but they may not be free from copyright. Stock images are released into the wild with a Creative Commons license that determines how and where those images can be used and shared.
Always check if “free” images can be used for both commercial and non-commercial uses, depending on what you need them for, and whether or not they require attribution to the owner.
Are royalty-free images really free?
Royalties are ongoing payments made to owners and artists for the use of their works. Royalty-free images, however, are free from these kinds of restrictions. That doesn’t mean they are without cost.
Some royalty-free images require a one-time purchase of a license to use the image, while other royalty-free images cost nothing to use. Copyright free, public domain, and images with the CC0 license are all types of royalty-free images that won’t cost you any money.
Are copyright free images free?
Technically, a copyright free image doesn’t legally belong to anyone and can be used for any purpose at no cost. It’s free from copyright and is therefore a part of the public domain.
However, be cautious of sites misusing the term ‘copyright free’. Some stock photography sites claim to be ‘copyright free’ but actually require attribution for using their pictures.
Are public domain images free?
Images in the public domain are completely free from copyright, so they are free to use. Photos whose copyright expired or never existed are part of the public domain.
Although not technically the same thing, public domain images and images released under the Creative Commons Zero license achieve the same outcome — completely copyright and royalty free (and free free).
The best completely FREE royalty-free image sites
There are lots of places online to find copyright free pictures, but they vary widely in terms of image quality and ease of finding what you’re looking for. Below, we break down the best places to find completely free stock photos.
Unless stated otherwise, these stock photo databases offer images licensed with a CC0 license and are completely free to use without attribution to the creator.
Unsplash offers a library of over 2 million completely free high-resolution images. Unsplash is a community effort — photographers from all over the world contribute their images to the library. Because of this, the images tend to veer on the side of artsy portraits and beautiful scenery, rather than more traditional stock photos.
Pros: All Unsplash images can be used for free without attribution, for both commercial and non-commercial purposes. They have a huge range of images and styles thanks to the variety of contributing photographers. If you think the photo you’re looking for is too niche, try Unsplash. You might be surprised.
Cons: Due to the size of the library, it takes some time and scrolling to find the perfect picture. Try changing up your keywords to narrow your search. Also, use their filters for the best results.
Pikwizard is another great option for high-quality stock photography that won’t cost you a cent. As an added incentive, you can also hit a button to edit each image with Design Wizard, their sister graphic design tool.
Pros: If you’re looking for traditional stock photos rather than artistic photography shots, Pikwizard might be the site for you. Find professional images of people in all types of settings, including sets and series featuring the same actors across multiple photographs.
Cons: While many photos are free and shared under Pikwizard’s CC0 license, you may stumble across some photos tagged as “premium”. These photos link to the Adobe Stock website and cost money to purchase. If free pictures are your aim, stick to photos under Pikwizard’s standard license.
Burst, powered by Shopify, features thousands of professionally shot stock images you can use for any project or website. The images are completely free, don’t require attribution, and can be downloaded in either low or high resolution.
Pros: Burst makes image searching easy with tags, categories, and collections that house all their photos. They constantly add new photos and tend to be quick to offer images that reflect trends and current events.
Cons: This one could be a pro or a con, depending on what you’re looking for: Burst uses their own photographers to source their snaps, rather than a community contribution model like some other free image websites. This means their library is on the smaller side and offers less variety, but the photos are usually of a higher quality because of it.
If you need an image that’s a little more whimsical or surreal, Gratisography is the place to go. The high-resolution images are free to use for any purpose and are a little more quirky and unique than anything you’ll find on other stock photo sites.
Pros: Get weird with Gratisography. Find free fun images full of whimsy that you won’t find anywhere else. From amusing animals to goofy faces, if you’re going for something a little different, Gratisography has you covered.
Cons: Gratisography’s library is fairly small and limited to the odd, funky, and fun. No guarantees you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for.
With hundreds of new images added each week, the growing collection of stock images on StockSnap.io is curated from user-submitted photos.
Pros: Completely free from copyright restrictions, StockSnap.io lets you search by keyword or collection. The smaller, lesser-known library increases your chances of finding an image that isn’t over-used or you maybe haven’t seen elsewhere.
Cons: The user-submitted images vary in quality from image to image. For the most part, they are incredible high-quality photos, but some are better than others.
With over 2 million free stock images, illustrations, and vector images, Pixabay is one of the largest databases of free images approved for commercial use.
Pros: All Pixabay images are completely free and don’t require attribution. From artsy backgrounds to standard stock images, chances are you’ll find something that works for you in their large library. Their website is easy to navigate and beautiful to look at, which is always a bonus.
Cons: As with many community submission stock websites, the quality of the photos is hit or miss, with some images more snapshot quality than professional photography.
Pexels’ growing library of completely free stock images currently holds over 3 million photos to pick from. The Pexels database is curated from a community of photographers and other stock photo sites, including Pixabay.
Pros: Pexels’ database is particularly well organized and easy to search, with filters for color, size, and image orientation. You can browse images through a direct search or via the ‘discover’ tab to see curated collections and trending images.
Cons: Pexels is a great choice for broad search terms, but you may struggle with image results as your search gets more specific.
Picjumbo is another smaller collection of around 4000 free images with a variety of themes. These are created by a single artist, rather than a community of users.
Pros: If you like the style of Picjumbo’s images, you’re in luck. All photos are taken by the same photographer, who updates the website with new pictures every month. Search by keyword or use search terms such as “space for text” or “flatlay”.
Cons: Some photos are only available to premium members, so double check before falling in love with the photo you chose.
If you need food images, the FoodiesFeed collection of culinary-themed images may have just what you need.
Pros: FoodiesFeed images are user-submitted, meaning they run the gamut for style, cuisine, and dishes. Chances are there’s an image of whatever food item you’re looking for.
Cons: Again, FoodiesFeed images are user-submitted, so they also run the gamut for quality. Some photos are shot by professional photographers, others by food bloggers, and some by amateurs. Obviously, FoodiesFeed won’t be particularly helpful to you if you aren’t looking for food pics.
The Kaboompics’ library currently sits at around 20,000 images, but they’re good ones. Kaboompics is a one-woman show run by Karolina Grabowska, who is the photographer behind every image on the site. New images are added daily and yep, you guessed it, they’re completely free for personal or commercial use.
Pros: There’s a lot to love about Kaboompics. It might be small, but it is mighty. Search by image orientation, color, category, or keyword. The site also offers ‘photoshoots’ — a collection of matching photos all taken in the same photoshoot for when you want multiple cohesive images to work with. Karolina goes above and beyond and offers a color palette for every image, HEX code included, to make incorporating the image into your designs just that much easier.
Cons: The main negative of this site is the size of the library. It’s not super small, but given how great the website is, we can’t help but wish there were even more photos to choose from.
As the name suggests, FREEIMAGES delivers over 300,000 free photos you can use for personal or commercial use (although some photographers may request attribution — check the license under each image). The images available on FREEIMAGES tend to be less HD and more natural.
Pros: FREEIMAGES sources their photos from community submissions, and it’s… kind of obvious. Their database is not all high-quality, professional photographer images. A lot of it is more natural, organic snaps. This may sound like more of a negative than a positive, but if you’re hunting for some casual photos to use in your project, this is a great place to look.
Cons: The content and quality of FREEIMAGES is quite a mixed bag. If you’re looking for corporate, professional images, this probably isn’t the option for you.
12. Life Of Pix
Images in the Life Of Pix library are sourced by pro photographers and donated to the public domain. That’s great news for us, because as you know, the public domain = completely free for whatever use you dream up. Every photo is high-quality, and new images are added every day.
Pros: Life Of Pix offers a great balance of artsy photographer shots and standard high-quality stock images. Their search function makes it simple to find the right photo for you, and they even identify the colors in each photo. Click on a color you’d like to see more of, and Lifeofpix shows you other images in that shade.
Cons: There’s not a lot to dislike about Life Of Pix. As with many smaller sites, the image library doesn’t offer millions of results. But chances are, what you do find on Life Of Pix, you won’t find anywhere else.
WOCinTech was an initiative to provide stock images that accurately reflect the diversity of the tech industry. Unfortunately, WOCinTech no longer operates, but they’ve left their hundreds of free images featuring women of color available for download. These photos were released under a Creative Commons Attribution license, which means you can use the images for free, but you must attribute them to WOCinTech.
Pros: Who doesn’t love accurate representations of diversity in the workplace? Where you may struggle to find diversity from other stock image websites, you’re sure to find it here. The photos are all high quality and perfect for corporate or workplace-related images.
Cons: We’ve already touched on it, but WOCinTech no longer adds to their library. What’s there now is what you’ve got to choose from. The database is limited, but we loved the concept and existing photos so much we had to include them.
14. Startup Stock Photos
Startup Stock Photos is exactly what it says on the tin — stock photos that depict life at a startup. The CC0 license means they’re all free without attribution.
Pros: If you’re searching for photos that represent your startup, this site was literally made for you.
Cons: If you’re not searching for photos that represent your startup, you probably won’t find what you’re looking for here.
15. ISO Republic
ISO Republic is an independent stock image site releasing beautiful images under a restriction-free license — all the things we love in a stock image site.
Pros: One of our favorite things about ISO Republic is the collections. ISO Republic curated their best images into helpful, easy-to-access collections, like “Designer’s Toolkit” with background and flatlays perfect for graphic designers, or “Spirit of Entrepreneurship” focused on corporate and workplace images.
Cons: ISO Republic offers limited search options. You can’t search by image color, size, or orientation — only by tags and keywords. If you need a specific type of image, this might cause problems.
Reshot delivers the goods with over 50,000 images, icons, and illustrations perfect for your designs and projects. It’s all free, and a lot of Reshot’s images won’t be found on other stock websites.
Pros: Reshot doesn’t just do photos, they also offer royalty free icons and illustrations. Their aim is to make life easier for designers, so if graphic design is your game, Reshot might just save you a whole lot of pain.
Cons: Reshot prides itself on offering unique photos, but that means their photo library isn’t as comprehensive as other sites. Again, depending on what you’re looking for, this could be a positive.
17. Styled Stock
Styled Stock is a stock library focused on self-described ‘feminine’ images. You’ll find stock photos featuring women and the types of images you’d find in a women’s magazine. Of course, you can use these photos for whatever you’d like — they’re not exclusively relevant to women. They are all high-quality, beautiful photos with a little extra charm than your standard stock images.
Pros: Styled Stock clearly put a lot of thought and effort into creating beautiful and aesthetically pleasing photographs. If your brand creates content specifically aimed at women, you might want to take a look at their database.
Cons: The library is fairly small, and a lot of searches will come up empty. Keep search terms broad to increase the likelihood of finding a picture that works for you.
Nappy is a stock website made to combat the lack of diversity in stock images. Nappy offers all the high-quality stock photos you’d find elsewhere, but exclusively featuring people of color. No more hunting for photos that represent the diversity of your team or customers — Nappy has you covered.
Pros: Diversify your content with stock images that make it a point to represent black and brown people. Need there be a bigger benefit than that?
Cons: As to be expected from smaller stock sites, Nappy’s image database isn’t huge. Go for broader search terms to increase your chances of finding an image that works for your project.
19. Realistic Shots
Realistic Shots does indeed offer realistic shots. All of the high-resolution images are released under the CC0 license, so you are free to use them wherever and for whatever you’d like.
Pros: If you need stock images that wouldn’t look out of place on Instagram, but are still beautiful and high-quality shots, this photo site is a good option. The images tend to look more authentic and organic, and less staged than some other free stock image sites.
Cons: The only way to find your way around the images is via the search term bar. There’s no way to filter by color, size, collection, etc.
Wunderstock is yet another stock image website with tens of thousands of free images to choose from.
Pros: Wunderstock really does offer beautiful images — it’s hard to find a dud in the bunch. Search by keyword and orientation, or expand the library by searching by source and license to filter in additional results from Flickr.
Cons: Most of Wunderstock’s images are completely free for any use and part of the public domain, but not all of them. Make sure your ‘license’ filter is set to ‘public domain’ to only see photos that don’t require attribution.
Lastly, you can search on Flickr for images posted under the Creative Commons Zero license. (Note that not all photos on Flickr have this license).
Pros: Flickr’s image database offers millions of free images under CC0 licence, and more are added every day. If you’re not having much luck on other stock sites, Flickr’s size and variety is on your side.
Cons: Because Flickr is an entirely user-submitted and not a curated website, there’s a good chance that most images aren’t going to be professional quality. It might take a bit of digging to find a gem amongst it all.
Even more completely free photo libraries
But wait, there’s more! Here are a few more places you’ll find free stock photos. Since these collections are smaller, they may not have what you’re looking for. But you may also find images that haven’t been overused by other creators.
- FOCA Stock
- Negative Space
- Shot Stash
- Good Stock Photos
The best paid royalty-free libraries
If you have some room in your budget and want to splash out on something really special, there are a number of premium stock photo sites that offer more unique, higher-quality, high resolution images and photographs.
Perhaps the most well-known stock photo site around, Shutterstock has a database that holds a huge collection of more than 300 million royalty-free images.
Shutterstock offers a ‘10 free images’ trial if you’re interested in testing the waters before getting your feet wet. After that, you can either purchase individual images or sign up for one of their paid subscriptions.
2. Adobe Stock
Adobe, the brand behind Photoshop and Illustrator, also brings a stunning library of stock photos to the table with Adobe Stock.
If you have a specific look in mind, the handy reverse image search feature makes it easy to find images that are similar in color, tone, and composition to your target image.
Adobe Stock also offers a one-month free trial with 10 free images included. If you’re a fan of their product, you can choose to purchase “credit packs” for a certain number of images or a month-to-month or annual subscription.
The leader in editorial photography, iStock has millions of high-quality, royalty-free images, illustrations, and video clips. iStock is owned by Getty Images but operates separately from the Getty Images site.
Choose from a credit pack or a subscription to get access to iStock’s premium photo library.
Shutterstock’s premium stock photo site is Offset, a curated collection of super high-quality, royalty-free images for commercial use. As you might expect for that kind of quality, it’s not cheap. Pricing starts at $249 USD for a small image.
If you have the budget, though, the images won’t disappoint.
5. Getty Images
While much of the Getty Images collection is dedicated to news and current events for editorial use, they also offer creative images, videos, and music.
Be careful though — not all images are royalty-free. Many are “royalty managed” or “rights ready”. These licenses are granted for a specific use and pricing varies depending on the size, distribution, and duration of use.
Make sure you’re searching the Creative RF section for royalty-free licensed work. Again, these premium royalty-free photos don’t come cheap. Single images or packs can be purchased, and prices depend on the image size.
Find free royalty-free images for every project
No matter your budget or preferred aesthetic, you’re sure to find the perfect image somewhere on this list. Always read the fine print on the license terms for your image, to avoid ending up on the wrong side of copyright law.
Once you’ve gathered your ideal images, turn them into a stunning video with the Biteable video maker. Use one of Biteable’s professionally designed video templates and swap in images to fit your vibe, or start from scratch and let your creativity soar.