More than I year ago I made a list of the top seven websites I use to find free marketing photos for my library. At the time, finding free photos with open copyright use was tricky. But in the span of a year, I’ve found a bunch of new websites with free stock photos! It’s now so easy to get stocks photo that I’ve actually considered canceling our library’s paid subscription stock photos service. Many libraries do not have the budget for a stock photo subscription. They rely on sites like these to help create promotional material that looks professional and modern.
It’s very important to point out that you can’t use any old photo you find on the internet. Just because a picture is on the web does not mean it’s public. That’s where Public Domain and Creative Commons licensing comes into play.
Public Domain: The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, change, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.
Creative Commons: Gives those who want to give up those [copyright laws] a way to do so, to the fullest extent allowed by law. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to other laws and the rights others may have in the work or how the work is used.
You must use images in the Public Domain or covered by Creative Commons to avoid legal implications. All the sites in this post fall into one or both of those categories. And I’ve personally used every site I recommend so you can be assured that I’m familiar with their licensing regulations and their selection.
Here is my original list of the seven best sites for free stock photos. And here are my new additions!
Gratisography: My new favorite site! It’s diverse, interesting, and contains a lot of creative shots that are bright and eye-catching, even whimsical. It’s divided into easy to understand search categories. Their regular search engine is precise… no scrolling through a hundred photos that don’t pertain to your search term. The selection is a bit smaller than some other sites but the photos are amazing.
Burst: After my first post, the creator of this site emailed me with a link. I am impressed with their selection. Their photos are particularly appealing to the millennials on my staff! The photos are all covered under the Creative Commons license and can be used for all kinds of promotional purposes.
Negative Space: Another site under creative commons with full use of photos for commercial purposes. Their photos are artsy and fun. I particularly love their Flatlay collection!
Creative Commons: This site is dedicated to sharing photos under the Creative Commons license and contains the most diverse selection of shots I’ve seen on a free photo site to date. I go here when I’m looking for something original and authentic. Their shots of office workers never look staged!
Vecteezy: While not exactly a photo site, this website contains a lot of vector and graphic art, which can be helpful if you’re responsible for creating graphics for your library marketing. There are premium pieces for purchase, but their selection of free art is great. Use this site to complement the free layouts and art you’ll find on Canva. I like the modern feel of the work on this site.
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