The BIG Guide to Free Images for Your Blog Posts // Part 1: Public Domain

Big Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain
credits clockwise: Unsplash, Get Refe, New Old Stock, Pixabay. See links below.
The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain. From DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Credits clockwise: Unsplash, Get Refe, New Old Stock, Pixabay. See links below.

We all want high quality stock photography for our blogs.

Free high quality photography.

That’s legitimate to use.

And NOT cheesy.

Here’s the deal: You know it’s important to carefully select images for your blog and posts to get your message across. You also know that it’s important to avoid violating copyright laws when using stock photography.

The good news is that there are many resources to find great photography that won’t get you sued for using them and won’t break your bootstrap budget.

I’ve been slowly adding to a gigantic list of stock photography resources for a few years now and figured it was about time I shared it. Because the list is so extensive, I’ll be splitting it up into three posts, one for each of the following three licensing categories: Public Domain, Creative Commons and Royalty Free. Yes, there ARE free Royalty Free images if you know where to find them!

For more on the different stock photography licenses, see the image copyright article I wrote a few weeks back as part of the Photography for your Blog series.

Please note that some sources may fall under more than one category, but to avoid repetition in the list, I chose the one I thought it fit under best.

Free Stock Photography Resource Type #1: Public Domain

Public Domain images have intellectual property rights that have now expired, been forfeited or are inapplicable. Images under Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0) also fall under this category because the images’ owners have waived their rights to the works.

This means that Public Domain images are free to use whenever and wherever you’d like, no strings attached! You do not need to provide credit or link backs for using most of these images. Except…

Be aware that some photos may require a model or property release and images featuring products or other company logos should be used with care.

MY FAVORITES

These are my favorite Public Domain image websites because their images are unique, modern and professional.

Unsplash

Unsplash is an amazing collection of free photography that doesn’t feel like stock. Many of the photos are quite artsy or photo-journalistic. Every 10 days, 10 new photos are added to the site and you’re free to do what you want with them through the Public Domain.

Searchability: Unfortunately, Unsplash doesn’t allow you to search for specific images, there is only the option to scroll through a long list of them.

UPDATE: Arthur Weill has created a simple search engine for Unsplash where you can search for photos by keyword. Definitely worth checking out!

Resolution: All photos are hi res.

Registration? No registration is necessary to download, although you might want to sign up for email reminders every 10 days.

Rights: http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Attribution: None required.

A few examples from Unsplash:

Free public domain stock photography from Unsplash. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from Unsplash

Little Visuals

Little Visuals is another collection of curated photographs that have been released into the Public Domain and have the same look and feel as Unsplash photography. They used to send out 7 photos every 7 days, but it looks like they stopped a few months ago after week 12. Nonetheless, you can still access the first 12 weeks-worth at their website. Each week is combined in a zip file for easy download.

UPDATE 5/12/15: I’m sad to report that the reason why Little Visuals stopped being updated is because the young photographer suddenly died in November 2013 of S.A.D.S ( Sudden Adult death Syndrome ). Please click through to the site to learn more about the foundation his family has set up in his name.

Searchability: Like Unsplash, Little Visuals doesn’t allow the option to search for photos either. You’ll just scroll through a long list of photos.

Resolution: All photos on Little Visuals are high resolution.

Registration? No registration is necessary to download images.

Rights: http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

Attribution: None required.

A few examples from Little Visuals:

Free public domain stock photography from Little Visuals. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from Little Visuals

Free Refe Mobile Photos

Refe is a digital marketplace of the best real life mobile photos. This part of the site is a collection of free photos shot using camera phones and they are available for personal or commercial projects. So far there’s just a small collection but the quality is impressive. They also have a mailing list to get the latest updates.

Searchability: Free Refe only lets you browse, not search photos.

Resolution: All images are hi res

Registration? It’s not necessary to register to download photos.

Rights: http://getrefe.com/license/

Attribution: None required.

A few examples of Refe Mobile Photos:

Free public domain stock photography from Refe. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from Refe

New Old Stock

One of the most popular Public Domain resources these days, new photos are hand picked and added every week from various vintage and antique public archives. What makes this site worth checking is out is that the images are curated by Cole Townsend, a visual and web designer, so most of them are really nice looking photos and fit in with current vintage trends.

Searchability: Can’t search, only browse.

Resolution: Most of the photos are available in hi res.

Registration? No account is necessary to download photographs.

Rights: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Attribution: None required.

New Old Stock sample images:

Free public domain stock photography from New Old Stock. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from New Old Stock

Pixabay

Pixabay has some really great quality stock images of all kinds, ranging from closeups of nature to urban photos and even product images. All photographs on Pixabay are published under CC0. Thank you to Caroline and Davina for turning me on to this one!

Searchability: Pixabay photos are searchable by keyword, which is nice. Or use Creative Commons Search.

Resolution: Photos are available for download in several sizes.

Registration? It is not necessary to create an account on Pixabay to download images.

Rights: http://pixabay.com/en/blog/posts/public-domain-images-what-is-allowed-and-what-is-4/

Attribution: None required except in the case of model and property releases. Read more about that here.

Here’s a taste of what’s available from Pixabay:

Free public domain stock photography from Pixabay. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from Pixabay

Tackorama

Tackorama has some really cool, free retro images among other wonderful retro freebies.

UPDATE 1/4/16: It looks like the Tackorama website has been taken down, but I will leave this up in case it ever comes back online.

Searchability: The site is not searchable by keyword, but images are divided into a few categories.

Resolution: The majority of the images are 72dpi, although most of the photographs in the Large section are 300dpi (the general standard required for printing). The images vary in size from 1600 down to 250 pixels.

Registration? No account is necessary to download from Tackorama.

Rights: Most of the images are in the Public Domain, but the site does not 100% guarantee that they are. The owner of the site has tried to locate owners to every image he has on the site and hasn’t found any so far. Read more about that on his info page. Copyright.

Attribution: None necessary.

Here’s a sample of what you can get on Tackorama:

Free public domain stock photography from Tack-o-rama. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from Tack-o-rama

Rijksmuseum

The Dutch national museum in Amsterdam, encourages sharing, downloading and use of its artwork by offering downloads of works, free for personal use. Find art by artists like Vermeer and Rembrandt or works from various periods including Baroque, Rococo, Impressionism and Art Nouveau.

Searchability: Images are searchable by artist or category

Resolution: All digital photos come in high resolution (4500 x 4500 pixels on average).

Registration? To download works, you’ll either need to log in with Facebook or create a Rijkstudio account.

Rights: Rijksmuseum is able to offer these works because a lot of their collection predates Dutch copyright law. The museum plans to digitize every piece in their 1 million+ piece collection over the next few years. Read the Rijksmuseum terms of use here.

Attribution: If you use their images for publication, they request that you acknowledge the source (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

Small sampling of images:

Free public domain stock photography from Rijksmuseum. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from Rijksmuseum

Public Domain Pictures

A website of crowd-sourced photos in the Public Domain, with new photos being added all the time. There are actually some really good photographs on this site, so it’s definitely worth a look. This site also includes illustrations, textures, background patterns and some clip art.

To download, click on an image to enlarge it, then right-click it and save to your computer.

Searchability: Search for photos by keyword search or by category.

Resolution: Most photos are not the highest resolution but are large enough for web use.

Registration? For access to full resolution files, you’ll need to register for a paid membership. You’ll get 100 downloads each month and price varies from $5.99 for 24 hours to $89.99 for a year.

Rights: See below.

Attribution: Most images require attribution or a link back to its page, but it varies with each image, so read the terms on each image page before downloading and using.

Example of Public Domain Pictures images:

Free public domain stock photography from PublicDomainPictures.net. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from PublicDomainPictures.net

Credits: Baby + dad sleeping. Snowy owl eyes. Chicks + Easter eggs. Chess pieces.

US Library of Congress

The Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) manages the archival and historical images available from the Library of Congress. There are historical photographs, illustrations, paintings and posters. “While International in scope, the collections [of the Library of Congress] are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people.”

Searchability: You can search by keyword or by collection.

Resolution: Image sizes available will vary.

Registration? You won’t need to create an account to download images.

Rights: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/about/#rights.

Attribution: Read the Rights Advisory on each image before downloading.

Sample PPOC images:

Free public domain stock photography from US Library of Congress. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from US Library of Congress

USA.gov

USA.gov includes links to photo and image resources that encompass General Government photos (National and individual States), History, Arts + Culture photos (National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, etc.), Health + Nutrition photos, Environment, Energy, and Agriculture (BLM, EPA, etc.), Science and Technology (NASA, etc.), Money (Treasury, Mint, etc.), Defense and International Relations, and Public Safety and Law (Customs, FBI, Homeland Security, etc.)

Searchability: Varies by site

Resolution: Varies by site

Registration? Most sites don’t require registration.

Rights: Some of these photos are in the public domain or U.S. government works and may be used without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license or copyright. You should read the disclaimers on each site before using any of these images. I found a few of the sites a little difficult to tell if you can use their images or not, so I opted to stay away from using them just in case.

Attribution: Varies, check each image before downloading.

A sample of USA.gov images:

Free public domain stock photography from various sites under USA.gov. From The BIG Guide to Free Stock Photo Resources: Part 1 Public Domain on DesignYourOwnBlog.com.

Free public domain stock photography from various sites under USA.gov

Credits: Telluride Ski Lift. Courtesy The Colorado Tourism Office. Edgar Degas The Dance Lesson c. 1879 Painting. Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington. Blue Ridge Parkway National Park. NASA Space Shuttle.

WORTH MENTIONING

These Public Domain photo resources may have collections that are a bit more amateur in style and quality, but I mention them in case you’re looking for something specific and didn’t find it in any of the above websites.

Public Domain Photos

Photos and Clipart. Many of the photos are of nice quality, full of color, while other are a bit amateurish. Many categories of images are available here. The clipart is a little cheesy.

Searchability: Search by keyword or category.

Resolution: Most photos are hi res, but not all.

Registration?
No registration required.

Rights: All photos on this web site are public domain. You may use these images for any purpose, including commercial. But if they contain logos and/or products you need to be careful. Using someone else’s trademark commercially can get you sued.

Attribution: None required, although most of the images do have an author listed so it might be nice to include a credit.

Photos Public Domain

Another collection of free photographs taken by one family and released into the public domain. Many are really nice photographs from a wide variety of subjects including some textures, so it’s definitely worth a look. Downloading is as easy as right-clicking and saving as.

Searchability: Search for photos by keyword or category.

Resolution: The photos are high resolution.

Registration? None required.

Rights: Read the FAQ here before using images.

Attribution: Not required, however it is kindly requested.

Good Free Photos

Mostly travel and random photos by an amateur photographer and placed into the Public Domain. Many of the photos are just ok but there are some decent ones to be found here. Click to enlarge, right-click, then save to your computer.

Searchability: Searchable by category only

Resolution: Photos are high resolution

Registration? No registration necessary.

Rights: From the photographer: “All photos on this site were taken by me and I have chosen to license them under the Public Domain license to form a free photos database. This means you are free to use them personally or commercially (except for photos that require a model or property release) on any project without asking for permission.”

Attribution: Please consider giving credit to goodfreephotos.com when you use the images.

PD Photo

The images here are taken by amateur photographer, Jon Sullivan. While the majority are travel photos, there are some other random subjects included here as well. Jon has released almost all of the photographs into the Public Domain.

Searchability: Search for photos by keyword or category.

Resolution: The free photos are not available in high resolution but they are large enough to fit in most blog posts. If you need one in a higher resolution, he can provide it to you for a fee. To use an image on PDphoto.org, just right-click an image and save it to your computer.

Registration? No registration required.

Rights: From the website: “Unless something is clearly marked as being copyrighted, you can assume it is free to use. But if you intend to use an image you find here for commercial use, please be aware that standards for such use are higher. Specifically, you should assume no model release was obtained. And pictures featuring products or property should be used with care.”

Attribution: Not required, however it is kindly requested.

Create Your Own Stock!

I hope you found some good images to use here from the Public Domain. You never know how long some photos might be up on sites like Unsplash and New Old Stock, so you may consider creating an archive on your own computer of downloaded images. I have a folder of stock photography with separate folders for each site. I keep the original file names so that I can refer back to its terms when I use it at a later date.

Take Your Own Photos!

Not sure how to take your own beautiful photos? Emma Davies’ 28-Day Blog Photo Bootcamp should do the trick! No DSLR necessary!

Note:

While public domain images are pretty much free to use however you’d like, I noticed that some of the sites mentioned that photos of people do not include model releases so it’s best to be careful about using these types of photographs from the Public Domain. Always read and re-read the terms of use before you use an image and if you can, try and give credit if asked. It’s just a nice thing to do for someone offering to share their work for free.

Help Me Keep This List Updated!

This list is meant to be updated regularly but I need your help! If you find any resources here no longer available or you have others you’d like to add, please let me know in the comments below so I can make appropriate changes. Keep in mind that this list is for free images in the Public Domain.

Free Stock Photography From Creative Commons

The next installment in the Photography for your Blog series is going to be chock full of more great free image resources, this time in the Creative Commons genre. Subscribe now to get notified when I make updates to the lists because I’ll be updating it regularly. I want this to be THE one stop shop for all your free stock photo needs!

I would also really appreciate it if you would share this with your friends and followers by sharing on your social media sites. Use the handy links below. Thank you!

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