4 free photo services to know about and how to use them

By: Grace Denenny
June 19, 2024
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Whether you’re trying to grab your reader’s attention or get your message across more efficiently, all stories benefit from images.

If you don’t have a local photo to pair with your story, knowing what photo services are available can be a lifesaver. 

This blog will dive into some of the best free stock photo websites available to you right now. 

1. Pexels

Pexels is a stock photo and video website that you can use to download and use visuals completely for free. Start by putting a keyword in the main search box and adjust the results by adding different words. You can filter images based on image size, orientation, and color scheme, and sort by newest and most popular. 

I searched “mountain” as an example and found 106,000 free photo options. Simply hover over the photo and press the download box at the bottom right corner of the image you would like to use. You can find the image in your downloads, rename it, and use it however you’d like. Pexels offers users the opportunity to donate to the photographer as a thank you for their image. 

Find the Pexels terms of service here.

2. Unsplash

Unsplash is one of the most popular stock photo websites, with a large library of free online images. Photographers around the world upload their images to Unsplash to share their photography for free. Unsplash photos can be used for commercial and non-commercial websites, but cannot be sold online or offline. 

Get started by entering a keyword, or a few, to narrow your search. You can filter your search to show only free images, and choose the orientation for the images you’re looking for.

This is another example of what I found when searching “mountain.” Download the image by pressing the arrow in the bottom right corner. 

Unsplash gives users the option to say thanks to the photographer by giving them a shoutout on social media.

Find the Unsplash terms and conditions here

3. Pixabay

Pixabay offers millions of royalty-free images, all of which are released under their Content License, meaning it can be used without giving credit or asking for permission. 

On Pixabay, you should get started by searching a keyword, or multiple, in the search box. You can filter based on media (Pixabay also offers video, music, and sound effect options), orientation, size, and color. Pixabay allows you to sort by most relevant, trending, latest, or editor’s choice. 

Click on the image you would like to download and you will be taken to a new page (shown below) where you can press the green Download button. You will be given size options to choose from if you haven’t done so already, and the image will be downloaded onto your computer. Pixabay gives users the opportunity to donate directly to the photographer who uploaded the image. 

Find the Pixabay terms of service here.

4. Canva

Another popular service to consider using for photos is Canva. Filled with opportunity, Canva offers free photos and graphics to create new designs, however you may also choose to use their collection to find the perfect free image for a story.

Canva has a Free Media License Agreement which clarifies that all the free photo, video and music files available are free to use for commercial or noncommercial reasons. It is recommended you check the image source if you plan to use an image with an identifiable person, place, logo, or trademark. You can also reach out to Canva to ensure the image has the appropriate releases for commercial use. 

Find the Canva Free Media License Agreement here

Using the images

When downloading images from the free sections of these stock sites, most of them have a Creative Commons Zero license. This means the person who published their work has dedicated it to the public domain and waived their rights to the image, allowing you to make copies of, post, and distribute the images however you’d like. You can learn more about this on the Creative Commons website. Unsplash has a similar license called the Unsplash License, which operates almost the same, with a few more restrictions regarding mass compilation and distribution of stock photos. 

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