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Monday, April 12, 2021

15 Places to Find Free Stock Photos or Vector Graphics for Your Website (and When to Attribute Them)

Zip is designing his website and starting to write some posts. But where can he get photos and graphics for his website? Let's look at 15 websites where you might find free stock photos or vector graphics.

Home » WordPress and Blogging » Sloth Makes a Blog » Blog Basics » 15 Places to Find Free Stock Photos or Vector Graphics for Your Website (and When to Attribute Them)

Zip has finally done some design, choosing some colors and fonts, and started writing some posts for his blog. But where to get photos? While he supposes that he could take sloth selfies, it isn’t so easy when you have three claws per hand that want to keep a tight grip on whatever’s in them, and it’s especially not easy to get a selfie when you’re an imaginary sloth. He’s also a sloth of little budget; he’ll need to be content with using photos from other sources or coaxing me to get off my butt and create some serious sloth art. Let’s look at 15 free stock photo websites (and vector graphics websites) where he might some free resources to use on his site.

So, he’ll have to be content with using graphics and photos from other sources or coaxing me to get off my butt and create some serious sloth art. He is a sloth of little budget, so he’s concerned where he might find free photos and vector graphics to use on his website.

Fortunately, for him (and you) there are many, many websites that offer photos or graphics that you can use without charge.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Free Images and Graphics

Of course, the advantage of using free graphics and photos is that they’re FREE! Or are they?

Some websites that offer free photos or graphics require attribution — you’ll need to add some extra captions or links to your image or page to attribute the artist or photographer.

An advantage of using stock photos and graphics, in general, is that they’re readily available. Perhaps photography isn’t your thing, you don’t have the equipment1, you don’t have art skills to create graphics2, or you want to get the writing done and doing photography and graphic design takes your time away from writing. That’s primarily why I generally make stuff in Canva rather than do it myself.3

Free stock photos can get overused — this could be a disadvantage for the use of stock photos in general. Let’s look at a scenario: Bloggers use Canva. Canva supplies lots of images, graphics, and great Pinterest templates. Bloggers use templates and photos to create pins. Suddenly, we have a bunch of lovely pins that all look similar.

Is Attribution Required?

Zip sees a lovely sloth photo on a website and thinks that, well, he’s a sloth so it’s OK to use it. Right? Wrong! Images from websites aren’t just up for grabs and you should assume, unless otherwise specified, that the image is copyrighted and not available for your use.

Even with photo websites like Flickr that include some free and public domain images, you need to clarify what the license terms are.

Of course, a website owner may be happy to share an image. If you see a cartoon, photo, or graphic on a website and would like to use it, first check in the website’s navigation to see if the website owner lists any policies about image use. On some websites, you’ll find that the owner has given approval for the use of one image, with attribution and may even specify the specific attribution you should use.

If you don’t find a policy like this, it’s OK to ask for permission. The webmaster may say no, or might approve it and require attribution. Never, however, link directly to the image on someone else’s website. If you do, you’re using their resources. Instead, right-click, save the image to your computer and then upload it to your website.

Some free image sites require attribution; some don’t but suggest it would be kind for you to credit the photographer or artist. It’s your responsibility to make sure you know the terms of use for that site and comply with them.

Please note that I am NOT talking about embeds here. People can choose, for instance, whether or not to allow people to embed their YouTube videos. If the embed of a YouTube video is allowed, I assume it’s up for grabs. It has an attribution built-in. I am still careful, however — did the person who posted the video have the rights to do so?

Free Stock Photo Websites (and Vector Graphics Websites):

Canva (free version)

While I can highly recommend Canva Pro if you’ll be using many graphics or doing a bunch of social posts, Canva’s free version offers many free png graphics, social templates, and photos. Many of the free images you’ll find here are from other free photo sites like Unsplash.

But Canva makes social posts easy with their templates and offers a bunch of features at a touch. Want an image with a transparent background? Use their background remover tool. I remember how much time I used to spend trying to do that in Photoshop.


Pexels is a great place to find free website photos. While they don’t have any free sloth photos, you’ll find a ton of other choices. While you don’t have to attribute the photographer, you’ll get the link to attribute if you’d like, and a button to donate to the photographer to express your appreciation if you see fit.

They’ll also show you similar photos to the one you’ve downloaded as well as (of course) links to paid images from iStock photos. Pexels also has some video clips available for download.

Unsplash is another terrific website to find free photos. And they have sloths. Like Pexels, the images here don’t require attribution, but you can do so if you wish.

Pixabay has more than just photos. You’ll also find free vector graphics (at least in .png format), illustrations, videos, and music clips. For the free resources, they’re under the “Pixabay license,” which is free for commercial use with no attribution required.

Of course, like many other free stock photo websites, you’ll also find some links to off-site image resources offering paid stock photos and vectors.

Flickr has so many great photos. But they’re not all there for you to freely use.

I had a guest author on one of my websites who uploaded some images with his post and said, “don’t worry about it.” Fortunately, I asked a bit more, discovered they were from Flickr, but under a Creative Commons license that required attribution. So we were able to stay legal, use the images, but provide the appropriate attribution for each.

You’ll notice that when you do a Flickr search, you’ll find a drop-down on the upper left, allowing you to choose from various Creative Commons licenses. Here, we’ve selected images that people have authorized to be used for commercial use and with modifications.

If you click on the image, you’ll find a link underneath it that says something like, “Some rights reserved.” If you click that link, you’ll end up on the Creative Commons page that applies to the image, which will tell you if and what type of attribution is required. Note that public domain images do not require attribution.

I’ve found Wikimedia Commons to be a great source for historic images. Of course, they have many other images as well.

For the image above, you’ll note that they offer an available download link. If you scroll down the individual image page on the website, you’ll find a section labeled “Licensing,” and it will tell you what the license for that image is. Many, but not all, of the pictures here are public domain.

Freepik has photos, but they also have vectors, icons, and even .psd files for us Photoshop users. They even have vectors in their EPS format! They’re free to use, but Freepik requires attribution. Many of the graphics you can also find elsewhere for purchase if you don’t want to attribute.

Stockfreeimages.com offers free photos. However, when you search, the free images are mixed in with pictures from Dreamstime. You can tell the difference by the little Dreamstime logo on some of the photos. Those photos may not be free. You also have to register an account and log in to download free images from the site.

Despite the creepy name, Morguefile isn’t where good photos go to die. Morguefile has been around for a while and offers a great many images to download. The license terms may vary. When you’re on the individual photo page, you’ll find a link to the licensing terms for that photo. As Morguefile says on their site, the images are available for commercial use. The picture of the sloth that I clicked on specified it was free to use without attribution as long as the user altered it. If it were to be used commercially in its unaltered state, you would need to attribute the image to the photographer. Be sure to check the requirements for your specific image.

Stocksnap offers plenty of free images for both commercial and noncommercial use. I didn’t see anything stating that Stocksnap required attribution for the pictures I downloaded. Sadly, they were out of sloth photos.

Gratisography prides itself on whimsical photos, photos that are a bit on the quirky side. The images here are free to use. Sadly, again, no sloths.

If what you want are smaller .png or .svg images with a transparent background, Iconfinder might be the place for you. Some of the icons here are free, some are premium, but there’s a simple switch only to show the free ones.

While I associate Dreamstime with being a marketplace for paid stock photos and vector graphics, they do have many free images available. Pictures in their free section have an attribution requirement. They seem to have a sign-in requirement to download photos.

Vecteezy has a combination of both free and “Pro” vector graphics. The free ones have an attribution requirement.

Your Local Historical Society or Archives

I can’t give you a link to this one. It depends on what you’re writing, but if your post is of local interest or about travel — about a place — your city archives or local historical society or museum likely have photos they may allow you to use. Some may even have archived their photos digitally, making it easy to browse them online.

I’ve sometimes used photos from Seattle MOHAI’s digital images collection. Whenever I’ve asked, they’ve generously allowed me to use at least the smaller version of the image with attribution. I wondered if I could do that in the future for any photo, but they requested that I submit a request for any image that I use. I don’t visit too often because I easily get sucked into the vortex of their digital image collection, popping out hours later after a trip down memory lane.

Other free stock photo websites exist, but these are the free stock photo websites I’ve used primarily when I needed a free photo or graphic. While there’s an absence of sloths on many of these websites, hopefully, they’ll fill in the gaps on Slothverse.com.

So what’s next? I think that, unless Zip finds some other minor design issue, we should move on next to looking at search engine optimization by setting up an SEO plugin, followed by adding analytics to Zip’s website.

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References and Footnotes
  1. though phones now can take some great photos[]
  2. But, remember, some blogs have become popular with funny, but generally badly drawn, cartoons.[]
  3. With the exception of my travel blog. Most of the photos I post there are ones that I’ve taken myself.[]
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Cheryl is a former Occupational Therapist and WordPress enthusiast who became a writer in some parallel universe and occasionally, but infrequently, publishes things in this one. She writes two blogs (or is it three) which she won't quit because she knows that blogs, in her case, are like a hydra and if she cuts one off two more will take its place. When she's not doing that, she enjoys hiking, cycling, kayaking (formerly fast, now ebike), messing around with Adobe illustrator, making assorted things, meditating (though she wouldn't call that "like," and reading. She normally doesn't speak about herself in the third person, but she sometimes uses "we" in the royal sense while writing this blog. She lives in Poulsbo, WA with her spouse, her youngest adult daughter, a very old mutt, and a Siamese cat.
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