What is the best website for downloading royalty free images which can be used with no copyright hassles, no attribution requirements, that are also allowed to be used for commercial purposes. Every month there’s a new image website that offers thousands of free-to-use images, all copyright free and able to be used for any purpose under a CC0 Creative Commons License. This is great in theory. More websites that offer free high quality photographs to use anywhere means that the person looking for images has a lot of choice. And for the most part that is true.
However, with the main and most established websites being the central points of call for most picture uploaders / contributors, and with the usage rights of the images giving anyone the freedom to do as they choose with them, you will find that there are so many websites that basically just leech from the main image “hubs” and start a website offering free to use images, which are simply just copied from many of the much bigger websites.
Due to the images being released into the public domain, legally there is nothing wrong with this. But for an end user, it’s much better to go straight to the source. Or, at least to a website that has thousands of registered users who are uploading new and unique images on a daily basis.
So what is the number one website. Of course, some are better than others in terms of having the best stock and a wide user base, but this is really down to personal preference, personal experience, and also what type of images you are looking for. Quirky, Formal, Urban, Architecture, Black and White, etc. There are sites that specialize in certain subject matters. But regardless of subject matter, if we keep it general, where a site has a bit of everything, which is thankfully what most of them are like these days, two of the best are pexels.com and pixabay.com.
Pixabay has a huge repository of high resolution images (well over 1 million). The site is extremely easy to use, and downloading images is a fairly easy process. It’s also great for interaction because it allows comments (as well as thumbs up and add to favourites) on each image, which is something that a few of the other top free image websites don’t have. There’s also a forum if you want to chat about images / photography, or have general questions about Pixabay. The other thing I really like about Pixabay is how easy it is to sort by camera type. So you can essentially filter all images uploaded by a certain camera make and model, such as a Canon EOS 700D or Olympus E-M10. This also makes Pixabay a great site in terms of camera research for people who are in the market for a new camera and want to see what the camera is capable of by viewing (and downloading) some sample images.
In terms of available images, there’s a bit, or a lot of everything here. City Landscapes, illustrations, Nature, Quirky randoms, Funny, Professional, Urban, Rural, Retro, you name it. This is my go-to website if I need an image for a website or blog post that I don’t possess myself.
However, sometimes on Pixabay, captcha is enabled if you are not logged in, and can be a bit of a annoyance if you need to download a few quick images but are held up by solving captchas. Furthermore, Pixabay will not allow a user to download an image at full resolution without being logged in. Not a member? You’ll have to sign up to be able to download the original, full resolution image. Be aware, that if you do decide to sign up as a member, the verification email can take quite a while to arrive in your inbox. I requested Pixabay to resend the verification email 5 times due to not receiving any of them. Then, after about an hour, they all arrived at once! So if you’re having the same problem, be patient, they will ALL arrive eventually.
Excellent site that has some very impressive contributors. Lot’s of professional (public domain) images available for free to download. Although the amount of free images is nowhere near what Pixabay has to offer. Again, there’s a mix of everything on Pexels, from Fashion and Wedding related images, to Nature, Auto, Landscape, Street, Vintage and everything in-between. However, just so you are aware, some of the pictures featured on Pexels are sourced (by API) from Pixabay (and other free images websites). Downloading images from Pexels is the easiest you will find out of all the copyright free photo sites. No captcha, no sign-up or sign-in required, just select the image you want to download, press “Free Download” and it instantly allows you to download at full resolution. You can also choose to download in smaller sizes (even custom size is available), and this simple, effortless process of quickly being able to grab the image is exactly the same.
Layout and site navigation isn’t the best, and interaction with other members seems a bit limited. They do have things like photo challenges and “top photographers”, but you can’t comment on each individual image and it feels a little bit empty. So in some ways, maybe its just me and my personal experience while using the website, but overall the site feels a bit lonely. That’s not really a big deal, because the bottom line is, these sites are predominantly made for grabbing and sharing images, not interacting to the level a person can on social media. But other than that, Pexels is a great site, with a good photo collection that is growing considerably every month. A great place to instantly get high quality royalty free images for your website or blog today. I know there are so many great image websites out there that have not been mentioned here. These are just the two that I have been using a lot over the last few months and have found them to be excellent. But feel free to comment below and leave your recommendations or experiences with certain websites.