Updated August 2021.

Finding free creative stock photos for your blog posts usually feels tougher than writing the actual post.

What's more, you want to be sure you're not stealing images and that you are respecting the license (if not, it can get costly down the road!). So first, a guide to Creative Commons and its various licenses.

This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote the movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.
This comically bad stock photo is from a stunt to promote Vince Vaughn's movie Unfinished Business back in 2015. Photo via Adweek.

Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons is "a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity to address the world’s pressing challenges."

Essentially, it's a tool for creators to provide access to creative works without having to waive their rights, and limit liability. There are a variety of licenses they can choose from, and I've highlighted those used by the services below.

CC0 - The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication

According to Creative Commons: "CC0 (aka CC Zero) is a public dedication tool, which allows creators to give up their copyright and put their works into the worldwide public domain. CC0 allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions."

Attribution 3.0 United States

According to CC, "You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use."

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

From CC: "You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material."

Free stock image resources

Here's my ever-growing list of stock photos that you can use for free:

Burst: Provided by Shopify, these feel a bit more staid. There is some diversity, though, that's being added. Available under CC0 license.

CC Search: This image search engine is perfect for finding what you need, all CC0 images. And, they are working with WordPress to combine this into the WordPress ecosystem. I can't wait for this! 

Cupcake: All images are by Jonas Wimmerström and focus on nature. All under a CC0 license.

Foodies Feed: Just what it sounds like! These also have a CC0 license.

Foca Stock: This site includes photos, videos and even social templates! Also under a CC0 license. There's a wide variety here, less focused on having people in the frame.

Getty Images: Yes, it's true, there are free options here! The catch is, you have to embed the image on your blog and the imagery cannot be used commercially.

ISO Republic: These are licensed under CC0 license, which means they've donated the work to the public domain.

Negative Space: Interesting range of imagery. CC0 licensing.

New York Public Library Public Domain: It's a treasure trove of images of photos, illustrations, architectural drawings, menus, stereoscopic views, pamphlets and more from the 11th century to present day.  

Pexels: Free for commercial and personal use. There's also a WordPress plugin to simplify adding images.

Pic Jumbo: I do love the genesis of this site: The creator, Viktor Hanacek, started it when he was rejected from big stock photo sites because of "lack of quality" but today, there are 2.5 million downloads of images on the site! These are free to use commercially, but they all do not have model or property releases, and some photos may also contain copyrighted brands, logos, objects or personal properties. So 'buyer' beware, I guess!

Public Domain Archive: New images added weekly, and you can use them as you wish; the creators of these images have donated their rights to CC0. 

Stock Snap: A nice variety of images, both nature and office. CC0 license.

Startup Stock Photos: Not a huge collection or overly diverse, but they may fulfill your startup photo needs. These appear to be able to be used commercially, though attribution is appreciated.

Styled Stock: More "feminine" images—meaning lots of white backgrounds, flatlay images, and bright colors. Licenses give you a lot of room for usage.

Unsplash: You can use these commercially. It even has a plugin to make it easier, Instant Images. There's a wide variety here but it can stray into boring stock.

Find free diverse stock photos

Almost every client asks for diverse photos, whether it's in ethnicity, gender, body positivity... you name it! Here are some free diverse stock photo resources:

Body Liberation Guide: If you're often looking for body-positive, fat-accepting imagery, these illustrations and photos can be a great resource. Licences vary, but you can check out the overall terms.

CreateHER Stock: A great, more lifestyle-focused set of images of black women. These are not licensed for commercial use, only personal. Check out their full license.

Gender Spectrum Collection: From Vice of all places, this huge set of photos features trans and non-binary models in a variety of settings. Really inspiring and hopefully where stock is going! They use the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

Nappy: What a great name! Billing itself as "Beautiful photos of Black and Brown people, for free," you really can't go wrong. There's a real variety of work, from office to just life. These are CC0.

WOCinTech: Diversity! Women of color in technology. A really nice set of images under the Attribution 3.0 license.

Got one you love? Share it!