This is not an exhaustive list; there are many more resources available and plenty of articles online that compile the best ones. What I’m going to share are my favorite websites to download free stock images without watermarks and why I like using them so you know what to look for if you opt to venture outside this list.
My Favorite Image Resources
Each of these resources offers royalty-free images that you can download, use, and alter in any way without providing credit.
Pixabay has been my go-to resource for years. There are plenty of beautiful images available, and the search function does a great job of finding what you’re looking for. The only minor issue I have with Pixabay are the corny graphics thrown in with the high-quality images.
The great thing about Unsplash is that the images are contributions from photographers all over the world and are thus stunning and one-of-a-kind. The search function is not as powerful as Pixabay’s, but it’s workable.
Burst is a fairly recent but equally remarkable image resource. The selection is smaller than Pixabay’s and Unsplash’s, but the images are professional quality.
Image Attribution: What You Need to Know
The reason why anyone can use images from these websites without needing to attribute or give credit is because they’re licensed under the Creative Commons CC0. To summarize the legalese, Creative Commons CC0 means that the people who upload their photos to these sites waive their copyright to the images. Therefore, anyone can download, use, and adapt these photos for any purpose, both commercial and non-commercial, without having to credit the source or the original creator.
If you use images from other websites (such as Flickr or ones found on Google Images) in your content, they may not all be licensed the same. Discussing digital image licenses in detail is too broad and off-topic, but just know that you shouldn’t use an image or video off the internet without determining if it’s protected by copyright. If the images are free to use, there may be certain conditions to be able to use them, such as giving credit or linking back to the original source.
It’s simpler to stick to the resources mentioned above. If you absolutely can’t find what you’re looking for from these three sites, make sure to check the terms and conditions of a different site and the photos it offers before downloading anything.
It can be tempting to use the photos you find on Google. You might think, “What’s the big deal? It’s the internet. If I can see it on my browser, I should be able to use it, right?”
The big deal is that if you happen to mess with the wrong website owner or author, and they decide to pursue action against you, your website can be shut down, temporarily or permanently. Worst case scenario, you’ll end up in court. Trust me on this; take intellectual property laws seriously.