Nothing completes a project quite like a quality stock photo. A picture of a smiling couple, shot by a professional photographer, can add that final touch to any website design, brochure or leaflet. But stock photography can be expensive, particularly if you're on a tight budget or the client doesn't want to pay for bespoke imagery.
This is where free stock photography websites come to the rescue. Often presenting a wealth of high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) mark, you can download anything you like at no cost and for commercial use without any attribution (although double-check everything – as every licence is different and may have a time limit, in which case, to play it safe, only use licensed stock images).
Many of these sites make their money by offering "premium" memberships or partnering with brands and advertisers. Or they benefit from having a raised profile and accessing a wider audience.
At Shillington, we asked our students and teachers to help put together a comprehensive list of 20 of the best websites where you can download free stock photography for your projects in 2018.
One of the top sites out there, Pexels brings the very best free stock photos together in one place. That's right. It collects and curates images from other sources, as well as add its own. It's a one-stop shop for your asset needs. And there is a huge range to choose from, covering popular themes such as "business" and "healthy".
"Beautiful free stock photos," states StockSnap, one of our favourite bookmarked sites for high-resolution images, free from copyright restrictions. This helpful resource always has something decent to offer, and we especially like its "trending" feature where you can browse images that are proving popular.
Another highly recommended site is Negative Space. With a vast library of high-res pics for personal or commercial use, all CC0 licensed, you're sure to find something suitable for your next project or piece of content.
4. Life of Pix
Life of Pix is a fantastic community of photographers, all submitting their images for you to use for free. You can even take your pick from its new sister site, Life of Vids to discover free videos, clips and loops with no copyright restrictions.
Shopify brings you Burst, its free stock photos for websites and commercial use. Browse photo collections or discover the "top free pics of the week", all to suit different themes and purposes.
We love a little Picjumbo for finding unique images for our projects. Categories range from abstract and animals to holidays and love, and there's a premium membership if you want to access much more.
7. Kaboom Pics
A favourite of Creative Boom, Kaboom Pics is especially wonderful as it considers the complementary colour palette of each of its free stock photographs. So if you need something specific to match your design, then Kaboom should be your first port of call.
8. ISO Republic
Thousands of high-resolution, CC0 licensed images await at the ISO Republic, a handy little platform that brings you superb free photographs from a range of different categories. We particularly love the food and drink selection – plenty of brightly-lit, colourful and mouth-watering pics to choose from.
One could argue that Death to Stock kicked off the craze for free stock photograph websites, but you could also say that they're partly responsible for boosting the quality of what's available. Creating their own images, available to download via a premium package, they frequently provide free pics too.
Free stock photos for commercial use – that's the promise from SplitShare, a website containing nearly a thousand free images. Here you'll find blurred backgrounds, drone footage, interior shots and Cinemagraph pics – amongst the usual "people" and "business" stock photographs we've come to expect.
A favourite amongst our students at Shillington, Pixabay brings you over 1.4 million royalty-free stock photos and videos shared by its generous community. When you've found the image you want, choose the file size and download. If you want to support Pixabay, you can donate to the site.
This decent little website offers 1,162 free HD images for your web and design projects, and you can filter images by tag. No matter what you're searching for, Re:Splashed is sure to deliver the goods.
If there's one thing that defines FreeStocks and sets it apart from the rest, it's the feel of authenticity with its range of free stock images. This is the place to visit if you're looking for those less formal and stylised type of photos.
Nappy is a stock photo website dedicated to diversity, providing beautiful high-res photos of Black and Asian people for free. A must for your bookmarks to ensure your work represents everyone.
15. Fancy Crave
Another great contender, Fancy Crave allows you to download photo packs for free – perfect for web design, background/desktop images, articles, cover images, posters, advertising and much more. And if you want to download unlimited stock photos that can't be found elsewhere, then subscribe for just $9.99 per month.
"Beautiful, free photos gifted by the world's most generous community of photographers," says Unsplash, one of the most popular stock photo sites out there. Over 550,000 free, do-whatever-you-want-with, high-resolution photos are available to download. And if you want to join Unsplash and contribute your pics, it's free to do so.
You can download any of Stokpic's free stock photos for commercial use. Browse the website or subscribe to its regular newsletter to receive 10 new premium photos every fortnight.
A place to find, show and share public domain photos, Skitterphoto's images are free to use for any purpose. You can download them, edit them and use them commercially. Browse its categories or search by keywords. Simple.
19. Foodies Feed
Sometimes, you need a decent stock image of some delicious food. Foodies Feed is where it's at. With nearly a thousand pics of food, glorious food, you'll not just find what you're looking for; you'll be wanting to raid the fridge!
20. Shot Stash
Last but not least is Shot Stash – unique stock photos with no royalties, fees, and worries. Stay in touch by subscribing to the website's weekly newsletter or add to your bookmarks, ready for the next time you need a great stock photograph for your design projects.