For many, Google Image Search is the one-stop shop for portraits, landscapes, backgrounds, or patterns. But, just because you can find it on a Google image search, doesn’t mean mean that’s fair game and free for the taking.

Think of it like a parking lot—just because cars are parked there, doesn’t mean that you can just hop in any vehicle you want and go for a joy ride! All images have a license attached to them, and a license is basically a set of permissions that tells you what you can and cannot do with the image.


There are several different types of image licenses, but the most common you’ll run across are from Creative Commons. I’ll send you over to their handy descriptions of the licenses, so that you can have that info for quick reference.

Also, check out this handy infographic if you’ve got questions about pictures that don’t fall under Creative Commons.

Anyways, on to the list of free stock image websites! As for licenses, sites one and two fall are Creative Commons Zero licensed, which means you can “copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission” (other details about that here).

1. Pixabay

Lake – Church Comm, Content Curation, Creative Writing/Design –

Pixabay has a HUGE searchable library of images. You don’t even have to make an account to download images (you will, however, if you want to download the high-resolution versions of images). This is one of my first stops when I’m looking for the just the right image from a free source!

2. Unsplash

Typewriter – Church Comm, Content Curation, Creative Writing/Design –

Unsplash is Tumblr blog that is frequently updated with Instagram-styled, high resolution, completely-free-to use stock. It’s almost not a bad thing that there’s no search feature—image searching is like wandering through a beautiful art gallery. There are mostly landscapes, cityscapes, and still life shots on this site.

3. PicJumbo

iPhone and Moleskine – Church Comm, Content Curation, Creative Writing/Design –

PicJumbo: even though their collection isn’t the largest on this list, they’ve got quite a large range of styles and categories! Search for anything from technology to abstract bokeh (good for backgrounds!). Now, PicJumbo isn’t licensed under Creative Commons Zero, but I’ll copy and paste the license so you can see it. You’re allowed to use PicJumbo images for:

Part of Website or Mobile App (background, etc.)

Image Placeholders in Articles or Websites

Image Placeholders in Templates for Sell

Part of Template for Sell (Attribution greatly appreciated)

All Personal & Commercial works

That isn’t quite the same as the Zero license, but for most intents and purposes, you should be fine to use those images for your projects.

The photographers and websites are doing their work for free—so if you can, donate or share to let them know you appreciate their work, and so they can keep providing great stock!

And if you found this post helpful, you can share it, too!