Stock photos can be expensive, and there may be occasions where you do need to pay for them (I personally have for a project that required the use of rather specific images that I couldn't easily get elsewhere).
However, depending on your nature of work, sometimes you don't really need to pay for them, as there are numerous free stock photo websites that you can use for personal and commercial works. Moreover, attribution is not required in using these free photos, although it would be appreciated. Editing or modifying the photos is also allowed.
In any case, here are 3 of such websites that I would usually frequent for free stock photos.
Pexels is founded in 2014 and it hosts an abundance of free stock photos and even videos. This is usually the first website I go to as I enjoy the overall quality of photos in the website.
Pixabay is a website founded in Germany which is now acquired by Canva, an Australian-founded online graphic design editing application. Aside from free stock photos, it also hosts videos, illustrations, and vector graphics.
Unsplash is another website where you can find free stock photos of great quality. Irvue, a MacOS application for changing desktop wallpapers automatically, sources its selections from Unsplash. Read a quick review I made about Irvue here.
What You Can and Cannot Do
To summarize what I mentioned above, the three above websites allow you to:
- Download their content for free
- Use their content without attribution, although it would be appreciated
- Use their content for both personal and commercial purposes
- Modify their content
Generally, what you are not allowed to do are:
- Redistribute the photos to other stock photo or wallpaper websites
- Portray identifiable people in a way that is offensive
- Portray identifiable brands in a way that is misleading
- Sell unaltered content (for example, selling a photo as is without modification, e.g. as a poster, physical/digital product)
Here are links to the licenses of the 3 above websites:
Yes, you read that right. Sometimes certain photos are very difficult to find, but it may turn out that you can find them in Wikipedia pages. Clicking on those photos will take you Wikimedia Commons, where they are often available for download in full sizes.
However, unlike Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash, where media licenses are usually pretty much similar across all their photos (attribution is not required and can be used for commercial purposes), in Wikimedia Commons, different photos are licensed differently. It's a good thing that these licenses are described under each photos, so it should be fairly easy for you to know what you can or cannot do with them.
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