Useful free stock photography libraries

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Cover image by Ed Gregory

With my new 2016 layout for Photogabble containing a grid of articles, each displaying that articles featured image, I suddenly had a minor problem with what to actually display as the featured image. Unlike other types of blog content, programming and tutorial based discussions do not tend to lend themselves to having featured images. I did originally place a colourful rectangle with the posts category within but that began to look weird and boring when there were several within the same grid.

Instead I chose to use stock photography, choosing images that conveyed the meaning of the articles for articles that otherwise had no images associated with them would begin costing too much, especially for a project that provides no monetary return. So instead I looked to the various free stock photography archives that are available, I managed to stumble across three good resources all of which provide images under a CC0 Public Domain Dedication license1.

I have listed three good resources below, if you know of any others I would be more than happy to edit this post to include them.

Unsplash.com

Unsplash Stock Archive

Unsplash was the first "do what ever you want" stock photo archive that I visited (and to be honest I had it bookmarked for months, just never needed it until now.) The premise of the resource is ten new photos every ten days and there is the facility to subscribe and be alerted via email when new content is added. All photos published on the Unsplashed platform are licensed under creative commons zero as noted in the Unsplash license. The quality of the photos is really good and there are multiple photographers whom are submitting their work. Something that I haven't yet done is register with Unsplash; I am unsure of the benefits of doing so, other than submitting likes to photos. I am thankful that you do not have to join before being able to search or download resources.

The front page of Unsplash displays the websites featured resources, while you have to actually navigate to the new page to see the most recent photos. Something unique to Unsplash that the other resources in this list lack is collections. These are curated groups of ten stock resources, potentially it is these collections that are sent to those whom have subscribed to the Unslash newsletter. I say curators in inverted commas because they appear to be more sponsors, although the commerce side of the sponsorship is nicely integrated2 into the site, to the point that it feels right and certainly not intrusive like some other forms of advertising.

stokpic.com

Stockpic Free Stock Archive

Unlike Unsplash whom publish under CC0, Stockpic have their own license called the stokpic photograph license it would appear that this is similar to CC0 with the caveat that you may not redistribute the content. The quality of the free stock photography provided by Stockpic is just as good as Unsplash and Stockpic has a similar premise in that they publish ten new photos every two weeks with a similar subscription platform. However, unlike Unsplash, Stockpic is quite advert heavy with more than three sponsored listings upon each page; with that said, one can hardly complain given the quality and variety of content being made available.

While not as aesthetically pleasing as Unsplash, Stockpic is just as excellent a resource for high resolution free stock photography and also appears to be sponsoring several of the photographers whom provide the stock photography.

Pexels

Pexels Free Stock Archive

Funnily enough I discovered Stockpic via Pexels, something which is rather odd given the non-redistribute clause in the Stockpic Photograph License, then again Pexels also includes content from Unsplash (and likely other free stock photo libraries) so it is conceivable they are working together3. All photos published on the Pexels platform are issued with the same CC0 license as both Stockpic and Unsplash so you are free to use them for personal or even commercial use so long as that usage does not place identifiable people in a bad light or in a way that they may find offensive. Unlike Stockpic Pexels only displays one unobtrusive advert from the exclusive Carbon ads network and sponsored photos from Shuttersotck.

One feature that Pexels has that neither Stokpic nor Unsplash appear to have, is the ability to search through the archive by colour (e.g Quartz #534844), this is something that can be very helpful in discovering images that fit within a specific theme.

All of the libraries listed above contain excellent photographic resources all under the CC0 or a derivative thereof. I am unsure why you would wish to subscribe to stock libraries for new image alerts, given that stock must be found to match the content, rather than the other way around but they all provide that facility as well as an adequate search with Pexels coming out ahead with it colour based search tool.


  1. While the images may be licensed as CC0, I like to include attribution to the author, it just feels right to do so. 

  2. I can't comment on how successful this model of financing a website is, but it looks to have been rather successful for Unsplash because their is no obvious advertising on the platform at all! 

  3. Otherwise, the only other conclusion is they are stealing?