Last updated: October 2018
Images can make or break a website — yet most WordPress website owners want to use free images, without worrying about royalty payments or license restrictions. Here are some of the best sites for finding free images for commercial use.
Standard stock images
There are lots of sites where you can find stock images, but these are the ones we've found end up returning to more than others:
rgbstock is a huge image library and all the images are free for commercial use. They're mostly very good quality and professional-looking, too - definitely worth a look.
imagebase has a big selection of very professional images. The main categories are People, Objects, Nature, City and Holy Land (!) - I particuarly like the images of people as it's not always easy to find free images of people.
morgueFile has a good choice of images that are free for commercial use. Some of them a very high quality although others aren't, so you might have to wade through a few to find the right images for your WordPress website.
openphoto has a good selection of images. Some are good quality whereas a lot are less professional, as the images aren't vetted as closely as some of the other sites. However, it's worth a look.
freerangestock has plenty of images to choose from. Like openphoto, some are more professional than others so you need to be careful to choose the right ones. The site heavily promotes the paid shutterstock photos, but if you stick to the free search results then you can get lots of free images for personal or commercial use.
Canva provide a great collection of free stock photography.
Although these images aren't vetted and are often not very professional and the search results aren't that relevant, the sheer number of free photos on this site make it a valuable resource. With over 20 million images, it's a good opportunity to find an image when you haven't found a suitable one elsewhere. You just need to be prepared to spend some time trawling through the search results...
Check the license for each individual image as some of them require attribution (i.e. crediting the author on your site).
There's a growing movement against traditional stock photography. A lot of people are getting fed up with the cookie-cutter stock photos and are looking for something different. More and more free (or free with attribution) sites are appearing that provide better quality, more artistic photography, and here's a few of the best:
picjumbo has a good selection of stunning images, each one carefully planned and composed.
Website design company IM Creator have helpfully added a library of free images to their website. The images are very tasteful and there are plenty of photos of people as well as nature, buildings etc. Some of the categories have loads of images whereas others have a few, but the quality of these images makes the site well worth a look.
Unsplash's images have been creating a stir in the WordPress website design community lately as they're just so good. There's a smaller selection than some of the other sites, but each image has been carefully selected. With close-ups, nature shots, cities, people etc., there's a reasonable selection although you may not find exactly what you're looking for.
Subscribe via email and receive 10 new photos every 10 days. All the images previously released are available via the website although there's no search function so it's not easy to trawl through them all. At Barn2 Media, we save them all locally so it's easier to find what we want. I'm looking forward to seeing Unsplash continue adding to the collection over the coming months.
Another selection of highly professional images. Sign up by email on their website to receive a 'photo pack' based on a different subject each month, delivered straight to your inbox.
As well as the main images on your site, depending on your WordPress theme you might want to add some more generic background images - textures, patterns and the like.
Over 350 free patterned backgrounds suitable for your WordPress website. Unlike Mayang's Free Textures, these are graphics rather than photos.
Icons are also an important way to add extra professionalism to your WordPress website. There are some fantastic free icons sets available these days.
Font Awesome provides a fantastic range of 360+ completely free icons. With their modern, flat design, to be honest there's not much point looking anywhere else for an icon font these days. Unlike more traditional image-based icons, Font Awesome icons are vectors which means that they will scale up and down on different screen sizes with no loss of quality. They'll look really crisp on the latest high definition screens.
More a collection of the best icon fonts rather than a icon font in its own right, Fontello allows you to create your own font from a set of icons of your choice. You can choose icons from Font Awesome, Fontelico, Typicons, Entypo are more.
Stock Photo Secrets have created this comprehensive list of the best stock photo sites for commercial use with over 20 options to download free photos. All sites have been reviewed for image offer and quality, licensing model and legal safety, ranked from 1 to 10 as well as exhibiting pros and cons. If you’re looking for free photos to use commercially, this is a resource you will love to have at hand.
A word of caution
Whenever you add images to a WordPress website — or elsewhere online — it's really important to make sure you have the right to use it. This post lists websites which to the best of my knowledge provide images that are free for commercial use. However I'm not a lawyer and would urge you to read the license agreements carefully before using any images you find online.
If you want to re-distribute the images or include them in something you'll be selling then you need to be particularly careful as most licenses don't cover this.