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13 Free Stock Photo Websites for Commercial Use Reviewed

Since the early days of website design, many people (including myself) consider stock photography as an essential part of their toolkit. I can't recall many projects where I haven't used free or licensed photos in my work.

Stock photography can be expensive, generic and often lack the personal touch you need to connect with your audience. In this article, we'll take a look at 13 free stock photo websites for your commercial projects.

Lets jump right into the results, you'll find individual reviews for each below.

Stock photo website ratings

Rank Company Score Summary Search results
1 Unsplash 5/5 🤩 Top pick, plugins available, great photos, big community. 7.2k
2 Pexels 4.5/5 🤩 Top pick, plugins available, quality photos, big community. 18.4k
3 Morguefile 1.5/5 Not great quality photos, UI could use some work. < 100
4 Pixabay 2.5/5 Highly ranked SEO position as a free stock photo website, photos were outdated. < 400
5 Stockvault 1/5 Outdated photos, low quantity. < 100
6 Picjumbo 0/5 No photos returned. 0
7 Pikwizard 1/5 Basic UI, hard to find legal, Premium photos mixed in results, low quantity. < 300
8 Rawpixel 3/5 Clean interface, lots of photos, legal is confusing and feels like a click-bait to sign up for their free photos. 4.4k
9 Reshot 2/5 Great interface, very clear legal but low amount of results. < 50
10 Canva 2/5 Search results are merged from Pexels and Pixabay, legal is confusing and better to go to the sources. 13.3k
11 Freerange 2/5 Clear legal, not great photos/borderline cheesy. Legal was clear. 314
12 Stocksnap 2/5 Interface feels like the bigger guys, nice variety but low amount of photos. More up-to-date. 110
13 Burst 2/5 Part of Spotify, irrelevant search results of yoga equipment. Maybe Spotify will invest into growing this community? 311

Contents

How did we find each stock photo website?

Google's autocomplete was the first method to see what is commonly searched. For anyone that doesn't know, if you type a search query, the suggestions that appear below are the more popular terms. For example, "free stock photos" displays terms such as "free stock photos for commercial use" and "free stock photos for website".

Free Stock Photo for Commercial Use search popup on Google
Google Search for "Free Stock Photo for Commercial Use"

For now we'll stick with "free stock photos" and some of the top websites that came up were: Unsplash, Pexels, Pixabay, Freerangestock, Picjumbo, Stockvault and Stocksnap.

Digging deeper from other blog articles surfaced these websites: Morguefile, Pikwizard, Rawpixel, Reshot, Canva and Burst.

This looks like a good list of 13 services, let's begin!

What was the search criteria?

Since this article is about finding musician photos, "musician" was the primary search term. Other words that were suggested as an alternative were: Musician, concert, music concert, music artist, guitarist, singer.

How did we rank each stock photo website?

Rating: Each service is rated out of 5 stars, 5 being the best 👌. The rating is based on an accumulate total of the following points.

Volume: How many photos were returned with our search term musician.

Quality of Photos: Overall, how good are the photos (quality shots or dated).

Example Link of Results: A clickable link where you can see the results for yourself.

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Some services make their legal hard to find which can come back to bite you later if you're not careful.

Comments: General thoughts on the service.

Screenshots: Quick screenshots of the service.

List of pro's: The best aspects about the service.

List of con's: Some of the things we didn't like.

Review of Unsplash

Rating: 5/5 🤩

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 7.2k photos.

Quality of Photos: The best we felt out of all of the results.

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Found it right away and very clear licensing

Comments: Unsplash is our #1 pick and for good reason. They come to mind right away because they exist where creative people spend most of the time, in design software! They've built a great plug-in with our day to day design program Figma. It makes it incredibly easy to search and select photos that could be suitable for your design without having to go to their website. We do still use their website sometimes too, its simple interface and suggested pills at the top makes for finding photos a breeze.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Unsplash musician search result
Screenshot searching "musician" on Unsplash
Screenshot of Unsplash plugin
The plugin for Unsplash

List of pro's:

  • Their Figma and Sketch plug-ins
  • A large and active photographer community, uploading frequent content
  • Easy to use filters at the top (such as music, performer, guitarist, etc.)
  • Clean homepage, the navigation suggests they are focused on high resolution photos
  • Photos on a search request seem fresh and frequent
  • A much larger footprint in the Figma design community, at time of writing their plugin has 613k installs, versus 34.6k installs for Pexels

List of con's:

  • Like all other searches (and this would be a nice to have) but rotating the image results to keep things fresh would be quite beneficial 🙏

Review of Pexels

Rating: 4.5/5 🤩

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 18.4k photos

Quality of Photos: Excellent! Also one of our top picks for photos

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Great, it was easy to find and understand their licensing

Comments: We used Pexels a lot, and have a number of their photos saved from over the past few years. Most of this was prior to the Unsplash plug-in that took over our day to day. However Pexels do have their own plugins (see links under the pros list below)! They have an amazing amount of artist and musician photos. Pexels kind of fell out for us for two reasons, one was that Unsplash released their handy plugin first and second was that we also found their rotation of photos to become quite stale.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Pexels search result for musician
Screenshot searching "musician" on Pexels

List of pro's:

  • Their Figma and Sketch plug-ins
  • We've used to use their service quite a lot but we found their photo content to bet quite stale.
  • Ranked second on our list for such an active community
  • Clear search bar, they suggest that they provide free photos and videos
  • The suggested search tags pin to the top to suggest other categories you can try, helps with exploring other options

List of con's:

  • The search results algorithm feels like they could cycle more recent content

Review of Morguefile

Rating: 1.5/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back a low/unknown amount of photos.

Quality of Photos: They looked outdated and non-professional.

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Hard to find compared to the bigger two, found it here.

Comments: For being third on our list of reviews, we found the quality of the photos to be very low.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Morguefile search results for musician
Screenshot searching "musician" on Morguefile

List of pro's:

  • Different photos than I've seen elsewhere (although generally low quality)

List of con's:

  • Feels like the company is pushing for you to go and try Shutterstock instead
  • Finding the search bar at first didn't feel super intuitive
  • Search results page feels like there's ads plastered everywhere, we to scroll down quite far on the first page to view the search results
  • The initial results showed photos from four years ago
  • No suggested or similar categories to expand on your search

Pixabay

Review of Pixabay

Rating: 2.5/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back ~450 photos.

Quality of Photos: Feels dated, we were looking at some of these photos 5+ years ago.

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Pretty quickly under the "About" dropdown, view it here.

Comments: According to our search in Ubersuggest, these guys are near the top so we were hoping for decent results. Initial thought was a bit meh, feels like they're trying to catch up to the other competitors in terms of content. You can see in the sample that only 43 pages returned (about 100 photos on each page).

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Pixabay search results for musician
Screenshot searching "musician" on Pixabay

List of pro's:

  • Different photos than I've seen elsewhere (although generally low quality)

List of con's:

  • Feels like the company is pushing for you to go and try Shutterstock instead
  • Finding the search bar at first didn't feel super intuitive
  • Search results page feels like there's ads plastered everywhere, we to scroll down quite far on the first page to view the search results
  • The initial results showed photos from four years ago
  • No suggested or similar categories to expand on your search

Stockvault

Review of Stockvault

Rating: 1/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back less than 100 photos.

Quality of Photos: Feels dated, we were looking at some of these photos 5+ years ago.

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Seems like they have some blanket copy in their terms but was unclear to me.

Comments: This wasn't a service we could really use unfortunately, in our search case the quality wasn't great and low volume of photos.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Stockvault search results for "musician"
Screenshot searching "musician" on Stockvault

List of pro's:

  • Nothing really stood out for us here

List of con's:

  • Right away it looks like they provide a search for photos, textures and illustrations
  • Initially the search results at the top load in for Shutterstock, feels like another ad space search
  • A lot of the photos feel less professional than the larger websites
  • There were only three pages for search results to go through

Picjumbo

Review of Picjumbo

Rating: 0/5 😕

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back zero photos.

Quality of Photos: Unfortunately, no photos were returned with our search!

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Easy to find and clear, right at the top of their terms page

Comments: Since there weren't any photos for our search, sadly they scored a zero.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Picjumbo asking for my email
They really wanted my email before I could use the service, wasn't a great first experience.
Screenshot of Picjumbo musician search results
Screenshot searching "musician" on Picjumbo

List of pro's:

  • Nothing really stood out for us here

List of con's:

  • Right away it looks like they provide a search for photos, textures and illustrations
  • Initially the search results at the top load in for Shutterstock, feels like another ad space search
  • A lot of the photos feel less professional than the larger websites
  • There were only three pages for search results to go through

Review of Pikwizard

Rating: 1/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back less than 300 photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Couldn't find anything quickly and easily about using their photos commercially

Comments: A bit more simple in terms of website experience, not necessarily a bad thing.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Picwizard musician search results
Screenshot searching "musician" on Pikwizard

List of pro's:

  • Pretty clutter free interface

List of con's:

  • Two search bars on the homepage were a bit confusing
  • Premium photos (Shutterstock) were scattered throughout the results, with a small tag in the top left. Wasn't all that clear what you were paying for versus could download for free.
  • Homepage suggests "High Quality, Free Stock Photos" but half of the results are premium photos.

Review of rawpixel

Rating: 4.5/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 4.4k photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Quite confusing, on the homepage they talk about model releases under their "Safe to use Free Images for Everyone" info link but digging into the interface shows a pay model. Couldn't find a clear terms link on their site (at a glance).

Comments: First impression was good, interface is clean with minimal ads taking over the space. It looks like you can ad to what they call "boards" assuming this is similar to Pinterest. Search results screen shows a nice right panel interface.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of rawpixel
Screenshot searching "musician" on rawpixel
Screenshot showing raxpixel search options
Filtering by "Photos" returned some results that I haven't seen before, great!

Screenshot of rawpixel musician search results

When I clicked into a photo I was presented with a bunch of options now including a pay subscription model, and I was not expecting that. As I started using the filters a bit more I started noticing that their images were showing some as editorial shots, some others as CC0. I found it harder to differentiate which "Free" images I could use commercially vs which ones I couldn't.

List of pro's:

  • Clean initial landing page for a first impression
  • Nice right hand panel to filter my photo options

List of con's:

  • Confusing licensing for what I can and can't use commercially
  • Pay wall feels like it's tossed in when you find the image you like
  • There is a "Free" download option but I have to dig to figure out if I can use this photo

Review of Reshot

Rating: 3/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 50 photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? As soon as I searched my first image, they show a message about photo licensing, nice!

Comments: Loading the site right away I feel like the initial screen feels like one of the more modern landing pages with a clean interface.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Reshot website
Screenshot of Reshot website

Performing our search, a lot of the photos I haven't seen before - awesome! I get to the bottom of the page and... only two pages of results 😕. I wish there were a lot more to browse through.

Screeshot of search results for musician on Reshot
Screenshot of search results for "musician" on Reshot

List of pro's:

  • Clean branding and presentation of the website
  • Clear terms right away when you search for a photo

List of con's:

  • One of the lowest photo counts for our 'musician' search term

Review of Canva

Rating: 2/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 13.3k photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Not good for our use case, it sounds like they source their images from Pexels and Pixabay. They also suggest (in bold) that they can't guarantee the source of the images as being free for commercial use - kind of puts a nail in the coffin.

Comments: We got a bit lost, we started out by hitting this URL: https://www.canva.com/photos/ but then going to the homepage, we couldn't find our way back to this tool.

When we did get back to the tool and used it for a little bit, it feels like they're more of a photo aggregator for other services (namely Pexels and Pixabay). It would be better to go direct to those sources in my opinion so you understand the actual commercial licensing terms (commented on that above).

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Canva stock photo search
Screenshot of Canva

List of pro's:

  • A lot of photo results, some of the highest we've seen (they source these from external services however)

List of con's:

  • Unclear terms
  • Hard to filter down photos further on their lazy scroll
  • Sourcing photos from different services
  • Can't guarantee that their terms cover commercial licensing
  • Homepage doesn't suggest photo searching, feels like a different platform altogether

Review of Freerange

Rating: 2/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 314 photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Nice and clear

Comments: Looks like a lot of the other competitors, promoting photos and illustrations as a dropdown filter. The first results I saw felt pretty cheesy or just old illustrations, I don't get the best vibe from what I'm seeing with a total photo count of 314 total. In the results I see that ads are taking up quite a bit of space with iStock featured photos at the top.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Freerange homepage
Screenshot of Freerange homepage
Screenshot of search results for "musician" on Freerange
Screenshot of search results for "musician" on Freerange

List of pro's:

  • Easy to find and clear terms on their commercial licensing

List of con's:

  • Mostly cheesy photos
  • Low photo results count
  • Almost half and half illustrations and photos

Review of Stocksnap

Rating: 2/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 110 photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Clear and easy to find from the nav, everything is claimed as CC0

Comments: Right away this one looks like it all the other competitors, although it's designed a bit better than some of the others.

Screenshots:

Screenshot of Stocknap homepage
Screenshot of Stocknap homepage

Ok I can see there's a star on the top results which suggests that these are paid for photos. Scrolling down the page, there aren't a lot of results but what I find is that the quality of the photos is pretty decent. I have seen a few of these already but there are some new shots. There might be a few images in these results we can add to our collection but very limited.

Screenshot of "musician" search results on Stocksnap
Screenshot of "musician" search results on Stocksnap

List of pro's:

  • Clear terms on commercial usage
  • For the low amount of shots, there was a nice variety of more up-to-date photos
  • Well designed and clean interface

List of con's:

  • Not too many results

Review of Burst

Rating: 2/5

Volume: Searching the term "musician" returned back 311 photos.

Quality of Photos: COMMENT

Example Link of Results:

How hard was it to find their legal terms? Found them in the footer here

Comments: Burst feels more modern, they're a part of Shopify and makes sense for such a large online store website to offer up quality photos, here's hoping!

Screenshots:

Screenshot of the Burst homepage
Screenshot of the "musician" search result on Burst

Running our search, they come back with 311 photos, lets see what the quality is like shall we?

Feelings on these photos are a bit meh, a number of the shots didn't relate to our search with shots of yoga and workout equipment:

List of pro's:

  • Clear terms on commercial usage
  • For the low amount of shots, there was a nice variety of more up-to-date photos
  • Well designed and clean interface

List of con's:

  • Not many results
  • Results are returning photos not relevant to our search

Frequently Asked Questions

What does stock photo mean?

The word "stock", is known as a stock resource for newspapers and magazines in the late 1800's to reproduce photographs instead of line art with the invention of the half-tone on a printing press. It originally started with in-house staff photographers. Over following decades, free-lance photographers took over and by the 1920's one of the first major stock photography libraries was started by H. Armstrong Roberts.

Is it illegal using stock photos?

It doesn't matter if you're using stock photos for a personal or commercial use; as long as you have acquired the correct usage rights, you can use it anywhere without having to worry about getting in trouble. The most important steps are to review the Terms & Conditions of the stock photo provider and the rights for the use of the photo. Some companies explain this clearly, some others not so much.

Can you make money using stock photos?

If you create a strategy for yourself, you could make upwards of $300 -$500 per month or more. In order to generate significant income from selling stock photos, it's important to understand your process. What kind of equipment do you need? Do you specialize in a particular niche? How much time do you have to dedicate yourself to this side-hustle? It’s all about having a plan.

Conclusion

The top two on our list were miles above the others in terms of both quality and quantity of photos. The others on the list would fit into two boxes, either content is loaded from bigger websites, or they have minimal content and fill a lot of the space with stock photo ads.

There were a majority of websites we reviewed that were pointing ads to either Shutterstock, or iStockPhoto. The images they were returning in the search results that were "free" were usually lower quality and outdated.

Our #1 pick for this review goes to Unsplash, with the runner up being Pexels.