While you won’t get the wide range of the larger stock image galleries, there are a growing number of curated, high-quality collections of photos that are completely free.
A popular source is Unsplash, which releases 10 new photos every 10 days under the creative commons license. It’s particularly good for nature or landscape shots, or photos that just make you go “aaaaaahhhh”…
StockSnap.io hosts thousands of free images, regularly added to, with an good search engine. As with Unsplash, you can also sign up to receive new images by email. (See also: Death to the Stock Photo).
New Old Stock
If you’re looking for vintage photos, try New Old Stock which publishes images from public archives, now free of copyright.
A number of individual photographers publish their work for free, and let it be used with (or sometimes without) accreditation. Examples include: Splitshire, Gratisography, Superfamous Studios, Jay Mantri, MMT Stock and Epicantus.
Zoommy: one tool to search them all
OK not “them all”, but if you download the Zoommy app, it will let you search more than 25,000 photos from over 40 sources – including Unsplash, Jay Mantri, New Old Stock and others mentioned above – all through one interface. Just enter your search keyword or phrase and see what you find.
Licenses & credits
Tip: whenever you use free images from any source, make sure you check the licensing terms – some imagery may only be used on your site if you add a credit to the photographer in a certain format, and you may expose yourself to a lawsuit if you don’t follow the instructions.