Have you been Googling “free images” for your app development projects? While this may seem like a good idea, images that come up in “free” Google searches are often protected by copyright and can’t be legally used. To be safe from illegal usage, you really want to make sure you’re getting all of the images you use in your app (or on your website) from sources that you’re sure are 100% okay.
Luckily, there are many sites that offer free-to-use images that are acceptable to use for any purpose. We’ve made a list of the best royalty-free image sources as a resource for your website and app development projects. Most of these sites offer images under Creative Commons licensing.
An Important Note: We’re not lawyers, so please check with a legal professional if you plan to use any image in a way that seems iffy or that could be in any way controversial. This is especially true if the image you’ve chosen has identifiable people in it – there are sometimes extra considerations if you’re using a person’s face in a way that implies something about them as a person or their endorsement of a product.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization created to help artists more easily share their work.
There are different Creative Commons copyright licenses that range from strictly limiting how materials can be used to effectively releasing them into the public domain.
The least restrictive form of Creative Commons license is the “CC0” license. Here’s what the organization has to say about this licensing-friendly option:
The Creative Commons CC0 license means there are “no rights reserved.” Images released under a CC0 license are placed in the public domain “so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.”
When using an image under CC0, you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission or giving attribution (there’s also the similar CC-BY license that allows commercial use and modification, but requires you to give the creator credit). Note that there are a number of more restrictive Creative Commons licenses as well, so don’t just assume that any image that’s flagged as “Creative Commons” is free to use – always be sure that any images you plan to use are under the appropriate license before using them in your app or on your website.
Here’s our (alphabetical) list of awesome, high-quality, royalty-free image sites for developers like you.
Freerange provides a searchable library of high-resolution and high-quality images that have been either drawn from their own team or submitted by generous contributors around the world. All are free to use for almost any commercial purpose: their main restrictions limit selling the photos or t-shirts/mugs/posters/etc. made from them (check out their license page for more info)
ISO Republic specializes in hand-curated CC0 photos and videos of all types. Their search tool makes finding free stock photos easy, and you don’t even have to register to download high-resolution images!
While there are 10,000 free photos on Kaboom Pics, the thing that really makes it stand out from some of the other sites on our list is the included color palates next to every photo. If you’re trying to design complimentary graphics to go along with an image you download from the site, those HEX codes could be a lifesaver.
Negative Space welcomes all photographers to join their community and share work under a CC0 license. Browse their extensive categories and tags, or use the search box to find photos for any occasion.
Pexels says their mission is to “help millions of designers, writers, artists, programmers and other creators to get access to beautiful photos that they can use freely which empowers them to create amazing products, designs, stories, websites, apps, art and other work.” They currently have over 10,000 free photos and at least 1,500 added per month under Creative Commons CC0.
Created in 2013 by renowned designer and photographer Viktor Hanacek, Picjumbo was launched in response to several stock photo sites rejecting his photos due to ‘lack of quality’. His loss is your gain. After being featured on Entrepreneur, The Next Web, Buffer and others, this stock photo site now has over three million image downloads. Not everything is free, though: they have standard and “premium” images, so keep an eye out while browsing.
Pixabay offers free photos, illustrations, vector graphics and video under Creative Commons CC0. Pixabay images are user provided – you can choose to support the artists through Paypal donations if you choose to.
Created by Daniel Nanescu, SplitShire says it has the “simple aim of giving life to photographs that would have gone into oblivion without any utility.” Instead of thousands of images sitting in the dark of his hard drive, he provides them free for personal and commercial use.
StockSnap.io curates high-quality photos from the web and from a network of photographers who share their work for free. All images are under Creative Commons CC0.
Created by the team at Crew, Unsplash is a collection of “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” Get 10 new photos delivered to your inbox every 10 days, or search their site if you need a photo right now. All images are released under a license that’s very close to CC0, but has a few more restrictions. For example, it doesn’t allow you to aggregate their photos to make a competing stock photo site (read the details here).
Need more than just some free images to promote your app? Get in touch with us to talk about how video can make your app shine!