Need photos for a website and the client has zero cash, What are sources of free stock photos? And how do I understand what the terms and conditions mean?

UPDATE: Changed the title from "free" to "free/cheap". I need an easy to use source of photos, meaning I they OWN the rights to the photos. Some stock photo websites disclaim that the have rights to the photos. Examples: SXC.hu, Bigstock (if you know of others, please comment. See comments to answers for details. Thanks!)

IMPORTANT: SXC.hu DOES NOT own the rights to any of the photos in their index. You must get the media owner to sign a "new" contract just with you. That's a lot of overhead, and the only way SXC.hu gives you to contact the owner is a web-form that has no additional info on the owner than their username.

  • Made CW; "List of X" question. Please flag this kind of question for mod attention, we don't read everything.
    – JasonBirch
    Oct 20 '10 at 19:35

Stock.XCHNG is the best free stock photo site I've found. You'll have to read the license for each photo to make sure you can use for commercial purposes and if you need attribution, but I've generally found that I can use most of the photos on the site.

Also see:

  • 2
    @Virtuosi_Media: "SXC cannot be held responsible for any copyright violations, and cannot guarantee the legality of the Images stored in its system. If you want to make sure, always contact the photographers. You use the site and the photos at your own risk!" -- How do you deal with this? SOURCE: sxc.hu/help/7_2
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 1:53
  • What you quoted is probably standard legalese found on most sites, but it doesn't hurt to be cautious. Also on that same page: "We hereby grant to You a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the Image on the terms and conditions explained in this Agreement and on the Image preview page FREE OF CHARGE." Each photo should have its terms of usage on the photo page. Oct 19 '10 at 4:36
  • 1
    @VM: "XYZ cannot be held responsible for any copyright violations" is NOT "standard legalese", basically means that you need a signed contract from the copyright holder saying they have the right to transfer all rights they are assigning you. For example, this is common, "All rights to the Licensed Material are owned by COMPANYNAME" -- in that case they're saying they own the rights to give you. Stock.XCHNG is not a stock photo vendor, every single photo you've got to get a contract from the owner, that's a lot of overhead, not really in the realm what I'd call free.
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 13:20
  • @VM "We hereby grant to You a non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the Image on the terms and conditions explained in this Agreement and on the Image preview page FREE OF CHARGE." means that IF the owner transferring rights to them had the right to do that they are transferring limited rights based on the terms and conditions in the contract. Thing is that statement is meaningless, since they also disclaim responsibility for having the ownership they're transferring. You MUST get a contract from the copyright holder for it to have any legal meaning.
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 14:38
  • @VM: "Each photo should have its terms of usage on the photo page." -- This is important, but not in the context that you must get a "new" contract from the owner of the copyright holder, since that contract would clearly state any of the terms listed on the photo's info page; e.g. model release, notification of use, credit, etc.
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 14:42

search.creativecommons.org combines image search results from multiple engines using each engine's licensing filter to only return images that are licensed for commercial use under a Creative Commons license.

The standard disclaimer about checking the license of each image you plan to use should apply to any answer given here.

  • I use Creative Commons for stock images and reference images all the time. It's a nice way to search through all the major online image repositories (Google Images, Flickr, etc.). Flickr in particular has a lot of hi-res images, and you can quickly identify images that are free for commercial use using their licensing terms icons (great usability design). If you can't use it commercially, there will be a striked-out dollar sign. Oct 19 '10 at 10:45
  • @BenV: Yes, I've looked at Creative Commons agreements, issue is that it's easy to find the photos, sometimes easy to find which Creative Commons agreement is being used, BUT... very hard to find the contact information for the party claiming to licensing the copyright. QUESTION: Do you contact the copyright owners? And if so, how do you find their contact info? Do you have a standard email you send out? ...**Thanks!!**
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 14:47

Here's are some nice comparisons and reviews of stock photo services:

GOOGLE_KEYWORDS: stock-photo-comparison,

And here's a nice price-comparison search engine for stock photography:


check out Big Stock Photo

  • @gabe: Bigstock is not responsible for making sure you are able to use the photos they sell you... "Bigstock does not warrant or guarantee that images are free from copyright or other intellectual property concerns. Likewise, you agree that you are responsible for ensuring that the publication at your direction of an image obtained from Bigstock does not violate any rights with respect to privacy, defamation, or rights of publicity. You further agree to indemnify Bigstock in the event a claim is made with respect to the rights described in this section." URL: bigstockphoto.com/usage.html
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 18:19
  • @blunders if you're looking for free/cheap... you are probably not likely to find something that will take that liability. Otherwise, they wouldn't be free/cheap, there's a lot of overhead involved in making sure the images are not copyrighted somewhere else. To keep things free/cheap, that overhead is passed on to you, the user.
    – gabe.
    Oct 19 '10 at 22:01
  • @gabe: That's just hiding the cost of ownership, and I'm not in the business of securing copyrights - I've got better things to do.
    – blunders
    Oct 19 '10 at 22:10
  • How can they sell you something (even if you weren't putting it on your website) that may be copyrighted by someone else? That's like me selling copies of Twilight with a disclaimer saying it "may" be copyrighted by someone else, and it's "your" responsibility to not buy it from me. Nov 11 '10 at 17:44

Well, I'm currently using www.kozzi.com. I'll say that this site is really an amazing site since they provide incredible and stunning photos and images to use in blogs or websites. And its photos and images are free to download by the way. :)

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