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Best Free Web Images: 5 Sites to Browse, Download & Go Nuts

Updated on April 23, 2016

If you are a web designer, a blogger or video producer; or if you love the new visual blogs like Tumblr or Pinterest, then you are always on the lookout for stunning images that you can apply and use.

It's easy enough to find images - Google and Bing have taken care of that. But where can you find brilliant images - that cost no money - and that come with no copyright restrictions?

Well, you have come to the right place because in this Hub I am going to tell you exactly where to find the best copyright and royalty free web images.

Browse 1: Flickr Commons

How about this photograph right here of a woman wearing a headdress taken around 1920 in Peking?

It certainly caught my eye.

It is part of a vast collection of images with "no known copyright restrictions" posted by museums and galleries from all around the world on the Yahoo-owned photo sharing website Flickr.

A full list of institutions which have created public collections on Flickr - with hotlinks to their vast repositories - is available on the Flickr Commons Page. Who will you find there? Well, the Smithsonian, Cornell University Library, Chicago's Field Museum and San Diego's Museum of Photographic Arts for starters! As of now, there are over 50 such august (and beneficent) bodies participating.

Browse 2: National Archives


I have to admit to a weakness for historical images - like the enormous archive of the "Farm Security Administration" which documented so much of ordinary American life in the 1930s. Like these images by Dorothea Lange taken in 1936. And I sometimes use images like these in my video production and tribute video work.

Because all of these images were created by the US Government, there is no copyright and no royalty issue. That's our taxes at work folks! (Generally speaking, no copyright attaches to works by the Federal government.)

Tip: There are some things to keep in mind when you are looking for the best free web images in the site links that I have included in this HubPage. First of all, it can be a very time consuming exercise. Entertaining, thrilling, exasperating too - but definitely time consuming.

Looking for the perfect image - a special photo that you connect with personally - is an exacting exercise and there are just no shortcuts. You sort through a lot of dross to find the gold.

Browse 3: Google Art Project


This is Google's second iteration of its art project and it's staggering: High resolution images of humanity's greatest artistic achievements.

Major galleries all over the world have signed on (think London's Tate, New York's Met and MOMA, and yeah - all the big guys).

Best free web images? Free to use? Well, yes. In the US, copyright has expired in all works created prior to 1923. And in Europe, by and large, copyright only subsists in two dimensional artistic works for the life of the artist plus 70 years - once the poor person with the brush is dead, gone for 70 years, you can go nuts.

What all that means is that you will not find too many recent artists on the Google Art Project because, well, they are too recent. No Picasso for example. But lots of other geniuses, like Paul Klee and William Blake.

Browse 4: Stock.xchng (Getty Images)

Maybe you want some more modern, shall we say, royalty free web images. We can do that.

Sites that provide the best free, modern images must have waived their copyright rights for you to use them. Normally when this is done, there is a notation somewhere that the image is subject to a special license (usually including that you won't resell the image). You must read and comply with any such requirement!


Odd name - Stock.xchnge - I suppose it is a contraction of "stock image exchange". The good news for you is that if this is a swap meet, you don't need to put anything out there yourself. And as free stock image sites are concerned, this is one of the best.

Now owned by Getty Images (yes, that Getty Images) there are around 400,000 photos to choose from. How long that will last under Getty Images, who knows, but no doubt they value the ability to advertise their not-free images right alongside the free-image bait.


Browse 5: Nations Illustrated

There was a lot of competition for my coveted 5th spot for "best free web image" site. I think Nations Illustrated deserves mention, themed as it is around geography.

There are not a lot of images for some countries (only 3 for Ghana) but for better known cities, like San Francisco, there is a plethora. Not all the images are up to pro standards, but what did you expect?

Tip: Not every royalty-free web image you find on the sites mentioned here will be in the best condition and ready for republication. The color tone, for one, is often a little too muted and will certainly benefit from a small saturation boost. And, keeping the integrity of the original image in mind, you may also want to adjust the contrast a bit.

Browse 6: Bonus Free Image Web Site

Couldn't resist adding one more favorite...

What about this image of a country carnival. Nice huh? Free too! There are lots more mostly modern images at MorgueFile (and no images of dead bodies, if that is what you were wondering).


Last Word & Disclaimer

The web has created a seemingly unfillable appetite for images - and those of us who work in the visual arts (among other things, I am a video producer who makes video biographies and tribute videos) well, we are constantly on the look out for good quality, royalty and copyright free, web images.

Thankfully, the web has also given rise to some marvelous visual resources for us bloggers, HubPage authors and tribute video producers which are only a click or two away - and I hope you take full advantage.

Disclaimer: I have no connection or affiliation with any of the free image web sites mentioned in this Hub and nor can I - or do I - accept any responsibility for (or warranty the legality of) the use of images found on these sites. Apart from that - go nuts!


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