I have researched the 30 best sources for royalty-free images that you can use for free without registration. In addition, I’ve also shared legal information in this article that should be considered when using free images.
It is well known, pictures say more than 1000 words. If you use bad images on your website, your internet presence will also look less professional. This can lead to many visitors leaving your website right away. On the other hand, you can clearly set yourself apart from the competition with good pictures and leave a good impression on your visitors from the very first moment.
Important Copyright Information
I am not a lawyer and therefore cannot give any binding information. In a nutshell, I cannot cover the entire topic. But I have summarized the most important points that you should consider:
- Do not use copyrighted images. And assume that every picture on the Internet is subject to copyright.
- Never use images that you are not sure you have the rights to use.
- Only use images from sources that are trustworthy. (All sources on this site are trustworthy.)
- Take a close look at the licenses of each individual image before using it. Most of the image databases on this page only list images that you can use freely. This means that it can be used free of charge, even for commercial projects, and you do not have to refer to the photographer. The following image databases provide very clear information about all images. You should, therefore, have no problems informing yourself about the image rights so that you can play it safe.
You also have to be careful if there are recognizable people or company logos in the pictures. Because in this case, you could violate personal rights or trademark rights. The following restriction is therefore formulated in the Pixabay usage guidelines:
Images that show recognizable persons may not be used for pornographic, illegal or immoral purposes. In addition, identifiable persons must not be placed in a bad light by the representation or shown in a way that is perceived as offensive. Furthermore, the images may not be used to suggest approval or approval of products or services by persons, brands, organizations, etc. who can be identified in the image.
Declaration of Licenses for Free Images
If you want to make sure that you can use certain images, you have to understand what different license types are available. Most of the image databases on this page list images under the public domain license.
Limitation of liability: This listing is also not legally binding. If in doubt, you should contact a lawyer.
- Public Domain Images (CCO): There is no copyright on public domain images. Therefore, they can also be used for commercial purposes free of charge and without naming the photographer. “You may copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, without having to ask for further permission.”
- General Public License (GPL): This license is normally used for software. GPL images may be used and changed free of charge. It is not necessary to name the author. However, if the images are distributed or sold, the GPL licensing of the images must remain in place.
- Creative Commons BY (CC BY) Attribution required: Images under the Creative Commons BY license may also be used for commercial purposes and also changed. However, you have to mention the photographer and if possible refer to his website. “Attribution – You must provide appropriate copyright and rights notices, include a link to the license, and indicate whether changes have been made.”
- Creative Commons Share-Alike (CC SA): distribution under the same conditions: with the Creative Commons SA license, in addition to the mandatory attribution, there is also the condition that you have to share the photo under the same license conditions. So if you change the picture and publish it, then others can also use your modified version. “Distribution under the same conditions – If you remix, change or otherwise build directly on the material, you may only distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.”
- Creative Commons Non-Commercial (CC NC) Non-commercial: these images may not be used for commercial purposes. However, the question of what a commercial project is and what is not cannot always be answered clearly. In case of doubt, these pictures should be avoided. “You may not use the material for commercial purposes.”
Sources of Free Royalty-Free Images
The images on the following pages may also be used for commercial purposes free of charge and without naming the photographer. However, I make this statement without guarantee. I recommend checking the image rights of every single photo carefully before using it. To make this easy for everyone to implement, I explained the various licenses in the last paragraph.
Here I have listed the best public domain image databases. They sort the pictures according to categories and offer a search function. The photos on the following websites list free royalty-free images that are also free for commercial use and that may be used without the photographer’s name.
This site offers a huge database of royalty-free images without copyright that you can use freely. The license-free image download is also possible without registration.
22 other image databases can be searched with Stock Up, each offering license-free images for download without registration.
There are currently over 2000 royalty-free images in this database without attribution. The operators add 35 new pictures every week. All images are selected manually so that only the most professional images appear.
All pictures are selected by hand at Stock Snap. Only professional high-resolution images can be found in the database. The license-free image download is also possible here without registration. All images are in the public domain and can be used freely.
Free high-resolution pictures with which you can do whatever you want. 10 new free pictures are added every 10 days.
High-resolution images for free use. The site is intended to help young creatives who do not have large budgets for their projects.
This page was started by web and graphic designer who needed public domain images for his work and therefore wanted to create a place where such images are listed.
Handpicked Royalty-Free Images
These websites are either from individual photographers or they list hand-picked images with a specific style. These projects usually do not show small thumbnails, which can lead to long loading times.
In addition, there is usually no division of the images into categories and no search function. That’s why I always added a link to Google Images Search. With this, you can easily search for pictures with keywords.
The best royalty-free images in one place. This page combines the images from several other image databases on one website. The free pictures are sorted by categories.
Another side of a photographer with royalty-free images for free use.
Public domain images for free use. The photographer adds 7 new pictures every week.
“Real Life Photos” – Free Real Life Photos
Public Domain Images photographer Ryan McGuire.
Free royalty-free images from around the world.
Free travel images that can be used completely freely, even without naming the original photographer.
Here you can find many beautiful royalty-free landscape images. However, the image selection is no longer expanded, because the author, unfortunately, died in 2013.
Free high-resolution photos – for free use.
Old-Fashioned Retro Image Databases
These pages list classic images that are often in the public domain because they are so old that the copyrights have expired. Many of the pictures come from government archives. Since the pages do not offer a good search function, I have added a link to Google image search.
- New Old Stock
- Internet Archive Books
- Library of Congress Flickr
- US National Archives Flickr
- British Library Flickr
- Library of Congress
- Secret Museum of Mankind
Images with Creative Commons License
This website lists images under the Creative Commons license. The images may also be used for commercial purposes free of charge. But a hint to the author and a link to his website is necessary.
The images on this page are published under the Creative Commons Share-Alike license (CC SA). When used, a link to the author’s website must be set and modified versions may only be distributed under the same license.
This page also offers hand-picked free photos, organized into categories and with a search function. Some images are in the public domain, and sometimes a link to the photographer’s website is necessary.
Many beautiful CC landscape images, aerial photos and artistically valuable images. It is necessary to name the author.
When I need pictures for an article, I usually go to Pixabay and look for a keyword that is related to the content of my article. If I don’t find a suitable image right away, I search in the other image databases.
And if the search doesn’t look promising there either, I buy pictures from Shutterstock. The pictures cost a small amount there. But at Shutterstock, you can very quickly find very professional images that you can use. This is often the more efficient and cheaper way, especially for customer projects, because I don’t have to spend an hour or two on image research.
Of course, I am happy if others link to this page. After all, the compilation took some time and it would be nice if as many people as possible could benefit from it. If you know more sources for royalty-free images, please leave a comment. I will be happy to add it to the list. Please note, however, that only the highest quality image databases are recorded. I am not trying to list as many sources as possible, but only the best sites for free royalty-free images.