7 Sites for Free (and Beautiful!) Stock Photos

September 28, 2015

stock photos blogBy now, many of us in the presentation business have heard the mantra, “visual is viral.” But just how seriously should we be taking it?

Pretty seriously, it turns out. The proof is in the numbers. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without (images used in SlideShare decks from 2013 to 2014 increased by a whopping 53%, according to CMO.com). And infographics on SlideShare get liked 5x more than presentations.

So how exactly do you reap the benefits of a highly visual presentation? It takes more than a simple drag and drop of the first photo you find online.

Be Relevant

The photos you select must be relevant to your presentation topic, high-resolution, and captivating.

Relevancy is critical because as you would suspect, research shows that irrelevant pictures can complicate learning for your viewers instead of simplifying the comprehension process.

For example, if you're sharing stories from your experiences as a raving sports fan, don't try to be clever and use a photo of a rotating fan that you use to cool your house. You might think the comedic approach to photo selection will also be humorous to viewers, but they will probably be confused, not amused.



stock photo example 1


Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

In addition, if you are telling a story about taking your kids to the beach, don't settle for an image of a child doing something unrelated to your beach story. Go the extra mile and find an image that depicts the situation you are describing in your story.


stock photo example 2


stock photo example 2b

To create a presentation that is memorable and meaningful, your photos need to be relevant to your topic.

Choose Quality

The resolution of your photos is also important because pixelated images will make your slides look unrefined and unprofessional.

Aim for a resolution that is approximately 1024 × 768. This won't work for every image, particularly very detailed ones, so when in doubt, test your images at a few different resolutions to determine the best size. Don't default to saving your image at the highest possible resolution — doing so can increase the file size unnecessarily.

Follow Copyright Laws

Lastly, you must follow the law (yes, the law applies to your presentations!). If you break copyright restrictions, you could be penalized in a big way, such as being forced to pay hefty fines.

To help you find interesting, high-resolution images, the list below features seven of the best stock photography sites. Each of these stock photo resources provides stunning images that are free of copyright restrictions, and also free of charge.



The fine print: It's hard to understand complex licenses that is why all photos on Pexels are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. You can modify, copy and distribute the photos. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So that attribution is not required.

2. StockSnap.io


The fine print: All photos on StockSnap fall under the Creative Commons CC0 license. That means you can copy, modify, distribute any photo on the site, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission!

3. Negative Space


The fine print: All the photos and raw files on this website are distributed under the CC0 creative commons license. That means that you can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission or give attribution.

4. Life of Pix


The fine print: Free High-resolution photos. No copyright restrictions. Images for personal and commercial use.

5. Cupcake


The fine print: All photos here on www.cupcake.nilssonlee.se are licensed under the Creative Commons license CC0, which means that you are free to use the images without any costs. You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking for permission. Although, you’re more than welcome to let me know if you use images for a website, illustration or whatever, it’s inspiring to see the results.

6. Unsplash


The fine print: Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.

7. Foodies Feed


The fine print: FoodiesFeed is a resource of free realistic food images in high resolution and free digital goods related to food. These all are fully available to download for your blog posts, articles, websites, templates, mobile apps, backgrounds or just any kind of design.

Conclusion: With so many wonderful stock photo sites providing free photos, there is no excuse to not use stunning photos to enhance your SlideShare presentations.

About the Author

Leslie Belknap is the Senior Content Strategist for Ethos3, as well as a board member and speakers’ coach for TEDxNashville. Say hi to Leslie on Twitter; she manages tweets for Ethos3.