Free images are great and boy, do we take a lot of pictures. A lot. Digital Imaging Reporter stated that 1.2 trillion photos were taken by cameras and smartphones in 2017. That’s more than 38,000 every second. It makes sense; a photo is only a click away with our smartphones – the same with the ability to share that photo.
That’s why there are so many fantastic resources to find public domain and Creative Commons licensed free images. More than I have time to find, honestly; it’s almost unending. And if there was an end to those sites, there wouldn’t be an end to the content on them. With 38,000 (and increasing for every person that gets a phone or camera) photos taken every second, it’s impossible to get through them all.
You can also find free audio, free video, and free books.The only danger here is getting lost in a never ending rabbit-hole. If you’re prepared to take that risk, then I hope you enjoy the journey. It’s going to be a long one.
Negative Space – If you have a general idea of the photo you want to use, Negative Space provides easily perusable categories. All of the images are CC0 licensed, so go wild.
New York Public Library – The NYPL has more than 267,000 public domain objects. Sort by topic along the left side if you want to get granular, or dive right in!
Open Access by the Met – The Met has more than 400,000 works of public domain art available. Just be sure to check the “Open Access” box. You can learn more about the policy here. They’ve also curated some thematic collections, such as Masterpiece Paintings (24 objects), Cats (10 objects), Monsters & Mythological creatures (9 objects), New York City (10 objects), Winter Wonderland (10 objects), Gold (14 objects), Arms and Armor (17 objects), and Tiffany Glass (14 objects). And that just barely reaches the surface, nevermind scratching it.
Old Book Illustrations – Probably the most unique and focused entry on this list. There are more than 290 pages of fantastic images, each with multiple downloadable resolutions and rich metadata along the side. Each image also comes with a description that tells you what’s going on in it.
Pixabay – More than 1.6 million CC0 images. Just start scrolling if you’re feeling lucky, or search for what you want.
Public Domain Vectors – More than 60,000 vector images – all in the public domain. They also have a “Useful Links” section at the bottom, in case you want to work with the images further.
The British Library – The British Library provides more thab 1,000,000 photos on their Flickr page. You can view a photostream or find exactly what you want by looking through the albums section.
Unsplash – Unsplash is one of the most popular sites for high-resolution, public domain pictures. They’ve almost 1,000,000 photos and get more than 1 billion requests per month. If you’re a dev, you can utilize their API.