Finding Free Public Domain Photos Online – The Good, The Bad, and The Ridiculous

Free Photos and Listings

Vinny at the computer worrying about free photo attribution. Not. Here’s my personal list of online sources for free photos. I maintain this in order to refer to clients/friends. And here you are! We use it internally at Zen Dog Web Services. We also use pay services because we run a newsletter business for our clients, and, of course, the pay services have far better quality, better search capabilities and more offerings. For a hobby blogger though, you may find this list helpful.

From Whence They Came

Know that many of these (and a gazillion others) are photographers and graphic designers wanting to make use of (monetize) their huge library of assets. No problem there, but some blogger-photogs allow the giant stock photography houses to display their search-ads prominently, too. These folks are obviously in it for the referral money. If they really wanted to grow, you don’t advertise your competition, you put out quality work for a niche market. Ah, the interwebs. <$ka-ching!>

The following is my opinion only. I have no affiliation whatsoever with sites on this list. Let me know if one goes wonky or if you know of a quality free site to add. 

Reminder: No one, but you is responsible for what you do on the internet. Always BE WARY of anything you download, or click. (Another blog post, I know.) 

Okay. The Free Photos List Already.    DECENT Small offering
– DECENT – no good search function, but hires. Great balloon pics and objects. Very small offering
– DECENT – not searchable but 1800x landscapes, lots of “boken” style backgrounds
  RIDICULOUS This is all about selling you Painteresque sotware. Meh. Hard to get to even on of their million free pics.
 bizarre stuff, asymmetry, fun, good photography, not your normal subject matter. A fun time-suck.
  zipped downloads of landscape and architecture (caution. zip file downloads are not recommended)
= not much at all. Some clipart,
good for pics of Indian folks in India, “boken” style, some non-people photos Ridiculously unfriendly UI if you’re looking for pics. They want you to login and help them tag photos. I love crowd-sourcing, but you may not have time for this. At least they are upfront about it. – NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG. These guys run a special every now and then for a low price of all the downloads you can do in 7 days. Um. If only their photos were at all worthwhile. Tried it. Can’t use it. Photos are blurry, off-center, whack or just creepy.


NEW!  a site for free health and fitness stock photos.  is for fitness and health. Just a few photos, but finally some with people of color. I hope you keep this growing, Bryan!


Attribution of Images

As always, please attribute, that is, give credit, to your image’s originator. It’s just the ethical thing to do. You can do this with a “courtesy of” line, a link to their blog post or image, a caption, or a line at the end of the post. If the originator asks you to take an image down, do so right away. You might think that a blog would be happy to have you link to their lovely Chocolate Puddin’ Pie recipe, but there are myriad tech and personal reasons why this might not be the case. Be respectful.

chocolate puddin pie photo by

Chocolate Puddin’ Pie recipe and podcast courtesy of

What Your Mama Didn’t Know About Tofu


But Google Images Are Free, Right?

I hear this all the time. “Well, I get my blog photos from Google Images. They are free, right?”

Um. No. Google Images is an internet search. It’s not a storehouse of free photos just for you. It just happens to match your search words. If you click through, you’ll see they are from stock photo companies, other people’s blogs and companies on the web that know how label their photographs (that’s another blog post).

Time-Suck Sample: Search Google Images for DSC IMG 437 or other random number. You’ll see the pantheon of humanity that uploaded photos with their camera’s default image number.


Creative Commons Licensing

You can find other photos on  with a list of attribution limitations and also on Flickr. I’m not going to go into the details on attribution and derivative works, read that here.


Paid Services – This is a paid service that I like that doesn’t creep me out, doesn’t send spammy emails, and has a nice search function with advanced options. To wit, “millions of premium royalty-free images selected from Getty Images and iStock”
Enjoy, don’t steal, and go make helpful stuff.


Zen Dog Meditative


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