Look for the differences:


I myself see 2 differences:

1. Difference in originality

2. Difference in price (€ 49, – for 5 images versus € 0, -)


Stock foto’s

The first image is a stock photo, and the second is not. Stock pictures are not so hard to find. Go to or and you’ll find hundreds of thousands.

Disadvantage of stock photos: they can be pricy and are often tacky. Before you know it, you’ve transformed your site into a shine & smile Colgate advertisement.

So… where to look then? What is a good place to find free and original images?


Uhm… I can search on Google Images, right?

Well, why not go shopping and snitch a computer? It’s possible, but not really legal.

It is very easy indeed to find a picture on Google Images. But if you want good graphics for your website, blog or Powerpoint presentation, be careful with this.

For a long time, I never worried about copyright infringement. I cheerfully picked up all Google Images that pleased me. Until someone told me that this could cost me money. Lots of money.


A fat fine

There is a complete team of people handing out fines full-time. Worldwide, they are looking for online images that have been used illegally.

I’m not joking. This is the team of Getty Images. Getty Images has a modest collection of 80 million stock images, so it’s a good chance that you’ve used one of them.

And my client Mirjam got caught. On her terms and conditions page she had the following image:


That does not really sound like a serious offense at first. But Getty Images thought differently, and handed her a fee of € 750, -.

Penalties may amount to around € 8,000, regardless of the size of your website. That’s not what I call “free images”.


Free images – for real

Fortunately, there are plenty of places where you can get free and “royalty-free” images.

Great advantage: royalty-free images are also a lot more original than stock photos. Quite handy, because there is a growing group of people with a “stock photo allergy” (including myself).

Below are the 7 best places to find original and free images. I will start with the websites that have the widest choice.

1. Google Images*

*with special search settings

It is a bit hidden, but Google Images has a very useful service. You can set as a search filter that will deliver you images without copyright.

Where do you find that setting?
Go to and enter any search, such as “water”:



You will see a list of option down below your search query. Next, click on the option  “Tools”. (I’m sorry for having the screenshots in Dutch, but at least you know where to look now).


Next, click “Usage Rights,” and then “Labeled for reuse with modification”. And there you go, a big collection of pictures you can use any way that suits you. Just don’t forget to attribute the picture correctly.

2. Flickr

Flickr is the ideal place to find images that are not as highly polished as stock photos. Anyone who can hold a camera, can post his photos here. This means that finding the right picture can take some searching.

What I like about Flickr images, is that they are emotionally much more appealing than stock photos are. There is more authenticity to them.

Photo by colmjude | CC BY 2.0 

Photo door theo_reth | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Take a look at the way I refer to the source of the image. You can use this format as well. I refer both to the picture itself and the type of copyright that these pictures have.

You cannot use all of the images on Flickr, some of them have full copyright. As with Google, you can set a search filter  for photos you can legally use in the search settings. To have the right search settings from the bat, use the following link:

Flickr images for commercial use

You are also allowed to make modifications to these images. Just don’t forget to correctly attribute the images!


 You can search by color

❧ There is much variation in images, from amateur to professional

❧ You can download the images in the size of your choice

3. Pixabay

Ok, I’m not fully fair here.

My post is about free and original images. Pixabay’s pictures (and videos!) are certainly free, but they are not the most original in my list. Actually, they just deliver stock photos, but slightly less “stocky”. But yes, sometimes that’s exactly what you need.


An advantage of Pixabay over Flickr is that this search engine is specially made for searching images you can use for your website or social media. Consequently, Pixabay has useful features like “related images”:



 Most of the images you can use without having to mention the source, saves you hassle 🙂

 The pictures have a robust quality, you know what you get

 Pixabay offers a broad variety of pictures, ranging from graphics to videos and vectors (icons etc.)

4. Rijksstudio (Rijksmuseum)

I you like, you could put Vermeer’s milk girl on your website:


Or Van Gogh:


The Rijksmuseum has released a large part of its collection for public use. I think it’s quite nice of them.

Just before the reopening of the Rijksmuseum, the Rijksmuseum launched the ‘Rijksstudio’. On this website, you will find more than 125,000 objects with a very high resolution. And copyright free!

Très très simple. Go to and create an account. Find a nice image, download it and place it wherever you want.


❧ No source reference is required

❧ Few people are aware of this website. Original images guaranteed!

❧ The images have an insanely high resolution

5. Unsplash

A guy called Michael puts 10 atmospheric and high resolution images on his blog every week. Like:




I think he offers great pcitures.

Go to the Unsplash website en browse around. If you want, you can subscribe to his image newsletter. It’s a great place to get inspired.

If you want to search somewhat more specific, then visit this page with categories. here, you can find photos incategories like ‘landscape’, ‘music’, ‘mountains’, ‘city’, ‘business’, etc.


❧ No attribution needed

❧ The images are both original and high quality

❧ The website is inspiring

6. New Old Stock

On New Old Stock, you will find beautiful black and white pictures from worldwide archives. In the past, they probably illustrated newspaper articles, and I love the idea that these images are being given a second life:




You can’t really search on this site. It’s more a matter of browsing, and being lucky to find just that one gem.


❧ In most cases, you don’t need to mention a source reference

❧ The images are very characteristic

❧ It is a beautifully designed site with nice oversized pictures on it. I love to visit it

7. Gratisography

This is the smallest archive of all seven. It is the personal library of photographer Ryan McGuire, which means all the pictures are coherent in style.

His images are colorful, and sometimes funny and absurd.




The site has a good search function, and is also classified by categories. Also very useful: you can download the photo right from the search summary, which is not the case with most other sites.


❧ Source reference is not required

❧ The images are in one style, because they are from the same photographer

❧ You can download the pictures very easily

Bonus ♥ – Image Compressor

On Websiteplanet, you won’t find images. I add this site as a bonus, because it’s so useful when it comes to images. The biggest “image problem” when you’re building your website is often the size. Big images slow down your site.

The awesome thing about this tool is that you can compress your images (= reducing the file size) without making the pic all blurry.



As you can see, there are many possibilities to find beautiful free images online. And if everyone chooses for these kind of images, this is a great step towards a “radiant” internet.

Do you know other great websites I didn’t mention? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!