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I’m a strong proponent of respecting copyright. I think artists deserve to be paid for the work that they do. I’m also a fan of using Creative Commons photography in my blog, on my visual writing ideas, and in my presentations. In general, I use the Creative Commons Photo Search to search through Flickr (though sometimes Photopin works great, too).

However, I have also found that there are times when I want to use attribution-free photography. Typically, these are in moments when I want to know that I have complete permission to use the work in a commercial way (such as a keynote). These types of photos fall into the Public Domain / CC0 license. So far, the best overall search for these photos is on Pexels. However, there are a ton of great photos not included in the Pexels search.


1. Gratisphotography

This site, developed by Ryan McGuire, has a distinctly quirky, weird style. The pictures are random and highly expressive. I love using them to add an artistic flair to an inherently professional work.


2. Unsplash

This is my go-to site. I love the artistry of the photographs. The site leans heavily toward objects and locations and has fewer pictures of people and there’s no curation at all (much less tagging, searching, or sorting) but I love the photographs.

3. Skitterphoto

Unlike Unsplash, Skitter Photo is organized by categories, which makes it easy to navigate. Plus, there are more pictures of people and a broader range of objects. The photos tend to be edited a little more and there’s less of a cohesive artistic feel. However, there are some great pictures on the site.

4. Jay Mantri

Jay runs a Tumblr that has a Unsplash-like approach of adding seven new photos every Thursday. I love the variety and his eye for colors and textures.

5. Pixabay

Pixabay has a massive database of pictures and it’s easy to search. Unfortunately, the quality control isn’t as good and you have to have an account to download photos. Still, I have found some gems within it.

6. Jeshoots

This site is packed full of sleek, modern pictures. It’s easy to search and sticks with user-friendly categories (people, devices, etc.) The pictures tend to be closer to stock photography and in some cases there are spaces built in for editing (i.e. green screen for devices).

7. Splitshire

The photos on this site tend to be higher contrast with darker colors, giving them an edgier feel. You get an interesting blend of the stock photo style with ones that are more abstract and artistic. The categories work well and I love the variety. However, the site can sometimes be slow to load.

8. Public Domain Pictures

This site has a large variety. However, there isn’t as much of a quality control process in terms of image size or quality of composition. It’s a place I go to when I haven’t found something on another site. Just like Pixabay, it requires you to register in order to get the highest quality images.

Honorable Mentions:

The following are some of the sites that have public domain photos but have certain limitations as well.
  • Old Book Illustrations: This isn’t really a photo site. However, sometimes it can be cool to add an old public domain illustration to a presentation.
  • One Million Free Pictures: This site has some great pictures, but it’s hard to navigate.
  • Morguefile: They have an interesting license that requires you to modify the photo. However, they don’t require attribution.
  • There are some great photos here but you have to sort through a ton of stuff to find what you want. Also, there’s a disclaimer that some of their photos might be subject to Copyright.
  • My Public Domain Photos: While the variety is great, the quality of the photos really varies and there’s not much of a process for sorting between which ones are great and which ones aren’t.

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John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.More about me


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