First, you need to find a great image. This starts by identifying what message you want to convey. An image the matches in tones, and the colors of your website.
A few places to find images:
Kave Wall is a graphic design firm that also has a stock photo library. Many of the images appear to be free for the small sizes, but they also offer a full resolution catalog of 1,700-plus photos for $199.
Nations Illustrated This site features travel photographs, which are often popular and beautiful. The downside is the site doesn’t make it clear where the images come from; however, the user agreement states that you may use the images for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Historical Stock Photos has a great collection of historical photos.
Veer is a free and paid photo site. Each week they handpick images to put in their free gallery.
Public-Domain-Photos offers 5,000 free photos and 8,000 free clip art items. All photos on this website are public domain. You may use these images for any purpose, including commercial.
Image After offers a simple search tool with drop-down choices. You can also search by term and as soon as you click the image you like, it brings up options to download.
Design Packs is aimed at Web designers and offers free stock photo sets, already zipped up, ready for download.
Free Foto offers a huge library of images. They offer free online use, with higher quality images available for a fee.
Deposit Photos is a fee-based service, but I mention them here because their 7-day free trial allows you to download five images per day for seven days. You have to enter a credit card, but their agreement on this page states that you can cancel at any time.
Free Pixels offers a smaller collection than some of the other providers here; however, they have millions of views in each category. This implies that they have a lot of quality images and people are spreading the word. I found a number of eye-catching images worth downloading. “Every Freepixels image or digital creation used must retain the domain name: freepixels.com when used on the Internet, in a Web page, in printed publications, or in any product, advertising, or packaging.” They seem reasonable and will allow you to remove the watermark on the image if you provide credit near the image itself. Read the terms.
Photo Rogue is incredibly unique. I would categorize them as a photo request site. You can submit a specific photo you’re looking for and a volunteer photographer will go out and try to create it for you. While they don’t have many requests in the service yet, this site could take off and provide an interesting model for both buyers and sellers of photography.
Free Range Stock is another of my favorites in the free stock world. It is a photographic community supported by ad revenue – photographers get paid when users click on the ads that appear next to their submissions. Images on the site are either shot by Freerange Stock, drawn from Freerange archives, or contributed by a talented community of photographers.
Geek Philosopher offers a free stock photo page and they request a detailed backlink for use of their free images.
Cepolina is a travel and nature focused site, but has over 16,000 images and also organizes by color for those who want to find a photo to match their website. I found some very good food images here, too. You can download by size, up to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels.
Abstract Influence is a photography community and reportedly allows members to download free photos, but I couldn’t find evidence of that without joining. You can see and peruse different photo libraries and categories without joining, so if you’re looking for an original photo this might be a good place to search. (No guarantee that it is free, however.)
Stock.XCHNG is now owned by Getty Images, but as far as I could tell it was still a free photo site. SXC has a long history, a great community, and tons of images on their unique site. How big is big? A huge gallery containing over 350,000 quality stock photos by more than 30,000 photographers.
Every Stock Photo is a search engine for free photos. The photos come from many sources and are license-specific. You can view a photo’s license by clicking on the license icon, below and left of photos. Membership is free and you need to become a member to download photos.
Imagebase by David Niblack appears to be a labor of love. David Niblack makes his images available for public use. The images are free and very few conditions are placed on them — read it here. There are not thousands of images here, but there are some good ones in the people, objects, city and nature categories.
Morguefile provides free images for personal and commercial work. Their tagline says it all: “Public Image Archive for Creatives by Creatives.” They also offer a way for you to add your own photos to morgueFile so that you can give back to the creative community.
Open Photo. This site has a range of photo categories with plenty of images in each one. Once you click on the photo you like, you can see the details about copyright, creative commons, and other rights and expectations (such as a link back) in a simple box to the right.
Stock Vault is a pretty slick site. When you pick a photo, it brings up the image and details about the photographer. Next to the image is a button that says, “Support this User,” and when you scroll over it, it says, “Buy Him a Coffee.” In the upper left portion, it simply says download and you can get the image immediately.
Unprofound is a photo site sorted by color. You pick one of six colors or white and peruse a range of photos. You can use a basic search engine on the site, but they advise you keep to simple terms. This is not a huge collection of photos (it is run by one person), but it offers truly free photos. “This collection of photos is for anyone to use in just about any way they’d like” is what the FAQ states.
Toasto is a simple free photo site by one photographer. You can browse photos by categories such as nature, technology, computing, food, and even by concept and idea. Photos are available on a creative commons license as long your use is non-commercial and attributed to the site.
Photoree is a photo search engine that searches creative commons licensed photos. In a simple dropdown menu, you can pick the license that is right for you. This image came from a simple search on “mobile device” and “creative commons, commercial use OK.”
Free Photos Bank is a solid site with lots of images, particularly for business users. They have ads, too, so don’t get distracted. They have a quick navigation button at the top right which can drop you into the section you want.
Fotolia is paid site, but has free images you can download. You have to register to complete a download, however.
Free Digital Photos. Images are free provided you publish a credit to the person who created the image. Instructions for publishing credits can be found to the right of every image – click the “Acknowledgement required” link. If you would rather not publish a credit you must purchase a licence, starting at just $5 per image.
PublicDomainPictures.net is a repository for free public domain photos. You can upload your own pictures and share your work with others. They do make statements that model and property releases are not standard, so be careful how you use these photos. However, they are all free for use.
iStockphoto is one of my regular stops when I’m looking for an image. They were one of the first to offer user-generated, royalty-free stock photos, including video, illustrations, vector images, and audio. They also offer flash-based images as well. You can buy a regular subscription plan or pay-as-you-go. There is a free photo of the week, too.