Secret, Little-Known and FREE Stock Photo and Illustration Sites

by Doug Farrick

These FREE, excellent and often little-known stock photo and illustration sites should be a mandatory part of any designer's resources. Almost all of these photos you can use for personal or commercial use.

Although there is no cost for accessing these photos you need to be aware of some common restrictions. One is that photographs including people typically have important restrictions. If a person is recognizable in the photo, you cannot legally use the image for commercial purposes, even though the photo is in the public domain.?

Also, you cannot sell, license, rent, transfer, distribute, copy photos on a stand-alone or download substantial portions of a photo database and sell them. And in some cases you may need to credit the photographer.

Finally all sites have there own idiosyncrasies and terms which I will post a link to along with a brief description of the site.

It only takes a minute to check out the terms and, as always, just a few minutes of due diligence is recommended.

Open Clip Art - Check out this valuable open source of excellent clip art. The site currently lists over 7000+ entries. Works submitted are asked to be placed as public domain images.

Microsoft clip Art & Media - Some excellent content from Microsoft. Images will be downloaded either to Microsoft Clip Organizer or to Microsoft Clip Gallery, depending on the Microsoft Office product versions you have installed on your computer. I always find excellent stuff here.

stock.XCHNG - with over 250,000 photos by 25,000 photographers this is one of the most well designed free sites on the web. They also have a very active discussion forum where you can make specific photo requests. I usually go here first.

MorgueFile - Another excellent source for no-cost photos. This database is freely contributed to and I always seem to find some gems here.

Pixel Perfect Digital - not quite 5000 photos here so the range is not here but you will often find little oddball photos at PP. Worthwhile.

Image After - some pretty eclectic stuff here as well. These include art paintings and sculpture as well as a "Scripts" category, which is a huge gallery of photographic signs, numbers, letters, icons, words and more.

Free Photos Bank - another nice resource here. I cannot find where it mentions how many photos in it's database but it has a nice clean user interface and is easy to get around. You can also download as Zip or JPG and rate photos, email and print them with their bright red icon navigation. - claims to have over 1,000,000+ images with 147 sections and over 3000 categories. Images are free for online use but high quality images are available for a small price. Nice resource.