It wasn't long ago that web and graphic designers were obligated to hire professional photographers or create the visual content needed for client projects. Then came Creative Commons and royalty-free images.
Suddenly, whole new swaths of unconditional visual options became available not only for creators, but for the general public as well. Under a Creative Commons Zero licence (CC0), stock photos are availed of any ownership and designated free for use, personal or commercial.
Today, CC0 photo sites have become commonplace. But the trouble is that there are so many options available between so many different sites that it is hard to find the exact image you want.
The problem with having too much choice
Generally, there is far too much choice and more specifically, if you're looking for any individual image – even if you're positive you've seen it before – it's like looking for a needle in a haystack, and these collections are growing each and every day.
Fortunately, there are some sites like Unsplash (opens in new tab) and other CC0 image source sites that seek to address some of these issues. And though they're a huge boon to the design community, they're often just as difficult to navigate.
It may have taken some time, but the solution has finally arrived. Now, different projects are growing around these CC0 sources, seeking to tag and organize the vast numbers of high-quality free images available on the web.
In this article, I'll discuss three of these: Stock Up, Pexels and FindA.Photo. These three tools all serve to organize and tag photos from a range of royalty-free sites in different ways, and they may just become your new best friends.
First up on our list is Stock Up, an initiative created by Steve Benjamins (opens in new tab) that allows you to search 21 high-quality, free stock photo websites in one place. Their index is the largest of CC0 search sites I've found, boasting over 6300 at the time of writing. New photos are uploaded daily and around 100 new photos make their way into the index each week, so there won't be much you can't find here.
Interestingly, users can also submit other CC0 image source sites directly to Stock Up to have them added to the list, thereby increasing the project's directory. It should be noted, however, that Stock Up only includes stock photo websites that give them permission.
Though Stock Up is a fantastic image search engine, each indexed website will have its own individual usage guidelines, so users must ultimately refer to the parent sites for particular instructions. Fortunately, the vast majority of images are CC0.
Next page: the second great free image search tool