Photography and imagery have, since the dawn of the internet, been an integral part of how the web is shaped and built. In the early 1990’s, British computer programmer Sir Tim Berners-Lee introduced the internet as we commonly know it today, and Mosaic, commonly accepted as the first browser to truly bring the internet to the masses, was born. Since then, imagery has only grown and grown as a key cornerstone of web design.
Unfortunately, with the seemingly ever growing number of websites (the number hit 1 billion in September 2014) comes the constant need for images. With this demand comes, let’s face it, rubbish imagery. We've all seen the cheesy stock photos scattered around many a small business website. Most of us have probably used them at some point. 4 or 5 young, photogenic people, all of different racial backgrounds, smiling at a whiteboard with an empty chart or meaningless words without context such as ‘Knowledge’, ‘Team’ and ‘Strategy’ and, inevitably, someone pointing at the word success or profit.
The internet is plagued with them. So much so that actor Vince Vaughn and co-star Dave Franco took to promoting their movie Unfinished Business by releasing a set of hilariously clichéd stock photos with their heads photo-shopped into the image.There is salvation though. In the last couple of years there has been an emergence of websites offering really high quality photography and image assets, completely free. Even better, many of them fall under the Creative Commons public domain, which means you can often use them without attribution for whatever project you want - you can copy, modify, distribute these images, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. Be sure to check the terms of each individual image though - these are outlined at the end of this article. These images, however, can be a valuable resource for any small business owner, especially those bootstrapping their business, so here’s a run-down of the best websites to find these types of images and design assets.
Free to use photography
- Unsplash is one of the best known resources for offering high quality, copyright free imagery. With new images uploaded all the time, you can also subscribe to get new images sent directly to your inbox.
- Splitshire specialises in nature photography but there are many other images covering a broad spectrum of categories.
- Startup Stock Photos features a large number of images focused on startups and technology companies. Expect lots of swanky offices, exposed brickwork and jeans and hoodie combinations.
- MMT has a huge number of photos with different focuses on nature, technology, architecture and many more.
- The Pattern Library ditches the stock photography and offers a wide variety of patterns and computer generated backgrounds, perfect for design projects.
- GraphicBurger is a hub of beautifully designed image resources. With an Adobe license and a bit of creativity you can easily create awesome promotional images for your product.
- Freebbble features hundreds of carefully crafted assets offered for free by Dribbble users, with everything from fonts and icons to complete UI kits.
- Pixel Buddha has a wide array of free and premium design resources with a focus on UI and UX.
- Premium Pixels gives you access to hundreds of beautiful mock ups, templates and Wordpress themes for your next big project.
- UISpace offers thousands of sketches, icons and fonts, but be aware - many have custom licenses so be sure to check before you use them.
- Check out Colorlib's run down of 50 beautiful and responsive free WordPress themes to build your website around in 2016.
- CreativeBloq has featured 35 beautiful themes for creating blogs and portfolio sites - great for designers, photographers and artists.
- CodeinWP recently featured 50 of the best WordPress themes built using Bootstrap. It's well worth checking out.
- ThemeIsle has a great selection of cleverly designed WordPress themes.
- Make sure to take a look at DesignsCrazed's list of beautifully crafted, responsive themes.
It's worth putting a disclaimer in here. Most of the resources listed above are free to use and / or fall under the Creative Commons public domain. Before relying on these types of images, I'd recommend finding out more about the different types of Creative Commons Licenses. For example check that it doesn't fall under Share-alike. Share-alike is a copyright licensing term used to describe works or licences that require copies or adaptations of the work to be released under the same or similar licence as the original. Also check that it hasn't been released under a NoDerivatives license - this essentially means that you must give attribution and you can't distribute a modified version of the original. Another one to look out for is NonCommercial - that's a bit more obvious. Just be sure to check the full list of Creative Commons Licenses.
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