Do you need free travel images to use on your travel blog? Me too. I use many of my own photos on Travel is Life so that there's no issue with copyright, but occasionally I need a travel photo for a specific blog post and I don't have anything relevant in my collection. So I reach out to photographers on Instagram and ask if I can use one of their photos and credit them. Most photographers I've e-mailed say yes, but I don't always have the time to search out photos, message individual photographers, and wait for a response. So when I'm in a hurry and need photos right away, I access my super secret database of websites that offer incredible high resolution travel photography available completely free for commercial use. Today I'm going to share that list of websites with you.
For this list, I focus on websites that offer photos under the Creative Commons Zero license so that I can copy, modify, and use the photos (even for commercial purposes) without asking for permission or providing attribution. It may go without saying, but for this list, I also focused on websites that exclusively offered beautiful travel photography. I don't want to spend all day searching through a database of millions of free photos to find the diamond in the rough. I'm looking for a certain caliber of photos that typically come from sites where the owners spend time and energy personally curating the photos. Without further ado, here's my list.
UPDATE 08-27-2019: This article was originally entitled “10 Best Sites To Find Free Travel Photos for Your Travel Blog” and published in 2017. Since then I've continually updated the article with new sites as I've come across them, and now the list has grown to 20! If you know of any other good ones, leave a comment at the bottom of this post or e-mail [email protected] and I'll add them to the list. Thanks!
Best Websites for Free Commercial Use Travel Photography
They feature 10 photos every 10 days that are chosen by notable creatives from varied backgrounds. I'm in love with this site. They have such high caliber photographers, and the photos are so beautiful, that sometimes I get lost in thought looking through them. Unsplash is one of the first places I start my search. I have a folder on my computer with my favorites from their site for quick access. I may not have a reason to use my saved photos yet, but I probably will in the future.
They add 7 new photos every week. Realistic Shots offers a good selection of travel photos plus food and drink photos. They also have a lot more “stock looking” photos than Unsplash, like posed objects or people, which can come in handy.
Pixabay is the motherload of free images, but not all of them are travel. They have almost a million free high resolution stock photos, vectors, and illustrations. Even though all of them aren't related to travel, they've got more than enough to keep you busy. I love how extensive their collection is, so it's possible to get specific about what you're looking for using their search tool.
This website is unique because it offers a healthy selection of travel and non-travel photos all taken by the same photographer Ryan McGuire. So if you like his style, you'll be very pleased with your photo options. He seems like a funny guy and his sense of humor translates into his photos. This is a great site with some fun photos that you won't find elsewhere.
A beautiful selection with a distinct style. This site offers nature, abstract, and vintage shots. Many of the photographs aren't a fit for my website's aesthetic, but I had to include it on the list because if it fits your aesthetic, it's a gold mine for you.
This site adds hundreds of new photos every week. They have so many that you'll want to use the search feature to find what you're looking for. Not all of the photos are as high caliber as I'd like them to be, but their selection is extensive. And then again, not every shot you use needs to be award winning. There's a need for free travel photos of all caliber.
This website curates the best photos available from the public domain. There are only a few hundred photos available for download, but I like the curator's style. Hundreds of photo options are better than thousands if the curator picks the right ones.
This site prides itself on specifically sharing beautiful travel moments. And no, they're not all about coffee! The site is regularly updated and I also like that there's the option to download all the photos in bulk. They add 10 new photos every 10 days by travelers all around the world.
This website searches through over 300 million creative commons photos from various databases. Even though the selection can be overwhelming and is far from “curated” like some of the other websites on this list, they offer a great user interface and search feature on the website. Unlike most of the other websites on this list, they also allow you to embed the photos on your site (instead of download and reupload). Personally I'd rather host all my own photos, but maybe that'd be a benefit to you. Due to their selection size, you have to do some digging sometimes to find the right photo. I almost didn't include it on the list for that reason, but in the end, it's a valuable tool for finding free travel photos. For example, searching “bangkok thailand” brought up hundreds of photos, but it took some scrolling to find a good one.
This site is a free stock photo site created by photographer Igor Ovsyannykov in February 2015 that offers a collection of free photos from Igor's travels around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos, and Japan. The motto of the website is, “People are tired of cheesy stock photos. Instead they want images that are authentic, emotionally driven, and tell a story. This is where Fancycrave comes in.” A great site to browse through and download some favorites for future posts.
You tell me!
What did I miss? Where are your favorite places to get free travel photography for your travel blog (other than your own camera)? Drop your suggestions in the comments below. For now, I hope this curated list of websites makes your life easier when searching for travel photos for your site.
Here's where I'll add new photography sites to the list as I discover them.
Here's a site by photographer Yinan Chen with over 16,000 public domain images, many of which are his own photos. I like Yinan's site because he categorizes the photos by location. GoodFreePhotos.com specializes in photos of state parks, national parks, national landmarks, and historical sites, and he's also got categories for business, tech, animal, plant, and food photos. And he takes requests! My first request is a photo of me somewhere amazing. I'll meet you there. Thanks for submitting your site Yinan.
PikWizard is my latest addition to this list with over 100,000 completely free images, of which over 20,000 of those are exclusive to their site. They are also adding new images to their library daily and their ultimate goal is to reach more than 1 million images. The images are high quality and the interface of the website is sleek so I'm happy to add it to the list. Thank you to Micheal Brennan for reaching out to me via e-mail and informing me about your site.
The latest addition to this list was submitted by Gabe who started Shutterography, a new but growing free commercial use image website. All of the photos on the website at the time that I'm writing this came from Gabe, his friends, and photographers that they know personally, which means you won't find these same photos on every other stock website. Shutterography will be adding new photos weekly.
Thank you to photographer Georgii Dolgykh for e-mailing me about his project Shapes of Color, which at the time of writing this, features 87+ photo shoots published (over 1000 images). Not all of the shoots are travel-related, but he does have photos from some popular locations like Singapore, Prague, Krakow, with more on the way. He recently opened his licensing up to allow for commercial use and modification without accreditation, which opens the door to being included on this list. Lots of great work over there with photos that you won't find on other photo sharing sites.
Here's a site I should've added a long time ago, because I use it all the time. However, I typically use it to access their free stock video resources for my travel videos, not usually for their photos — although they offer a great selection of both.
I only recently discovered PicJumbo, however it's been around since 2013. As the story goes, the founder Viktor Hanacek submitted one of his photos to another stock photo site and they rejected it because it wasn't “good enough quality”… so he started his own site. Flash forward to today, and PicJumbo has had over 3+ million downloads. They offer a combination of free and premium photos, however I'm including them on this list because they have such an overwhelming amount of high quality free photos to choose from.
MorgueFile offers a decent sized selection of free commercial use travel photos with one interesting twist… if you can't find what you're looking for, you can request it! Their #Quest feature sends morguefile photographers on a voluntary daily photo challenge to capture photos around a particular theme, which are then available to you and other creatives to use in your designs and your professional work under their free stock photo license.
Reshot offers a selection of hand-picked photos for use commercially. Something unique about Reshot is their Photo Packs, which are curated photos within a certain theme. For example, at the time I'm writing this, they've got a few packs like Everyday Technology Pack which features photos of people using cell phones and laptops, and Flat Lay Pack which feature overhead shots of food, gear, and workspaces. Their Photo Packs can save you a lot of time pouring through hundreds (or thousands) of stock photos to find a theme that you like for a project.
19. Life of Pix
Life of Pix offers free commercial use photography for your travel blog. They don't have a huge selection in comparison to other sites on this list, but the photos they offer are unique to their site and you may just find what you're looking for. They have a nifty feature which pulls colors from the photo you're viewing and lets you search for other photos within the same color scheme.
Here's another great site with 100% CC0 licensed images that are completely free to use. The name of their site is derived from the photography principal of negative space, which they explain better than I could so I'll quote them below:
Most people who look at this photo are familiar with this sort of visual manipulation. The blades of grass found in the center of the photo are clear and in focus while everything around them is blurred. This is how the photographer tells us where to look. Those blades of grass are the positive space (or subject) in this photo. The blurred area that allows us to focus on the subject is the negative space.
A word of caution before you go…
Great article! You may also just want to caution people to be careful. I’ve never had this happen knock on wood but apparently there are copyright trolls out there that will upload their content to these sites and then pursue legal action. Always a reminder to be on your toes! We actually still use these sites where I work but I’m more careful to not use pictures that have people’s faces in them (or crop them out) because a lot of times the photographer doesn’t get the right model releases either. Whew!
In fact, many of the sites above actually mention in their disclaimers that they cannot guarantee that all models have given releases. So with anything free, use at your own risk. I don't hear about issues like that happening a whole lot, and like Megan, luckily it's never happened to me, but it's worth mentioning as a word of caution. Hope that doesn't scare you away! You should be pretty safe using the resources above.