November 6


Tired of the Same Old Stock Image Sites? Here Are 10 New Options

By John Wagner-Stafford

November 6, 2018

#authors, #books, #copyright, #coverdesign, #ebooks, #indieauthors, #selfpublishing, content

As an author, you probably already know that using images in your book can really add to the reader’s enjoyment of your writing. You also know that a great book deserves a great cover with a striking image. As an indie author, however, you may find the cost of commissioning original, quality photographs, graphics, and illustrations prohibitive. This is where stock image sites that offer free images come to the rescue. There are many sites to choose from and it can be hard to sort through all the junk to get the image you want. If you don’t know where to start, here are some great stock image sites for indie authors. They all offer a good selection of free images.

1. Pexels

Pexels has over 40,000 high-quality, high-resolution stock photos available. The database is user friendly and there’s a wide variety of topics. Pexels images are all licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licence. They’re free to use for commercial purposes and you don’t have to ask for permission or attribute the photographer. You can also modify the images. However, if someone in a picture can be identified, you may not use the picture in a way that they may find offensive or that could show them in a bad light. It’s always safest to ask permission if you want to use a photograph showing an identifiable person.

2. Gratisography

Gratisography is a great option for covers. The quirky photographs available on here have been taken by Ryan McGuire and are a far cry from the cheesy pictures that you’ll find on most stock image sites. The pictures on Gratisography are free to use for commercial purposes. You may also modify the images as needed. The main drawback of Gratisography is that the selection isn’t very big.

3. Pixabay

Pixabay has more than 1.2 million photographs, illustrations and vector graphics in its database. You can refine your search by using the filters, which will save you time. The images are licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CCO). This means you can use them for commercial purposes, modify them as you wish and don’t have to attribute the creator. However, if an image depicts an identifiable person, logo or brand, you need to check whether there are any privacy rights, trademarks, property rights or other copyrights that apply. Pixabay images are free but there is an option for you to make a donation to the creator.

4. Unsplash

With more than half a million high-resolution images, Unsplash offers a good variety, especially of landscapes. You may use the images for commercial purposes and without having to give attribution to the photographer or to Unsplash, although credit is always appreciated. You may also modify the images as you wish.

5. NegativeSpace

Like most of the best free stock photo sites, NegativeSpace is still growing and adding new images every week. The images tend to be arty, which makes them a great choice for covers. All NegativeSpace images are licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0), so you can use them for commercial purposes. You may also modify them and use them without having to attribute the photographer.

#Bookcover images: don’t know where to start? Here are some great #stockimage sites for #indieauthors #iartg #asmrg

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6. StockSnap

StockSnap has their huge variety of photographs organized into more than 150 different categories to make your search easier. All images on StockSnap are licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CCO). You can use them for commercial purposes, modify them and don’t need to attribute the photographer. However, you can’t imply that the people in the images are endorsing your book or your ideas unless you have their permission.

7. Stokpic

Stokpic is one of the smaller stock photography sites run by just one photographer: Ed Gregory, in this case. Ed created his own licence rather than using any of the Creative Commons licences. However, his photographs are free and may be used for commercial purposes. If you subscribe to his site, he will send you 10 new photographs every two weeks. There are different categories, although the selection leans heavily towards travel and landscapes.

8. SplitShire

SplitShire provides free, high-resolution photographs, illustrations and vector graphics created by photographer Daniel Nanescu over a career of more than a decade. The selection isn’t huge but the images are very high quality. You may use them for commercial purposes. However, Daniel won’t allow you to use his work for any projects that promote violence, racism, or discrimination.

9. Rawpixel

Rawpixel has a good selection of photographs, vector images and illustrations, including historic illustrations that are now in the public domain. There are basically two categories of licensing: free images licensed under Creative Commons Zero (CC0) and Premium images that are available if you have a Premium Membership plan. There are better selections of free stock photographs out there but if you’re looking for illustrations of specific plants or animals, Rawpixel is a good place to start.


PhotoPin isn’t a stock image site as much as it’s a helpful search tool. You can use it to search for high-quality Creative Commons images on Flickr. This will significantly reduce the headache of sorting through all the great and not-so-great images you can find on the mother of all free stock image sites. Keep in mind though that images on Flickr may have different Creative Commons licences. Before you use a picture you found through PhotoPin, check the licensing agreement.

A Note About Creative Commons

While these stock image sites for indie authors may provide opportunities to use the images for free, or virtually free, we advocate support for another indie creative. If you do choose to use a photo under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, consider giving the photographer at least credit for using his/her photo, or, if you can, a small donation.

The image we're using as the thumbnail image for this blog, and all the accompanying social media posts, comes to us from Pexel and a wonderful photographer named Anthony. Anthony, you take beautiful pictures. 🙂 

Click here for a blog article about book cover design. And here for a blog article about using artwork in your book.

Whether you're looking for images to use in and on your book, or images to use in social media or marketing materials, it's awesome to know you've got sources for high quality, unique, and often FREE images. Do you know of a great site we should add to our list of stock image sites for indie authors? Love to hear about it in the comments below.

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