Guide: Eight free image databases for free photos from the Web

Are you looking for free image material for your website, blog, or social media post? Our guide gives you an overview of the best free image databases along with some commercial alternatives.

Get high-quality image material with free image databases.
Image: © / Adobe Stock
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Find the perfect eye-catcher for your content

Content without photos or illustrations is like forgetting to season your food. Your readers, visitors, and followers aren’t looking for boring content; they want professional, vibrant material that inspires and encourages them to interact with your company. High-quality image material is more than simply a decorative frame for the written word. As well as breaking up the words on the page, it acts as a visual support, reinforces your arguments, elicits emotions, and conveys moods and useful additional information – and all that at just a glance.

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Online image agencies provide a high-quality selection of visual content

But it’s pretty rare to find a suitable photo in your own portfolio, and the image that you’re looking for doesn’t often simply fall into your lap. And commissioning a professional photographer involves additional expense and time, to say nothing of the related costs.

Online image agencies (also known as stock agencies) are a convenient solution to the problem, as they have a huge selection of high-quality photos, illustrations, and vector graphics. The best-known commercial stock agencies include:

  • Shutterstock
  • Getty Images
  • iStock
  • Adobe Stock (formerly Fotolia)

The price a stock agency will charge you to use the image material you choose depends on a number of factors, such as

  • the pricing models of the platforms (one-time payment or subscription),
  • the image type,
  • the desired resolution,
  • the purpose you intend to use it for (commercial/non-commercial).

At Shutterstock, for example, an annual package will give you ten images a month for 29 euros, while Getty Images charges up to 475 euros each for high-resolution images and videos.

Free image databases: an affordable alternative

But you aren’t always restricted to using purchased images. As well as the online paid services mentioned above, it can also be worth it to search free image databases – such as Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels – that offer license-free photos. From professional nature photos and realistic images from daily working and office life to impressive architectural photos and creative symbolic images, there are now dozens of free image databases on the market that offer an extensive portfolio of free stock photos, images, videos, etc.

Tip: Our compact guide takes a closer look at the following free image databases, where you are guaranteed to find what you’re looking for:

  • Unsplash
  • Pixabay
  • Pexels
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Picjumbo
  • Pixelio
  • Gratisography
  • KaboomPics
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Even no-cost and license-free images are often subject to exact specifications

Just because you can download a no-cost and license-free image from a free image database doesn’t automatically mean that you can also simply publish that image for your own purposes, or do whatever you want with it. That is a dangerous misconception which, in a worst-case scenario, can result in expensive warning letters if you infringe on a copyright.

First of all, “license-free” is not the same as “free of charge”. You can also download license-free photos from Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, for example, where you do have to pay a charge. In actuality, license-free images usually come with a practically unlimited and indefinite right of use. What you do need, however, is to purchase the relevant image license that gives you permission to use them (there are no charges for license-free and free images). This also means that, in many cases, you will also have to credit the sources, creator, and even the image licenses that have been lodged when you use the images. When you publish images, you should therefore always be familiar with the specific conditions of use from all the image databases you utilize, and make sure to strictly adhere to them.

DMEXCO guide featuring a practical overview of free image databases

Free image databases are a simple, convenient, and affordable source of high-quality image material for many different topics, allowing you to effectively enhance your content. But there are significant differences between individual providers when it comes to the range, choice, quality, and conditions of use. Our free guide reveals what you can expect from these image databases and which providers are most likely to have the image material that you’re looking for. We also look at four recommended online image agencies and their pricing models in more detail, and explain what you need to remember when using the images.

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