7 Libraries Of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free

Free Photo Libraries

‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, so the adage goes, and there’s no doubt about the power of a beautiful photograph for drawing attention to your books.

Hidden on the internet is a collection of astounding images, and they’re free to use.  So I’ve collated the seven best free libraries and listed them for you below – the same ones that I personally use almost every day.

But first, let’s look at some of the best ways authors can use these free photos…

3 Ways To Use Photographs To Attract Attention To Your Books:

1.  Vividly Illuminate Your Blog Posts

Author Blog Dramatize the messages in your blog posts with images that grab the attention of ‘passers-by’ who wouldn’t normally stop to read them.

It’s the same reason I used an eye-catching photograph of a camera for this blog post.  I wanted to underscore that it’s all about the power of the photograph.

Note: The ‘W’ symbol stands for WordPress – my #1 recommended blogging system.

2.  Attract Attention On Twitter and Facebook

Social MediaPhotographs are an ‘accelerant’ – a spark that can help to ignite word-of-mouth recommendation for your work.   

By adding a striking and relevant image to your Tweets or Facebook posts, you’ll increase the interest you generate.  Your posts will be retweeted more often on Twitter, and shared more widely on Facebook.


3.  Create A Book Cover That Sells

TcameraCOVER-truth is, I recommend having a professional designer create your book covers.  See my blog post: ‘The Billboard That Can Make Or Break Your Book’s Success.’

But when cost is a factor, and you have to do it yourself, there’s no need to scratch around for an image.

By searching through this collection of sites with an idea in mind, you’ll come across the image you need.

The 7 Photo Libraries – A Free Image Resource For Authors

All seven libraries offer free, professionally Photoshop-enhanced photography, mixed in with more with everyday shots.  Some require registration (free), but it’s more than worth it.  Most of them also offer paid images, which can be tempting, since they reserve the highest quality images for paying customers, so be careful what you choose.

1. FreeImages.com


The first and largest free stock-photo site online.  Easy to navigate with over 350,000 images, contributed by 30,000 photographers.  This photograph is typical of the high impact imagery available at no cost:

SXC Eagle

Photograph by ‘doc’ Sias van Schalkwyk.   FreeImages.com

2. Photl.com  


Offers excellent quality images. Photographs professionally shot for the most part.  Most of the photographs are also unique to Photl.   This beautiful high-res photo of a fashion model with her extravagant hat is an example from the ‘hats’ category:


3. Pixabay Images 


Outstanding high quality images. Great selection, with excellent site navigation.  The number of photographs is not as great as some libraries, but the quality is often sensational.  So I’ve featured two examples from Pixabay:




4.MorgueFile Free Photos


Morguefile is a gorgeous photo library chock full of sumptuous images – all contributed by creatives, for use by creatives.  The library offers a huge number of photographs all of high resolution.   For best results, use several terms to search.   A perfect example of the quality at Morgue Library is this Venetian Mask:

Morgue Venetian Mask

5. Free Range Stock


Virtually every image on this site is meticulously color sharpened by professional photographers.  Not quite as large a collection as other sites, but easily made up for by the sheer quality of the images.    The quality is immediately apparent in this color-adjusted cheese board setting:

Free Range Cheese

Photograph by Geoffrey Whiteway.  FreeRangeStock.com 

6. RGB Free Stock Photos


RGB Free Stock has an extremely user-friendly interface.  A huge number of dynamic photographs, most at a highly professional level.   This ‘splash’ photograph displays the style and power of RGB’s imagery:

RGB Photo 'Splash'

Photograph by Lusi (Sanja Gjenero) RGBStock.com

7. Dreamstime Free Images


This large library has many high-quality photographs, and was pointed out to me recently on Twitter by indie author Laura Cummings.

Dreamstime Fruit

Photograph © Pamela Hodson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

OK. I’ve just discovered yet another good library:

8. (Bonus library!) Free Stock Photos


This library has only 15,000 images, but there are some gems to discover – such as this tiger.

Tiger Free-stock-photos

Remember… they’re all free to use.  Most authors are not aware of the amazing shots waiting to go to work for them.  So do bookmark this page, and next time you’re communicating on your blog or in social media use an image.

What about Google Images?

It’s important to avoid using images taken directly from a ‘Google Images’ search.

Most of them will have copyright attached, and belong to someone.   The bottom line is if you see an image on Google you definitely want to use, then track down the owner and ask first.  Even better, use a free image from one of the libraries listed here.

Reminder: Don’t forget to bookmark this page!

Remember also to ALWAYS check the user conditions of each of these libraries.  Some have very narrow restrictions on use.   Most are quite straight-forward.

Are you using photographs to illuminate your blog posts?  Do you have any other favorite free photo libraries?  Please do leave a comment below.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / CEO Bestseller Labs


Notice: This article is copyrighted material. Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Jonathan Gunson at BestsellerLabs.com

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  • January 24, 2013 at 10:35am

    That’s a fantastic and really useful list, so thank you very much for compiling it – and even more for sharing it! I already use morguefile regularly and also rgbstock which isn’t on your list.
    I’m a former Journalist, now working freelance on a variety of projects. One of these is to create newsletters for a local veterinary practice and although I use a lot of my own photographs, I often spend hours searching for just the right shot.
    This list will be invaluable!

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    January 24, 2013 at 10:56am

    RGB Stock has some extraordinarily beautiful pics and I’ve used the site frequently over a long period. So on reflection I’ve updated the post to include it. Thank you.
    ~ Jonathan

  • January 24, 2013 at 11:03am

    What a great range of photos. Thank you

  • January 24, 2013 at 11:04am

    Thanks for this list Jonathan! Too many people out there put up photos on their blogs without thinking of the copyright issues for the picture owners, so this is an excellent selection of resources for brightening up websites legitimately.

  • January 24, 2013 at 11:05am

    Thank you so much for this – had been struggling with imagery and very grateful for this share. I have used Fotolia, which is reasonable, but you do have to pay. Do you know Jonathan what the copyright issues are on displaying images/video clips of famous people? I see this on a lot of blogs – eg music videos etc. I guess where it comes from a qualified source and allows you to share or embed, it’s okay? Any guidance would be much appreciated.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 24, 2013 at 10:41pm

      Use of celebrity photographs can be a thorny, complicated issue. The paparazzi see the folks walking the red carpet as fair game, since they are all ‘hot news’. But when it comes to using individual photographs, who actually owns the copyright? This is of pivotal importance. i.e. Who actually took the shot? Does the photographer own it or their agency or employer?

      Equally importantly, it’s not legal to use a celebrity photograph to appear in any way to endorse a product or service without their permission. The bottom line is in all instances it’s best to consult a copyright lawyer about a celebrity image before using it in your work.

      ~ Jonathan

      • February 13, 2013 at 11:05am

        Apologies for belated thank you, but you have confirmed my own caution here! I think in some cases it’s obvious where a video clip has been designed specifically for sharing in the hope it will go viral. Where this is not obvious (ie you are not encouraged to share from the source point) you should leave well alone or simply provide a link to direct people. With photos, I have tended to steer clear altogether. I can appreciate entirely the copyright issues – why should we help ourselves to creative output without permission? Hence the generosity of your share here re: free libraries! And good added value from comments about legal issues too. Many thanks to everyone.

  • January 24, 2013 at 11:10am

    Hi jonathan,

    These look fabulous!! Thank you. All I need know is to work out how to attach a photo to a tweet – and how to use them on my blog – having a few technical problems there…

    Now off to do some writing / editing before I get thoroughly distracted. Treat to myself when I’ve done enough work is to browse these sites!!


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 25, 2013 at 1:34am

      On Twitter under the ‘Compose new Tweet…’ text panel, there is an pale grey icon of a camera. (You’ll need to click inside the panel to see it.)
      Click on the camera icon upload a photo to a Tweet – then add words. Twitter make it easy.
      ~ Jonathan

  • AdrijusG says:
    January 24, 2013 at 11:20am

    Flickr search Creative Commons with Attribution Licence is also an option. Some great pictures there. Or Deviantart.com and some of stock photos there are available free, but you have to go through more sifting to find them.

    Great collection tho, didn’t know few of these, thank you ! 😉

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 24, 2013 at 9:35pm

      Adrijus. I see you design book covers. I was so taken with some of your designs e.g. Amelia Lost, that I felt compelled to include a link to your work: http://www.rockingbookcovers.com/book-cover-design/20-beautiful-non-fiction-covers/
      Re Photo libraries: True enough re Flickr. I considered including it along with Wikimedia, even Photobucket, and about 10 others. These 7 are simply the ones I find easiest to use and that I keep coming back to.
      ~ Jonathan

      • AdrijusG says:
        January 24, 2013 at 9:49pm

        Jonathan, those in the post aren’t mine, those are a collection of some great ones I’ve found online to inspire ideas for Authors who need covers. :)

        Good to see you posting more on this blog, by the way, there was some period with no updates. Always like checking out this blog as it’s one of the good ones around!

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          January 25, 2013 at 1:38am

          Derek. Correct. I went through a period of updating ‘Twitter For Authors’ and finalising our plan for the site. All done. Will be blogging from now on regularly. ~ Jonathan

  • January 24, 2013 at 12:57pm

    Thanks, Jonathan! I’ve been struggling to find quality photos and once again, you’re right there with the answers. Gotta love Bestseller Labs!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 24, 2013 at 9:19pm

      Thank you!

  • January 24, 2013 at 1:11pm

    Thank you for this page!
    Great information–I am eternally on the lookout for usable pix and art.
    Much appreciated.
    Great cover on Merlin by the way…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 24, 2013 at 9:19pm

      Penelope Re the ‘Merlin Book’ The idea was to make the book a ‘desirable object’ – akin to Merlin’s gold silver and crystal wand itself. ~ Jonathan

  • Diane says:
    January 24, 2013 at 2:07pm

    Thanks for a great resource I can use for a variety of projects!

  • Jessica says:
    January 24, 2013 at 2:57pm

    This is an incredibly useful resource. Thank you.

  • January 24, 2013 at 3:57pm

    I found your information of great interest. I have been writing for several years, but, have had little success in selling my work in useful numbers. With two novels, two autobiographical works and a series of children’s stories, I had hoped for more sales. thanks for your information.

  • Jeff Olah says:
    January 24, 2013 at 4:29pm

    Jonathan –

    Thanks for the information.

    Great post as usual and awesome resources. I will make sure to bookmark.

    Recently I started creating my own images with a few free apps on my iPad. I even did all the work for my first cover and I have received good feedback on it.

    I’ll email you once the book is up on amazon as I don’t want to detract from this invaluable information.

    Once again, thanks for all you do here. I have learned more from the short time of being subscribed here than in years of doing this on my own.

    Take care


  • January 24, 2013 at 5:15pm

    Thanks very much. An excellent collection and resource.

  • January 24, 2013 at 5:35pm

    Thanks so much for this great collection, I can’t wit to check them out! I have been using wylio.com with fine results.

  • January 24, 2013 at 5:36pm

    I just discovered MorgueFile a couple weeks ago. I am certainly interested in the others as well.

    I use as many of my own photos as I can, but there certainly are times when some better choices can be made.

    thanks for the info.

  • Sandra says:
    January 24, 2013 at 5:46pm

    I’ve only used sxc, so this list is great. Thanks Jonathan!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 24, 2013 at 9:14pm

      There’s actually a whole stack more Sandra. e.g. Wikimedia Commons has an absolutely gigantic range. But it’s not so easy to find perfect shots there. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
      I’ve found the ones in the post here the simplest to use, with a large number of the photos having great photoshop enhancements.
      ~ Jonathan

  • January 24, 2013 at 6:18pm

    Nice! Thanks for sharing, Jonathan!

  • January 24, 2013 at 6:41pm

    Great post. Thanks so much. These photos are fantastic, excellent resources.

  • January 24, 2013 at 7:27pm

    […] via BestsellerLabs: 7 Libraries Of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free. […]

  • January 24, 2013 at 11:06pm

    Jonathan, as always an excellent source of information. Would you do a similar post on where to source music from? For podcasts, book launch trailers and the like. Or perhaps just suggest a few here.

  • January 25, 2013 at 12:18am

    Thanks a lot for the list Jonathan. Useful!

  • January 25, 2013 at 12:22am

    Thanks for another great article. Admittedly, I can improve in my use of images to promote my work. I wasn’t aware of all of these resources, and will definitely bookmark them for future use.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 25, 2013 at 12:34am

      Bard, your noir ‘detective’ covers are outstanding. ~ Jonathan

      • January 25, 2013 at 12:38am

        Thanks a lot, Jonathan. I’ve been blessed with outstanding artistic partners, for whom I’m truly grateful.

  • January 25, 2013 at 5:43am

    […] Note re the photo: Because I ran out of time to take pics of the snake, the photo above is from Microsoft Clip Art (click on the pic for link).  For that site and a heap of other free photo sites, check out Jonathan Gunson’s blog post on the subject. […]

  • January 25, 2013 at 8:24pm

    Thank you so much! You are always a source of wonderful ideas and links!

  • January 26, 2013 at 3:15pm

    […] 7 Libraries Of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free | Bestseller Labs […]

  • January 27, 2013 at 2:42am

    A very timely article and reference list Jonathan, thank you. I’m not at the stage of needing a title design just yet but the list will be most helpful for blog posts and other online activities. Thanks, John.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 27, 2013 at 3:37am

      John. These photographic libaries are particularly good for author blogging. A broad variety of quite extraordinary images. I don’t think most bloggers are aware of how an image can completely alter the initial impression of a blog post. Ulimately it’s the written content that counts of course, but the right orchestration of word and image can set it all alight. ~ Jonathan

  • E J Gill says:
    January 27, 2013 at 12:08pm

    Well done Jonathan – yet another useful post. You are a true professional!

  • January 28, 2013 at 12:03pm

    […] 7 Libraries of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free by Johnathan Gunson at BestSellerLabs. Primp those blogs! […]

  • Elizabeth says:
    January 29, 2013 at 9:54pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post and for sharing the links.

  • January 30, 2013 at 12:54am

    Jonathan, thanks for sharing these great resources. I use a lot of my own photography, but it’s so great to know there are sources to go to for free photography while honoring the photographer’s rights. It’s great to have these links.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 30, 2013 at 1:34am

      These photo libraries certainly are a time saver Elissa. By shooting it yourself you get what you want, but … oh the work. ~ Jonathan

  • January 30, 2013 at 5:44am

    Wow, this is really great! Never knew that all of this was available.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 30, 2013 at 6:02am

      Welcome to ‘Planet Picture’ Melissa. ~ Jonathan

  • January 30, 2013 at 4:14pm

    Grrreat resources, Jonathan, bookmarked all of them !
    Since I’m doing a lot of designing, I’m alwaysss looking for images.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 30, 2013 at 8:26pm

      Always look forward to your voice and intriguing avatar here Dorian. ~ Jonathan

  • January 30, 2013 at 4:56pm

    I can not thank you enough for this list. I was afraid to use images on my blog as I thought you had to pay for everything. I use some of my own photos. But these images will lift any post i do from now on and give it a bit of omph !
    When you say Bookmark do you mean add it to my favourites list ?
    Thanks again Jonathon

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 30, 2013 at 8:25pm

      Mary. Yes, add to your favourites. Note: Read the photo site conditions re attribution in each case. Some require the photographer to be mentioned with the picture, some don’t.
      ~ Jonathan

  • February 5, 2013 at 10:17pm

    Great info, Jonathan. Thanks so much!

  • […] 7 Libraries Of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free by Jonathan Gunson […]

  • February 8, 2013 at 4:24pm

    Very useful Jonathan – as your blogposts usually are.
    I do use Flickr too – by doing an advanced search you can specify Creative Commons and so select usable images.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 8, 2013 at 10:43pm

      Handy hint thanks KML. ~ Jonathan

  • February 9, 2013 at 10:40am

    Thanks so much for these free photo sites. I have been trying in vain to find something for my covers which are grim. Can’t afford professional ones at the moment like so many newbies. I look forward to exploring these sites.

  • E.S. Ivy says:
    February 9, 2013 at 2:58pm

    Of all things, I have found it extremely hard to find photos of a tiara I could use legally, and unfortunately I just don’t have any diamond tiaras laying around so I could take my own photo. 😉

    Thanks for all the resources!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 10, 2013 at 12:00am

      E.S.I Sometimes with objects as precise as a Tiara, the free libraries have trouble putting up photos, because the free photos usually look as good as the paid ones! But hunt around – you’ll find something. ~ Jonathan

  • February 10, 2013 at 9:43pm

    Keep in mind that Microsoft Image Gallery has a lot of restrictions with their photo usage. Such as you are not allowed to use them in a book for illustrations or as part of a logo. When it comes to any “free” stock photography provider, always check the fine print for each and every image you use. There’s a big different between “personal” use and “commercial” (like in a book cover). Plus there may be limits as to how long you are allowed to use it.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 10, 2013 at 11:20pm

      Very helpful. I did point out that users should always check the conditions of use on each site, but this underscores the importance of this very lucidly thank you.
      ~ Jonathan

  • […] 7 Free Photo Libraries in answer to the permissions and legalities schtuff […]

  • […] image courtesy of pixelstar on stock.xchng http://bestsellerlabs.com/7-free-photo-libraries/ […]

  • March 7, 2013 at 7:34pm

    […] 7 Libraries Of Sensational Photographs You Can Use For Free […]

  • […] “Jonathon Gunson, Best Sellers Lab, offers a list of alternative sites and includes beautiful examples of the types of photos you can use here. […]

  • […] Gunson of Bestseller Labs posted an excellent article with eight sources of free images that are second-to-none in terms of quality. Whenever possible, […]

  • August 1, 2013 at 12:50am

    Great information thank you!

  • August 21, 2013 at 12:38am

    Thanks Jonathan. I’m amazed at the amount of useful information you provide. I already read your book on “Twitter For Authors,” and when I catch my breath I may try your blogging book too. The only problem I have is trying to actually use all the good advice you offer.

  • Michael Fox says:
    August 27, 2013 at 7:52pm

    Great article. I’ve used images from Stock.xchnge & RGB Free, but wasn’t aware of the others. I’ll add them to my resource list.

    Here’s a somewhat off-topic question: How would you attribute photo credit for a book cover using extracts from three different images? Would it be most correct to list all three photographers in your front matter? Is it necessary to indicate the book cover was created using bits of three images from three seperate photographers?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 28, 2013 at 1:31am

      It’s always prudent to get permission / give credit to any and all originators of copyright material. Using bits does not lesson the need.

  • Mirel says:
    October 2, 2013 at 12:15am

    Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but I entered all the sites, and almost all of them wanted to charge money…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      October 2, 2013 at 1:06am

      You’re probably looking in the wrong part of the sites. You need to have your wits about you, because they are clever at quickly directing you to the paid parts. Some have both free and paid photos on the same page, and you can easily mistake one for the other. Plus, one of the sites – Dreamstime – has been updated recently and the free part is very hard to find. But check out http://Morguefile.com that is definitely free as is the Microsoft site – http://office.microsoft.com/en-nz/images/ and http://www.sxc.hu/ site for starters.

      • Mirel says:
        October 2, 2013 at 4:54am

        Thanks, I’ll try again.

  • Wagner says:
    October 24, 2013 at 1:29am

    Thank you for the great list Jonathan. Please check out this another great alternative for free stock photos


  • jane says:
    November 7, 2013 at 10:30am

    Hi Jonathan
    Great article!

    Can I actually use the royalty-free images downloaded from your site for my book ready for publishing? e-publish and print copies.

    Can I use them for free??


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      January 15, 2014 at 4:34am

      You need to get any images yourself from the libraries, not directly from my site.
      ~ Jonathan

  • December 9, 2013 at 10:51pm
  • Sol Id says:
    February 7, 2014 at 9:32pm

    I second that admonition to, “avoid using images taken directly from a ‘Google Images’ search.” Too many times I have watched a marketing tutorial where the author says something like, “Just grab some images from Google and use them yada yada.” I usually stop watching at that point and make a mental note not to buy anything from that marketer.

    Bing also has image search, *and* they also have the capability to filter the images by license, ie. public domain, free to use and share, etc. Which is very handy for the rights-conscious. However, I do wonder about the accuracy of Bing’s determination of a particular grahic’s license.

    Thanks for the great list of free sources!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 8, 2014 at 10:53pm

      You’re welcome.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Pai says:
    February 18, 2014 at 6:03am

    Hi Jonathan,

    Do you know if using stock photos is an acceptable industry standard for the cookbook industry? Not for the actual recipes, of course those must be photos of the actual recipe, but for more generic things in the narrative part of the book. Thanks very much!

  • March 25, 2014 at 5:00pm

    thanks so much for this list! I love to put beautiful pics with my posts but am always running into the copyright issue. This is great!

  • Bob says:
    May 9, 2014 at 3:25am

    You should also check out http://www.goodfreephotos.com and http://www.pixabay.com for thousands more public domain photos.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 9, 2014 at 4:47am

      Thanks Bob
      I’ll replace Microsoft images (almost impossible to use) with Pixabay.
      ~ Jonathan

  • May 22, 2014 at 2:58pm

    Thank you, Jonathan! Bookmarking this list for definite use in the near future. I use my own photographs most of the time, but sometimes I need a photo that just can’t be acquired locally. This list is a treasure. (I like your comment that “photographs are an ‘accelerant’ …” So true!)

    ~ Angela

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      May 22, 2014 at 9:58pm

      It appears that over 75% of interactions on Facebook are generated by photographs.

  • GiryaGirl says:
    June 5, 2014 at 5:46am

    Thanks so much for sharing, I’ve been looking for some stock images for eye catching posts and social media :)

  • Alex says:
    September 22, 2014 at 5:34pm