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Pretty much any image you see on the Internet can be subject to copyrights. Copyrights mean that you are not allowed to use, redistribute, share or modify the image in any commercial or non-commercial activity unless stated as such by the copyright owner.

This can be an issue for example if you are looking for some stock images or free stock videos to use in your website or blog, or your project or software, or many other cases where you need to use images that do not belong to you. For this, you need what’s commonly known as open source images, or royalty-free images.

Open source images are images that are licensed under one of the open source licenses, such as Creative Commons and other licenses. Those images do allow you to use them in any commercial or non-commercial activities as long as you obey the license terms (e.g. some of them will require you to attribute the image owner, while others won’t). As a result, you’ll be able to use those images wherever you wish.

Royalty-free images are not the same as open-source images, as they have some other restrictions on the images. But in general, they still allow you to use them in any commercial or non-commercial activity, or modify them, without attributing the author or having to obtain a license.

In addition, you can easily add a solid safety measure for detecting copyright infringement in your app using a file upload service that has an image recognition API. Such a service allows you to make an API call that will tell you the copyright details of an image, letting you protect both your product and your users.

In today’s article, we’ll introduce some image hosting platforms that can provide you with open source and royalty-free images.

Open Source Images Websites & Services

1. Unsplash

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Unsplash is one of the best sources to get open source images. Every single image uploaded to Unsplash is an image that you can use in any activity you want regardless of it being commercial or not:

All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free. You can use them for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not need to ask permission from or provide credit to the photographer or Unsplash, although it is appreciated when possible.

Images on Unsplash are divided into categories. You may browse those categories till you get the image you want or simply use the built-in search engine to find images using a specific keyword you are looking for. If you are specifically looking for wallpapers, then Unsplash provides a special page for those images.

What’s special about Unsplash, is that it also provides an API for developers that allows them to access the uploaded images programmatically any time they want. The API is well-documented and maintained.

Unsplash provides images in large full size like 3562 × 4987, and does not  provide them in any different sizes, so just make sure that you resize the image and re-export it later as a JPG or JPEG in order to save around 90% of the image size.

2. StockSnap

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All images uploaded to StockSnap are licensed under CC0, which is a public domain license. This gives you an unlimited usage possibilities for hundreds of high-quality images uploaded to StockSnap.

Like any other images website, you can reach the images you are looking for by searching for a specific keyword in the search box or by browsing the available categories. StockSnap hands you the images in full size (There’s no option to download them in some custom size), so just like Unsplash images, make sure you process them before you use them in your project.

3. Pixabay

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Pixabay is one of the most famous places to get royalty-free images. Images uploaded to Pixabay are not specifically open source (as they are not clearly licensed under an open source license), but they are royalty-free, which means you can use them for any commercial/non-commercial activity, modify them or use them in your work however you like. The only exception to that is that you are not allowed to sell the exact same unmodified image, or redistribute it on other image hosting platforms. Except for those mentioned cases (in the license page), images on Pixabay could’ve been considered fully open source.

Pixabay has other sections for Vectors, which are SVG files that can also be used royalty-free, and illustrations, which are simple drawing stock images, and Videos which are royalty-free short stock videos.

One drawback to Pixabay could be that it requires you to sign up and login in order to download full-sized images or source files. Creating an account is totally free and takes less than 10 seconds, but can be still inconvenient in the long run.

The platform currently hosts more than 1 million pieces of royalty-free files. It’s available on both Google Play and iTunes stores as a mobile app.

4. Pexels

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Another royalty-free image platform. Pexels is exactly like Pixabay in terms of the license, so you can use the images however you like with some exceptions like selling unmodified exact copies of the same image.

Pexels allows you to download images in many predefined sizes, the original image size, or even a custom size you choose by yourself. All without having to sign up or login. You can also view images by color, which would display all images with that dominating color that you selected.

Pexels also offers a stock videos section.

5. Flickr’s Search

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Flickr may be the most famous image-sharing platform ever. It was launched in 2004 and later acquired by Yahoo! in 2005 and many other companies later. It’s the social network of images.

Flickr has all the types of images you want, but images uploaded to Flickr by default are neither open source nor royalty-free; They are copyrighted to their authors, which would prevent you from using them in your work. However, Flickr has a built-in custom search that allows you to search for images released under a specific license, and you can use this feature to search for Creative Commons images or other royalty-free images.

Despite being not actually made to host open source/royalty-free images, Flickr can still be a huge source of open source images. Currently, the website hosts around 750,000 images licensed under the Creative Commons license, and a total of +1.2 million images under the public domain.

6. Public Domain Pictures

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As the name suggests, this platform hosts images that fall squarely within the public domain. This ensures that users can seamlessly integrate these visuals into their projects, be they personal or commercial, without grappling with the constraints of copyright.

From breathtaking landscapes to intricate patterns, Public Domain Pictures offers a diverse range of photos. While the vast majority of these are royalty-free, it’s prudent to double-check specific licensing details for each image to ensure its intended use aligns with the provided rights.

The website offers two choices to download images:

  • A premium download with a very high resolution (like 6000×4000 or around these numbers). Usually, an image in this option costs around $0.05-0.10, quite cheap!
  • A free download with a normal resolution (like 1920×1080).

The premium download option is apparently what drives most of the revenue of the platform, and it is important so that photographers can earn their living and continue providing royalty-free images.

7. ISO Republic

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ISO Republic is yet another website that offers royalty-free images. All pictures on the website are licensed under the CC0 license.

The website does not just include open source images, but also royality-free stock videos in different resolutions that can be used for any purpose. The design of the website is clean and slick, so you won’t have a tough time navigating through it.

Apparently, there is a newsletter form at the footer of that site that allows you to subscribe to the latest uploaded images and videos to the site so that you can directly receive them in your inbox. A rare feature for a website of its type.

8. Burst by Shopify

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Burst emerges as a frontrunner in offering high-resolution images tailored to the entrepreneurial spirit. It was created by Shopify; the famous online dropshipping platform so that store owners can have useful stock images for their needs.

Designed with online businesses in mind, Burst provides a medley of photos, ranging from product shots to lifestyle images, ensuring that every online store and advertisement finds its perfect visual match.

Every image on Burt is either categorized under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, granting users the freedom to utilize them for both personal and commercial endeavors without necessitating attribution, or under a license that just prohibits re-uploading the picture on another stock image site or selling it as it is in standalone. Other types of usage are allowed.


We have seen so far many places to get open source or royalty-free images. As we explained earlier, those images are quite necessary if you are working on project/website where you need to have some images displayed. Keep in mind that you should avoid using copyrighted images/materials at all costs, as the law in most modern countries around the world does not allow you to do that.

If you plan to use one of these images in e.g. a website you developed or a YouTube video you prepared, then you can go for it. You may want to keep in mind that you should find out the best time to post on YouTube or other platforms if you want to get attraction to the work you have developed with these images.

If you have any other similar platform to what we have mentioned, we would like to know about them in the comments below.

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