Having beautiful imagery is an extremely important part of keeping your nonprofit or NPO website both inviting and professional. The easiest way to accomplish this is by purchasing stock photos, but this can be extremely expensive and also confusing, as stock photo licensing is often not very clear regarding where and how long you can use the photos you have purchased. On top of that, using stock photos incorrectly can lead to extensive fines that can easily make a negative impact on the budget of any organization. Luckily, we’re here to help you find free stock photos for nonprofits that look amazing, won’t break the bank and won’t get you into trouble with the copyright police.
The Solution for Free Stock Photos for Nonprofits
Fortunately for nonprofits looking for high-quality, free stock photos there are now a number of websites that offer beautiful photography licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (or similar) licenses. These sites allow photographers to upload their photos to be used for (almost) any purpose, without licensing or fees. Many of the photographers on these sites are professionals looking to make additional contacts or talented amateurs that just love sharing their photos. This means the quality of photos is generally extremely high, and the selection of photos can be extensive, depending on your needs.
Outlined below are our top five sites offering free stock photos for nonprofits:
Founded in 2013 as a tumblr blog that posted free photos for people to use, Unsplash has grown into a one of the largest free photos sites on the internet. With over two million contributed photos as of last year from hundreds of thousands of contributors, Unsplash is a great first stop when you are looking for photos for your website, social media or marketing campaign. Unsplash goes further than featuring their own images though, by incorporating images from The Library of Congress, the British Library, the Boston Public library, the National Cancer Institute and many other organizations, with all images being licensed under the “Unsplash License”. This allows you to download and use all images on their site for free, for commercial or non-commercial use, without permission or attribution of the original creator.
Pexels was founded in 2014 and has since grown to include a library of “hundreds of thousands” of photos, according to their website. One feature that helps Pexels stand out from their competition is the inclusion of free videos on their website as well, perfect for using as B-roll in your own video campaigns. Like Unsplash, Pexels has its own license that again allows you to use the content for commercial and non-commercial use without attribution. They do include a few additional details, including not using “…identifiable people may not appear in a bad light or in a way that is offensive.” and also ask that you “…don’t imply endorsement of your product by people or brands on the image.”
Pixabay was founded in 2010 as “a vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright-free images, videos and music”. In 2018, they were purchased by the online graphic design platform Canva. Although Pexels may not have the widest or deepest set of images, their inclusion of music makes them a very attractive offering if you are looking for music for a video or podcast. Originally all images on the site were Creative Commons 0 licensed, but after being purchased by Canva they moved to their own Pixabay license.
All images at StockSnap are licensed under the Creative Commons 0 license, which means you can:
- Download the image file
- Publish, revise, copy, alter, and share that image
- Use the image (as-is or as you’ve altered it), in both personal and commercial contexts
While the “brand” licenses that other free stock photos sites use are generally relatively unrestrictive, the Creative Commons 0 license really does allow you to do almost anything with the photo.
Stockpic started as a single photographer named Ed Gregory who wanted to share his photography with the world and has evolved into a site full of photos from many different photographers. Although their library of images might be small, the quality of the photos if they have what you are looking for is quite high. Like most sites mentioned, they do have their own license as well. One thing to note is that the Stockpic site is very advertising-heavy, so be careful what you click on.
Although Dreamstime is primarily a paid stock photo site, they do maintain a library of over 1.2 million Creative Commons 0 and Public Domain images that you can search. Pulled from a variety of sources, it might take some searching to find exactly what you are looking for, but there are some very interesting and historic photos in the collection.