Free stock photography websites photographers must know, asap!

Free stock photography websites photographers must know, asap!

Free Stock Photography Websites Photographers Must Know asap

Free stock photography websites are popping up constantly now. Blog posts about where to get free high-resolution images are also massively popular around the internet (and they never mention ). I don't want to give you another long list of sites to search. Instead, I'm here to give you an important photographer edition.

In this post, I want to address something very important for many photographers that want to gain exposure, give back, contribute, and get more website traffic. Hang on long enough and you'll learn a massively important reason that you need to contribute to each of these free stock photography websites.

Free stock photography websites photographers need to know and contribute towards:

  1. Unsplash
  2. Pexels
  3. Pixabay

Each website is important if you're giving your photos for people to use as Creative Commons Zero – photographer or not. Think of these websites as if they are a directory for generous photographers. I'll give a little bit of an explanation for each of these free stock photography sites listed above:


As a former employee of Unsplash, I still believe is the cream of the crop. Unsplash is the reason you see so many people and companies starting to create these free stock photo libraries. It might only my opinion, but I believe every photographer should have a profile on Unsplash and contribute some photos from time to time. As a photographer, you don't have to give all of our photos for free usage; however, uploading a few from time to time can be a great use of content marketing for you.

With your profile on Unsplash, you can link back to your website or whatever you want to link to. In the last month, Unsplash is one of the top referring websites for me and this could grow as Unsplash grows and creates more opportunity for photo discovery.

For the longest time, Unsplash was the only website that I contributed my photography towards. I know most of the team and they are insanely hard-working, innovative, and brilliant. Plus they work out of the most beautiful workspace ever.

There are a great amount of features related to Unsplash that really benefits photographers in exposure, discoverability, and sharing. Unsplash Source makes it easy for you to post your photos because hot-linking is actually encouraged! I know, crazy cool. This allows you to seriously follow their stats recorded for your photos without trying to reinvent the wheel.

Much of the reason the Pineapple Supply Co. exists is because I created a weird pineapple profile on Unsplash!

Not to forget, Unsplash connects with amazing influencers to curate collections of photos every 10 days. If you're curated or featured, you'll gain great exposure through the website and their email newsletter that goes out too.

Pexels is a decent website for free photos. I don't know any stats related how much attention is on Pexels, but I don't believe any photographer should overlook contributing to Pexels. Even if you already contribute to Unsplash.

Like Unsplash, you can provide a blurb about yourself and add a link to your website.  Even though I am relatively a month into contributing to Pexels, the referral traffic is growing and could compete with Unsplash in time.

What I find rad about Pexels is their two Photographer Leaderboards: Monthly and All-Time Leaders in downloads. I have 2 accounts – 1 for pineapple and one for my other photography. These leaderboards provide some great exposure for you! Recently, I found myself at #1 for the rolling monthly leader in downloads and the pineapples account was #8. When it comes to the all-time leader, my personal account is at #9 and pineapples account is #80. I'm still slowly adding photos that are already on Unsplash.

Oddly enough, I'm seeing more users from Pexels contacting me directly than any other site.

As well, Pexels has a PayPal button on your profile for possible donations from users. Much to our surprise, we've received a few donations recently and we are very grateful. We never contributed for donations or expected any; however, they are definitely helpful.

Pixabay has a huge amount of photos in their free stock photography library. They accept photos and vectors. As well, they scrape (or add) photos from other free stock photo sites on their own. Like Pexels, I have no idea of what kind of attention is over on Pixabay; however, they have their own community too.

Pixabay differs from the other sites in a few of ways. One way Pixabay differs is in that people can drop comments on your free photos. Many people will say thank you. It's a way that you can connect with people that have probably downloaded and used your photo. The other way Pixabay differs is that they have a feature called “editors choice” and it's like a little medal on your profile. This is their way of curating especially great photos and bring you the most exposure. The last way that Pixabay differs is within a section called “quality rating” and you're able to give your opinion on photos recently submitted. Yeah, you can say if a photo is good enough for the site or now. I've had a few photos that have been good on Unsplash, be rejected on Pixabay. It's weird, but whatever.

Like Pexels and Unsplash, you're able to link back to your website.

Like Pexels, you're able to connect your PayPal account and a donation button is available on your profile and each photo page. It isn't listed as “donation” but listed as “coffee.” It's not super obvious with it listed as coffee, but it's pretty cool that it's on each photo page.

Pixabay also has some kind of ranking for contributors, but it's a bit different because it includes people contributing vectors and other images. I honestly have paid much of any attention toward it.

With the statistics page on Pixabay, you are given details on your photo views, downloads, likes, favorites, and comments. There is a nice looking graph for likes, favorites, and comments. You also are presented with your top photos for the previous month. The most popular photos for the previous month seems to be based on links, favorites, and comments – not downloads or views but they might be factored in somehow.  Just like the other sites, I'm impressed at the stats you get on your photos compared to some of these paid sites like Flickr & 500px.
[alert style=”note”] For photographers, now is really a time to pay attention. Especially if you already contribute to Unsplash! [/alert]

The importance of exposure and attribution

I love the Unsplash community and their dedication to photographer attribution even though the Creative Commons Zero license doesn't require any attribution. There is an issue that you might not be aware of yet, though. As a photographer, you might only trust your photos with Unsplash and believe they are the best in the game. I'd agree with you. What you might not know is that other free stock photography websites are scraping your Unsplash photos and putting them on their site for free download too. But there is a mega problem for you, in my opinion. You're not getting exposure or much of any attribution on these other websites.

Is this allowed? Totally.

People and companies are free to distribute these CC0 photos you've contributed to Unsplash. Even if you delete your photos from Unsplash, anyone that has the photo is still free to use and distribute it.  You'll find long deleted Unsplash photos on sites like Pixabay and Pexels still being distributed but you will have no clue about the photographer. The same is true if one of your photos was taken from Unsplash and put on Pexels or Pixabay.

On Pexels, your photo is shown for download and it does have a small note off to the site that says the source is Unsplash with a link to the photo page. There is a little bit of hope of the user finding you and actually providing proper attribution.

On Pixabay, they actually created a profile for Unsplash and over 9K photos are simply attributed to them. This could be why we see photos simply attributed to Unsplash around the web. I don't know, but there is no link or mention of the original photographer.

Browsing these sites, I had many of my Unsplash contributed photos available for download but nobody knew I took them.

Uploading beyond Unsplash only

If you take away anything from this post, this is it: You must be uploading beyond Unsplash only.

I decided to take action and get the exposure and attribution that I am entitled to from my photos.

With Pexels, I had to upload all the photos already on the site myself and they would fix the duplicates in their system and I still retained past statistics related to my photos. A large amount of time was put into doing this because of tagging photos being so important. Now people can come check out our pineapple website, connect, and even donate.

With Pixabay, I had to email a list of all the photo URLs to them and they would transfer the photos to my profile. It was a time-killer, but now users are now connecting with me. Legit, I had to search their website and gather the URLs for around 150 photos.

Now, any uploads to Unsplash also get uploaded to Pixabay and Pexels. I'm still working on adding my more already uploaded photos even though I may not run into this scraping issue on older photos.

If you've been seeing success and great metrics with your Unsplash photos, I definitely believe you should take the time to track down your images and do what I did to get the exposure and attribution you deserve. Who knows how many connections we're truly missing out on because of the lack of attribution.

Different strokes for different folks

Lastly, since finding and claiming my photos on these other free stock photography websites, I have really noticed the subjectivity of curators and users.

By a landslide, the majority of my photo downloads are on Unsplash. It's no contest. That said, some photos that don't see much success on Unsplash are super popular on Pixabay or Pexels. As an interesting example, check out this photo of the CN Tower in Toronto:

free stock photo of cn tower

In a month, this photo has been downloaded:

  • 97 times on Unsplash
  • 6400 times on Pixabay
  • 3 times on Pexels

As you can see, I would have never known that this photo would be downloaded so much on Pixabay. Different strokes for different folks! Some of your “unsplash duds” could be viral on other free stock photography websites.

What do you think?

Here at Pineapple Supply Co, we want to help businesses grow tall and golden like a pineapple. We believe that photographers (and any business), could benefit from the content marketing and exposure that free stock photography websites can bring.  Sadly, we can't make this process of claiming your photos or uploading photos to more than one site any easier.

Will you go and look at these sites and make use of the potential exposure and website traffic for your business?

If you're an Unsplash photographer, will you go take a look and take action to claim your own photos for your own profile?

You deserve the attribution for your work and the synchronicity that comes along with it.

Stay Golden!

Top featured photo by Koko Curio.

Scott Webb

Hi! I'm the guy behind Pineapple Supply Co.. I enjoy using the pineapple as a way to promote positivity and optimism! Most of the time, I'm working as an Architectural Photographer in London Ontario at Scott Webb Photography.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Uploaded all my current Unsplash images to Pexels and Pixabay will not be a fun experience. Thanks for the excellent article Scott.

    1. Scott Webb

      I know, the experience is unpleasant or unsettling; however, I think it’s important to have your images under your own name. As a possible side benefit, I’ve received multiple donations from members within the Pexels community since creating my profile.

  2. Hi Scott, thanks for this! I have only just starting contributing to Unsplash and wasn’t sure if I should add them to Pixabay or Pexels too – I was actually worried about doubling my pictures up and the companies not liking that! But your explanation really helped, and made me see that there is a chance they will get my photo anyway, just without me being attributed. So now I am on a mission 🙂 Thanks.

    1. Scott Webb

      I know Unsplash is trying to do something about those other sites scraping photos only uploaded to their site. No idea how that’s going or what’s involved. I just wanted mine attributed at the time but since uploading to multiple platforms, more people have discovered the photos. I think people are searching them all and sometimes one photo could be overlooked on Unsplash but featured on Pexels. I’ll admit that I’m lazy when it comes to uploading to the sites other than Unsplash though.

      And awesome that you’re contributing photos now! ????

  3. Jari Louhelainen

    So photography does not have any value anymore as free exposure on web does not pay your mortgage if you are a professional photographer. What will happen to those photographers whose income is dependent on revenue generated from microstock?

    1. Scott Webb

      Hey Jari,

      Photography has more value than ever before. It’s all how you look at it and leverage sites like Unsplash. For example, look at giving a few of your photos away on a free site as a marketing cost. And you don’t have to give away ALL of your photos 🙂 Don’t make the mistake of all or nothing.