How to Get Free Photos for Commercial Use

by Contributor

Many sources offer free photos and images, but often there's a catch. You can't use the photo for commercial purposes, or on the web, or without a live link back to the photo, or without agreeing to a convoluted here's-what-you-can-do-and-here's-what-you-can't license agreement. Even the Creative Commons licenses for images are enough to make a lawyer's head spin. A few places, though, really do offer free photos for use commercially.


Ask Uncle Sam. Any materials produced by the federal government -- reports, photographs, artwork, illustrations -- are public property and freely available for anyone to use. The variety and quality of images available is amazing: space photos from NASA; nature photography from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service; pictures of money from the U.S. Mint; historical images from the Library of Congress. offers photos that "may be used and reproduced without permission or fee." One caution, though. Government websites occasionally reproduce images from non-government sources, and when they do, these are clearly marked as protected by copyright.


Go back in time. In the United States, any image that dates to before 1923 is in the public domain and free for anyone to use for any reason. The From Old Books website has a beautiful collection of such images. It is especially rich in old-time holiday pictures.


Visit Sunipix, a website offering free stock photography for personal or commercial use. The site offer photos in more than 40 categories, from shots taken in major cities to nature and weather.

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