Dieter Petereit October 31st, 2012

Pixabay: More Than 40,000 Completely Free Photos And Illustrations

As designers we are always on the hunt for good pictures. Noupe certainly needs fitting imagery now and then and even more often. That's where photo-services, stock image providers and the like come into play. There are big marketplaces, offering you high-grade imagery at more or less affordable rates. Then we find repositories with free usage policies but varying licenses, which at times are not easily comprehensible. I have certainly been in trouble with this kind of mine-seeking. Pixabay, a fresh repository with a quickly growing selection of excellent imagery, is different, dead-simple. All the pictures are free, no license conditions apply. Pixabay delivers pure public domain photos.

Pixabay: Homepage Of The Totally Free Image Repository

Image Providers: A Potential Money-Pit

Four years ago, I started the picture service Here you find food imagery, totally free of charge and usable for every legal purpose. I wanted to react to the strategies of a single photographer. He did extensive food photography, very professionally shot, and equally professionally presented. His goal was to have the ordinary web surfer "steal" the images and use it inside forums, personal blogs and the like. Then he would spot the unlicensed usage and send a cease-and-desist order combined with a more or less high invoice. was supposed to become a safe harbour, where people would find public domain imagery. Only images in the public domain are totally risk-free. Every other license out there provides risks to the legally untrained, while even experienced users find it hard to understand what is allowed or not at times. Take a free photo platform with varying licenses for example. Who guarantees that the licenses stated are not subject to changes tomorrow. While your usage applied to the license today it might not be true for tomorrow. Who wants to establish a proper monitoring just to make sure no-one shouts cease and desist?

Pixabay: Comfortable, High-Grade, Free

Simon Steinberger and Hans Braxmeier, founders of the Pixabay, must have had the same or similar experiences. With the creation of Pixabay they established a much bigger, broader and much more professionally designed equivalent to They have just about started and already gathered far more than 40,000 photos and illustrations. Resembling Microsoft's Bing, but with much better imagery, the service offers an intuitive access to its contents. Each and every picture is in the public domain. You can use it free of charge for every legal purpose. You do not have to give credits to the original artist. You do not have to provide backlinks to Pixabay. They are always appreciated of course...

Editor´s Choice: The Favorites Of The Pixabay-Team

Pixabay is available in 20 different languages. A preliminary registration on the website is not mandatory, but advisable. Without registration you are in no way limited as far as downloading of the provided content is concerned. But as each download has to be initiated through the confirmation via a sometimes more, sometimes less readable captcha, Pixabay convinced me to register quite quickly. Logged in you won't see captchas again...

Registered users are able to upload their own photos to the service. They are not immediately visible to the public though, as an editorial team first checks all the submissions for their appliance to Pixabay's ToS. This step can take from a few minutes to a few days. For a first impression of Pixabay's quality I advise you to visit the section Editor´s Choice. This is where you find the hand-picked favourites of the editorial team.

If you do not want to leave Noupe, just have a look at these images that I picked objectively according to my own taste (Click on the image to open it inside the service):

Dieter Petereit

Dieter Petereit is a veteran of the web with over 25 years of experience in the world of IT. As soon as Netscape became available he started to do what already at that time was called web design and has carried on ever since. Two decades ago he started writing for several online publications, some well, some lesser known. You can meet him over on Google+.


  1. Been looking for something like that for a looooong time! I used to spent quite some time browsing Flickr and Wiki Commons for free pictures to use in mockups, but the amount of good usable shots among worthless low-res pics is dramatically feeble…

    Thanks a lot for sharing this!

    1. Purely coincidental :-P Naa, admitted, when we startet Pixabay (I’m among the co-founders and developers), we actually took parts of 500px as a starting point and we re-design Pixabay step by step. Or as Salvador Dali put it: “Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

      There are so many tiny public domain resources out there, and none of them is really fun browsing on: either there’s just a small collection of images available or navigation is horrible or it is bloated with ads. With Pixabay we wanted to create something really useful in every way :)

      1. Sometimes authors will require you ask permission and these photos are not downloadable until you have done so, but the majority of them don’t require it.

      1. Hi Dieter, thanks a lot for your review article!! Oh happy day :-)

        Actually, we offer today almost 53.000 images – and it’s daily growing :-D

      2. I like a little understatement at times. Jokes aside, you are growing faster than I can write ;-)

  2. Please forgive my scepticism , but what prevents unscrupulous company like Getty images and their famous extortion letters from buying pixabay and suddenly owning all of your catalogue ? And then doing what Getty images does which is to extort money from innocent people who thought they were using free pictures ?

    1. *We* prevent it :-) It is our sole objective to provide an actually free and great quality image database – like the Wikipedia project, just for images. It’s kind of sad, what happened to SXC …

    2. It just came to my mind: there’s actually nothing to worry about, since all images on Pixabay are clearly in the Public Domain. As such, there’s no legal way of owning or re/sub-licensing those images.

  3. Unless photos are from a definite pedigree, who knows if they are really public domain or just uploaded by people using copyrighted images? However, the idea of a public domain site is good. I prefer for free images, although their licence is more limited. At least they are independently owned and operated, growing out of people disappointed with sxc.

  4. Hi Dieter, is great. Do you know of any other websites like this with exactly same features (free to use for commercial, etc)?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. Hello,

    I am starting up a card business and wanted to confirm, is it completely free to at times use the images on this site for my business? The images will be used on cards to be sold.


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