Finding the perfect photo for a project can be painstaking at times. I hear you. So to help in the search for great royalty-free photos, I’ve come up with a few of my favorite photo search engines.

There are several great sites offering royalty-free photographs, but here I’m focusing on sites that let you search multiple photo sites or that let you filter your results in a useful way for designers.


Compfight Image Search

Compfight currently only searches through Flickr images. But oh how it searches.

There are tons of great Flickr photos. Compfight makes it easy with a simple click of a button to toggle the Creative Commons (CC) license filter to show all images under CC or only those available for commercial use. While you can filter your search like this on Flickr’s site, it’s no way near as easy.

Another thing I love about Compfight is the way it displays the search results. Instead of making you view results in 20 or even 50 block increments, Compfight delivers a photo wall; listing over 300 image thumbnails on each page. This equals less clicking of the next page button. Image Search is relatively new on the scene of photo searches, but very nice. describes itself as “Google for stock photos sites.”

It’s a pretty good description because you can search several of the most popular royalty-free photo sites, such as:

  • Fotolia
  • Shutterstock
  • BigStockPhoto
  • iStockphoto
  • stock.xchng
  • Flickr
  • stockvault

You can choose which photo sites to show results for and then easily browse photo results from each site. keeps adding more sites to their list, so this is definitely one site to check on. Image Search searches 8 photo sites:

  • Flickr
  • freerangestock
  • imageafter
  • morgueFile
  • NASA
  • stock.xchng
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Wikipedia also has some interesting advanced search options. You can filter your search by:

  • Source—which photo site to search
  • License—13 licenses to choose from
  • Photo Shape—portrait, landscape or square
  • Minimum height/width
  • Safe search—filter out ‘suggestive’ images


PicFindr Image Search

This site’s been around for quite a while. PicFindr proves you don’t have to have a pretty face to be useful. The interface is pretty dated, but if you can live with that, PickFindr searches a few photo sites the other image search engines don’t.

Like some of the others, you can filter your searches by permitted usage in PicFindr.

Score Card

Here’s a quick recap:

Compfight – The only way to search Flickr for commercially usable photos. – New kid on the block. Searches 8 popular photo sites. – Searches 8 photo sites and offers great search filtering options.

PicFindr – Ugly but gets the job done. Searches mostly open source/CC image sites.

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