Being someone who uses a lot of images in their line of work, I need a source of stock images, preferably free ones, that I can use without being sued. But I also need images that are actually genuinely good and interesting and preferably not shit. All the images used in this article are pictures downloaded from one particular stock photo website – Morguefile.
Over the years, I’ve used loads of sites. Originally, I would just use Google Images, using the option that filters images via usage rights. It’s SUPPOSED to filter out images that have copyrights and keep in images that are available for commercial use, with or without modification. But half the time I’d click on an image to see its source and there would be a big notification that this image is free to use as long as you credit the image creator. When you need a lot of images, that’s tedious. You’d also get a lot of Flickr images, which I never use because, again, you need to credit the creators but when five people have uploaded the same image or they’ve obscured their real name, who knows who the true owner is?
After some time, I found Morguefile, which I found on a top 10 list of public domain image sources. At the time, I was looking for rather specific images (don’t remember what, this was like five years ago) and even normal stock photography was letting me down. I didn’t want to pay over $20 for one shitty image.
When I went on Morguefile, I looked up what the site offered. They had (and still have) a very nice human-friendly explanation, and basically I can do whatever I want as long as I don’t sell the images on their own or claim them as my own. Or use images of people in rated X things. Which is fair enough. They claimed that, despite the creepy name, all they meant was that these images were from projects or whatever and were never used, so they ended up there.
Admittedly, the quality of the images weren’t amazing. Something felt off about them. But there were plenty of gems to be found and I eventually found something I could use.
As time passed, I’d use Morguefile less and less, as I made my way over to Pixabay and other, glossier sites. I became disenfranchised with Morguefile as the image quality was insanely varied, and they kept on sneaking in promotional stuff from Adobe Bridge and Getty Images. They’ve since changed that but you still need to scroll past their adverts and there is CONSTANT pestering from iStock Photos to sign up using their affiliate code.
But the main reason why I stopped using Morguefile is because, really, the site is kinda creepy and weird. The site itself is fine. It’s a standard image website with icons and a hamburger button rather than actual menu. They want you to see the images. But the images are weird. So random. So unusual in their quality. You go from what looks like standard stock imagery to amateur pics to holiday snapshots to images that might have been taken on a camera phone but you’re not sure. You get a lot of images from what look like holiday trips to dictator-ruled regions, or what could possibly be religious cults, and you’re not really sure what they’re doing on a stock image site.
A lot of the images look like someone’s just gone off with a camera and taken photos, then mysteriously disappeared.While there are photos for almost everything, there’s an awful lot of old travel photos and family get togethers, many of which seem a little… uncomfortable. There’s also plenty of images of people clearly trying to experiment with photography and lighting, meaning you get images in sepia, black and white, or with weird light filters. Or you get blurry images. Lots of slightly out of focus pictures that are mainly unusable.
Age plays into a lot of these images too. Some of the pictures on Morguefile are over a decade old. One of the images in this very article is 12 years old! Really, though, the age just adds to the creepiness. Because we didn’t have fancy phone cameras and even fancier professional equipment readily available 24/7, everything has an old horror show vibe to it. Like shaky cam footage in a movie. Except there’s no information on these images. They’re just images with a time stamp on them and that’s it. No context. No answers.
I’m not being mean. There’s a lot of genuinely good images on there. I’d definitely recommend the site if you need somewhat weird, generic images for a creepy pasta or just some inspiration for whatever the hell it is you’re doing. Really, the site’s moderated so you won’t come across any actual horrible stuff anyway. Most of the images there work best for motivation and creativity, not for stock images while you build a test website for a client. But it’s not the most professional place around and you can get more precise images elsewhere.
Plus, I’m pretty sure some of those images are haunted.