Free Food-Related Photo Sources

man photographing food on a table

Photo courtesy of

What if you could get more people to stay awake during your food-related PowerPoint presentations, read your web articles or react positively to your blog? Add photos!
Copyright/Fair Use Issues

Just because a photo doesn’t have a copyright sign by it on the web doesn’t mean it is copyright-free. Unless you are given permission to use it, assume it is copyrighted. Copyright begins the moment a work is created. Some general guidelines to follow in using photos that designated as permissable for reuse include:

  • Photos can’t be used in a way that may infringe on the creator’s intent, imply endorsement or (in some cases) alter the image.
  • Saying a photo is for “educational use” may not protect you.
  • Even many government sites provide guidelines for using their photos.

Courts evaluate fair use claims on a case-by-case basis. Fair photo use considerations include:

  • Not all nonprofit educational and noncommercial uses are fair
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used
  • The effect of the use on the market value of the copyrighted work

Sources of Free Food-Related Photos

Following are twelves sources that provide free photos, provided you follow the guidelines given with them. Even, if the source doesn’t ask for a specific credit line, give some type of citation as a courtesy. Occasionally, these sites may include a copyrighted photo; check the information by the photo to assure you can use it.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for crediting photos state: "Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credits is requested. Please credit the sponsoring agency as U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service."
USDA/FSIS Be Food Safe Photo Gallery

Check the "Usage Notes" in the first paragraph in the above link. 
Example of USDA/FSIS Be Safe Photo

inside of refrigerator with a thermometer and containing fruit, vegetables and protein foods

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service
USDA/FSIS Kitchen Companion Image Library

Offers photos of safe food handling from shopping for food to cooking food.
Example of USDA/FSIS Photo 

turkey in roasting pan being inserted with a thermometer in its thigh

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service

USDA/FSIS Is It Done Yet? Image Library

Includes several photos of measuring the temperature of foods. Scroll through the entire page.
Example of USDA/FSIS Is It Done Yet? Photo

Steak with thermometer reading 145 degrees F

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service
NCI Visuals Online

The National Cancer Institute maintains this photo site. They specify how their images are to be cited here.

While most of their photos relate to various aspects of cancer, they offer a fairly extensive collection of photos relating to “Food and Drink.” 
Example of NCI Visuals Online Photo

3 bell peppers

Photo courtesy of the Web site of the National Cancer Institute (, Daniel Sone (Photographer)
USDA/ARS Image Gallery

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service has photos of animals, crops, food, insects, plants and more. This citation is suggested for USDA/ARS photos: "USDA ARS Image Gallery. Agricultural Research Service."
Example of USDA/ARS Photo

image is filled with strawberries

Photo courtesy of USDA ARS Image Gallery. Agricultural Research Service.
CDC Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

The sections of this website most likely to contain food photos are: "Health Behaviors" and "Everyday Activities." Click on the photo/link listed for these sections and then type the name on the type of photo desired in the "search" section." Check the guidelines for use and a suggested fair use statement of public domain photos. CDC states this about crediting images: "Permission is not required for public domain images, but we do ask that you credit the original institution and contributor, when known, whenever the image is used in any publicly distributed media."
Example of PHIL Photo

girl in school lunchroom with an apple

Photo courtesy of CDC/Amanda Mills
USDA SNAP-Ed Photo Gallery

The photos in this gallery are food-related. They include people of various racial and ethnic diversities.  There are also images of outdoor physical activity.
Example of USDA SNAP-Ed Photo

Family Enjoying a Meal Together

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP-Ed Connection Photo Gallery
USDA National Agricultural Library Pomological Water Color Collection 

Over 7,000 water color images produced by USDA artists to illustrate "new fruit cultivars at the turn of the 20th century." 

USDA requires an attribution for these watercolors.  USDA describes the requirement for the following photo and all their watercolor photos

Use of the images in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection is not restricted, but a statement of attribution is required. Please use the following attribution statement: "U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705"

Example of USDA National Agriculture Library Photo

watercolor of grapes

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection. Rare and Special Collections, National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD 20705

USDA/FNS/WIC Image Gallery

These images are provided by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Important: "FNS requests that these pictures be used only for promotion, informational and educational purposes of a non-profit nature."
Example of USDA/FNS/WIC Photo

woman nursing a child

Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service, Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children
USDA MyPlate Graphic Resources

This site contains multiple versions and colors of MyPlate, including some with the different food group sections highlighted. A link to obtain the MyPlate icon in different languages is included.USDA requirements for use of the MyPlate icon state: "The image must be used as a whole, including the URL, and must not be altered. A MyPlate Style Guide demonstrates correct and incorrect uses. Any use may not suggest or imply USDA endorsement of an organization, product, service, or otherwise."
Example of USDA MyPlate GraphicMyPlate icon with blue background


Pixabay states this useage for photos (accessed October 24, 2016): "All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required." Further guidelines for Pixabay photos are given in their frequently asked questions section. Pixabay's Terms of Service states (accessed October 24, 2016) "You are free to adapt and use them for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although not required, a link back to Pixabay is appreciated."

NOTE: Pixabay also include links to "royalty free" stock photos for which there is a fee. 
Example of Pixabay Photo

A large and a small jack-o-lantern

Photo courtesy of
Creative Commons

Creative Commons search feature helps you search for photos you can "modify, adapt, or build upon." You also can search for photos that can be used for commercial purposes.

The website warnsDo not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license. You should always verify that the work is actually under a CC license by following the link.

There are six types of Creative Commons Licenses. The Creative Commons website gives these best practices for attribution. Find the type of CC license for a photo by clicking on the "Some rights reserved" link toward the bottom. 

Example of Creative Commons Photo

Jars of Tomatoes

Home canned crushed tomatoes” by Susy Morris, is licensed under (CC BY-NC 2.0) / cropped on top 

If you'd like some photos of fresh fruits and vegetables, I invite you to visit my Flickr album at Alice Henneman's Farmers' Market Album