You want to dress up your articles and posts with eye-catching images, but you don’t have your own photographs. Where can you find free images, or at least pictures you can use without spending a fortune?
First, a word of caution. Just because an image is online does not mean you can use it on your website. There are copyrights involved, and if you start grabbing pretty pictures from here, there and everywhere, you could find nasty letters from lawyers in your mailbox. You could even find your website shut down.
You might be able to get away with it, but it’s not worth the risk. Not when there are so many places you can
legitimately find free or low-cost images to use legally.
Let’s go over some definitions that will help you find the right images for your website.
Royalty Free Images
You want to use a royalty free image. This is an image you can use without having to pay royalties (ongoing fees to the copyright owner). Some royalty-free images cost you nothing to use, for others you have to pay something.
Creative Commons License
Many photographers license their work under a Creative Commons license. You can read all about it at the Creative Commons website.
Basically, it’s an alternative to traditional copyright registration. A Creative Commons license will let you use the image in certain circumstances.
It tells you how to credit the owner of the work properly, whether you can use it for commercial purposes or not, and whether you can modify it.
Pixabay is my current top choice for most free images.
They claim to have over 690,000 free, royalty-free images available for download, and the site is very easy to use. Just start typing into the big search box that shows up on the front page. You can choose all images, or narrow it down to one type, including:
- Vector graphics
You can also choose whether you want a horizontal (landscape) or vertical (portrait) orientation, select from different categories, specify dimensions, colors, and more.
The top row in the results shows a series of Shutterstock images you can buy (after all, they have to make some money from somewhere to keep the site going). Everything below that row, though, is free. Find the image you want, click to open in on its own page, then select the big Free Download button.
Choose your preferred sice, slick Download, and there you are.
You can set up a Pixabay account if you want, but it’s not necessary.
Death to the Stock Photo
This site, as its name implies, is the anti-stock-photo site. Go here to sign up for an account, and they’ll email you a new batch of images every month.
Or you can search by scrolling through Recent Projects.
Images are free to use, but you’re not allowed to claim they’re your own or redistribute them. Their plain-English rules are here.
Death to the Stock Photo lets you download for free, or you can join a Premium plan for $15/month (Basic) or $185/year.
Flickr.com used to be my go-to site for Creative Commons images. Sometimes you have to sift through a lot to find what you’re looking for.
Start at http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/.
You’ll see six different types of licenses represented. You are probably interested in the top two, Attribution License and Attribution-No Derivs License.
Click the see more link for the section you’re interested in. From there you can enter search terms to find images in your subject area.
Follow Flickr’s instructions to download or link to the image. Be sure to check the license on the individual image before you use it!
To the right of the image you’ll find this statement:
Just click on the some rights reserved and it will take you to the specific license for that image.
Here’s another way to find images you can use on Flickr — use the PhotoPin tool. It sifts through the licenses for you.
WikiMedia Creative Commons
Although this site isn’t the easiest to navigate, you’ll find a wealth of Creative Commons licensed images here.
Morgue File offers free images for download and also provides easy browsing links for paid images from Shutterstock, Fotolia and Dreamstime.
Good Free Photos
Good Free Photos offers almost 9,000 free, public domain images for you.
One helpful feature here is a series of tutorials on how to improve your photos.
Freefoto.com offers both paid and free images.
Do you have a favorite source for no-cost, royalty free images? Share it with the rest of us! Thanks.
I also find that http://www.dreamstime.com offers some good images, you simply need to register to download good quality images.
Absolutely, Peter, thanks for pointing that out. Dreamstime has great images, and some are free. I should have noted that Dreamstime, Fotolia, and Shutterstock, which are included in Morgue File, can also be accessed independently.
I have found a lot of images at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net. The images are professional, the topics are easily identified and narrowed down and the copyright and royalty free instructions are clear.
Excellent find, Laraine. I’ll add them to my list!
Good Free Photos
For public domain photos that you can use personally or commercially without any restrictions check out
I generally avoid places like dreamstime as there are restrictions on what you can use the images for.
Thanks for the additional sites. We can’t have too many places to find great images to use!
I know this post is older but I have recently released a free WordPress plugin that makes the process of searching and inserting creative commons images from Flickr very easy. Maybe people finding this post might find it useful: http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-inject/
Interesting plugin. For any readers interested in checking it out, please read these guidelines to choosing a good plugin first. . .