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?
Note: This article was updated on June 26, 2020
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.Just because an image is free, don't assume you have the legal right to use it!Click To Tweet
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.
Pexels offers 1+ million photos and videos, and all images are free to use without attribution. They draw from several other sources, so not all images are unique to them. It’s an excellent, searchable collection, and you don’t need to check licenses.
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!
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.
A relative newcomer, PikWizard offers a variety of free and paid images. Many of the free images are available for commercial use without attribution, and their 100,000+ images include lots and lots of people.
You can also edit any of their images using their DesignWizard.
Make sure you check the licensing on each image you’d like to use. If it’s marked “editorial use only,” you can’t legally use it on a business site.
Do you have a favorite source for no-cost, royalty free images? Share it with the rest of us! Thanks.
Note: This article was updated on June 26, 2020.