Finding great images for your website or blog can be challenging. Ten years ago, you could just snag any pictures you wanted from the internet and slap them on your website without consequence. But times have changed and using pictures you don’t own the rights to can land you in a lot of hot water.
So if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a ton of money, where can you find great free pictures for your website? Here we’ll try to answer some of those questions for you.
Determine Your Use Case
While copyright laws can vary, in general there are 2 different forms of usage when it comes to images on your website. Before you use an image, it’s important that you determine which one applies to you.
Commercial use of an image generally covers a lot of different scenarios. Perhaps you’re building a website for your company home page and you need an image of people shaking hands – since your website homepage is likely selling something, this would constitute commercial use.
Commercial use may also include using an image on a book cover or a coffee mug that you sell, or in advertisements that you publish for your business.
Commercial use photos are harder to come by because in order to be cleared for this type of use, the photographer must not have any recognizable logos or trademarks of other companies. Additionally, if there are people in the image, release forms for those models must also be on file.
While commercial use photos may be harder to come by, they’re the safest ones to use on your website. There are also nuances to how you can use them depending on who you acquire the images from, each supplier may have a unique license with specific limitations.
Editorial use of an image covers use in things like blogs or news articles. You can find more images that are for editorial use only, but you have to be careful.
Perhaps your blog is part of a larger site in which you sell a service. In that case, whether your blog itself is also an advertisement of your service might be up to interpretation.
Maybe down the road you plan on using a PPC advertising program on your blog like Google Adsense. In that case, every blog post has the potential to generate income and images with only an editorial use license may not be allowed.
When in doubt, find images that are licensed for commercial use, as you’re less likely to get into trouble, or take your own photos that you own exclusively.
The Best Free Image Providers
There are plenty of great free places to get images for your blog which will help keep you safe from running afoul of the law.
While most of these free providers don’t require attribution credits, I always provide credit for images I acquire for free because I feel like it’s the right thing to do – and it’s my way of giving something back to those who put the image together without charging me to use it.
Pixabay (#1 pick)
Boasting over 1.7 million free images, Pixabay is an excellent resource for a completely simple way to search, download, and add images to your website. Until I had enough monetization from my websites to justify paying for images, Pixabay was my first stop for everything. And I still use them.
One strength you’ll find at Pixabay is they have a ton of great graphics images that work well in blog posts. It’s more than just photography. Most of the images on Pixabay are free for use with no attribution required (with a few exceptions).
Pixabay is extremely popular and, being most folks’ first choice for free images, it’s near impossible to find something that hasn’t been used in a lot of other places. If you’re worried about uniqueness, a less-popular image source might be your best bet.
Pixabay also has free videos and music you can download and use on your own productions. View the Pixabay Content License.
If you’re looking for free top-quality photography, then Unsplash is your place to go. With over 1 million high-resolution photos, Unsplash contains some of the most beautiful photography you can find without having to pay for it.
One thing I wish Unsplash had more of is graphics and vector images – though I can understand why they don’t have those. The site is built for photographers, not graphic designers.
Unsplash doesn’t require attribution for any of the images, though they do encourage it in order to give the photographers exposure and motivate them to continue providing content. View the Unsplash License.
Pexels is another excellent source of images. They also have a great selection of videos you can download as well. You’ll find that a lot of free photos appear both on Pexels and Pixabay so if you’re already looking at Pixabay, you may find that you don’t get much additional from Pexels. There have been a few times however, where I found exactly what I needed on Pexels and nowhere else.
Pexels doesn’t require attribution for any of the images, but like other free models, they do encourage it as a way to give something back to the contributors. View the Pexels License.
FreeImages is exactly what their name says with over 300,000 stock photos free to use. While the selection isn’t as large as you might see with some of the previous mentions, the quality is good. And using less popular sources is likely to land you images that aren’t already on 1000 other sites – which helps you look a bit more professional and unique on the web.
FreeImages also has a selection of video and audio you can use, though these do require attribution. Photos do not. View the FreeImages License.
PikWizard is a relatively new kid on the block when it comes to free images, but with over 1 million of them, they’re definitely worth checking out.
The only thing I don’t like about PikWizard is that they’ve chosen to monetize their site by including paid images from Shutterstock inline with their free image searches. If you happen to click an image from Shutterstock in the search results, you’re bumped over to Shutterstock to pay for it. This isn’t exactly clear when you first start using it and it really can bust your workflow when you’re trying to roll out some good content.
All that being said, PikWizard’s selection and the quality of the images makes them worth a look. View the PikWizard License.
Finding free images for your projects is a great way to maintain a low level of cost in your productions, but you have to do your homework and make sure you’re doing it right.
Do you use free resources other than those in this article? Drop them in the comments and maybe I’ll add them to this article.