Sourcing Great Free Images for Your Blog Posts

By Ali Luke

At some point on your blog, you’re going to want to include images. Unless you only ever use screenshots, you’ll need to either create these images yourself – or you’ll need to find ones that you can legally use.

If you only take one thing away from this post, make it this: never search on Google for an image and use what you find without checking whether it’s OK to. Many images are copyrighted to their creator, and you can’t (legally) republish them on your blog.

A Quick Introduction to Copyright and Creative Commons

Under most countries’ laws, content that you create (e.g. text, audio, images, or video) is automatically “copyright” to you.

This means no-one can republish it on their own website with your permission.

Some content creators choose to license their work under “Creative Commons”. This means you’re allowed to republish their image (or blog post, video, etc) – but there will sometimes be certain restrictions.

If you make money from your blog (or hope to do so in future) then you should look for images licensed under “Creative Commons for Commercial Use”.

You can find out more about different Creative Commons licenses here.

Where to Get Free Images

free-beer

Image from Flickr by AGoK.

My favourite source of free images is Flickr. Use the Advanced Search and check the boxes:

  • Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content
  • Find content to use commercially

When you use an image from Flickr, you should always acknowledge the author with a line like this:

Image by AUTHOR NAME

It’s nice to link their name either to the image itself or to their main page on Flickr, as in the example above.

(This isn’t the only format you can use for your attributions, and you’ll see different bloggers doing different things. What’s important is that you always acknowledge the image’s creator by name.)

Another good source of photos is stock.xchng. This site has a lot of royalty free images that you can use, normally without attribution. (Some bloggers prefer to attribute all images as a courtesy to the creators.)

The images on stock.xchng tend to have a more “stock” feel than those on Flickr, which may or may not be an advantage, depending on what sorts of images you want to use.

Choosing a Great Image

Different bloggers will have different opinions on what makes for a great image. If your blog is for a quite traditional, formal business, then standard stock photos might work well. If you’re writing a more creative blog, you may want brightly coloured images … and so on.

Here are some general tips, though:

  • Allow enough time to find an image. It can take a bit of searching to find something that suits your post.
  • Often, you’ll want an image that illustrates a concept (e.g. “motivation” or “focus”). Brainstorm some ideas for images that might work well – it’s easier to search for something concrete (perhaps a magnifying glass for “focus”) than for an abstract idea.
  • Think about colour. You may want to use very bright, colourful images, or you may choose ones that match with your blog’s colour scheme. Alternatively, perhaps black and white images will work well for you.
  • Consider picking a consistent theme. Maybe you’ll always use photos of cats, or children. Perhaps you’ll go for illustrations rather than photos.

What About Logos, Product Images, etc?

Most bloggers will agree it’s OK to republish a company or blog’s logo without asking them for express permission. The same goes for book and ebook covers. If you’re uncertain or unsure, it’s worth asking.

If you’re an affiliate for a product, you may well have access to advertising banners and product images that you can use – it’s fine to use these in your posts.

 

Do you use images on your blog? What’s your favourite source – and what tips do you have for picking great images? Let us know in the comments.




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17 Responses to “Sourcing Great Free Images for Your Blog Posts”

  • Ken

    If you google a pic and it does not have a watermark can you use it?

  • Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Ali,

    I love freedigitalphotos.net, awesome site. I dig it more than flickr because the images load more quickly. Although FL does rock too. Whatever site you use make sure to give attribution when needed. No sense running into legal trouble over a photo.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Lissa

    Hello,

    Excellent article is very good, I personally really like Flickr for photos since most are in very good quality.

    Although good, they are also good in Google and Facebook photos also find excellent photos. If we fanpage some pictures we can always choose one from there.

    Greetings and extremely strong Hug!

  • Melvin

    Cool! I’ve always used the free stock photo sites in finding images for my posts and even Google image search sometimes. I didn’t realize Flickr is also a good source so I’ll definitely try that as well.

    As for running into some legal trouble, isn’t it you just need to comply (or take down the photo) if they ever complained to you? Not that it’s a small thing but i was just wondering.

  • Hang Pham

    Hi Ali,
    I really love this post. I always search on Google for an image and use for my blog. The information in this article is really unique and useful for me. Thanks for sharing this post. Hope to read more interesting information from you. Great job!

  • Himanshu

    I usually use Photodune, Shutterstock, depositphotos to buy copyrighted image for my project. This help to get license for my images…

  • sharma

    I personally really like Flickr for photos since most are in very good quality.
    Although good, they are also good in Google and Facebook photos also find excellent photos. If we fanpage some pictures we can always choose one from there….awesome…thanksss…!!!

  • Joey

    Awesome post, Ali!

    I use flickr for images since i find it the most user friendly service out there, this article will help me choose appropriate images for my products though, no more random work!

  • David

    I’d like to address your last section. Logos and product images are two different issues.

    In the US at least, logos are subject to trademark, not copyright. It’s by law that anyone may use a company’s trademark for the purpose of identifying that company.

    Product images are subject to copyright. The best thing to do is create the image yourself (take a photo of the object) because then the copyright belongs to you. However, it’s also safe to use an image distributed with a press release. That’s what it’s there for.

    If you’re using an affiliate link, Amazon will provide an image. I often find that a convenient source.

    Grabbing a product image off a company’s web page without permission is problematic. However, if you’re writing nice things about the product, they probably won’t mind. And whether you’re writing positive or negative comments, you may be able to claim fair use, depending on how you reproduce the image, whether it can be considered for journalistic or artistic purposes, and a variety of other factors.

  • Karleen

    Good article on images! Newbies may think the images on Google images are all okay to use, so it’s good to remind everyone to check out where the image is coming from and what sort of restrictions/costs are attached.

    I like morgueFile myself for great high quality images for free. Thanks, Ali, for the post.

  • Shawn Gossman

    Great post, Ali! One site I commonly use to find images for free use (CC) is PhotoPin.com. They show sponsored images on top but below that shows usually a lot of free images as well. They don’t have a lot of clipart-based images but anymore, experts say that using ‘real item’ images (espcially with people on them) gives you better results in catching the attention of your readers.

  • Monica Womble

    Thanks for this great article. Sometimes it’s confusing which photos we can use, especially if it’s for commercial use. I’d also like to thank Ryan above for the referral to freedigitalphotos.net. A new resource that I’m bound to love!!!

  • Shawn Hartwell

    Wonderful post. I’ve actually been using the WordPress plugin, “Photodropper,” but it has recently stopped showing free(flickr) images in favor of their premium quality. I honestly don’t want to pay.

    The plugin is great because you never leave your post but what you’ve mentioned here really gives more freedom to myself, and until the plugin is fixed(days without any response from developers) I’ll be using flickr myself!

  • Umer

    Hi Ali. I always come to this website to learn something unique and yup all of the posts teach me something great. I always use flicker for blog post as it is the best source I like. Thanks

  • Kemila

    Thank you. I have saved this post for future use. Very informative.

  • David

    Great post, I use a plugin called “Insights” that allows you to quickly search and insert images (from flickr) into your blog post

  • JR John

    http://sxc.hu is what I use. It’s upfront, and has some good images, all for free.

    Whatever the license, I always attribute. I recently heard that some copywriting firm was sued $4000 for not paying for a $10 image.

    Tough luck.

    Regards,
    JR John

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