LEVEL: Beginner to Advanced
One of the hardest parts of blogging is getting the right images to go with your content. Ideally, youre a professional photographer as well as being a professional copywriter! I’m just kidding. Thanks to the troves of free stock photo sites online, you dont have to be pro.
I will warn you that if you dont hold yourself in check, looking for images can be a major time warp. Having said that, I want to put in a quick plug for your handy camera phone. The best images to use on your website are your own. Taking photos is a lot like learning to write good content. It might not be perfect at first, but keep practicing and youll develop an eye over time. Plus if you use your own images, you will never have to worry about copyright issues.
A lot of people dont realize that they dont need images that are literally portraying what theyre writing about. Think bigger and metaphorically about the subject. If youre managing a relationship blog, you dont ALWAYS need pictures of couples. Maybe if youre writing about trust, you find a picture of a tightly tied knot or rock climbers (trusting their belayer). If you were writing about repairing trust, maybe find a picture of a band-aid. Be creative!
Also, keep your search terms simple, one word at a time if you can. For instance, “music”, “wedding”, “bride”, “coffee”, etc. Most photo sites don’t have complex search algorithms.
So here it is in all its glory, 66 websites to get completely free photos. I start with my favorites at the top.
Flickr. No login required. On the advanced search page, check the box in the Creative Commons section, “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”
Click search. Click on an image you want, and look for the download arrow. Click that button, and it will give you an option to select different sizes. Download the one you need.
ALWAYS cite the person you borrowed the image from, and link to their flickr profile.
Every Stock Photo.Just a heads up: this site will frequently give you NSFW results even for the most innocuous search queries like “hand” or whatever. So take care when youre at work. Also, in my opinion, the images are getting to be a bit dated. Otherwise, this site is an amazing resource because it combines so many major free stock photo sites, and simplifies your search process.
Another bit of advice for searching on this site: once you’ve made your first search, go to sources and uncheck Flickr. I’ve found that it doesn’t serve very good results through this site. You are better off going straight to flickr’s search bar.
When you find a picture you like, you’ll jump to another stock photo website and you’ll have to create an account or login to get the picture. All of these websites are great places to search for an image too.
Free Images. This is a sister-site of a paid image site: iStock, and they advertise heavily, trying to get you to buy stock images. Other than that, great place to get lots of high-quality photos.
Getty Images. I rank this high because the quality is the best you are going to get. But there’s a catch: NEVER download them onto your computer. Gettys images are for embedding only—think of it like embedding a Youtube video. The downside of is that Getty has control over the content. If the photographer decides they don’t want their images embeddable, the image will disappear from your site.
RGB Stock. Like freeimages.com above, this is a sister site of a paid image site: stockfresh.com.
Stock Vault. This is a sister site of a paid image site: shutterstock.com
Google Images. When you look for images using the following instructions, you are in charge of following up on whether or not it actually IS labeled for reuse. If you are not sure, dont use images from this source. To find images labeled for reuse on Google, do a search in the images tab. Click “Search tools” > Click “Usage rights” > Commercial use? Click “labeled for reuse” > Non Commercial use? “labeled for non-commercial reuse”.
After searching through these sites, I usually find something that will work, but here are a few honorable mentions:
Creative Commons Search More than just images, this site directs you to free music and video too!
Death to the Stock Photo. This site is an email subscription to random packs of images that come once a month or so.
Here are a few more sites that I/ve never used before; I’ve run across them while looking for other image websites. Some of the sites I’ve had a chance to look at briefly and get a quick impression on the quality. I put the less than stellar sites at the bottom. Let me know in the comments if you love one of these and why. Also, let me know if I’ve missed any good image sources.
Unsplash. This site features beautiful photos that are all free to use, however they are not sorted in any way, and cant be searched. Still, go take a look, youll be glad you did.
There you have it. Somewhere in here you should find an image that will work. If youd like me to help you curate a few images, let me know in the comments. I have started a pinterest board for this topic and I will pin them there for you!