The Ultimate Guide on Finding FREE Images for Your Blog

Today on the blog we have a guest article from Amanda DiSilvestro who is the Online Content Editor and Writer at Higher Visibility SEO Consulting Services, don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @ADiSilvestro and Google+.

You have surely heard the spiel before: Don’t just steal images off of Google images and then use them on your blog because you’re going to get in trouble. It seems that this is one of those pieces of advice that goes in one ear and out the other. Like downloading music illegally or texting and driving, you never think you’re going to get caught. Unfortunately, more and more blog owners are getting caught, and this number is only going to increase as blogs start to increase in popularity; therefore causing image owners to start getting more serious.

The Problem: ‘Free’ Images for Blogs Don’t Really Exist

The problem is very simple, you need images and photos for your blog or website, but you don’t want a big cash outlay, so you look to source free to use images. As with life, you don’t get anything for free, and just ‘borrowing’ something from Google images is not the solution.

However, if you choose the right sources, and make sure you give proper attribution for the images, there are actually a host of ways to source free blog images.

The Penalty for Stealing Images from Google Images

I myself am guilty of taking a photo off of Google images here and there, and despite the fact that I always put the photo credit at the bottom of the article, it took me a while to realize that the site where I got that image may not own that particular image (in fact it most likely doesn’t). Moral of the story, the photo credit I included was useless. Whenever you take a photo off Google images you are at fault and can be prosecuted in a few different ways:

  • Get a DMCA takedown request. DMCA stands for “Digital Millennium Copyright Act” and this is probably your best-case scenario. If you get a request to takedown a photo it will be put on a record, but all you need to do is take down the photo.
  • Your ISP or Hosting company takes down the photo or your site altogether. This is what happens if you don’t comply with a DMCA takedown request. Your Hosting site will have to comply if you don’t, and this could cause you trouble with your Hosting Company (Ex: They may not want to host you anymore because you’re making them look bad).
  • Get sued by an image owner (such as Getty Images), but only in extreme cases. If this happens, you could be out thousands and thousands of dollars for just one little photo. Read this article about what The Content Factory labeled an $8,000 mistake.

So what about older images that you’ve used? It doesn’t matter if the image has been on your site for one month or ten years. If you used an image illegally, you can be caught at anytime, as Google warns you here. You might be less likely if the image is older, but that does not mean you’re in the clear. It’s important to go back to your old images and change them to new ones that do have a creative commons license.

Finding Creative Commons Images for Your Blog: Different Options and Quick Facts

Despite the fact that so many people still continue to steal images, doing things legally actually isn’t as hard as you might assume. All you need to do is find images protected by the Creative Commons license. This license allows photographers to license their work for free in certain situations, such as blog usage. Images under this license are usually not available for commercial use and often require attribution if you’re going to use it on your blog.

Below are several different places you can find images for blogs that are covered by the Creative Commons license:

  • Flickr. This is probably the most popular site to find free images.

flickr home screen page

You can type in a search for an image and then click the link under “license.” This will show you what options you have for using the images, such as if it’s OK to use for a blog and what the stipulations are if you’re going to use it.

  • MorgueFile. A cool site that makes it easy to switch between free and paid photos.

Morguefile home screen page

I really like the interface on this photo site. It has really easy to understand tabs that can help you search specific categories—popular, recent, last downloaded, etc.—and offers options for paid photos if you can’t find what you need under their free option. Technically, the images that are free on this site are free because of a MorgueFile license, which is of course a license specific to this site.

  • SXC.hu. Technically called the Stock Exchange.

Stockexchange home screen page

The interface might not be as interesting as some of the others, but they have quite a few choices here if you’re looking for a unique photo you just couldn’t find anywhere else. They also have a tab that shows you statistics of how many people downloaded a particular photo. If you’re trying hard not to have a photo that many others have this might be a great feature, but for most it’s just interesting more than anything.

  • Every Stock Photo. This site works as a directory that pulls in a lot of different photos that are license through Creative Commons on the web

Every stock photo home screen page

This includes images coming from the sites listed above. Under the photo you might be considering, you can see the terms of use for the photo if you want to put it on your blog. This makes it easy to scroll through as opposed to having to click each individual photo to see the terms of use.

Creative commons home screen page

This site isn’t quite as popular as the others, but it is actually a great starting point because it will give you information about what all of the stipulations on a photo actually mean. All photos are licensed under Creative Commons and you can actually find photos that can be used for commercial use here, which is quite unique.

  • Unsplash – 10 new images every 10 days, all free to use. Pretty cool, especially for backgrounds, etc…

unsplash homepage

Free to do whatever you want hi-resolution photos. Unsplash is a project allowing photographers and designers to share high quality photos – perfect for website owners and bloggers! The images are all high resolution and totally free to use how you wish. Visit Unsplash every day to find new, exciting, and free images to download.

  •  Compfight is an image search engine tailored to efficiently locate images for blogs, comps, inspiration, and research.

compfight homepage

About this site, Compfight is basically a Flickr search engine and allows you to search only Creative Commons or commercially licensed photos.They make good use of the flickr API, but aren’t affiliated with the site itself, offering unlimited downloads of 150,000+ Graphics, Vectors, Icons, Templates & More.

  • Photopin – a bit like Compfight, this site allows you to search Flickr photos with a creative commons license.

photopin homepage

Search millions of Creative Commons photos from Flickr and add them to your blog posts easily. PhotoPin helps bloggers find photos for their blog and makes adding them to their post fast and easy. Just search for any topic using the search box (e.g. “Kittens”, “Flowers”, etc.), preview the photo, and click “get photo” to download the photo as well as the proper attribution link.

  • Graphicstock – currently has an offer to get 20 photos a day free for 7 days – so if you are genuinely after free images for websites then you could just log in every day for a week and get 140 images to start off with.

graphicstock homepage

Choose from 150,000+ Graphics, Vectors, Icons, Buttons, Images and more. GraphicStock.com is a subscription-based website that provides members with unlimited downloads of stock graphics, stock images, icons, buttons, backgrounds, textures and more. Instead of charging per download, they allow our members to download as much as they want all for less than the price of just one graphic at many competing sites.

  • Picture Finder – A WordPress plugin, built for people keen to reuse Flickr images in their blogs.

Picture finder homepage

The plugin allows for a user to simply search Flickr for content, and then for the user to simply add attribution to the picture before adding it into their post. By using CC-BY licenses this tool is built to limit the potential copyright pitfalls that may occur.

  • Pixabay images – Find quality CC0 public domain images (images with no copyright) for commercial use, and add them to your blog with just a click. Attribution is not required.

pixabay homepage

Pixabay Images is a WordPress plugin that let’s you pick CC0 public domain pictures from Pixabay and insert them with just a click anywhere on your blog. The images are safe to use, and paying attribution or linking back to the source is not required. Features include: Searching Pixabay’s public domain pictures via “Add Media” button inside the editor and filtering search results by image type (clipart, photo) and/or orientation (landscape, portrait).

  • Foter – This plugin lets you easily search, manage and add free photos (more than 180 million of them) to your blog posts.

foter homepage

Foter is an easy and fast way to add Creative Commons photos to your blog. They find and host millions of photos from many online sources and make them available to be included in your blog posts. This plugin lets you seach, manage and add Creative Commons photos to your blog posts in a very simple way.

  • Photo dropper – Get access over 253 million free & premium photos without ever leaving WordPress.

photo dropper homepage

PhotoDropper is a WordPress plugin and it is designed to take the frustration out of finding the perfect image for your blog posts. With over 243,800,000+ free images (via Creative Commons license) and 10,000,000+ premium images available at your fingertips, it’s a great source of free images for blogs. PhotoDropper let’s you add great photos to your website with just 4 simple clicks.

Extra Tips Regarding Blog Images for Your Website

Another way that you can stay legal with your blog images is through Royalty Free Stock Images. These are images that you pay for, so there are often times of higher quality than what you’ll find for free under Creative Commons.

Is there a great site that you use to find free photos online that can be used on your blog legally? Do you have a story about getting penalized because of stealing a photo? Tell us your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small businesses and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO firm HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

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