If you are new to blogging or managing a website, it is easy to think of the internet as one large source of free images for your website; though, using copyrighted images is illegal and could lead to litigation or a removal request from the copyright holder.
When you need an image for your website or blog, you cannot just grab the first image you come across and add it to your site, without first checking to see if the image is copyrighted.
Luckily, there are plenty of options for finding free images that you can use on your blog or website. Learn where to find free images and how to tell if an image is copyrighted.
The Top Websites for Downloading Free Images
Where can you find free images? There are quite a few websites that have large databases of free images containing various copyright licensing. Some of these sites have more images than others, so to help you out, here is a list of the top 10 websites for downloading free images:
#1 – Freeimages.com
Freeimages.com is a good place to start searching for images for your website. The website is a little more user-friendly than some of the other sites on this list. After entering a search term, just remember to click on “Free Images” to filter out the copyrighted or paid images.
One of the nice things about this site is that you do not have to deal with attribution – which would require you to add link or name of the photographer below the image.
#2 – Pixabay.com
Pixabay includes over 500,000 free images that you can search. Once you enter your search query, you will be presented with a grid of free images. Use the search tools to filter your search and narrow down your selection.
#3 – Flickr.com
Flickr is a website owned by Yahoo that allows people to upload images for private or public use. The images that are uploaded for public use are tagged based on the type of licensing the photographer chose. Once you start your search, you can filter images based on the licensing you are looking for.
#4 – Google.com
To use Google for finding free images, head over to google.com/imghp and enter your search query. Once the results show up in your browser, look for a button labeled “Search Tools”. After clicking this button, you should see a selection of search options, including “Usage Rights”. Click on that button and choose from the different licensing options.
#5 – Bing.com
Bing has options similar to Google on their image search page. After searching for an image, you will notice various options similar to the search tools used for Google image search. Select “License” and choose the licensing option you need.
#6 – Commons.wikimedia.org
This next site is a part of the Wikipedia foundation and includes over 29 million media files, including images, that you can use. Along with images, you can search for video and audio files. When you find a file you want to use, it will include the licensing associated with the file. Make sure that the image contains the right type of licensing before using it on your website.
#7 – Picjumbo.com
Picjumbo is another site that allows you to search totally free images that do not require attribution. Simply enter your search query and find the right image for your site. The only disadvantage is that the website can be tricky to navigate and you may have trouble finding the exact image you need.
#8 – Publicdomainarchive.com
Public Domain Archive has a large collection of vintage and modern images that you can use without attribution – all of the images are public domain. Unfortunately, the website is not searchable, you will need to browse through different categories to find the image you want.
#9 – Publicdomainpictures.net
Public Domain Pictures is another repository for public domain images, which again means that no attribution is needed. As with some of the other free sites on this list, Public Domain Pictures has a large selection of images that are public domain, but you will need a premium membership to download full resolution HD images.
#10 – CreativeCommons.org
Creative Commons is one of the largest sources of free images. It is actually a content aggregator site, finding images with a suitable copyright license from other websites, including Flickr, Google, Pixabay, and others. Using Creative Commons is one of the simplest methods of locating images that you can use on your blog or website.
Once you enter you search query, you can select which type of license to include in your search and then click on the website that you want to search. Essentially, Creative Commons provides one page from which you can search multiple sources.
Understanding Copyright Licenses
If you are not getting an image directly from a website that offers free images or a search engine that filters out copyrighted material, you should assume that the image is copyrighted and that you cannot use it on your site. This includes images from other people’s websites and random images that you have downloaded.
There are essentially seven different copyright licenses that allow you to add an image to your site. The type of license determines how you can use the image. Here is a quick overview of these seven licenses:
- Public domain
- Attribution (CC BY)
- Attribution with Share Alike (CC BY-SA)
- Attribution with No Derivatives (CC BY-ND)
- Attribution for Non-Commercial use (CC BY-NC)
- Attribution for Non-Commercial use with Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)
- Attribution for Non-Commercial use with No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-D)
Obviously, public domain means that the image is completely free to use – you do not need to credit anyone. With the other six types (CC licenses), you still need to add attribution. These six licenses can be divided into two categories – commercial and non-commercial (NC) use. If you are going to sell a product or service that contains the image, it cannot have an NC license.
If an image contains a no derivatives license (ND), then you cannot modify or edit the image. Share-alike is used for images that you can edit and then set your own licensing for others wanting to use the edited image.
When you start searching for an image, first decide how you intend on using it. Are you using it for commercial or non-commercial purposes? Do you plan on modifying it or using the image as is? Once you answer these two questions, you will know which type of copyright license to use in your search.
Take the Time to Find Free Images
As a website owner, you are responsible for the content on your site. This includes all forms of media, including images and video. If you want to use images on your site, then you need to take the time to find images that are free to use.
If you cannot find any suitable images for free, your other option is to use paid stock image websites, such as Shutterstock. These sites tend to have a larger selection of professional photographs, but they will cost money. Depending on the site you use, you may pay per image or get charged a monthly fee that includes a number of downloads.
The next time you write a blog post and need to find the perfect image to go along with your content, use the tips and suggestions provided. Finding free images is not difficult and it will save you the hassle of dealing with a removal request or litigation from the copyright holder.
If you have any questions about how to find free images, feel free to leave a comment.