The web (or should I say, Google) provides a huge variety of images that you can use in your own website or blog. This doesn’t technically mean you’re supposed to, though.
When someone wants to, they can exercise their right against copyright infringement, plagiarism, etc. If you’ve copied a photo or other image from another website into your own and you did not obtain permission from the owner, you could be held liable.
So, stock photos are helpful. But a lot of stock photo websites require purchasing the individual photo or signing up for a subscription. “Royalty-free stock photo” just means you only pay for it once. What if you just want to use a photo here and there without paying for every single thing?
Don’t worry, you have options. And best of all, they are free and legit.
This site has a pretty good variety of stock photos and you can use the smaller sizes (in the 300 to 400 pixel range on the largest side, which is large enough to be clear) for free.
All they require is that you link back to the portfolio of the owner and reference the image source (the owner and the website itself). The reference can be anywhere on the same page as the image.
You can purchase the images at a price of $3 and up if you don’t want to give credit to the photographer or digital artist (some aren’t photos). Even though it’s not free, it’s definitely cheaper than some sites I’ve seen.
Perhaps you really need to use icons in your blog posts. This may be especially true if you write technical posts. You can also use icons for social media.
There are also other graphics available that aren’t typically thought of as icons, such as a football, an office chair, a spade, logos, etc. These can help fill the gap in what might be harder to find on a stock photo website.
IconsPedia has a variety of icons and provides the licensing up front – private use, commercial OK, creative commons, etc. Some icons were specially recreated to look extra fancy and those may have special requirements.
Either way, some require a link and reference to the source, some are just free for personal use, etc. There is a lot of variety and an easy search feature for finding exactly what you need.
Alright… let me be honest for a sec. I found this site not while searching for free photos, but while searching for sample photos for a camera I’ve been drooling over.
That said, let me point out that it’s awesome that they allow contributors to note what camera they are using. The image screen also provides the photo’s settings for aperture, shutter speed, focal length, and ISO speed. (How freaking cool is that?!)
Being a amateur (read: wannabe) photographer, it is awesome to see the abilities and settings used to take various photos with the camera.
OK, enough about the camera I’m yearning for. The site offers a wide variety of photos and they are free to use with generally only a link back to the page you got it from. Some photos may have other usage requirements if there are people in them or what not.
The one qualm I would mention is that they also link to places like Shutterstock in such a way that it can be confusing and it’s easy to mistake the paid photos advertised from Shutterstock or Fotalia to be more free photos from PublicDomainPictures.net.
DreamsTime also offers premium at-cost photos, but this section offers freebies for download and use. Even their premium photos have really low base prices, starting at $0.20.
Their free section does offer a wide variety of free photos available for download but you must first register and complete your profile. I wouldn’t mind that except your profile requires your full name, address, and phone number.
I imagine this is for billing purposes since they expect you to purchase credits for premium downloads (the cheapest plan is 8 credits, which they say gets you approximately 8 images). Since that’s not what we’re talking about, make note that full registration is required and we’ll leave it at that.
A whole bunch of free photos, cliparts, and icons of all types available for commercial and non-commercial use. Many of the images are very plain though, such as single items. Even some of the people photos look more like photos that people would have posted on Facebook than that stock photo feel.
For example, you can get a picture of a girl (or 20 pictures of the girl) in a variety of poses and backgrounds but she is looking at the camera in every image. She’s smiling, standing, holding a dog, but not anything that illustrates an emotion or situation. Pictures of objects are mostly individual items – a penny, a flower, water drops, etc.
Although the site does explicitly state that their images are public domain, it also warns that if an image contains logos you should proceed with caution to avoid potentially getting sued.
It does not state anywhere on the site that I’m able to find (they have no FAQ or anything) that a reference or link back is required, but I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
This site is almost the same as Public-Domain-Photos but it has an FAQ at least. They also provide an explanation of what “Public Domain” entails. In a similar fashion, this site doesn’t have a lot of stock-photo-esque images, just free photos. However, I would say that there are a more stock photo type images on this site than the other.
Also, the images are broken down by category on both sites, but there are more categories on Public Domain Image than are found on Public Domain Photo.
I really like that the owner of this website went through the effort of explaining the definition. I also like that he clearly spells out that permission is not required to use the photos on his site. It’s not necessary, but it’s clear, simple language for anyone that might be paranoid about copyright infringements.
7. Zemanta (for WordPress)
If your blog is through WordPress, you also have the built-in option of using Zemanta. I didn’t even know about this until reading a recent WordPress update.
In WordPress, Zemanta is a little widget that sits in your sidebar while you’re writing a blog post. Zemanta also provides a Firefox plugin. It analyzes your text to provide relevant photos and tells their licensing information up front. When an image is clicked, it’s added automatically with a caption referencing the source.
To enable Zemanta in WordPress:
- In your left sidebar (dashboard), expand “Users”
- Click “Personal Settings”.
- Click “Help me find related content to use in my posts” (just above “Account Details”).
- Click Save.
Now start a new blog post and look in the right sidebar for Zemanta. Click a picture and
Zemanta will add it automatically with a credit!
Didn’t see that one comin’, didja?
This site actually links to many other sites such as a photo page for Grand Canyon National Park or the Air Force. Each photo page has its own rules though, so although some photos may be in the public domain, others may not be.
The great thing about the links provided by the government are that they’re a tad unexpected. It sounds like you’ll be seeing photos of the White House and presidential meetings and stuff.
In actuality, there are all sorts of different photos from a yoga class, to Old Faithful, to antiques, to the Secret Service in action. (How is it secret if there are photos of it on the web?)
Oh, and of course, Obama.
Do you have any other sites you’d like to share that offer free images licensed under GNU, creative commons, or are public domain? Suggestions are most welcome!