Ahh, everyone loves something for nothing don't they? In this article we're going to share some helpful places to find free images for your website, blog or marketing content.
When it comes to using strong images to help during a website redesign, using images for your marketing, be it your website, email campaigns, brochures, or other material, using professionally shot images, or appropriate stock images can make your content shine, give your designs a lift, and take your content to a new level.
But hiring a professional photographer or shelling out for (often) expensive stock images for every piece of marketing content you produce can soon prove costly, meaning you have to pass these costs onto your clients, or swallow them yourself.
Sometimes, it's more judicious to save the premium services for certain occasions and find some free, or more budget-appropriate image solutions for day to day use; using images in blogs, or regular marketing emails is a good example.
So let's take a look at our favourite five places to find free images for your website and marketing content.
Can't I just use images from the Internet?
It seems to make sense doesn't it? Fire up a Google Images search, type in whatever you're looking for, get a list of images, click one, download it, stick it on your website carousel.
This practice of just hunting on the web for images - usually on Google Images - is so common it's almost never given another thought; it's so ingrained in our web habits that it's often people's first stop on their quest for visuals for their marketing. We certainly encounter this practice almost every day in one form or another, whether that's clients' or just other business owners we speak to.
You may even have seen it yourself, or be guilty of it in your own marketing material curation habits.
What you might not know, however, is that downloading images from the web to use for your own commercial activities is more than likely seeing you stray into intellectual property theft and copyright infringement.
Copyright theft?! Really? Aren't they just there to download?
Yep, 'fraid so. The laws of the land are quite slow to catch up with the fast pace of technology growth, and copyright theft from digitally published images and documents was only really addressed recently (within the past few years).
Nevertheless, the UK Government does have available a good guide on copyright law full of advice on what to do if you're work is used without permission, and it'll certainly help others steer clear of using content without permission. The guide was published in June 2014.
How to stay safe
The best advice is to simply not download or reuse any piece of content (images, text, documents, etc.) if you're not sure you're legally OK to do so. If you can answer 'yes' to either of the following two conditions then you should be OK to use the images for your commercial marketing activities:
- Do you have the creator's express permission in writing (email is fine)?
- Do the terms and conditions of the provider state that images are royalty free and available for commercial use?
It's more than likely that if you've genuinely unwittingly used some images without permission that you'll be instructed to remove the images, pay for them, or give them the proper attribution to the author. The heavier end of the scale, however, is large fines that could seriously hurt your reputation and hit your business hard in the wallet...
Cautions out of the way, let's take a look at the best places you can find free images for your website and use them however you wish, safe in the knowledge that they're royalty and licence free.
1. Stockmedia CC - http://stockmedia.cc/
Stockmedia offer a collection of free creative commons (CC) stock images. The images available on Stockmedia were taken specifically for use as stock photos and are sourced from a single known provider so they can guarantee their CC license. The images are free to use for commercial purposes but the images must be linked back to Stockmedia when used.
A lot of the images are exclusive to Stockmedia and this offers a real edge over other imagery sites as you will find interesting images here that you won't find anywhere else on the web.
Stockmedia offer their images free of charge under a CC licence which is essentially a way for photographers and creative content authors to easily and fairly license their work free of charge in return for an attribution and to prevent consumers of this content (i.e. you) from selling their work. You can read more about creative commons here, and see how Stockmedia apply this licence in their terms and conditions.
Note - you do have to register / subscribe to their site, but this is free and so are the images. There are absolutely zero payments to be found, but the subscription is merely a way to uphold the CC licence and prevent website scrapers from downloading all the images on the site.
2. FreeImages - http://www.freeimages.com/
FreeImages boasts an impressive collection of over 400,000 images available to browse and download completely free of charge.
The site is really easy to use and it all starts with a familiar search bar. Simply type in what you're looking for, broadly or using a more niche term and you'll be presented with a list of alternative options to choose from and a number of images found for that search term.
For example, I searched for 'dogs' and was presented with a list of related terms. Freeimages told me that choosing 'happy dogs' would bring back over 18,000 free images.
There is a real mix of images from professional photographers, gifted amateurs, and simple, user-uploaded images, so there's definitely something for everyone on the site.
Freeimages integrates its search results with other premium providers to offer you something different from a paid provider if you can't find what you're looking for for free.
3. Pixabay - https://pixabay.com/
There are a staggering 610,000 free stock photos ready for download from Pixabay, as well as vector art and illustrations. If you're looking for a stunning photo, or some illustrated artwork then Pixabay is a good place to start.
In fact, the cover image for this very blog came from Pixabay, as does the image just above these first couple of paragraphs!
Like Stockmedia, Pixabay releases its creative work under a Creative Commons licence. Unlike Stockmedia, however, Pixabay doesn't require you to link to, or otherwise attribute their images to their site. There are a few caveats that you can read about in Pixabay's blog post, but they mainly include common sense usage regulations such as not using an image of a person or brand in a defamatory way or in a way that suggests they would endorse your products and services.
4. Kozzi - http://www.kozzi.com/
OK, so Kozzi isn't free. Sorry about that. However, it's in our favourites because it offers over 2 million images at $1 each. So that's about 50p ish to us British folk.
Free images are great and we use and recommend all of the sites in this article, but sometimes you can't find the exact thing you're looking for. Either it isn't available on the free sites, or the right look or the level of quality image can't be found.
In these cases it's usually sensible to turn to paid stock image sites. These can be expensive though with some sites charging upwards of £20 per image!
By using a site like Kozzi at a $1 per image, you can find just what you're looking for without going way over budget.
The other nice feature of Kozzi is their image editor. You can crop, resize, tweak and filter your chosen image before you pay and download to make sure you get the perfect image every time.
5. Google Images
I know we talked earlier about generally staying away from Google Images because of the uncertainty of being able to use images you'll find on there, but it can be a great place to have a look for images, provided you know how and where to look...
There is a setting, found within the 'Search Tools' section of the Google Images search that can filter images based on a number of terms that will open up a range of images for you that you should be able to use for free.
Here's what to do:
- Search for your chosen term in Google and choose 'Images' - in our gif above, we chose 'sunset';
- Click on 'Search tools';
- Click on 'Usage rights'
- Select either 'Labeled for reuse with modification' or 'Labeled for reuse'.
'Labeled for reuse' is really good to go. You can download and use the file in your commercial projects. 'Labeled for reuse with modification' is similar, but it means the image can be used in your projects so long as it has been modified beforehand. This might mean that you've cropped and resized it, used only parts of it, or added it as part of a few more images into a brochure. Generally, just downloading the image and using it as-is should be avoided.
Free your image searches with our favourite sites
These are just a handful of our go-to sites to find free, or nearly free, artwork, images, and other visual content. By making sure you're on the right side
Check them out, start using them in your own marketing materials, or to add some visual breaks in your blog and on your website and you'll see what a difference, high-quality, professional imagery can make.
Let us know in the comments if you have any favourite image sourcing sites or go-to places.