As any blog owner knows, finding images to safely use in blog posts can be a major headache. Not only do you have to find an image that reflects what you’ve written about, but you also have to make sure that using that image doesn’t violate copyrights or fair use rules. Many people mistakenly assume that the since something is on the Internet – so often a source of free content – they can easily grab images, sounds or videos to spice up their blog posts. Unfortunately, many of bloggers and digital publishers don’t consider that much of the media on the Internet are copyrighted and the property of other people or companies, most of which have very deep pockets and lawyers with nothing better to do than hunt down people who unknowingly shared a copyrighted photo.
In fact, it’s best to assume that any image you find on the Internet is copyrighted and should be handled carefully. But since the Internet is such an open and wonderful place, that doesn’t mean your blog posts have to be image free. You just have to know how to safely share photos. Here are a few tools to help you find images that you can use to accentuate your content without the fear of being sued off the Internet forever.
Ever found the perfect picture through a Google Image Search, only to discover that it’s a stock image owned by Getty? Ever been sued by Getty? Never again, my friend. In March, Getty – the world’s largest image service – stunned the digital world by opening its image library to sharing. Simply find an image on Getty and follow the instructions to embed the photo on your blog. If you use an image without proper attribution, get ready for a letter from a lawyer, but Getty has made it incredibly easy to use their huge body of photos and images without concern.
Speaking of Google Image Search, we all know that you can’t just use any image you happen to find through an image search. Even if you link back to the image source, many photos and images are either copyrighted or blocked from commercial use (which, if you’re a company or organization that handles money, means just about any use online). Luckily, Google has a little-known filter for images that cut down on any confusion regarding image licenses. Simply click ‘Search Tools,’ then ‘Usage Rights.’
Google updated its image license filtering in Jan. 2014, and results have improved greatly. You should still be sure to attribute as appropriate, and it’s always a good idea to check for an image license from the image result itself, since they will commonly have license stipulations.
Creative Commons Images
This should not be any surprise to you as a blogger or digital marketer, but Creative Commons images are those that have been approved for use by their creators. Creative Commons licenses can have a handful of limitations – no derivatives use, no commercial use, required attribution and more – but they can be a lifesaver for a blogger or marketer without an image budget.
So how do you find Creative Commons images? Flickr has a massive library of user-uploaded, Creative Commons photos, but it can be difficult to search. We like to use CompFight.com – it’s a Flickr search engine that delivers powerful results. You’ll see a few rows of paid stock images, but the bulk of the content are open-license photos. When searching, make sure you click the Creative Commons or Commercial license filters to make sure you’re finding usable images.
And again, pay close attention to the licensing requirements, since the phrase “Some Rights Reserved” does not mean the same thing for every photo.
Similar to Creative Commons, but possibly overlooked by the average blogger, is the massive free image library offered by Wikimedia. Many Wikipedia articles and content are accompanied by amazing photography, videos, audio files and illustrations – all of it freely contributed by Wikimedia community members. Like Creative Commons, Wikimedia has rules for sharing and reusing image content, so be sure that you meet license requirements.
Public Domain Photos from Government Agencies
While these photos may not apply to every blog post you write, federal agencies can be an incredible source of totally free, public domain photos and illustrations. Need a photo of the President? Skip pictures from the AP or The New York Times and go directly to WhiteHouse.gov’s photo library. Firearms? Check the ATF or FBI. If you’re writing tech or science, you can bet NASA or the National Institutes of Health have something for you.
Here is a full list of federal agency photo portals, most of which are in the public domain.
Comic Book Plus – Updated
Want some classic illustration instead of a stock photo? Comic Book Plus offers thousands of comic books and images in the public domain, and they can be perfect to add a vintage spin on your blog post or website.
Stock Image Networks
There are a handful of stock image networks that offer some free photos and illustrations, but it can often be difficult to determine which photos are license- or royalty-free. Here are a handful that you may find useful:
- Microsoft Images – Microsoft doesn’t have the biggest image library, or the most user-friendly site, but there are plenty of high-quality photos and illustrations available through Microsoft Images for blogs, presentations, websites and more.
- Stock Xchng/Free Images – Requires registration, but offers a wide range of free and premium images
- Pixabay – A massive library of public domain photos that is free to use, but will require a Captcha form for unregistered users.
- Every Stock Photo – It looks like iStockPhotography, but Every Stock Photo offers public domain and Creative Commons images for free download.
- Pexels – Updated! With 5 new high-quality photos added each day, Pexels is a new free stock photo site with some killer images.
Free Image Communities
A search for “free high resolution images” will return a handful of sites and communities that offer shared photos that require attribution, but are typically public domain or available under a Creative Commons license. We’ve used photos from Unsplash, ISO Republic and from Crow The Stone, but you can find a number of image communities that allow commercial use of incredible photos.
Canva – Updated
Canva is one of the top free design tools around, and they have a solid repository of free stock image sites. Explore over at Canva.
Photo credit: Kristian Karlsson, via Unsplash