You’ve finished writing a blog post and you’re almost ready to publish. Your links are all formatted with quality anchor text. Your content analysis indicates it fits right in your niche and targets the keywords you were looking to hit. All you need are a few compelling graphics to make the post really shine before it goes live. So it’s off to Google Image Search, where you throw out a few queries, find a couple interesting images, save them and upload them. Done. Right?
Wrong! That chain of actions is probably copyright violation, unless you were accidentally lucky. Even if the person whose image you took never notices, it’s still not a habit you should get into. Sooner or later someone with the resources to challenge you will discover what you’ve done, and the popularity will lead to others speaking out. The last thing you need is a copyright lawsuit.
Instead, search for an image through a source you can legally use. This means one of three sources;
There are also royalty free images, which are images you purchase once and are allowed to use indefinitely afterwards. Sometimes this is the only option to get that perfect image from a stock photo site, but it does cost you a buy-in fee.
So, where can you find these images?
A Yahoo property, Flickr was one a predominant image host that has declined somewhat in recent years. Despite that decline, there are still billions of images hosted on the site, many of which fall under the Creative Commons license. You can run a specific Creative Commons search to find anything that fits your idea, if it’s hosted on the site.
Formerly known as Stock Xchange, Free Images hosts over 400 thousand images with various licenses. It also includes a tutorial section for those looking to buff up their image editing abilities.
Named after the industry term for inactive files after a job, MorgueFile offers a robust free image search of their own database, as well as the databases of several other popular free image sites, including iStockPhoto, Getty Images, Dreamstime, DepositPhotos and Fotolia.
Of course, you don’t have to go through MorgueFile to access these sites and their image databases. Getty and iStockPhoto in particular are some of the most popular stock photo databases in the world.
With over 130 thousand images in its database, FreeFoto offers a ton of web-size images to use in your media as long as you attribute the site. If you want to use the images offline, however, it’s going to cost you.
Dividing images into three categories, Pixabay offers vectors, photos and clip art for use under various free image licenses. Sure, many of them look like they came off a clip art CD-ROM from 1998, but there are some hidden gems, particularly in the photos section.
This site has one of the most self-explanatory names in image hosting. It’s a database full of pictures of shoes. Hopefully you didn’t believe that; it’s actually a database full of public domain images with various usage restrictions ranging from with attribution to free use.
DA is a site where many businesses get in trouble. Plenty of images are licensed under creative commons or public domain, but not all. It’s also sometimes difficult to spot the images you want with the right license. Of course, it’s a social platform as well; you can always talk to the artist directly.
A site that powers wiki image hosting around the web, Wikimedia Commons maintains fairly strict quality controls that ensure the images you browse are high quality.
A site built around searching the web for images specifically licensed under the Creative Commons document, CC is a godsend for accumulating images from various sites, including several of the other sites on this list.
Many of these sites seem to share some common themes, meaning several of them end up with large selections of images unrelated to anything you would write about. PhotoDune offers high quality images on a wide range of subjects so you can find something useful for nearly any topic.
This site only has 27 thousand images, but they’re highly categorized and tagged for easy search and browsing. It’s easy to dig deep into categories and find yourself only browsing firework pictures, for example.
One of the largest image databases with over 35 million images, you’re going to be disappointed if you don’t realize it’s all royalty free, not entirely free. The selection of images you can access without a subscription is significantly smaller than their advertised database.
Not your typical stock photo site, Ancestry Images is a haven for historical maps and woodcuts, and other such old-school graphics. If you need an 18th century world map to round out your blog post there’s no better place to find one.
Not your usual stock photo site, DttSP sends you a selection of images to your inbox every month. You never know what you’re going to get, so it’s better used as inspiration than an at-will resource.
Yes, the start of this article called you out for using GIS to find your images. The thing is, with one simple step, the whole thing would have been perfectly fine. Google has a Creative Commons search option you can set to find free to use images. It’s that simple.