Sourcing free images for your website / blog / Facebook etc.

So you’ve written a lovely blog post and now you need to add in an eye catching image…

You can go the easy route and pay for images from a stock photo / graphic website such as BigStock. The upside is that the images and vectors are high quality and there’s plenty to choose from. Once you have a subscription you can just download them and use them anywhere without crediting the photographer. The downside is it’s pretty expensive for an individual freelancer or small business to pay a monthly subscription.

The other 2 options take just a little more work but the images are free! I’ve always found the whole Creative Commons thing a bit confusing and whilst I’m no expert the following suggestions should be all you need to source and credit (if necessary) quality free images. I also include my take on how to credit using images on Facebook posts.

1) Creative Commons Zero

This is the easiest way to use free images as there’s literally no license or crediting necessary. The following stock photo sites list photographs under a Creative Commons Zero license (also known as CC0) :

You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

No ambiguity there! A few of my favourite Zero license photo sites are:

Unsplash – unsplash.com

Very beautiful and aspirational stuff. Good if you’re Life Coach blogger!

Remember with CC0 you don't have to credit. (But this is from Unsplash.com!!)

Remember with CC0 you don’t have to credit. (But this is from Unsplash.com!!)

 

Gratisography – gratisography.com

Lovely, fun, quirky photographs by Ryan McGuire – he doesn’t require credits he would probably like one just the same.

gratisography-2

I can’t help it! I want to credit this lovely pic – gratisography.com

StockSnap – StockSnap.io

More super cool photos. All under Creative Commons Zero.

stocknap_6IFQRKBY19

So you don’t have to credit but who wouldn’t want to credit Annie Spratt from StockSnap.io for this gorgeous pic!


2) Using Creative Commons

Flickr Search Tool – Compfight – compfight.com

Unlike the more trendy, aspirational kind of photography that the mentioned CC-Zero sites offer sometimes you need a image to best illustrate a specific topic – such as “Making Roboty Stuff at Home”. This is where sometimes Flickr wins out. It may not be the most beautiful photo in the world but it might be more useful.

I’ve been using the Compfight Flickr search tool for donkey’s years.  It searches through zillions of photographs on Flickr and gives you the option of filtering the results (look on the left hand side panel) to either creative commons or commercial. Sometimes it’s hard to know if your blog / website should be deemed commercial if you’re not directly making money from it – like an online shop. I err on the side of caution here and presume that if your blog is attached to company website or you’ve got ads on the website that it is for commercial use. Same with using images for Facebook posts. If you’re non profit organisation then I think it’s ok to use photos tagged with non commercial.

A few of things about using the Compfight:

  1. Most photographs in the results are not great – So try a few different keywords and keep searching trying.
  2. Remember the first 2 rows of image results are probably stockphotos – keep to below the dotted line for the free ones.
  3. You will most likely need to credit the photographer – on your blog / website / Facebook page. I use either the photo caption or down the bottom of the post. If I’m using the photo in a slideshow or part of the homepage then I use a dedicated image credits page – like I’ve done here for the Trinity Rocks website.

How to credit properly using Creative Commons

On Compfight they make it easy to credit the author propery. Once you’ve chosen an image to use you get a pop up with 3 steps.

  1. It’s really important to View The License Agreement first. Check that you can use it for commercial purposes. If you intend to modify the artwork make sure this allowed too. Just read the agreement – the language is pretty easy to understand. If you’re unsure I’d probably not bother contacting the photographer – I’ve tried in the past and never received a response in time for it to be useful.
  2. Easy – Download the size you need. Large is probably all you need to include for a blog post for instance.
  3. Image Credit. Just select the text within the box and paste it somewhere in your blog post. I either paste it directly into the “caption” field after I upload the image. Or I put the credit down the bottom of the post. With the latter make sure you switch to the text tab in the post editor so you can paste in the HTML directly.

Here’s a screen grab to show how it’s done.

how-to-source-free-images

Photo Credit: fabola via Compfight cc

Wikimedia Commons – commons.wikimedia.org

This is another useful image database that has a lot of images that can be used (with proper credit). It’s a bit utilitarian but it’s useful for sourcing photographs of artwork or more editorial stuff – For instance the following is photo of Honda’s robot prototypes. Again I’ve included a screengrab of how to properly credit the work.

wikipedia-media

Even though this is a screengrab I’m going to err on the side of caution and credit the image!! Photo by Morio (photo taken by Morio) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons


 

Using Creative Commons images on Facebook posts

I couldn’t find a lot of info about the best practice here but if your looking at using Creative Commons images on your Facebook posts then you still have to include a credit. I would do one of the following within the Facebook post (as illustrated in the image following) :

  1. include the image author and a link to the photo (on Flickr or wherever)
  2. or link to your website’s image credits page (like this one) with the photo listed and with the full credits / links.

NOTE: Use a link shortening tool such as bitly.com as including a long link to a Flickr page or your website looks clumsy and downright distracting!

facebook-credits

Photo Credit: Trish Hamme via Compfight cc

  • Great post Heidi… I really like the look of StockSnap. Another one worth checking out is Vecteezy – http://www.vecteezy.com. It’s a brilliant site for icons, illustrations and other vector artwork.

  • Thanks Orla – that look great. I’m planning on doing another post on icons and vectors. Thanks for the tip!

  • Heidi, this post has changed my world!! Thank you so much – some of those images are fab, they have a lovely creative buzz to them . Honestly I am so much more efficient in creating posts now. Thank you.

    • So glad it’s been useful for you Foodoppi!! Happy blogging 🙂

  • You can also check out my site http://Blogpiks.com where you will see tons of pictures free for commercial or private use.