The Images and Copyright Minefield and Where to Get Free Stock Photos

How do you get people to come to your blog without promising free cake and then disappointing them a la Portal? You need a good headline for starters or people are not going to be enticed to read it.

It’s not all about the headline though. Often, viewers will usually be drawn here by attractive and preferably relevant images.

This can sometimes present us with problems. If an image is on the web, unless otherwise stated, it is not public domain. For those that do allow you to use their images, there is usually a caveat – state your source, or modify it significantly. Without attribution, you are in theory claiming it as your own and the copyright owner would have the right (just as you do for your written work) to properly credit the work or remove it entirely.

You may prefer to save these issues by using your own images, but you are not always going to have a relevant image in your legal ownership. If I’m writing an article about zombies, I’m unlikely to have an image of a real life zombie or somebody dressed as a zombie to illustrate my point.

How To Get Good Images While Not Breaking The Law

The other option then, is creative commons or public domain images. These are freely available images that you can do with as you please. The former requires that you link back to the source but you are otherwise able to use them for personal and even commercial purposes; for public domain, you are not required to do so but it may be good manners to at least demonstrate where you got the image.

They are not always easy to find though – Google Image Search can locate them for you but it does mean making sure to set the correct level of usage right on the advanced search – it’s possible but there are more user-friendly features out there.

Here, for your convenience, is a list of sites to find images you may use on social media and your website.

  • Morgue File allows you to search a wide variety of sources including istock and Getty and brings them up in its own database. You can search by subject, size and popularity
  • Wylio is a useful and simple image searcher. All you need is a Google account to access it and who doesn’t have one of those? It’s designed with bloggers in mind to quickly find citeable images for inclusion in your blog
  • Photopin allows users to search by most recent, relevance and “interestingness”. You can also set commercial or non-commercial. This one is glossy and user-friendly and searches the whole web for public domain images
  • Unsplash is a high-res collection of images of scenes, scapes and people that make useful image headers
  • The amusingly named Death to the Stock Photo is a service you must join but it is free and you must check the restrictions to see what the site’s creators will allow you to do
  • Life of Pix: A user-submitted resource full of wonderful hi-res images. You won’t get by if you are not using this or the following two resources
  • Pixabay: one of (if not the) largest collection of free stock images presently available on the web
  • Pexels: Not quite as large as Pixabay, and some of the images are the same, but you will find some differences. Always worth looking at both.
  • Stock Snap: Not much more to add, a small database with some similar to Pexels and Pixabay, but some that are different too
  • PicJumbo: Another free archive. Its content seems to be different from the previous three in this list so I include it here
  • And finally, a useful resource of other links for you to investigate

Any more? Please add them in the comments!

Published by MG Mason Creative

I'm Matt, a freelance writer, writing mostly about education, early career recruitment, tech, B2B and professional services. Dabbling with landscape and nature photography too. For this content , please look at my main site linked below. I'm also a self-published author, creator of the quirky crime comedy book series Salmonweird. If that's what you're looking for, then good news! The village has its own website listed below.

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