How often have you wondered where to find images for blogs, presentations, or schoolwork? Have you committed any of the following no-nos when it comes to placing images in your posts? Would you like a list of dependable image sources? I continue to see the issue of where to find images for blog posts crop up time and again on various social media platforms, so I am updating this post as a reminder to new and current readers. As anyone who follows this blog for any length of time knows, this online space is a labor of love I continually strive to perfect, and proper and effective image use is part of that process.
When I first started blogging, I “borrowed” images from a variety of websites. I fooled myself into thinking it was okay because I always linked the image back to its source. Then in July 2012 read I Loni Loren’s post Bloggers Beware: You CAN Be Sued for using Pics on Your Blog. Suddenly, the side of me trained in research methods felt so ashamed. It dawned on me I was being lazy, not to mention I was also being a thief.
What follows is a non-inclusive list of examples of irresponsible image use and a list of websites where you can find images for blogs. A common misconception seems to be if an image on the internet, then it is in the public domain and free to use as you see fit. That is not the case at all. Various licences dictate how a photo can be used and by whom.
Where NOT to Find Images for Blogs
Searching Google Images: Any image used should be a primary source. Images returned by search results are secondary sources, not to mention there is no way to tell if the photographer has granted usage permission and what type.
Your Favorite Websites: Many pictures on blogs are not primary sources either, and the blogger has copied and pasted from elsewhere without giving credit. The only exception is when the picture you use is the size of a thumbnail.
Embedding a Picture: By not saving a “borrowed” picture on your computer, you are now also guilty of stealing bandwidth from the server from where you’ve linked to where the picture is actually stored.
Inserting Watermarked Images: Any size picture that is inserted with a watermark on it across the entire face of the image screams HELLO? Obviously, the picture’s owner cares enough to indicate ownership, so hands off unless you seek proper permission for use!
Not All Stock Photo Sites are Created Equal
Each collection of photos carries various types of images with varying usage guidelines. Some will specify credit be given, but it is always a good idea to do so, either beneath the picture or at the bottom of the post. Certain sites require the user to create an account, others do not. ALWAYS CHECK EACH SITE’S USAGE GUIDELINES!
Try familiarizing yourself with one or two sites at a time, rather than exploring too many when searching for where to find images for blog posts.. The end of this list also contains a note on fair use and re-sizing images.
Where to Find Images for Blogs (16 sites)
American Memory: Contains vintage Library of Congress Photos. Clunky design.
dreamstime: Appears to contain more paid for than free photos.
Flickr: The Commons contains photos for public use. Offers users 1TB of storage space.
Foter: A WordPress plug-in for inserting images is available.
Free Digital Photos: All small-sized images are free. Larger sizes are not.
Free Images: The first and largest free stock-photo site.
FreeMediaGoo: Limited photos; image credit not needed.
Free Photos Bank: Free images, but heavy push toward paid dreamstime site.
freerange: Smaller collection, but extremely high quality.
Google Art Project: Numerous art works, but must check with each museum on usage.
Kozzi: Very popular stock photo site.
morgueFile: Contains a portfolio section and a free photos section.
Public Domain Images: All images are free for any personal or commercial use.
Public Domain Pictures: The collection is not as large as some, but serviceable.
rgbstock: User-friendly design with lots of options.
Wikimedia Commons: Includes images, sounds, and video.
Fair Use and Image Resizing
Using images of book covers and movie posters falls under fair use guidelines, and permission is not needed. Just make sure you are not manipulating the images in any way or making collages. I always include a disclaimer at the bottom of posts that contains a disclaimer such as, “The cover image used in this post is for promotional purposes only and follows fair use guidelines. Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.” When I use images from stock photo sites, I always include a link back to the source at the bottom of the post.
Also be mindful of the size of the images used in your posts. Anything over approximately 600 pixels wide is too big. The larger file size will slow the load time of your page, not to mention look gigantic when clicked on to open in a separate window. Many free programs exist for re-sizing photos. You may want to consider using the WordPress Plug-in Smush.it to further strip images.
Using Your Own Pictures
In this age of smartphones and photo apps, why not start a stockpile of photos you can use when needed? In a pinch, PicMonkey and Art.Pho.to are just a couple of free sites you can use to add effects and text to your pictures from your computer.
As time allows, I have used many of the photographs I’ve posted on my hobby photography blog Arresting Imagery to create shareable content with some of my favorite quotes to post to my social media accounts.
What stock photo sites above have you used, and how would you rate your favorite ones? Can you add any that aren’t on my list? I’d love to hear from you.
Guest Post: How to Choose Wine Glasses. Join me to learn more over at the blog of my regular client Susan P. Cooper
Photo credit: uhleentothe / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo Credit: “Young Male Face” by beermug from stock.xchng
Photo Credit: “A Yellow Daisy” from Microsoft Images
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2016.
Great information. I will make sure I use these sites for images for my blog when I don’t have a photo of my own. I printed out the list and pinned it to my bulletin board (a real one, not Pinterest!) Thanks!
Grace, good to year you’ve printed the list and gave it a real pin and not a virtual one! 😉
Nice list Jeri! I use Fotor just because it’s easy and convenient. 🙂
I used the Fotor plug-in for a while too, but I decided I like the images in the post without the credit caption. It doesn’t take too much longer to add it at the bottom of the post since all the user has to do is cut and paste the credited line for the image from Foter’s site.
This is very good advice. I think we all have been guilty of using an image without thinking about the consequences. 95% of the images I use are my own. The exceptions are on my wine posts of the bottles and labels. Luckily these images are freely offered to help promote their product.
The biggest concern I have is unauthorized use of my art. My legal counsel has recommended a standard Cease and Desist Letter if and when that should occur.
Susan, I hope you never have to go after anyone for improper use of your images. You’re a great example to us all when it comes to creating original digital artwork for blog posts, plus you always watermark your images. I do at times, but still forget to at others.
Thanks for this info Jeri! I try to use my own photos whenever possible, but it’s great to have other options.
Aleshia, I’ve been trying to use more of my own photos, but until I get more in the habit, I’m a happy-camper in my knowledge that all these great free photo sites exist.
Great post Jeri and such useful information. I get nightmares when I see how often people put themselves in jeopardy by using images without permission. In fairness though, it can be tricky with limited use images that people mistakenly think they they have purchased. Thanks for the list.
Debra, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen improperly placed images. Like I mentioned above, I too was guilty, even though I knew better. Roni Loren’s post on getting sued over images definitely served as my wake-up call.
Great advice and surely a site listing I’ll be checking out. Thanks!
You have a bunch of sites on here I had not yet seen. Thanks for the info.
Jon, out of the 17 sites listed, I’m really familiar and comfortable with about five of them. Doing this post gave me an excuse to branch out a bit.
Really useful post!
I’m revising my Candy’s Monsters blog this summer and have been told it needs more images, more photos, more art… I’ve been leery about using the intellectual property of others. This list will be very helpful.
Candy, so glad my list of stock photo sites will be helpful in your blog makeover! I’ll be looking forward to how you start incorporating images that will only add depth to your already great subject matter 😉
I also sent your info the instructor who taught the social media class I took last year. We discussed intellectual property and, honestly, not everyone gets it. Your list may help some of his new students realize that they don’t have to “appropriate” without thought in order to illustrate their thoughts.
Candy, thanks for passing my list along. The idea of intellectual property really is hard for many people to wrap their minds around. When I taught research methods to high school students, it could get to frustrating because we live in a day and age where everything is liked and shared and available at the click of a button.
Awesome post and just what I need today, Jeri. I am looking for a very specific location for a photo to go with an article and my go-to sites (included on your list) just aren’t cutting it. I’ll check out the others on the list. TY!
Christy, I’m glad my post on image sources is just what you needed to day. These things often tend to come along at just the right time, don’t they?
Great minds think alike, I also posted on this a while ago. It is definitely a common problem and need for bloggers. After researching this topic I realised I was also probably not attributing images correctly and fixed that up.
I will be exploring some of your links as I have not heard of or used quite of few of those.
Here is a link to another post I did on image tools in case your readers need some more to go with their new found images :>
Ashley, thanks for the extra link to image tools. Editing images is something I would really like to get better at, but just never seem to find the time to truly master.
indeed we have to choose what we spend time on. My list of things to master is long !
Great tips Jeri; I try to use my own pictures as often as possible, but will keep these in mind for future use. Thanks!
Marcia, your pictures are amazing!
Thank you for doing this research. I didn’t know about many of the sites on it.
I often use photopin.com — many of their images are free. They ask that you check and provide the original source link. They also provide the code for attribution. Taking my own photos is not an option for me–no time, not good at it, and frequently I want metaphoric images–no way I could create those.
Jagoda, thanks for the photopin link. I’ll be sure to bookmark it. I can relate to the need for metaphoric images 😉
I use Wikimedia a lot. I prefer to use my own images, but if I need to find something, I try to find public domain images. A friend got a nasty threat of a lawsuit for using a Creative Commons image and properly linking – it turned out the image was not really in that person’s permission to offer. One really has to be careful!
Leora, I often wonder the same things about some of the images I come across. Just because they are on a site that says their images are approved for public use does not necessarily mean the person who posted them on the photo site has proper approval. It’s all such risk, which is one more reason for me to continue to work on using my own photos.
Jeri — thanks for the tips about where to find images. I buy my images and use istockphoto.com/, http://fotolia.com/, and occasionally, http://www.shutterstock.com/. Their images are royalty free. Photographers submit images they own and get paid every time someone buys one. I’ve been to a few free stock photo sites but I often find they don’t have a comprehensive inventory of the quality images I want. I know so many bloggers who still use Google Images because they believe they are free and there for the taking. But I also know that some of these photographers are going after the culprits, so stealer beware!
Jeannette, your comment reminds me that if I could ever get all of my travel photos organized, I would like to place them on one of those paid photo sites. The only two photos I’ve purchased so far have been the ones I used for the cover of my two eBooks.
Great tips and advice, Jeri! Thank you a lot! I also use Free Digital Photos beside my own pics, but I’ll surely search for those sources you’ve mentioned.
As blogs are parts of our lives, we all want them to be perfect, but we also have to pay attention to legal aspects, as well.
Laura, it really is true that our blogs are parts of our lives, which is probably why I always want a wealth of photos to choose from.
Thanks for the list of places to find images!
Cassi, I’m glad the list of sites helps. I’ll be exploring them more in depth in the months to come.
Awesome information. I’ve been guilty of linking from time to time. I didn’t think it was theft because the original site was published with it (kinda like a footnote). Thanks for the heads up. I’ll try sticking with my own pictures or go to the sites you mentioned.
Denise, once I read Loni Loren’s article, I started to go back and change all of my embedded images to ones that were royalty free and in the public domain. It would be awful to get sued, that’s for sure. Better to be safe than sorry.
Great article! A must read for any blogger! Proper image crediting is so important! Thanks for the reminder.
Trinidad, I think more and more bloggers are realizing how important it is to give proper credit for photos, but there are still many who don’t give it a second thought. Hopefully they won’t end up getting sued some day.
Great post! Thank you for sharing. Far too many people do not understand the rules and guidelines to use when posting pictures to their site. This post is clear cut and easily understandable. Hopefully it will save some people from trouble in the future! Always good to teach a little lesson and get the word out.
Mary, thanks for the kind words. I will admit I partially wrote this post as a reaction to some of the ways I’ve seen a few bloggers unknowingly incorporating images into their posts.
Great list Jeri. I use Dreamstime, often paying, because they do have such quality images. I also like, http://www.wylio.com/, they add the text for the credits just before you download the photo. There’s not always something good there but when there is, there is, and it’s easy.
I also signed up for http://www.stockphotosforfree.com/ but haven’t used it yet.
Thank you for all the great places to look for images. We use Istock however you have to pay for the images and they get costly. We try to use our own images. Our recent blog is my dog. I have to say you put together quite a list. This blog I will bookmark.
You did a great job compiling the list for this post. I’m very familiar with MorgueFile but other than that site, I primarily license my images from BigStockPhotography. My reason for doing that is I prefer to use graphics rather than photos on my main site. It’s something that I started doing when I launched my site and I think that at this point, it’s part of the brand. I’ll keep these other sites in mind for the future.
Sherryl, BigStockPhotography is another site I’ll bookmark as well 🙂
Excellent list, Jeri.
Already use some of them but the more the merrier.
Catarina, agreed. The more the merrier. It’s better to have too many options rather than not enough.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
I use one or two of these, but you really need a plethora of places to find images as often (particularly when they are royalty free) the pictures just aren’t suitable or what you are looking for.
Becc, that’s exactly what I thought when I first started using royalty free images, but then the more I looked, the more I realized just how many great photos are available.
I’ve bookmarked this post because of your excellent advice. Too often I’ve been lazy and grabbed an image off the internet – when I should have known better. Thank you so much for rounding up this great list of free image resources. Pictures are very important to blogging, since they make the story come alive, and serve to underscore or counterpoint what you’re discussing. Keep it up!
Krystyna, part of my motivation behind compiling this list of sites is I had pretty much exhausted the possibilities in my one go-to site, but now this list gives all of us so many other options. Blog posts without images are so bland.
@Jeri … can we use any picture from Flicker? All of them are free to use. If not, how can we know that any picture is free and which is not. At times, I try to search on site, I can not find any detail about ” not using pictures”.
In which section normally this information is given?
It is really a great post. Thanks for help and so many useful links.
If you don’t see the “request to license” info you can always contact the person and ask permission if it’s a photo you really want to use. Not all members enable that option. Here is a link to their help files: https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147
I’m enjoying Flickr though the restrictions can seem a bit daunting. One client that I work with prefers Trover for travel-related images and I really enjoy that one. Quality can be an issue at times and sometimes those watermarks sneak in there. I like your additions and will definitely have to give them a look. Thanks, Jeri!
Duke, I try to use my own photos all the time when they will fit a post. I’ve gradually been turning my weekly photo challenge posts into quote images in order to get more mileage out of them.
Thanks! Always looking for solid sources for photos. I’ve found some great ones on government websites with public domain photographs, mainly NASA, National Institute of Health, Public Health Image Library and US Geological Survey. Also, many public museums (not all!!) allow people to take pictures of the with their cell phones, and these can be used legally. Thanks also for the 600 pixel tip.
Julia, that’s a good tip regarding government websites. There really are tons of places to find public domain photos. I take lots of pics at the art museums I’ve visited, but have only used a couple in blog posts. You comment reminds me that when I do so again, I should check the photo sharing guidelines of the particular museum.
Great advice. There are still a lot of bloggers out there who post pictures they have no right to. I use mostly my own photos on my site, but the site is travel related and based on my experiences so that makes sense. I used some stock photos earlier on. Although I was always careful about making sure that was allowed and giving appropriate credit, I am now going back and replacing with my own where I can. I find it is often just as quick to stage my own photo as search through sites for an acceptable one I can use, but it is nice to have as comprehensive a list as you’ve created. One also needs to be careful about using your own photos if they were taken at a site (e.g. some museums, historical sites) which allows photography only for personal uses. In those cases, it is always best to ask before including in a blog. The places I’ve approached have readily given me permission to use the photos on my blog, but sometimes warn me about using them for other commercial purposes (e.g. printing on a t-shirt or calendar to sell). Good post Jeri.
Donna, I think that’s great that you’re replacing with your own photos when you can. It’s so true that finding appropriate photos is often as time consuming as using one’s own, especially for those of us who take a lot of pictures.
Thanks for the photo source recommendations, Jeri. I have sought out permission before using some images on my site. I’ve also purchased images from dreamstime. I tried Creative Commons but didn’t care for any of the free images. One question; I do repost images from pinterest often. I’ll credit the source or site though. Is that wrong?
Lisa, citing Pinterest as an image source is akin to citing images found in a Google or Bing images search, which is the wrong way to give proper credit. Each image on Pinterest comes from an online source, and some of those online sources may have borrowed the image (properly or improperly) from yet another source. That’s why it’s so important to seek permission when using images that are not labeled as being permissible for use in the public domain. When it comes to my own watermarked images, I go with: “Please share responsibly.” That implies providing a link back to the URL of the image on my blog and that it not be used for monetary gain. Granted, my images are small potatoes, but they are still mine! In the case of infographics, they are often encouraged to be shared and the URL appears on the image or the original website may supply html code for embedding. It’s always best to link back to the original source when that is possible. Using images from stock photo sites helps alleviate some of the confusion and need to contact the image owner for permission because the type of usage license is already included with each photo.
Thanks for this explanation, Jeri. Yes, I always add the owner of the image’s link when using it but I don’t seek permission. I will stop using pinterest photos at all just to be safe.
Lisa, that’s a good idea. Check out a few stock photo cites and you’ll find some ones that appeal to you.
Great info Jeri, and not only for the sites that you list as go to sources but also for listing what not to do. It isn’t always obvious that photos are not ‘free’ when they’re so readily available to view. Using the plug in Zemanta is another way of finding photOs relevant to a blog post. It always lets you know what the constrictions are.
Kathy, I briefly used Zemanta in the past and liked it. It always gets me how the notion of using images is taken for granted because they are everywhere, and yet most people would stop and think twice about copying and pasting an entire blog post, etc. and trying to pass it off as their own without given credit. Context does indeed shape our notions of what is okay to borrow and not.
Thanks Jeri! I thought Bing images was a free image site. Now I’m not so sure! : )
Jan, Bing images is not free much like images found on Google image search or on Pinterest are not free. I go into more detail in my response to Lisa since she commented before you. Always keep in mind images found in Bing, etc. are from other websites, and those pictures may or may not be the primary source for where the photo came from.
Always a good reminder that there are other sources out there.. I remember the first time you posted about this, I was shamed into removing some of the ones I used! Been wary of it ever since. 🙂
SP, it’s good to hear this post stuck some fear into your photo-borrowing soul the first time around 😉
Thanks for this list, Jeri! I also really like Unsplash. Their tag line makes it clear, too: “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.”
Laura, thanks for the head up about Unsplash. I’m headed over to check it out now.
*waits until face is normal shade* I gotta keep referring back to this post. Most of my pictures are mine, but there are ‘lazy’ times when I think it’s okay. Thanks for the reminder.
Denise, that’s what I’m here for 🙂 I don’t think I have anymore “borrowed” images on this site, but I’m still in the process of going back through and updating all of my posts to be more aligned with my current ones. It’s a long process that gets done in spurts.
as always, great info.
I usually use my own photos, but I’ll be extra
careful when I do use one that is not mine! Thanks! x
Kim, it’s great that you use your own photos as much as possible.
Brilliant Jeri! I’m bookmarking this one to add to my collection. Images are so important to make an engaging blog post, but it can be one of the most time-consuming parts of creating the post. I use foter quite a bit, but I also like Unsplash and Death to the Stock Photo when I want attribution-free photos. Thanks for this great information!
Meredith, I can relate to how long photo searches can take at times. More and more, that’s why I’ve gone to using my own. Though I’m lucky at times in that many of my posts can include a book cover. Those are always easy to find and use.
Morguefile is my go-to source. I also like Canva to create my own images. Great list. Bookmarking!
Sue, I started a Canva account a while back but it never stuck. My go-to for tinkering with images has been the free version of PicMonkey, though I am getting better at using PhotoShop.
Great tips, Jeri! I try to use my own photographs for my blog posts, but occasionally I use ShutterStock photos. I never did feel comfortable using pictures off the web, and then I saw that article too and went scouring through my past posts for anything I might have taken.
Loni, I remember that feeling I got when I realized I wasn’t being prudent in my image use on my website. It just goes to show how susceptible so many of us are to thinking so much on the internet is for the taking, when that’s not the case at all. Digital property is property too.
Jeri, great topic. I started taking my own photos to. Now I love taking pictures of nature and animals. My friend told me that people can sue if you use their image. I don’t need that kind of stress. Lol Besides we are creative and can come up with our own stuff. 🙂
Crystal, it’s great that you’ve been using your own images. Your photography, as with your writing, has grown over the years. The years! I love how I can say that when it comes to bloggers I’ve known for so long 😉
Thanks so much for such an thorough list dear Jeri… I ´ll make sure to check out those sites in depth… Can you use those pics even if you have a professional site which provides a service related to schools for which clients are charged certain money?… just asking you because my mom is hosting a service of those sort and she is looking forward to including an anex/ blog too…
All my betst wishes!. Aquileana 😀
Aqui, I’d just be sure to tell your mom to check the wording on the different picture licenses of the various stock image sites.