Free Images for your Blog Posts… and where to find them
Blogs are great, but if they are all text they can be kind of boring. Posting nice, pretty, exciting and clear free images can make the difference between boring and exciting blog topics. Infographics are great too (but that’s a topic for another day).
The next question is where to get great images. Some folks just hop right onto Google and start downloading. That might get you into a little (or a lot) of copyright trouble. Here are some guidelines and good places to get usable (and legal) images.
What are image rights?
Copyright laws give the creator of an image exclusive rights to do whatever they wish with their images, as website owners or content publishers we need either permission or must pay for using these images.
Content publishers include some or all of the following conditions when offering images for free.
- Type of use: Commercial or Non-commercial. Blogs usually fall into non-commercial use… unless you are specifically promoting your product. Never use free images as part of your logo!!
- Attribution: determines whether or not you need to give credit to the creator
- Modification: Can you change the image
- Number of uses: This is more common for printing, but most licenses will limit the number of re-prints that can be made.
Types of image licenses
Public Domain – Really, Really Free! – Either the creator’s copyright has expired or was not applicable in the first place. These are free to use any purpose. You do not need to credit the creator. These can be used and unlimited number of times and modified as you see fit.
- New York Public Library
- wikipedia.org – There are nearly 30 million images here, mostly public domain, so you might need to check.
Warning: Searching Google for “Free to use share or modify, even commercially” used to be a safe bet to get free images, however it has gotten very risky. Images found this way, are in fact not free and can land you in hot water. Certain Law firms will seed images and label them as free to use. If you follow the image links, and keep digging, sometimes through many websites you will eventually find a page containing license information. Almost all these images do in fact have a license requirement and if you violate it, you will be sued. Most of these law firms that engage in this practice do so assuming you will simply pay the fines vs. pay to fight them in court. It’s a bait and switch scheme designed to pad their wallets. It’s best therefore to really dig in and determine whether you can use the image or not. When in doubt, don’t use the image.
If you want to give it a try, here’s how: Google Advanced Search: click the gear icon (upper right) –> Advanced search, then at the bottom use the filter “usage Rights” set it to “Free to use share or modify, even commercially”
Creative Commons – Free, but with conditions – This is a new license type specifically created to help online content creators provide images for online use such as blogs. You can get more details at CreativeCommons.org. Typically, these are free to use as long as you credit the original author. Many sites will allow you to obtain exclusive rights if you need them. Check the site for a link to provide accreditation if necessary.
Ability to Contribute. You can setup an account with most of these sites and actually contribute photographs for others to use. It’s a nice way to give back for a great resource. In many cases you can also make donations directly to photographers who provide images. Consider contributing in some way so that these services and those that provide images continue to be available.
Royalty Free – Pay a little, get nice images – These are not free so much as relatively inexpensive for a limited number of printed uses. You pay a fixed amount for an image of a certain size. Hint: get bigger images if you intend to print them. These are great if you are building your web pages vs. blog articles. You can usually find really nice images on a variety of topics here. Sometimes this is more useful if you need something specific.
Some Other Ways To Get Free Images
If you have a camera or smart you can take your own photos. Most of us carry cameras around in our pockets these days. Just make sure to size them correctly for use on the web. Consider photo sharing sites like Instagram or Facebook. If your on an iphone, you can also open your photo library, select the desired photos and email them to yourself. When attaching to an email you can choose Small, Medium, Large or Actual size. Medium or Large are good sized for web projects. Never upload the “actual size” to your site as these will always be huge. These will auto-convert your images to smaller sizes, also you would be able to post them to your social media accounts for even more marketing exposure. If your handy with a pen, consider drawing your own illustrations. Your own work can give your website a nice hand-made look.