These days I’m right into photography, but that wasn’t always the case. For at least two years of blogging I used other people’s free images. You could say I was a curator instead of a creator.
Back in the day, before we all knew about copyright, we used to grab any old image and add a link back to the source at the end of our post. This was back before blogging became ‘professional’ and I guess it was a lot like cutting out a magazine photo and pasting it in your journal and writing where you found it underneath.
Then we wised up to legalities and fairness and stopped using any old image and instead used free images that were offered under Creative Commons licence. A CC licence basically means that a creator has given you permission to reuse, remix or share the content without infringing on copyright. There are six different CC licences, each of which gives varying degrees of permissions for what you can do to the content. You can find out more about that here.
What CC licences really boil down to is permission to use someone else’s image on your blog or website. Check permissions before you go ahead – sometimes you have to provide attribution for the image or provide a link back to the image and other times it’s not necessary. Be very careful about permission to modify, alter or otherwise change someone else’s image – this is generally not okay and only the most permissive CC licence will allow it.
Once you’ve got your head around that, it’s time for the fun part: finding cool images! Let me tell you, there is a lot of junk out there under CC licensing and a poor image will make your blog look sad in moments. Please never,ever underestimate the importance of beautiful, relevant images for your online content.
Here are 11 of the best places I know to find high-quality, free and easy images that don’t suck. I’ve divided the list into those that are searchable and those you will have to browse through to find an image you want. Personally, I am happy to browse as the browsey sites are generally the ones with the nicest images.
Searchable image libraries
Easily searchable with a good supply of really nice images. Sure beats wading through the muck of places like Photopin or Good Free Photos which tend to pull up any Flickr photo that matches the search criteria. Pexels seems to have some kind of in-built search criteria that only pulls up the kind of arty, unique kind of shots we love.
A little bit hit and miss in terms of the cool factor, you can at least search for images by category and then do a browse from there. I’ve mainly included Jeshoots because it has very ‘professional’ looking, busy-gal-about-town (see above) images and I know that’s the look a lot of bloggers are going for. Just beware the stock photo syndrome… there are a lot of posey-posed shots here. No attribution required.
This is a bit hit and miss, but the gems are easy to spot. It runs as an advertisement for Shutterstock, so the first few pics have the Shutterstock watermark on them and clicking will take you to Shutterstock. Naturally these are generally the best pics on the page. Be sure to check the CC licence type before you use your image.
Really only searchable by category only (click on the tags to find like images), this is a curated site of good looking shots that cover a wide variety of subjects. Attribution is required. Warning: the images are huge if you hit download. “Save images as” might be a better option.
Founded by Tom Eversley, ISO Republic has high-res, good quality images that are searchable by word or category. Tom founded the site to generously help creatives who are working on independent projects that don’t have a big budget (that’s us!).
Search by keyword and every image is one you’d be happy to put on your blog. Unsplash upload 10 new images every 10 days, so subscribe to the email list to get your hands on fresh images first. This has to be one of the best, searchable libraries on the interwebs.
Browse-only image libraries
Clever Ryan McGuire offers humorous, arty, super-high-quality images that you can use any way you like. He doesn’t ask for any attribution, but boy does he deserve a link back. I use Gratisography on Facebook when I can’t find anything of mine that suits the discussion.
A great resource for all things bloggy, Hands + Hustle has a very small, very good quality, totally free to use in any way you like image library. One problem: I think Sabrina has stopped adding new pics. No matter, go and check out this blog anyway.
A 26 year old guy called Nic ran Little Visuals for around 12 weeks in 2013. He died suddenly in November of that year and the site now runs as a fundraiser for SADS (Sudden Adult Death Syndrome). You can see the growth in Nic’s work over the weeks – he would have been an incredible photographer.
Jay puts up 7 fresh photos every Thursday to do what you like with. “Make magic” he says. No attribution required.
Where do you head when you want to use other people’s images?