As a writer and blogger, images are crucial to convey the message to my audience.
Finding images that go well with my posts were initially a tiring task. I used the tried and tested Google image search, dared to copy some of the copyrighted images, and went through thousands of websites that offer royalty-free images. All of them consume a lot of time, and often I end up with something less than satisfying.
The problem with Google image search is that the algorithms that what Google decides as the best result for you – may be everything but that. For e.g. you search for “dancing donkey” (hell, yeah), you get to see interesting images but they are copyrighted and want you to pay.
If you select a less restrictive license, you will not get any cool images.
As bloggers, we want top quality images, not even the noise I created above with the two screenshots. It does help if the images are free :).
If you are in the same boat, help is near. After my own searches, I decided to create a constantly updated list of awesome and free sources of images in one place.
(Learn what free means at the end of the post.)
Great Sources for royalty-free, beautiful images for free
So, here goes – my sources of great images at zero cost to you. See the description below the source to know how you can use those images.
Pixabay is a great source of images that are released to CC0 Public Domain license.
You can search for images by keyword, orientation, category, or by your favourite photographer. You can also see images taken from a specific camera. You can download images in 3-4 different dimensions.
Just be careful to not go visit shutterst(h)ock.com sponsored images each time you search.
This is a vast repository of images, videos and sounds. License requirements for individual photographs can differ – a few require attribution, while others don’t.
You can search for images based on keyword, category, dimension, language, region, and image resolution. You can download the images in different resolutions made available by the owner.
Unsplash provides good looking, professional images in the public domain. It promises 10 new images every 10 days, and I have not encountered a situation where I run out of images 🙂
All images are licensed under CC0.
Search on Unsplash is not great (well non-existent as far as I can tell). I often go back to Google to search within unsplash. You can download images in a single dimension made available by the image creator.
Flickr is great for a lot of good photographs. Photopin makes it much easier to search, find the right image, and to add it to your blog.
You can search for images by keyword, and considering whether commercial use is allowed. Individual images may be licensed differently, but most need an attribution back.
You can download the images in different sizes as available on Flickr.
Yet another place to download high-quality images for free. These are images in the public domain, no specific license restrictions apply.
You can view images by category or by tags. You can use the images for non-commercial, or commercial purposes.
You can find free stock images here released on a weekly basis.
Search capabilities are limited – you can either search for the keyword (used in the title of the image post), or filter by categories. Image download is limited to the dimension and resolution in which the image is made available.
Great collection of images licensed under CC BY 3.
No search, but you can view images by categories. Download the original image.
A curated list of images free to be used under different license, imcreator.com does a good job in a few categories.
You can see a good categorization of images, and a search that is active within each category (or across them). Individual images may have their own license terms.
Images are curated – so you see them from different sources here. You can download images from the original source.
If you are looking for high-quality pics but don’t mind the limited numbers, Raumrot is for you.
The quantity is extremely limited (270+ at this time). You can search for images, see categories and download them. Raumrot is a curated list – the images can be downloaded from their source, and have their own licenses. Most of the photos need an attribution back to the image creator.
10. Little Visuals
Little Visuals has an interesting approach to sharing images. Just subscribe to their newsletter to get 7 high-resolution images zipped and delivered to your inbox every 7 days. You can use them however you want.
Don’t want to give out emails? – You can always preview images and download recent zip files from the website.
Aptly named, Death to the Stock Photo works similar to Little Visuals. You can opt to get a monthly email to get the images delivered to your inbox every month. The license is permissive, and you can do anything with the photos including distributing in your products, or websites. But, you cannot distribute the images as part of your own photo pack or sublicense them.
Gratisography has amazing images of people, things and more licensed under Creative Commons.
13. New Old Stock
Vintage photos that are released to public domain, these are images that are free from license restrictions and ready to be used in your website.
Yet another source for high-resolution images, Picography collects photos that you can use however you like. The absence of a search function is the only thing that bothers me in this and similar websites.
Magdelieine has free hand-picked photos that are licensed under various Creative Commons licenses.
Pexels is a recent find, but a good one at that. Pexels has beautiful images and allows you to download images of different sizes.
How to use these images?
You can download and use the images in your own websites, but some licenses will need attribution (the link to photographer will be nice).
Lossless compression is a must. This process will reduce the size of the photos but at the same time retain all the goodness. File Optimizer is an excellent tool to do lossless compression. It is a free and open source tool, and the developers continue to improve it by the day.
Also, consider reducing image size, and/or reducing the resolution where possible. Lesser image sizes reduce the overall web page size, and that will result in fast loading of those pages. There are two great and completely free tools to help you do this..
- Paint.Net: My tool of choice. You can easily resize images, annotate and modify the images, and change resolution
- IrfanView: Fast loading, lightweight program that can let you view, resize and modify images
What image usage licenses mean?
The license implies the owner of the image has released it to the public domain and waived off all copyrights. You can freely use these images, and you do not need to link back to the source. Although linking back to the source is not a big deal (and I encourage you to do that), some don’t like to do that.
Also known as Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0).
For images distributed under this license, you can copy, or redistribute the images. You can even modify them for your own purpose. You cannot change the image such that others cannot use it. You also must attribute the work to the author and indicate the changes you made.