Article by Jerry Low
Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.
As bloggers, it’s all too easy to over focus on our words, opinions, and what we publish. After all, it’s the words that the search engines crawl for rankings and that drive people back again and again.
However, imagery is another incredibly important – and all too often – overlooked element.
For one, images help to assign meaning to your posts and to give context visually. For another, they help to break up the text and make your post more aesthetically pleasing – which helps to retain visitors and secure new visitors’ initial interest. That pleasing aesthetic and visual element is critical to making your posts appealing and “sticky” – and is a must-have for a quality blog post.
However, clip art is almost never a good idea and stock or custom photography can come with a high price tag.
Lucky for all of us bloggers, there are plenty of quality, free image sources out there.
This one is my personal favorite due to the flexibility. There are no attribution requirements, meaning that you can do whatever you want with the images you get from this source. Additionally, it’s super simple to use – there’s even a simple search right on the homepage available before you even log in. You’ll get access to photos, vector images, and illustrations and can filter down as needed. Downloading the actual images is incredibly easy and, again, comes with options for image size (pixels and MB) so that the image you have in-hand is clear and quality for whatever your purpose might be (in my case, most likely online for your blog – no huge file size necessary).
Note: I call sites like Pixabay DWYW sites – “Do Whatever You Want” – which is awesome!
Unsplash is another one of my favorites that makes securing free images incredibly easy. With a free account, your quantity of downloads is a bit limited – you get 10 photos every 10 days (or an average of one per day)… but unless you’re a mega poster, that will likely suit your needs. The files are hi-res, which makes them crisp, clear, and easily re-sizeable.
As is the case with Pixabay, the files are yours to do with as you please – no limitations. You will need to subscribe – which is really just a matter of providing your email address. Artists are constantly submitting new photos, so the database continues to grow and offer fresh content.
This photo source is a bit different than the first two in that the images take a slightly more indy approach in many cases. You will search using a simple search, then be able to filter down by license type, whether they include the originals, and other various licensing elements. To stay legally compliant and properly attribute the photos you use, you’ll need to be familiar with Creative Commons, a fairly common requirement in the creative world. You’ll have access to plenty of free photos, but also to images that cost money for use, so be careful as you go through the download process to ensure you know of any potential costs upfront.
With a tagline that reads, “free picks no tricks,” UPICM provides a pretty straightforward and easy to use resource for securing free images for blog use and beyond.
That said, there are subscription services available that do come with a cost, but also offer enhanced content and licensing options. One nice thing is that, if you do have an image budget, UPICM has buyout options – which means that you can buy out the creative license to ensure unique imagery (in contrast, many of the free image sites allow you – and anyone else – to download and use the same image). Of course, those buyouts do come with a price tag; but there’s plenty on the site for free, too.
As the name implies, this free image source specializes in providing images available through public domain (that’s how it provides them for free). Some of the images do come with release and licensing requirements, so be sure to thoroughly review each image and its attribution and licensing requirements to gain a full understanding (and stay legally sound). That sounds more daunting than it really is… This is actually a really cool site that provides unique imagery, thanks to photographers and creative professionals looking to sell work on an ongoing basis. All artists are vetted before submitting to ensure quality work… which then, becomes available to you! Happy searching.
As the name implies, this is a site full of free photos. You can search either by a simple search or an advanced search which will allow you to filter down results by categories, keywords, dates, and more. As for the actual downloads, you will have two file options: jpg or a zip file. Zips are optimal for print use, but since we work on the web as bloggers, the jpg version will likely suit your purposes. Again, because these are free images, odds are that you won’t be the only one to use them – as a nice bonus feature, Free Photos Bank denotes photos that have been viewed the most times as “Popular.” It doesn’t tell you how often they’ve been used, but does serve as a handy indication.
This is a fairly straightforward site, friendly for even the most novice of image providers to use. Browse among popular categories with the click of a button or search by keyword. You can also browse the newest images to the site by clicking on “Latest” or view popular images by clicking “Popular” from the top navigation. Images are very easy to share, thanks to the site’s built-in social media and share icons. Alegri Photos is a good resource if you’re short on time and need an easy find.
Dreams Time provides a nice array of images and image types, especially for a free resource. Browse by category, keyword, or image type. Also, while there is a free images section, this site also does offer paid options, so if you’re looking for free, stick to the “free images” link. If you’re willing to pay, you can expand your options to include everything from stock photography to vectors, web design graphics, and more. There is a promo available to download five or 10 images upfront for free – to take advantage, check out the subscription plans under pricing and plans.
Note: You will need to register an account and fill up your personal details before you can do a free download – which consumes slightly more time than the others above.
Clip art is a bit different than your typical photo inclusion, but can come in handy for miniature page graphics or even for design elements within your blog (think arrows to the next page or for creating patterned wallpaper). This site offers access to free clipart, but unlike many of the other free image sources, does not delve into photography or more intricate design elements. That said, it’s easy to use and you never know what you’ll find – definitely worth a peruse.
You know all of those “fun” boxes flying around right now that ship various goodies to your home on a monthly basis (think pet products, makeup samples, snacks, etc.)? Think of Little Visuals like that – but for your email account. This free image resource sends subscribers seven hi-res images via email every seven days. No, you don’t know exactly what you’ll get (nor do you get to choose), but that’s half the fun. You can use the images however you choose – so even if something isn’t quite up your alley right now, save the images to build your own image library… you never know when something will come in handy.
This is another photos of the month collection subscription service. It’s incredibly easy to join – you literally just enter your email address on the join page – and bam! Free photos come to your inbox every month. Again, you don’t get to choose what you receive and you’ll only get them when they send (no searching databases or filtering by keyword), but the photos are different from what you’ll find elsewhere and again are available at your full disposal for pretty much any use under the sun. Of note, there is a premium service available – check the site for full details.
Morgue File actually has a really impressive database of free photos that includes – at the time of this writing – more than 329,000 images. Not shabby for a free image resource! Beyond the free photos, it does pull in images from various other sources, such as iStock, Getty Images, and more – however, conveniently, it keeps those paid images and their sources separated on different tabs so that you have clarity into what will cost you and what won’t. Photos span pretty much every topic and style under the sun – well worth a look.
This site offers great transparency and ease of use, paired with up-front licensing information. The free photos are always available for any application you can think of (yes, including your blog) – but, should you need larger image sizes for reproduction purposes than are available through the free portion of the site, you can always upgrade for a fee. One of the nice things about this site is the navigability – it’s easy to search by keyword, or, if you don’t quite know what you want, peruse by clicking on any of the categories on the left side of the page.
Note: Did you notice that the quality of the image above is not as good as the others? This is because the original size of the image is W:400px. FreeDigitalPhotos.net is not the best place to be if you are looking for large free photos.
You’ll hear about Creative Commons quite often in the image and creative world, particularly since it’s a bit of an industry leader in terms of copyright and licensing standards. This site amalgamates images available through other image sites, pulling them into one easy feed for users – and, importantly, it does so for free. However, because of that amalgamation, you won’t have quite as much control over the results you receive back. For example, a simple search for “cats” returns a smattering of pages – but many of the results are clipart. But, hey – who can argue with free?
This easy-to-use photo site is every bloggers friend, providing an easy way to search, paired with a visually pleasing and non-intimidating interface. A simple keyword or keyphrase search will return loads of photos that you can then filter down based on license type and sort by recency, relevance, or ranked “interestingness.” How does it work? It pulls in photos from Flickr via an API and also searches Creative Commons (sound familiar?). If you are looking for something a bit more predictable, Photo Pin conveniently offers a discount code for iStockphoto.
Everyone’s heard of Wikipedia, but have you heard of Wikimedia? This is the jackpot for free, usable media assets. As of the time of this writing, this photo source has more than 23 million media assets available! Note that I said media assets – not photos or images. That’s because, in addition to static images and photography, you’ll also have access to video clips, drawings, animations, and more. Like I said, jackpot. Conveniently (and thankfully), there are some pretty sophisticated filtering tools to help you find the right media for your needs – search by keyword or topic, then filter by media type, source, licensing option, and more.
As the name would imply, this is a source for free stock photos. Use either the simple search to search by keyword or browse based on pre-populated categories. There are currently more than 100,000 photos available – and importantly, your downloads are unlimited, meaning that you can download as many as you need without restrictions in quantity. All images automatically come with royalty free licenses, which removes any concern about copyright or licensing infringement – I love it when things are easy and clear. To start, you will need to create an account – but again, it’s free, so no worries there.
To get started on this site, you’ll need to create a free account… assuming you actually want to download, that is. However, in the meantime, get the feel for it with the simple search that will pull in images based on the keyword or key phrase of your choosing. One nice thing about this site is that, beyond the qualification for a photographer to join and submit their work, the site puts some additional work into every image to ensure that it is of peak quality before they offer it for download.
This free image resource isn’t quite as “sexy” as some of the other sites, but if you’re in need of free photos, another resource never hurts. The photos are organized into pages by topic, allowing you to browse and even get ideas based on the pre-allocated topics. Since many amateur photographers submit to the site, you may be able to find something a bit “off the beaten path” – you never know.
Membership to this image source is completely free, as are all of the images on the site. The licensing agreement is pretty straightforward and using the images for your blog shouldn’t provide any complications. That said, one thing that is nice is that, if you have questions about use or would like to use the photos beyond what is allowed per the licensing agreement, the site provides a link for you to contact the photographer – this is also a great way to get in touch should you love a particular artist’s work. In terms of navigation and usability, you can search either with a keyword or key phrase, by browsing pre-populated categories, or by browsing through Popular or even a particular artist’s work. It’s really straightforward, which saves time – an awesome trait in our world.
This free image resource is about as straightforward and clear as it gets. Simply type in your search keyword and receive a plethora of results in-line with your needs. Upon receiving you results, you will have the opportunity to filter by license type and to sort based on recency, relevance, or “interestingness.” In my experience, the images are all high quality, making an impressive use of low and highlights and composition. Another nice feature: you can download the size image that you need, ranging from small (180 x 240 approximately) to the original size (which will vary).
This site makes use of the Creative Commons photo database, aiming to simplify the search and browse process. As a huge bonus perk, it has built-in editing tools which allow you to resize images with the click of a button. Additionally, it will create code to embed images on your pages as needed, simplifying the upload/download/enter URL process. There are more than 100 million free photos available – get started in just seconds by creating a free account.
Note: You can speed up Wylio signup process by signing in with your Google account
All of the images available on Pexels are available under the Creative Commons Zero license, allowing you to access, modify, and distribute the images per your needs and as you see fit.
Images available through Designers Pics cover every topic under the sun… as an example, in perusing the homepage, today imagery ranges from a windmill to paper people chains, eggs, a marina… you get the idea. And that’s just the homepage. You can either browse the categories or search by your own keyword. All available photos are hi-res, which ensures a quality reprint and an image that will certainly appear nicely on your blog.
Burst by Shopify is a new free stock photo site with over 1,000 high-quality, Creative Commons Zero images.
Burst has a collection of product photography that, according to Shopify, follows trending business niches to help entrepreneurs make better products, websites, and marketing campaigns.
With so many free image resources available – and millions of free photos at your disposal – there’s no reason to avoid using images on your blogs. The visual is a critical element of every post – so get searching!