One of the hardest things about blogging is getting the right images to fit the blog post. When they do fit the blog, before we can even hit the Publish button, we have to think carefully: am I allowed to use this image on my blog? Ideally, we wouldn’t even have to think about this problem if we only use the photos we capture ourselves. However, there are times when that is not possible so we have to outsource.
A mistake I see a lot of bloggers make is to simply do a Google search for an image they want and use that image on their blogs. Next, they’ll credit the image to “Google”. This is a mistake and it can turn into a grave one when you get a copyright infringement letter from the creator of the image, or worse, a lawsuit. I’ve been in hot water several times for using images that didn’t belong to me when I started blogging years ago. Thankfully, those situations were resolved amicably as I immediately took those copyrighted images down.
When it comes to using images on the web for your blog, what can you use?
Look for Creative Commons Licenses
Images that have the creative commons license typically can be shared and modified for your own use on your blog. Look for license terms. A lot of CC images can be shared, copied and redistributed in any medium or format BUT you must check their license terms as some cannot be used for commercial purposes nor distribute modified versions. With CC images, whatever license it’s on, you must always credit the author if you want to use his/her images.
How do you search for Creative Commons content?
Here’s an example on Flickr. Contrary to popular belief, you can legally share images on Flickr, but only if you use the right images. When you do an image search, go to Advanced Search and tick the checkbox “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”. As for content to use commercially or to modify, that’s up to you.
On Google, key in your search terms. When you get the results, go to the top of the page (below the search box), click on Usage Rights and click on Labeled for Reuse or any of the other criteria (as long as it’s not “Not filtered by license”).
There are some authors who are bit antsy about bloggers using their CC-licensed images on their blogs. If they do request that you take the image down even though technically, those images are allowed to be used, just take them down and use another one. I wouldn’t argue with the author because after all, those images don’t even belong to me.
Use stock images
The best way to avoid using copyrighted images is to use stock images. There are stock images that you’ll need to pay for and there are stock images that are free to use. In fact, there are a number of free stock image websites that don’t even require attribution from you if you don’t want to (it’s good manners to credit the author regardless).
Be careful choosing the right stock image for your blog posts. There are heaps of stock images out there that are terribly cliche and outdated. A really good tip that I picked up from Kate at Secret Blogger’s Business is to add the word “hipster” or “retro” to your search terms. It doesn’t always work but when it does, you’ll find images that look great for your blog that aren’t boring and “stock image-y”.
My repository of free stock images
Over the years, I’ve created a repository of stock images that I can use for my blog. Whenever I need a photo for my blog that I cannot create myself, I look to these websites for help. I’m also a member of the Dollar Photo Club where I pay US$1 per photo used (very cheap compared to what a lot of premium stock image websites are charging).
Feel free to bookmark this page in case you need to get images for your blog.
- https://unsplash.com/ (my favourite but it’s unfortunately getting quite overused by many)
- http://www.freepik.com/ (free vectors)
- http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ (only free photo of the week)
- http://www.shutterstock.com/ (only free photo of the week)
- http://www.istockphoto.com/ (only free photo of the week)
- http://fizzle.co/sparkline/50-sites-free-images-fonts-icons-blog (great resource page for free images, fonts and icons)
I hope this serves as a good resource for your free stock image needs. It’s very important to make sure that you use images that you’re allowed to use and not just get any ol’ picture from Google. Of course, the best photos that are completely unique and free for you to use are the ones that you capture yourself but sometimes, that’s not possible and you’ll need extra help in that department. Make sure you use the right ones.
If you know of any free stock image websites that I’ve missed, please do let us know in the comments. Sharing is caring, and all that jazz. 🙂