When you need an image for a post or product and do not have the opportunity to take a picture, you look for a reputable website with royalty free images… and you get frustrated. Right?
But don’t fret, my friend! Free stock photos are easy to find if you know where to look. Grab this list of over 80 places to get royalty free images.
However, while there are places to find copyright free images, you need to understand the legalese to avoid getting into trouble using stock photography that requires additional licensing.
Stop! Have you made these copyright mistakes?
Have you ever used a photo you discovered through an internet search?
Did you think the photo was free because it did not have a watermark?
Have you used a photo because you do not blog for profit and thought you would not be prosecuted since you are not a business?
Did you comply with a DMCA takedown notice by removing a photo and feel like “all is well”?
Do you have a disclaimer on your website saying that you “do not claim copyright to any of the images” on your blog?
Answer “yes” to any of these questions and you are in jeopardy of copyright infringement.
Every photograph, blog post, graphic… everything created and published in the internet is immediately covered by copyright law whether it is register or not. Even if an image is void of watermark, the intellectual property rights belong to the original photographer and may not be used without permission or licensing.
>>Read more about copyright for bloggers.
>>Learn about United States Copyright.
>>Learn about International Copyright.
Finding free images through search
Many internet newbies make a huge mistake by searching for an image with a search engine like Google Images or Pinterest and assume that if the photograph is online, it is readily available for any use.
Actually, the majority of images that show up in searches are all copyrighted images.
>>Read more about Copyright and Fair Use of images.
Whether an image carries a watermark or not, it is the property of the original owner. You may not use these images even if you remove the watermark or alter the image. These photos do not belong to you and using them can get you in tremendous trouble.
Bloggers can be sued for using images!
Don’t believe me? Read these articles about bloggers who were sued for thousands because they used what they thought were “free images”:
- The $7,500 Blogging Mistake
- Bloggers Beware! You CAN Get Sued for Using Pics on Your Blog
- The $8,000 Mistake that All Bloggers Should Beware
- NYTimes Photographer Sues Perez Hilton for $2.1M Over Copyright Infringement
Important Terms to Understand
You might see one blogger say, “I am safe because I use Public Domain images” while another blogger boasts, “I am just as safe because I use photos with Creative Commons.” But what is the difference? What do all of these terms mean?
Intellectual Property Rights
Creations of the mind are protected by certain laws and may have rights to additional patents and trademarks. Works include but are not limited to music, literature, discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, photographs, and designs.
>>Read more about intellectual property rights.
Selected by the owner based on perceived value, licensing imparts certain rights to others on how the property may be used. The terms of a license should include the requirements and restraints for use.
The term “royalty-free” means that the owner shares the right to use copyrighted material without charging the consumer with royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization intent on providing creates with the ability to share their art with certain protections.
They have created several levels of licensing to help others understand how the property can be copied, distributed, edited, and altered.
The 6 basic Creative Commons Licenses
With a Creative Commons license, you can build upon the original work. However, each work may have additional conditions attached. Look for these terms when searching for photographs:
- Non-Commercial (NC) means the image may not used for business intentions.
- No Derivative Works (ND) gives you permission to use the original work only and not to change it in any way.
- Share Alike (SA) refers back to the original license and means you can only use that image based on the conditions placed on the original work. An image denoting CC BY-SA means that you can change the work but you have to maintain the original works designated licensing. For instance, you cannot change the photograph and then insist on a ND condition.
These options are combined into six basic Creative Commons licenses.
CC BY – Attribution required
“This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered.”
CC BY-SA – Attribution and sharing required
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.”
CC BY-ND – Attribution required and no derivatives allowed
“This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.”
CC BY-NC – Attribution required and noncommercial use only
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.”
CC BY-NC-SA – Attribution required, noncommercial only, and sharing required
“This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.”
CC BY-NC-ND – Attribution required, noncommercial use only, and no derivatives allowed
The most restrictive of the six main licenses, this license only allows others to “download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.”
CC0 – No attribution required, no limitations
This license allows commercial use and derivative works without requiring attribution. Many websites refer to this as a “do anything you want” license. Sometimes, this is referred to as Public Domain.
Read more about Creative Commons licensing.
Credit is required to use property requiring attribution. Correct attribution means that under the image you will place the name of the work (with link), name of the photographer (with link), and the CC license number (with link).
A public domain photograph can be used by anyone and altered without giving attribution to the original artist. The copyright or licensing has expired or been forfeited. [SOURCE]
Using royalty free images
Personally, I seek royalty free images, meaning that I pay for a membership to an image library or buy the image and can use it without owing the company further payment based on my profit. [SOURCE]
Most royalty-free images also come with licensing guidelines. Make sure that you read the guidelines as they may differ based on the company.
For example, on Canva you can pay $1 per image but only have rights to use the image once.
If you want to use any of Canva’s Stock Media, you have to pay to obtain a license.
If you pay for a One-time Use License, then you can only use that Stock Media in one of your Canva Designs and you’re not allowed to edit the PDFs, PNGs or JPGs that we give you as part of that license. [SOURCE]
According to my understanding of these terms, you can can create an image for a blog post but need to purchase the image again if you want to resize it for social media or an email campaign.
Also with Canva, you are not allowed to use their images if you will be profiting from the image. Within the terms, Canva specifically mentions posters, templates of any nature, and “on demand” products, including postcards, mugs, t-shirts, posters and other items. [SOURCE]
Where to find royalty free images
Free and cheap images are available but finding them through a basic search can be difficult so I compiled a list of websites that I either use or have been recommended to me.
Please be aware that the licensing on these websites may change. A link is provided (when available) for you to verify the terms of the website before using.
Snapwire Snaps – A Tumblr-based website, seven free photographs are made available every seven days. You can also search for image by topic. [TERMS: not found]
MyCuteGraphics.com – Free clip art “for printing, scrapooking, teacher created lessons, craft projects, to decorate your blog and more. The clip art you find here is 100% original and free for personal and educational use.” [TERMS]
Flickr – Search by “license” to find images available for free use without attribution. [TERMS: vary by image]
Epicantus – A Tumblr-based website. “Feel free to use these hi-res photos for your landing pages, blog posts & designs.” [TERMS: not found]
Raw Pixel – Authentically styled, unique stock photography. Email registration required. [TERMS: not found]
Epicva – “All photos on Epicva are our property, but anyone can download them and use them for both personal and commercial projects. No attribution needed but much appreciated.” [TERMS: not found]
IM Creator – A collection for free elements intended for website design including templates, photos, icons, and more. [TERMS: not found]
Sketch Jar – Although they promote two new pictures every day, nothing new has been added since 2015. Even so, you will still find an eclectic collection on images here. [TERMS: not found]
Free JPG – The tagline mentions these images are free for commercial and editorial use. [TERMS: not found]
Splashbase – Free photographs and videos available under the CC0 license. [TERMS: not found]
Photo Collections – Browse CC0 photos by category, including industrial, nature, people, transportation, food, and animals. [TERMS: not found]
MMT Stock – Free for commercial use, these photos are by Jeffrey Betts with a CC0 license. [TERMS: not found]
StreetWill.co – “Free vintage photos to use any way you want…” but they offer a lot more than vintage photography. [TERMS: not found]
PublicDomainPictures.net – A collection of free and premium images. Also includes vectors and videos. [TERMS: not found]
Jay Mantri – A Tumblr based photo blog where all photos are available to use for free under CC0. [TERMS: not found]
Re:Splashed – Landscape and architectural photography “for website and design projects.” [TERMS: not found]
Stocka – Beware the click-bating of advertisements on this site. Search by category (and there are several) or with the search bar. [TERMS: not found]
Travel Coffee Book – A collection of landscapes and travel photos listed with Creative Commons. [TERMS: not found]
SplitShire – More like a blog that a stock photography site, you can browse this collection of Creative Commons images by category or search. New images are added daily. [TERMS: not found]
Little Visuals – Unfortunately, this website is no longer updated due to the tragic death of the photographer but a large selection of landscape and architecture images are available. [TERMS: not found]
Public-Domain-Image.com – “High quality copyright friendly images, not copyrighted and no restriction for their use. Images explicitly placed in the public domain, no any rights reserved. Public domain images can be used for whatever you want, use it freely for any personal or commercial use.” [TERMS]
FreeDigitalPhotos.net – “Download free and premium stock photos and illustrations for websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications and much more.” [TERMS: not found]
Foter.com – “Foter.com allows you to search, manage and add free stock photos to blogs, forums, websites and other online media. We host over 220 million free Creative Commons images from many online sources and the entire system is also available as a WordPress plugin for seamless use within the WordPress platform.” [TERMS: not found]
Magdeleine.co – Browse a curated collection of images by photographer, dominant color, category, or license requirement. [TERMS: none found. Varies based on image.]
New Old Stock – Copyright free vintage photographs. Most in black and white. [TERMS: not found]
Tookapic – User submitted photo database of free and premium images. [TERMS: not found]
Startup Stock Photo – Business-themed photographs listed with Creative Commons as CC0. [TERMS: not found]
FromOldBooks.org – True to the name, expect over 3,500 free images from old rare antique and vintage books. [TERMS: not found]
animalphotos.info – A large database of user submitted animal photos. “Image Copyright is held by original owners; all are licensed as either CC-BY or CC-BY-SA.” [TERMS: not found]
CarPictures.cc – An abundance of automobile photography. “Images on this site are licensed CC-BY or CC-BY-SA; Image descriptions and metadata are CC-BY-SA.” [TERMS: not found]
Libreshot – Browse images based on category or keyword. (Just beware the advertising strategically placed below their search bar.) “A collection of hundreds of high quality free stock images for personal or commercial use.” It is not necessary to indicate the author or source. [TERMS]
CompFight.com – “Compfight is an image search engine tailored to efficiently locate images for blogs, comps, inspiration, and research. We make good use of the flickr™ API, but aren’t affiliated with flickr.” [TERMS: not found]
search.CreativeCommons.org – Free images, videos and more but a sketchy disclaimer: “Please note that search.creativecommons.org is not a search engine, but rather offers convenient access to search services provided by other independent organizations. CC has no control over the results that are returned. Do not assume that the results displayed in this search portal are under a CC license.” [TERMS]
moveast – “This is a journey of a Portuguese guy moving that decided that every photo should be used for free.” [TERMS – not found]
Have a favorite spot for royalty free photos?
Leave the link in the comments and tell us about the type of images (and the licensing required) that you find there.