How to find awesome images to use online – for free!

One of the biggest headaches I used to have when blogging and setting up websites was that I could never find a good image. In fact I often used it as an excuse for why I wasn’t making any progress with the business… sound familiar?

So after A LOT of searching, a steep learning curve and a little banging my head against the desk, I want to share the three main ways I use to get images for my blog and websites. They’re all relatively easy, and the best bit, completely free!  It’s not a comprehensive list, or review of every free photo website out there, but it works for me, and hopefully will help you out too. Not being able to find a decent image will never be an excuse again…

Check the copyright of images firstThe boring legal bit

Unfortunately you can’t just Google image search for whatever you want and use it for your own purposes. People don’t tend to like it. You could end up at best being asked to take it down, but at worst with someone suing you under copyright infringement. The law is quite complicated, always written in language no one really understands and is really quite boring. The best advice I could offer is either make sure it’s an original image you own, or that you have the right permission if you’re using something you found on the web.

There’s a useful Squidoo lens on copyright and using images online if you want to find out more.

Right, onto the good stuff…

Option 1: Pixabay

A lot of the free image websites never seem to turn up what I’m looking for, and have such confusing terms of use that I often give up. Then I found Pixabay. It has a great collection of images and the search seems to work well. The photos are all great quality, and by far the best collection of free images I have found so far.Here’s what they say about the copyright…

“uploaders of Pixabay have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images. You are free to adapt and use the Images for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although absolutely not required, a link back to Pixabay would be nice.”

Even better you can help other people by uploading your images so they can use them as well. They also have a great blog with helpful hints and tips. Thanks Pixabay!


Option 2: Ask people

One of my mum’s favourite phrases when I was younger was “if you don’t ask, you don’t get”, and it’s turned out to be quite true (thanks Mum!).  I was a bit nervous at first, but I’ve generally found that people are stoked that you want to use their photos online, especially if you link back to them as well.

If you know anyone who takes photos either professionally or for fun then ask if they can help out. Do they already have anything that you could use? Or could they take some photos in return for a link to their site/a night’s babysitting/a couple of pints?

Alternatively, if you see an image online you just have to use, try finding out who it belongs to and ask them. Other blogs are great places for this. You might not have much luck if you find the photo on somewhere like Shutterstock, but people on Facebook, Flickr or Pinterest might not mind at all. But remember to always ask first.

Option 3: Create your own images

By creating your own images you know it’s a) free, and b) you won’t upset anyone. A decent camera helps, but even the point and shoot compact cameras can do the job.

And if you need to crop or rotate your photo later, even if you don’t have fancy image editing software like Photoshop, you can now edit them for free online. My new favourite is PicMonkey (Thanks again to Pixabay for pointing me in their direction). The simple stuff is free to do, and if you’re editing a lot of images or want to get more fancy it’s just $4.99 a month to upgrade. They also have a great blog, and I love their tone of voice (I’m such a words geek!)

For the more adventurous, you could even have a theme running through the images you create. My favourite is Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness, who uses Lego figures in a lot of his images. If you write about food, could you use a veggie character like Colin the carrot? Or a fitness company could have a pair of running trainers photographed in inspiring locations. Sometimes I use the main word I’m writing about in a stand-out font and that’s all. Use your imagination, if it fits with your businesses tone of voice then anything goes.

So there you have it, three easy and free ways to find images to use on your website. Hope they help! Let me know how you get on, or if you know of any other places to get great, free images, then let us know in the comments below.