Images are an important part of a web page. They help break up content and add a bit of visual “pop” to otherwise boring blocks of words.
We’ve previously covered how to resize and optimize images for your website, but the question that always comes up is where to find images you can use? Unfortunately, you can’t just grab images off the web anywhere you please and drop them into your website.
You’ve probably thought to yourself, “how would any one ever know if I just borrowed an image from somewhere else, the internet is a big place and I just have this little old website.”
Thanks to services like TinEye.com it’s pretty easy for people to find where images are being used on the internet. Bigger companies like Getty Images have their own methods for finding where their images are being used on the internet. Now, you might be thinking “Surely they’ll just send me a cease and desist and I can remove the offending image and go on with my life, right?” and you would be correct.
Just kidding. They also notify you that they intend to sue you to the tune of somewhere between $750 to $950 PER IMAGE for copyright damages if you don’t settle with them (usually). Yikes. For using an image? Yeah, for using an image. Getty Images isn’t the only company serious about copyright infringement. It’s best to make sure you have the proper license for the images on your website.
Where to find free images for your website
If you’re a small business owner or operate a personal blog, the idea of paying for images is a tough sell. Luckily, I’m going to share with you 5 of my favorite websites that provide completely free images for you to use as you wish. That’s right, free images. Note: What makes these images different is that they are provided under a special license called Creative Commons. For those of you too lazy to click on that link, the Creative Commons license means the owner of the item (in this case the item is the image) has given people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created.
The following are my favorite websites (in no particular order) that I use and recommend to anyone looking for awesome images to populate their website or blog.
Unsplash is a great website if you’re looking for outdoor shots or some creatively arranged spaces, like offices and buildings. While they do have some awesome images of people caught in candid moments (for an image of a genuine smile or laugh), their strong suit is breathtaking landscapes or amazing urban views. Unsplash is definitely a favorite of mine.
Pexels feels like it has a wider offering than Unsplash although I have no idea if that’s true or not. A quick cursory search for things like “office” or “automotive” returned a pretty good amount of images that I can see working really well on a website as either a background or a supporting image. Definitely, check out Pexels.com.
If you’re looking for more than just photos for your website, Pixabay is where you want to be. Beyond photos, they also have a lot of illustrations, icons, clipart, video and more. Personally, I don’t think a lot of the clipart fits the image of my websites so having it in the search results kind of clutters the results in my opinion, however, if you’re looking for some great 90’s-style clipart, you’ll find it at Pixabay. Their selection of high-quality photographs is pretty solid too.
PicJumbo has a great mixture of landscape and building shots as well as photos with people in them, usually doing something active like working in an office, checking their mobile device or interacting with each other. Pretty much all of their images have a solid, professional feel to their lighting and angle which will really make your page look top notch.
For the people who aren’t opposed to spending a little money on their images, PicJumbo does offer a premium membership where they will deliver some of their more exclusive photos directly to your inbox monthly.
Realistic Shots probably has the smallest photo inventory of all of the websites I’ve mentioned in this article but they are adding more every week; 7 more each week to be exact. They have a great selection of images with people doing everyday things and a great selection of beautiful landscapes making it a pretty well-rounded resource for images.
There are plenty more websites out there that offer images under the Creative Commons license and a quick Google search for “creative commons images” will point you in the right direction.
One final note I should mention – don’t use images from Google Images on your website. Those images are simply images that Google has cataloged from around the web. They are still subject copyright laws determined by the owner of the image. It’s best to avoid them altogether.
Have a resource for free images other than these 5 or have you experienced success using one of these? Let me know about it in the comments!