Don't fall prey to the shady practices of stock photo licensing companies. When you pluck random images from a Google search, you could be costing your business far more than any image license. Take some time to learn where to find images that are free. Once you've got those sources you can select images that compliment your content and make it stand out visually without costing a fortune.
Where To Find Free, Interesting Images
All of these sources clearly state their photos are free to use under public domain and creative commons licences. I've made a note if the site requires photo attribution. Remember, if you don't know whether an image is usable and free from copyright restrictions, then always ask the site owner first!
Newest Free, Non-stock Photo Sources. Updated 5/8
- Compfight http://compfight.com
- Lorem Pixel: http://lorempixel.com
- IM Free http://imcreator.com/free
- British Library http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digital-schola... (Over 1 million photos!)
- New York Public Library - http://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/03/28/open-access-maps
- Smart Stock http://smartphotostock.com
- The Public Domain Review http://publicdomainreview.org/images/
The Big List Of Free Non-Stock Photos
- Picjumbo http://picjumbo.com
- Gratisography http://www.gratisography.com
- Getrefe http://getrefe.tumblr.com
- Unsplash http://unsplash.com
- Little Visuals http://littlevisuals.co
- Super Famous http://superfamous.com(Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)
- New Old Stock http://nos.twnsnd.co/
- Death to the stock photo http://join.deathtothestockphoto.com
- Unprofound http://www.unprofound.com/
- Pixabay http://pixabay.com/en/editors_choice/
- We Function http://wefunction.com/category/free-photo
- Norebbo http://www.norebbo.com
- Photopin http://photopin.com (h/t to Chris Countey)
- Morguefile http://www.morguefile.com (h/t to A.J. Ghergich)
- 500 Px http://500px.com/creativecommons (Creative Commons Attribution)
- Library of Congress http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress
- Photober http://www.photober.com/free-photos
- Stock.XCHNG http://www.sxc.hu (Yes, this is stock images but too many people mentioned it not to add it)
Additional Sources of Images
Sometimes you just have to take things into your own hands to get the job done. If you can't find the right image in all of the previous sites, then perhaps you could actually create the image that you need. There are a bunch of tools that will create quote images for you. So if you know what you want the image to say, you can skip the middleman and just make it.
Capture Your Screen
It may seem obvious, but really you can't undervalue the power of sharing your view of the world. Even if that view is just what you're seeing on your screen, it can help clarify your examples. If you're tired of plain JPEGs for your screen captures, then use Licecap to make animated GIF versions of your screen captures.
Cartoons Aren't Just For Saturday Mornings
Okay, so nobody waits for Saturday morning to watch cartoons anymore, but you can still think about how adding a cartoon element to your post can give it the right flair. Mervik Haums recently released a free pack of 5 characters in 17 poses at 1500 x 1000 size that are free to use. If you have a small budget, then you could also hire a cartoonist like Steve Morgan recently did for his Moz post.
Relating Images To Your Content
The photo resources above should cover your image needs for blogs, but there's still the process of connecting those images to your blog post. Sure, it's nice when you have a simple topic like backpacking. Obviously, you can add a picture of someone backpacking to your post.
But often you are going futher than surface level discussion. One way to help you tie those more complex ideas back to the image is by adding a caption. Conveniently, this is also where you can drop in photo attribution if it's needed. Here are some more tips for picking the right image:
- Select a specific quote, and look for an image that reflects the mood of that message
- If you reference a particular metaphor, then find a representative image to match
- Actually read your own post, and write down the primary ideas you took away from it. Find an image that can be tied to those concepts.
To help you out with some other ideas on how to find the right image now that you have all these awesome sources, I asked Tia Kelly of Unbounce, Megan Pritts of JPEnterprizes and Joshua Mackens of Local Search University for help. Here's what they said about their process of photo selection for their own blogging:
Tia Kelley of Unbounce
"After writing a post and nailing down the title (or sometimes before), we will start with broad keyword ideas and slowly narrow them down so that the title message matches the image as closely (but not always as literally) as possible. It has to be exciting and unique enough to pique interest, but relevant to the content so the reader doesn't feel deceived. Here's the process broken down, using our post on guest blogging, as an example.
Sometimes it becomes a group decision process since we're in an open office and we love to collaborate on ideas. We generally search for images on Google, Flickr, Pinterest and Creative Commons and avoid using traditional stock photos."
- Write the post while running through ideas for headline
- Fine tune headline
- Type "nerdy welcome mat" in Google image search: ta da! image found
- We reverse search an image we find to uncover the original source and make sure it's free to use. (We do attribute our image sources on the blog in the captions.)
"For my company's blog, I always find my images when I am done writing. Sometimes what I write sparks an idea and I can easily make an image that corresponds with each paragraph. I rarely use quotes. It seems like that is the easiest way to go about it when I am talking about SEO and social media. For my personal blog, since many of the posts are DIY projects, I always take the pictures before I write. That way, I can easily document my process and make it easier for my readers to follow along."
"Normally, I end up brainstorming words that relate to my post. While I'm blogging and as they come to me, I write them down. Then, I use those as keywords when looking for images. It's also a good thing to keep in mind that most people aren't as critical on an image as you are. As long as it's close, normally you'll be fine. That's the cool thing about pictures, everyone interprets them differently and people draw their own connections from the pictures to your content."
Have any additional sources for free images or better ways to match your photos to your post? Be sure to share in the comments