Get Legal, Free Photos for Your Blog, Website, or Ebooks

Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serrata

Image via Wikipedia

When I first started blogging, I didn’t use pictures on my site.  Eventually, I noticed that lots of other bloggers did, and that it made their posts more appealing.

Using Images, photos, and graphics on your posts catches your readers’ eyes, increases time on your site, and reduces bounces.

If you’re a photographer, you can take your own. If it’s late at night and you need something for a blog post, you’ll need help.

So, here’s a list of places to get legal, free photos for your blog or website.

Tips for using free online photos

Before you use a photo, check the copyright information. Many of these sites offer public domain images, which you can use in any way you like, no strings attached.

Others are creative commons, which allows the creator of an image to keep either all or only some rights to how the image can be used. That means you can use them with restrictions, usually requiring credit and a link to the photographer and the creative commons license.   Also check to see if you can change the image or must leave it as is.

Creative commons photo sources

  • Creative Commons Multiple Site Search:  This is a new photo search tool from Creative Commons.  You can search by keywords, usage rights, and by tags. It looks through Flickr, 500px, and several cultural institutions (like the NY Public Library) all at once. Once you’ve found what you want, you can click on your choice and get the code to import and credit it properly.
  •  Digifeld. My friend Judy Vorfeld (the grammar goddess) also has a site with a collection of photos she’s taken or digitized: she’s got flowers, plants, fish, buildings, vintage cars, and even a covered wagon.
  • Getty Images – this is a big change for Getty, which had a reputation for years as being a fierce protector of copyright. You must embed the image, rather than downloading it, but there are 50 million of them.
  • Death to Stock Photo – This is a freemium model. You sign up and they send free photos every month.  There’s also a paid subscription option (with greater access).

Government photo sources

The US government: Nearly everything produced by the government is copyright-free.

  • Check out NASA (the space agency), The National Forest Service (thanks to Blogging Teacher’s John Soares for suggesting this last one). Just check if there is a photographer credit or if people are pictured (that usually means there are restrictions). NASA just asks for acknowledgement that they are the source.\
  • Or, try NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).  The people who watch the weather also watch the seas, the sky, and the coastlines.  They have some amazing photographs, which are copyright free.  All you have to do is credit them when you use an image.

Public domain photos

  •  Flickr Commons: Several public institutions have uploaded public domain photos or photos they don’t care to protect with copyright.
  • Pixabay– Illustrations and photos of nature, transportation, computers, museums, people and quite a few more categories.  All are free to use, without attribution.  You can download them and use them however you like (even commercially); just don’t hotlink.
  • Public domain images – sorted by type (nature, food, computers, flags, etc.).
  •  Morguefile -No dead bodies here, it’s named after the “morgue files” of old clippings, photos, and articles that newspapers once maintained for reference purposes. Photos of nature, people, animals, sailboats, wind turbines, money, and illustrations too.  All are free, without credit required (though I often give it anyway).
  • Open Culture – they’ve put together a list of images, art catalogs, and paintings from The British Library, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Riijksmuseum, and more that you can download for free. Check the comments on the page for even more options. And, here’s another post with images from the Getty Museum.
  • Public Domain Archive – Another freemium site.  Sign up to get photos emailed to you weekly, or pay $10 a month for full access. Categories include: business, electronics, architecture, vintage, technology, transportation, and people.
  • Pexels – free public domain stock photos of business, cars, technology, streets, and vintage shots.
  • Gratisography – if you prefer something a bit more quirky, this is the right site for you.  There are images of people with Wookie feet, a goat with its eyes closed tight, a broken robot, and little bunnies as the page loads.
  • New Old Stock – A good source for vintage photos of cowboys, old theatres, and even Gemini Mission Control.
  • The Pattern Library – If you want a pattern/background design rather than a photo, you can get them here.

(Thanks to Blogging Teacher for the inspiration for today’s post).

Update: Zemanta has transformed itself into an entirely different company, but try one of these other options instead.