This article is updated regularly to include the latest, greatest information.
When you visit a blog, what’s the first thing about a particular post that catches your attention?
Other than the article’s title, it’s probably the visuals that accompany the post.
Readers’ eyes are drawn to images, so it’s important to place a visual that illustrates your point into every blog post.
Readers are also creatures of habit, so place images in a consistent location, such as at the top of the post, or in the upper left or upper right area of each post. Wrap text around the image to create a clean, packaged look.
I’m forever on the hunt for free and inexpensive stock photos and illustrations to use on websites, blogs, marketing materials, and PowerPoint presentations. You can find oodles of high-quality, royalty-free stock photos and illustrations online.
Pictures you find via a Google image search are almost always copyrighted. You CANNOT use those images in your blog post unless you first receive written permission from the person who took the photo.
Never assume that because you find an image via a search, it’s free for the taking. To be on the safe side, use a photo you snap yourself or download an image from one of the following stock photo services.
Each service functions slightly differently — some require a photo attribution, link, or byline and others don’t. Make sure you carefully read and follow the terms of service before downloading an image.
Free Stock Images
Kaboompics – A popular source of free images for lifestyle, interior design, and specialized bloggers. I love that you can search for images by color, and when you select a photo to download, the image’s color palette, complete with HEX color codes, is generated.
morguefile – When I shared the name of this service with a client, she responded, “Oooh, creepy!”
She was thinking that a “morgue” is the place dead bodies are kept. Which is true.
However, the traditional meaning of the word “morgue” is “a reference file in a newspaper or magazine office.” The “morgue” in a newspaper office is where the old photos and print editions are stored (at least, they used to be until everything went digital). Anyway, morguefile has an eclectic selection of free images.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net – A nice range of photos and illustrations for use on websites, advertising materials, newspapers, magazines, ebooks, book covers and pages, music artwork, software applications, etc.
FreeImages – I’ve used this service for years and can almost always find what I’m looking for there.
freepik – Recommended by a friend, this service offers free vectors, stock photos, PSDs, and icons. Excellent array of tools for filtering the type of image you’re searching for. You have to attribute free photos you use, as I did in the caption below this photo. They also offer monthly and yearly premium plans.
Flickr Creative Commons – You can’t use just any Flickr photo, but you can use images from users who offer their work under the Creative Commons license.
Google Creative Commons – Use Google’s Advanced Image Search to find images, videos, and text you can reuse, share, or modify. Keep in mind that you can’t use just any old photo you find in a Google search on your site – it HAS to be one that is labeled for reuse, commercial reuse, and/or modification. Google says, “In addition to images labeled as being under the Creative Commons license or in the public domain, the usage rights filter on this page also shows you images labeled with the GNU Free Documentation license.”
Gratisography – These whimsical, artistic images might be just the thing you need for a more inspirational post.
Library Of Congress – All sorts of interesting photographs and prints are available for download. “The quality of the digital images varies greatly, depending upon when and from what source the digitizing was done.”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – In 2014, The Met announced, “More than 400,000 high-resolution digital images of public domain works in the Museum’s world-renowned collection may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use.” Filter your search by “Open Access” and look for the download icon below the image, which means the image is free to download.
Pexels – Touts itself as “the world’s first inclusive free stock photo and video library.” I use their pictures a lot; even their posed people pictures tend to have a fun, candid feel.
Pixabay – With its user-friendly interface, Pixabay is a repository for copyright-free images and videos. All content released under the Pixabay license are safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist — even for commercial purposes.
Picjumbo – More than 3,000 high-resolution free stock photos and backgrounds for personal and commercial use. They also offer Premium plans.
RGBStock – More than 100,000 free stock photos and graphics for personal and commercial use. If you wish to use an image outside of the terms and licenses specified on RGBStock (for example, to print an image on something you’re going to sell), you can easily contact the image author through the site and ask for permission.
StockPhotos.io – A reader recommendation, this service offers free, high-quality, high-resolution public domain and Creative Commons licensed photos. Currently, they have around 27,000 images. You can use the photos for commercial use as long as you give proper credit to the author/photographer.
stockvault – Free photos are for personal, educational and non-commercial use only.
Unsplash – One of the most popular sources for freely-usable images for commercial and non-commercial purposes.
Low-Cost Stock Images
dreamstime – 137 million stock photos with a 1-week, 10-image free trial. They also offer a free (Creative Commons) image of the week, such as this one:
123rf.com – One of the lowest-cost stock photo houses, they offer on-demand credits packs and various monthly and annual subscription plans.
Adobe Stock– Adobe’s monthly plans (and a free 1-month trial), work out to around $3.00 per image, which is a good price. They also sell credit packs for any content, with the best deals on credit packs for Video, Premium, and Extended Licenses
Canva (affiliate link) – You’re probably familiar with Canva as graphic design software. However, Canva also includes millions of stock photos, vectors, and illustrations, many of which are free. With a Canva Pro account (which includes a free trial), you can get access to 60+ million premium stock images, photos, videos and graphics. Plus, they have a fantastic selection of easy-to-customize templates for everything from social media posts to business cards, presentations, storyboards — even Zoom backgrounds.
depositphotos – A library of 167 million royalty-free stock images, high-definition footage, and thematic collections. Three plans to choose from: Subscription, Flexible Plan, and On-Demand.
EnvatoMarket – Buy and sell royalty-free photographs and images starting at $2. Items are priced on the size/megapixels of each file.
iStock by Getty Images – iStock’s pricing has soared recently, but if you use a lot of stock images, their library of high-resolution stock photography, clip art, vector illustrations, video footage and music is almost 10 million strong.
JumpStory – a Denmark-based service that claims their 25 million photos, illustrations, videos, backgrounds, vectors, and icons are “authentic and real.” Free 14-day trial; monthly and yearly plans.
Pressfoto – Photos, vectors, clipart and video from around the world. Monthly subscriptions and on-demand downloads.
shutterstock – Access to over 321 million images and video clips, with 127,000 new images added every day.
5 hints for using stock images on your blog
1. Set up an account with one or more stock photo services and log in to your account.
2. Search images by keyword. When you find one you like, carefully read the licensing agreement before purchasing and/or downloading the image.
3. Before downloading, choose which size image you need for your project. Many stock photo services give you the option of choosing from among several different sizes. If you’re using the image in a blog post, a medium-size photo will probably do the trick.
4. If you do download a large image, use photo-editing software to adjust the size to whatever is optimal for your blog. A handy online image resizer I use often is Imageresizer.com.
5. After inserting a visual into your post, preview it before publishing to ensure that the graphic isn’t too large or too small. Images shouldn’t be so large that they dominate the post (unless, of course, the post features the image or a video).
On the other hand, images shouldn’t be postage-stamp small.
If people have to use a magnifying glass (or reading glasses) to see your photo, it’s too small. Better to use no image at all than one that is too small.
Invest the time to carefully select and edit an image that will enhance your story. Images will help visitors to your site remember you longer and connect with you more deeply.
Share Your Favorite Stock Photo Resources
Please share links to stock photo sites you like so we can try them out.