How to Find Free Blog Images

Posted by Amy Peveto on April 18, 2011

Andrew has written extensively on the value of finding the right stock photography, and how the right imagery will integrate with your website’s content, reinforcing your message and brand. Purchasing stock imagery for every blog article can be expensive, however, especially if your goal is to post multiple times per week. So how can you find good imagery without breaking the bank?

Creative Commons

When you purchase imagery through sites like iStockphoto or Getty Images, you are purchasing the right to use that image in your content. Some websites charge different amount based on how long you wish to use the image, and in what capacity (online only, in print materials, or both). This is how licensing has operated for many years, and companies and individuals can face heavy fines for breaking those rules.

The advent of Creative Commons Licenses have changed this. CC gives “everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work.” Creators can contribute to “a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon,” while still maintaining their copyright.

How does this help me?

Before Creative Commons, if you wanted an image, you had to buy it — there were often restrictions associated, and you were never allowed to edit images or combine them with something you created yourself.

By using images licensed under Creative Commons, you have access to thousands of images, most of which can be edited, combined, remixed, and used over and over again — for free. All it takes is a source citation and link at the bottom of your post.

Selecting imagery

Choosing the perfect image for your blog article is a subjective art, and will differ from blogger to blogger. The important thing to remember is that the image you use should be closely related to your topic; the rest is limited only by your imagination (or your Photoshop skills). As you search for that perfect photo, here are a few questions to keep in mind:

  • What do I want to say with this image?
  • Do I want a literal image, or one that is more metaphorical?
  • Would a humorous photo be appropriate, or should it be more formal?
  • If I’m discussing a product, would using a product shot be helpful to the reader?

Citing imagery correctly

Images licensed under Creative Commons is free for anyone to use, provided that the user follow the rules through which that image is licensed. As you search for imagery (a list of good websites is listed at the end of this article), keep an eye out for licensing information:


Most often the images I find require only creator attribution in exchange for image use; this means a simple addition of a link to the original image at the end of my article.

Free image resources

  • Stock.XCHNG - A database of over 395,000 images
  • morgueFile - I get most of the images for my blogs from this site
  • Woophy - Photos from around the globe
  • Wikimedia Commons - An archive of all the imagery on Wikipedia (and then some).

These and other sources of free imagery give you access to millions of great images — at zero cost to you. And who doesn’t love free?

What resources do you use to find blog imagery? Feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Image: LuMaxArt

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Submitted by David on Sat, 06/18/2011 - 8:39pm

Thanks...GREAT post! This is very useful information for those of us whose intent is to write compelling content coupled with relevant imagery. Thanks a bunch!

Submitted by Amy Peveto on Mon, 06/20/2011 - 10:07am

I'm glad you found it helpful, David. Since writing this article I've discovered that Flickr is another place to get great free imagery.

There's even an easy way to search and sort for pictures that are under CC:

1. Perform the search you want.
2. Click the "Advanced Search" link next to the big blue Search button.
3. Scroll down and check the "Only search with Creative Commons-licensed content" box.
3. Hit the Search button at the bottom of the page.

Happy blogging!