How to find free images for your websites

Small BusinessCategory
8 min read
Will Stevens

Images are an important part of your website as they help bring the text to life and keep readers browsing your pages.

However, if you’re not a photographer, finding images online that you can use for your website can be a slightly tricky task.

The internet is full of images and while it seems like the easiest option would be sourcing a photo on Google Images and saving it to your computer, this is a bad idea and could land you with a significant fine.

In this article, we’ll explore why that is and the better places you can go to find images you can use for your websites.

The problem with downloading your desired images from Google is that most of these photos are still owned by whoever created the photo and that person will hold the copyright.

Images found online are registered under multiple types of licences that tell you about the copyright status of the photo. It’s important to understand what these licenses tell you about a photo so you’ll know whether or not using it on your website is going to get you in trouble.

Remember: Any image is protected by copyright as soon as it is created. Using all of part of an image when you don’t have permission to do so is a violation of copyright. If you’re not sure about whether you have the right to use an image in a particular way it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Here are the different types of images you will find online:

Royalty-free images

These images need to be paid for before you can use them on your site. You’ll often find these kinds of images on websites like Getty, Adobe Stock and Shutterstock. The copyright will still be held by the owner of the photo but you can pay them for the right to use it as many times as you wish without paying additional royalties. However, they’ll likely be a licence and you’ll have to comply with the terms of that licence when using the image. So if you do use image sites like Getty, make sure you understand the restrictions placed on you.

Rights-managed images

You still need to pay to use rights-managed images and there may be greater restrictions placed on the way you can use them. For example, there may be a time limit on how long you can use the image for, a restriction on what purposes you can use the image for and even geographical restrictions. It’s likely you’ll need to include attribution for these images. There may also be restrictions on editing and modifying these images with a tool like photoshop.

Creative commons images

Creative commons licenses are used to allow copyrighted work to be distributed for free. This is a good place to start when looking online for images you can use, but you’ll have to read the terms of each photo very carefully before you download it, as some of the original owners may still reserve some rights. For example, you may still be required to include an attribution and link to the license, or you may only be allowed to use it on certain types of websites.  Here’s an example of a CC licensed photo where the terms state that you are free to use it as you wish:

And here’s an example of a CC licensed photo where you’d have to be more careful:

Sometimes, it’s not always apparent what the usage terms for an image are. If in doubt, it’s safest to assume that an image is copyrighted and you’re not allowed to use it, especially if you’ve found the image via a standard search engine like Google.

So now we’ve got the legal bits out the way, let’s explore the best places you can find images that are free to use on your website.

Free stock images

Not all images are copyrighted – there are some images in the public domain that are not protected by copyright and therefore can be used by anyone however they wish. There are a lot of stock photography websites dedicated to distributing high-quality photos of this nature.

You’ll find that a lot of the photos on the following websites will be registered under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) which means there’s no copyright. As such, you can use the images however you want, be it personal use or commercial. Effectively, these are public domain images.

However, you still need to be careful when using free stock photos as it’s possible that someone may have uploaded a copyrighted image to a free stock photo website without permission. You can use a reverse image search tool to help you find out if an image is copyrighted.

How can I find free images for my website?

Looking for free images for your website? Here are 5 websites to find high-quality, rights-free images.

  1. Unsplash
  2. ISO Republic
  3. Pixabay
  4. Negative Space
  5. Pexels
  6. Flickr
  7. PicJumbo
  8. Morguefile
  9. Wikimedia Commons

1. Unsplash

Unsplash offers thousands upon thousands of high-resolution images, making it a great choice for anyone looking to add images to their website.

You’ll find most images on the website can be used for commercial and non-commercial purposes and they don’t require attribution (although they do appreciate it).

Unsplash does offer premium images for $6 a month, but its made very clear which images fall into this category and their are plenty that don’t.

The search function also makes it easy to find a suitable picture as it includes options to filter by orientation and colour. It’s a great resource.

2. Iso Republic

Iso Republic offers images and videos under a creative commons cc0 licence, making it another good place to source visuals that will liven up your website.

You can use images and videos from Iso Republic for commercial projects and you’re free to modify them as much as you want.

The search function isn’t quite as good as that of Unsplash, but it’s still a useful resource.

3. Pixabay

Pixabay claims to offer over 2.7 million high-quality stock images, videos and music for free and for commercial use.

As well as photos, the images on offer include illustrations and vectors, so you can get your hands on almost any kind of visual you can think of.

As you’d expect with so much on offer, the search function is top notch and you can filter by orientation, size, colour and more.

4. Negative Space

Negative Space doesn’t have many bells or whistles, but it still offers a good number of high-quality images that are CC0.

The search function is pretty basic, although images are grouped by category, making it easier to find what you want.

5. Pexels

Pexcels offers images and videos that are free to use for any purpose. However, there are some restrictions on usages. For example, although commercial use is permitted, you can’t make it look like someone in an image from Pexels endorces your product.

6. Flickr

Flickr used to be a very popular place to source images, but the rise of dedicated free image websites mean it’s fallen somewhat in popularity. You’ll find that there are copyright restrictions on many of the images on Flickr, meaning that you won’t be able to use them on your website.

However, it can still be a good source of images for a specific event that you want to mention on your website or social media accounts.

That’s because often, people will upload photos from an event to Flickr. Just make sure that you pay attention to the copyright restrictions, as some will be limited to non-commercial use and some will be all rights reserved.

7. PicJumbo

PickJumbo is another website offering a good number of stock images for free. It’s not as attractive as some of the other websites we’ve considered here, but don’t let that put you off. If you’re keen to get your hands on new photos, PicJumbo offers a premium subscription.

8. Morguefile

Morguefile was founded in 1996, make it one of the oldest websites we’ve looked at here. It offers over 400,000 free images, including high-quality stock photos, vectors and videos. If you registered for a free account, you’ll get access to the mobile app and will also be able to take part in photo assignments.

9. Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons features a large number of phots and audio files that are available under a range of licences. Contrary to what is sometimes said, not all files on Wikimedia are in the public domain, so you will need to attribute as required and some files won’t be permitted for commercial use.

Creating your own images

Although stock images are better than no images at all, they’re still not as good as creating your own high-quality images.

This is especially important if you’re running an ecommerce business, because people will expect to see plenty of product photos on your website.

This may sound daunting, but taking high-resolution photos is possible with even a fairly average smartphone. You just need to learn some basic rules to help you with lighting and composition.

Check out this guide to learn more about creating your own images.

Summing up

These great websites contain thousands of high-resolution photography and stock images covering just about anything. The photos you find on these sites can be used for free for both commercial and personal purposes, with no attribution to the photographer – as most are registered under CC0.

However, it’s still always best to do your own research and double check it’s OK to use the image first, as getting busted for copyright infringement can be costly. And you’ll still be at fault even if you thought the image you were using was CC0.

This may sound like a lot to consider just to download a few images but taking the time to source images you can legally use is part and parcel of building a website.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get your website up and running without the hassle of investigating each image you find online, you could try the GoDaddy Website Builder. Each theme offers high-quality royalty-free images at no extra cost.

You also get access to GoDaddy Studio, a graphic design tool, which you can use to create and modify images. It’s especially great for creating eye-catching social media posts and wallpapers. Templates are included so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Now you have all the knowledge you need to source images for your website online, you can start bringing your website to life with vibrant imagery that won’t get you in trouble with the law!

Of course, one area online images won’t do the trick is product photography. If you’re selling products on your website, you’ll need to take your own photos. This guide will help you take better product photos.