One of the scarier emails a content creator can receive is from a photographer or an organization (like Getty Images) threatening a lawsuit because of an image that has been illegally used on a blog post or other piece of online content. Thankfully I have never received an email like this, but a number of my friends have.
Ultimately, it is the fault of the content creator for using copyrighted images in online content. It can be difficult to know what is and is not allowed, but ignorance is no excuse for breaking the rules. I used copyrighted images for years on an old blog before I knew what copyright laws were. A couple of years ago, I went back and removed all of the images just in case. You can never be too careful.
In next week’s post, I will explain the different types of copyrights or permissions you should consider as you search for images to use online, but today I wanted to create a short blog post with some of the best free image sites I use on a regular basis.
Here are a number of free image sites you can use to download images for use in your content. You will never have to worry about getting angry emails from lawyers for using these images.
This is the first site I go to because it has a large library of images and is the easiest to navigate, in my opinion (but that might just be because I use it the most).
This site has a ton of great images that you can download in a variety of sizes. They are free, and you don’t even have to credit the photographer for them, though you can if you choose.
I go to Pexels first because it has high quality images, and that’s the most important factor for me. But sometimes, Pexels doesn’t have the right image for me. That’s when I go to Pixabay.
Others may dispute this, but I think Pexels has better images, but fewer images overall. Pixabay has a larger library of images, including many you will find on Pexels, but the quality of images is not always as good as Pexels.
That’s why Pixabay is my backup plan. It has more, but they tend to be not as good. I believe this is because Pixabay pulls from a variety of image sites of varying qualities and sizes.
(Side note: Pixabay recently underwent a big re-design and it now looks identical to Pexels. I wonder if they are owned by the same people. I can’t find that they are, but it wouldn’t surprise me.)
Most people I know use Unsplash as their go-to image provider. I like Unsplash a lot. The one minor complaint I have for it is that you can only download the largest size of the image you are downloading.
On Pexels, Pixabay, and other sites, you can download a smaller version of the image. Because you can’t do that on Unsplash, you have to re-size your images after you download, which takes more time.
(I could be wrong on this, but I can’t find a way to re-size pre-download on Unsplash.)
Also, pro tip: sort the images on Unsplash by “newest” to make sure you’re not using a stock image that a million other people are using. This tip applies to all the sites, but especially Unsplash because it is arguably the most popular one listed.
If I know I need a historical image or a painting of some kind that may be in the public domain, I go straight for Wikimedia Commons. This place is the largest trove of historical images or paintings out there, from what I can find.
The above sites are just a few that I wanted to highlight. Here are some more you may want to check out if the ones above didn’t work for you:
Next week, I’ll have a post for you about the different kinds of copyrights and permissions about which you should be aware when finding images to use online.
Chris Martin is the Co-Creator and Chief Content Officer at LifeWay Social as well as a Content Strategist at LifeWay. He and his wife Susie live outside Nashville, TN.