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Capitalize on free sources for online images

01 Jun, 2020 Visual communication

Visual images and videos have quickly become important to the usefulness of PR material to journalists and to your own readers. Words used to be sufficient, but good visual material provided with the words makes information more effective. However, it can be time-consuming and costly to find suitable visual material.

I used many stock photos from Unsplash when updating content in my website this year. Lots of good photos, but their indexing is awful! This sharply increases the workload of finding a suitable shot! I had to hunt for many shots for articles because heaps of them were totally irrelevant to the keyword I had used. Almost laughably irrelevant, as if AI is used for their indexing, instead of humans. For instance, if you key in ‘Public relations,’ (admittedly a vague term) you get a range of almost random shots like post boxes and libraries – and this one to the right, which has the caption of ‘Boy in red crew neck t-shirt and blue denim jeans sitting on brown wooden bench’. Wrong!!! What does a shot of a boy gardening have to do with public relations?? Also, his t-shirt doesn’t have a crew neck, he is not sitting down, there is no bench in sight, and no mention of gardening in the caption. Sigh!

Great stock photo list

Recently, someone mentioned an impressive list of stock photo sites compiled by… – an explanatory name indeed. The post offers a list of “32 Best Sites for Free Stock Photos – The Secret List! –“We have given the pros and cons of each Free Stock Photo Site along with an expert verdict score.” Very thorough list with almost no overlap with the list below.

In addition, Helen Nesterenko from suggests 15 different free sources for you to obtain online images:

The ancient saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words comes as no surprise to content marketers. Images arouse emotions, set the tone for your writing, help you tell a better story, and aid your readers in “seeing” what you’re trying to convey in words.

You can buy images; it’s easy. However, it can get expensive pretty quickly, especially if you’re committed to delivering high-quality visual content. If your budget is tight, you’ll be thrilled to learn that there are places to find images online for free.

Are you wondering where and how to find free images for your blog? Just use the websites below to begin discovering and downloading cost-free content in seconds.

1. Google Advanced Search 

Even some of the sharpest content marketers have no idea that Google Advanced Search exists. You’ll be asked to specify “usage rights.” Here’s a quick guide to what you need to know on this front:

  • free to use or share

These images are for using and sharing on non-commercial websites, like personal blogs.

  • free to use or share, even commercially

These images can be used or shared on all websites—including commercial ones.

  • free to use, share, or modify

These images can be freely used, shared or modified for non-commercial websites, in ways specified in the license.

  • free to use, share, or modify, even commercially

These images are free for use, sharing, or modification—even commercially, in ways specified in the license.

2. Creative Commons Search

The official Creative Commons website lets users search websites for free-to-use images from a variety of sources, including Google Images, Flickr, and the Wikimedia Commons. Obviously, it’s become one of the top places to search for free images.

Aside from just image search, you can use it to access Creative Commons music, media, and video files.

3. Yahoo Image Search

Yahoo Image Search recently introduced a functionality similar to Google, which makes it easy to find Creative Commons content. To find CC images, just perform a search on Yahoo Image Search, and then pull up the menu on the left side of the screen.

If it’s collapsed, just hit the arrow button to expand the menu. Once you’re there, click Show Filters and select Labeled for Reuse.

4. Stock.Xchng

Stock.Xchng is powered by some of the world’s most talented photographers. Its library is over 400,000 images strong and growing daily. Users upload their photos and can specify how they intend to use the content.

As a result, it’s crucial to check the Usage Options carefully, to ensure you’re allowed to put the content on a commercial website.

5. Wikimedia Commons

Although you can also find Wikimedia Commons’ images through Google or Creative Commons search, it’s an outstanding resource for a number of reasons. Because it pulls directly from images and maps on Wikipedia, it’s a powerful way to find photos when your specifications are tight.

In addition to images of landmarks and places, there are plenty of public domain images, videos, and audio files.

6. CompFight

CompFight is a super-fast, easy-to-use alternative to Flickr Search. Be sure to narrow your search results by either Creative Commons or Commercial-Use search results, as the default settings may return options that aren’t free for business use.

7. Flickr

Is it any surprise that Flickr is a top resource for image-sourcing? It’s beloved as a go-to by many top bloggers.
Though it’s one of the world’s largest image repositories, it’s crucial to know and understand that the site enables the photographer to specify how they want the image to be used.

When you search for options, be sure to specify creative commons before you download the content.

8. The Open Clip Art Library

The Open Clip Art library is the largest Webresource for free, small cartoonish images, religious icons, and calligraphy letters. It’s the perfect place to find website icons, or small images to add a minimalistic bent to your blog posts.

Virtually all search results will be licensed for free use (and if they aren’t, it’s going to be clearly specified). It might not be the best option if you’re in a pinch, because its built-in search engine doesn’t always return the right results for highly specific queries.

9. Creativity 103

This isn’t the largest library of free images online, but it’s certainly one of the prettiest. Its collection is focused on fine art photography, which most often includes abstract or otherwise artistic images of nature and buildings.

With around 2,500 options, you might not find exactly what you’re looking for, but you’ll certainly find something to pique your interest. Because few of the pictures include humans, it’s a perfect resource if you’re planning to modify the pictures with special effects or a text overlay.

For resources to enhance your free digital photos, check out 14 Tools to Create Images for Your Blog Posts in 10 Minutes or Less.

10. Animal Photos

This website may not offer pictures of humans, landscapes, or technology, but it does one thing extraordinarily well-outstanding pictures of creatures of all kinds.

In addition to dogs and cats, you’ll find more obscure marine and land animals. The site’s library is broken down into categories, making your searching much easier.

11. Morgue File

Most of the options on Morgue File are free to be “remixed,” meaning once you download it, your implementation decisions are entirely yours.

You can add text, sparkly effects, Photoshop in headshots of your team, or any other idea you might come up with. Unless you intend to sell the finished product, the sky is the limit when it comes to Morgue File’s photos.

12. Every Stock Photo

Do you hate searching through awkward or low-quality stock images before finding just the right photo to use on your website? Every Stock Photo is more than just a search engine for free photos; it’s got a focus on high quality.

Users are able to both rate and tag the comment, enabling you to retrieve only the best and most-relevant options when you search. Because it pulls from multiple websites, citation requirements can vary. Be sure to read the specifications on each photo carefully.


This is an extensive library of royalty-free images for commercial or personal use. Small versions of quality stock photos are free, with high-resolution versions available for purchase at affordable rates.

The library contains thousands of options, many of which are every bit as useful as images you’d purchase through Getty or other paid sources.

14. Photo Pin

Another search engine that integrates directly with Flickr, Photo Pin is incredibly fast and easy to use. It can even handle long or specific queries extraordinarily well.

Best of all, it provides you with simple HTML code for image attributions that can be pasted directly into WordPress or another CMS.

15. Stock Photos for Free

This is another free stock photo website, with over 100,000 options. It’s amazingly easy to use, and the photos are effectively tagged to make your searching efforts simpler.

Although it’s easy to start downloading high-quality shots for your blog, keep in mind that you’re required to create an account before saving any of their content.

And here’s a bonus one!

16. Pikwizard

Over 100,000 free images and videos on the site, of which 20,000 are exclusive. Some ‘premium’ shots are paid. New images and videos are added daily to their library, and their goal is to get to more than 1 million images and video available. Their site contains many pictures of people, which tends to be rare on free stock photo sites. You can also take each image and edit it on their graphic design tool, Design Wizard.

How to attribute the correct way

You need to give proper credit for the images you have used. When attributing the image, you want to cite the author with the link going back to the work. The very basic way is to just write: “image source” and link it directly to the image. If you want more details on best practices for citing images, here is a good post that gives examples of the best ways to do it.

Keep in mind that many sources for royalty-free images have their own specifications on how to properly cite images. It’s crucial to completely read and understand a site’s policies before taking their photos for commercial use.

Helen Nesterenko is CEO and founder of

All photos are by Joe Vittorio.

Image at top of page is a screenshot of part of the Unsplash home page.

About Kim Harrison – author, editor and content curator

Kim Harrison, Founder and Principal of Cutting Edge PR, loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in his books available from

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