How to find royalty-free images (and avoid an image bank subscription)


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Whether you use them to demonstrate a point, provide evidence, or just break up a long block of text, images are undeniably a property in content creation. Unfortunately, not all of the images you come across are free, not without risking getting you into legal trouble.

Tons of stock photography services like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and iStock have figured out how to monetize your need for visuals by offering often pricey stock image subscriptions. But before budgeting your monthly expenses in a photo subscription, you should know that there are free alternatives.

And we have some tips for finding great royalty-free images.

Let’s start with the most obvious: Google Image Search.

If you search for a term and head to the Pictures in Google you will instantly find thousands of images. There is a problem though: some of them may be copyrighted and you could be putting yourself (or your employer) at risk. Luckily, you can filter images by usage rights, which will help you avoid this.

Here’s how:

  • Click on Tools. This will expand a drop-down menu that lets you sort the images by their license.
  • Depending on your needs (you can use the image as is or make some changes to it), select the category that best suits your intended use.
  • That is just about everything.

Google Image Search is quick and easy to use, but the images tend to be quite generic and not very aesthetically pleasing, even by stock photography standards.

This is why I personally prefer free stock photo sites. There are a few downsides compared to Google Images like fewer choices, but the images are generally higher quality and look more professional.

Here are some of our favorite free stock photo sites:

If you are looking for copyright-free PNG cutouts, you should check out PNGPlay, Icon8and PNGimg.

Even though many of these images are free to use without any attribution, you can support the creators by giving them credit, which gives their work more exposure. You may not have the resources to buy their images, but someone else might be interested in hiring them. Thanking them for their work contributes to this.

You save money by not buying a Shutterstock subscription, they get free exposure. It’s a win-win.


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