How to find royalty-free images with Google Image Search and other resources

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Whether it’s keeping a blog or a long-time beloved websiteyou will probably have run into problems with the accidental use of copyrighted images.

It’s easy enough to do, there’s so much misinformation about fair use from country to country that it’s easy to assume you’ll be safe, but still end up with a huge receipt from Getty Images.

If you have fully paid access to an image provider or image library, then fantastic. But what if you’re just running a site with little to no revenue?

Or…what if you’re tired of seeing the same old lame pictures of millennials taking selfies?

Images are a fantastic way to improve the readability of your posts, and properly optimized images can also drive search traffic – you should definitely use them, even for the shortest articles.

Fortunately, there are many places where you can find good quality images, which you can use for free.

Google image search – filter by usage rights

As I explained in my article on optimizing images for SEO, you can find unlicensed images directly on Google.

Just type in your search query – today I’m going to search for “cats that look like people” because what else is the internet for…

Then click on Research Tools, then Use Rights and select Labeled for Reuse.

google image search filter

It’s probably a good idea to check afterwards that the image you’ve chosen is actually free to use. You can use a reverse image search like TinEye or ImageRaider to check other usage rights.

TinEye

Flickr Creative Commons

Flickr is a huge user-generated resource for photography, with many professionals and semi-professionals showcasing their work here.

You can search all images by usage rights and use those labeled with a Creative Commons license.

You just need to be sure to give full credit and a link to the Flickr profile of the person who took the photo.

There are different licenses available, so be sure to double-check the details. Some photographers will only allow their images to be used for non-commercial purposes, for example.

Flickr Creative Commons

Unsplash

Unsplash the images are all royalty free, you just need to credit and link to the photographer.

splatter-free photography

Picture by Denys Nevozhai

These are incredibly high quality photos, so don’t be surprised if you see them appearing semi-regularly, but so far Unsplash seems to be running relatively under the radar.

morguefile

Despite the name, morguefile is a nice place to visit and search for common creative photography.

morguefile homepage

FreeImages.com

The quality is a little more random on FreeImages.combut the search is easy to use, with handy filtering options, and free and premium images are clearly separated.

free pictures

OpenPhoto

Again, the quality is hit or miss OpenPhotobut its search tool will often turn up a few gems.

open picture

Create your own images

Alternatively, you can simply create your own graphs, charts, or infographics to make your posts more engaging.

You can browse our favorites here: 17 Data Visualization Tools. Many of them are free and, in the case of Piktochart, incredibly easy to use…

piktochart

Screenshot

If you write “how-to guides”, you can take screenshots of anything on your computer screen.

There is a Chrome extension called Superb screenshot which allows you to very easily take screenshots of your browser window (partial or the whole web page) and you can annotate the image before downloading it.

Or you can just press command+shift+4 on a Mac and use its own built-in screenshot tool.

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