There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect picture online and then realising it either comes at a cost or is covered in a greyed out copyright print. And while there are those who attempt to remove the print and use the image anyway, doing so can result in legal battles and big trouble for your business.
Before we dive into the best resources on the internet for royalty free images, a word of warning. Finding an image on Google does not mean you have the right to use it on your own site or any of your own documentation or resources. By far the safest thing you can do is select one of the following sites and find your image there.
Now for a few definitions and introductions to terms you will come across in this article.
Creative Commons: an organisation which manages the CC license and is intent on providing and opening the creative world up for artists to use, explore, and build upon. It is this license which enables web designers to use the work of photographers free of charge.
Public Domain: free to use commercially and privately, public domain is another organisation which manages a catalogue of free images and encourages users to give “tips” in payment to artists and photographers who donate their images to the site.
And the one we’ve been waiting for… Royalty Free: a condition put upon images and content which could otherwise be copyrighted, letting users know that it can be accessed and shared for free.
A culmination of free and paid stock photos, FreePik is a site which offers the best of both worlds – allowing users to select free pictures or gain more variety and sometimes better quality images through a paid account. Searching exclusively for royalty free images is easy using the filters down the side bar of the search results page, or users can identify the paid and free images easily by looking out for the gold crown which means an image must be paid for.
One of the great things about FreePik is its diversity in image style, offering photos alongside graphics and other vectors – all of which link to the same search terms and keywords.
Canva is one of those online resources which boasts a series of different packages, ranging from the free package to the Pro package and the premium Enterprise package. The free option may require you to create a log in but beyond that it’s very non-committal – giving you access to all sorts of tools including hundreds of thousands of free photos and graphics which you can take directly or work into your own edited designs using the sites editing function.
Make sure that when you use Canva and search for photos you switch the search tool to “Free” – as this will make sure you are only presented with search results which are available as part of your free package.
A hub of images shared by creators and photographers all over the world, Pexels is a great option for those who want scenic, geographical or candid shots of strangers in far flung places. The simple search tool lets users search for keywords or locations, presenting them with search results that share the location and the photographer who captured the image.
Pexels is designed to empower content creators by giving them access to thousands of images, encouraging but not insisting on the photographer being referenced or tagged in the end post. Crucially, there is no paid license option for Pexels – it is simply an online tool which provides access to a world of images completely free of charge.
Another online platform built around the sharing of images from all over the world, Unsplash is a hub of high resolution photography with a user friendly search bar and tabs which depict popular search categories and groups. Added tools such as the ability to search via colour, orientation, or certain tags means that this is a site built for usability – enabling photos to be used both commercially and privately as the user wishes.
In short, a great option for those looking for both scenic and person-centred photos for their website, blog, or campaign.
Stock Snap offers a most limited but still high quality selection of photos under its royalty free banner, compiling the best contributions from photographers to deliver some stunning snaps according to your search term. The website operates under a CC0 license which means that any user can access any image and use it how they want – essentially removing all copyrights from the contributor and enabling the site to continue to operate its free image model.
One of the best things about Stock Snap is its focus on the usability of images, offering categories and breakdowns which include virtual backgrounds for online conferences, mobile backgrounds, and specific searches according to the season. There is also a wide selection of scenic and people-centred images, tapping into and delivering on every possible image need.
Our final site is a smaller one though it offers some spectacular images – all from the camera and the creative eye of Jay Mantri who has a CC0 license on his images which allows users to search through them and use them according to their needs. The photos listed on Jay Mantri’s site are particularly effective as background images and supporting cover photos for blogs and websites – with a heavy focus on skylines and scenery from all over the world.
The perfect go-to if you want an image to set the scene and give your site or blog a natural vibe.
Sourcing the right image or photo for your blog, website, or marketing campaign doesn’t have to be difficult when you know where to look – and with so many free resources available on the internet, there really is no excuse for getting yourself or your business into trouble over copyrighted images.
For more advice and guidance on how to integrate images into your business presence, and to determine if photos or more abstract graphics are better for your business, get in touch with our team here at Slate.
Posted: October 2021