In today’s hyper-digital world—the age of Instagram and Pinterest—images of excellent caliber are a critical accompaniment to text. You can probably make a compelling case that imagery predominates over written content. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking aesthetics.)
Shamefully, I’ll admit that during my first couple weeks of blogging, I sourced my post images from good ‘ol Google images, and no, I wasn’t even filtering by license type. It was a lackluster experience; many were too large or far from suitable, not to mention I wasn’t sure if I’d be sued for using them. I even thought that maybe if I’d altered them enough, I’d be putting myself in the free and clear from litigation concerns. But I definitely wasn’t up for shelling out $100 a month (give or take) on a full-fledged stock photo membership.
One day, I decided to search for free stock photos, though I didn’t have high expectations; what could possibly motivate someone to post high-quality images free of charge?
Lo and behold, there were in fact several websites churning out breathtakingly beautiful, high-resolution images with the Creative Commons (CC) license.
What Is the Creative Commons License?
The CC license is a public copyright license that, generally speaking, permits work to be copied, distributed, and used in specified contexts. However, there are actually several varieties of CC licenses.
I won’t get too far into the weeds, but the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license is the most lax of the bunch and thus the cream of the crop in the world of freeloading image seekers. You can copy, modify, and distribute photos with the CC0 license without asking permission or providing any type of attribution (such as naming the photographer), and in both commercial and noncommercial contexts.
Google and Flickr images can be filtered specifically for images with the CC0 license, but there are several sites that feature such images exclusively, at no cost. Here are my five favorites.
Pexels features over 30,000 hand-picked photos. As with Unsplash and StockSnap, you’ll find yourself drooling. I, for one, feel inspired to use them not only for blogging, but to paint from.
Unsplash started in 2013 as a Tumblr blog and has since experienced profound success, including usage by Apple. It boasts having had one billion photo views per month in December 2016.
The available information about StockSnap is pretty sparse, but it does mention that its creators are from Snappa.
Pixabay has a huge collection of photos (as well as vectors and more), certainly more in the financial niche than I’ve found on other sites. That said, its abundance comes in part at the expense of content; you’ll find some downright cheesy pictures.
Kaboompics is a far smaller player than the others, created and run by one individual. It should be mentioned that it doesn’t have the CC0 license per se; it specifically prohibits redistribution of images. (Unless you’re looking to resell their images or siphon them for a rival site, this is something you need not worry about.)
What’s your favorite place to find free images for your projects? How do you use them?
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