I always make sure there’s a picture in every blog post I write, for two simple reasons: First, I like pictures; they make me happy. But also, the huge majority of my blog traffic comes from Facebook. And on Facebook, pictures are the best way to be seen — much better than simple text or a generic logo.
So where do you find pictures for your blog posts? These are some of my favorite spots:
Flickr is one of the biggest photo sites in the world, and is usually the first place I look for an image. Go to the Advanced Search page and check the Creative Commons box. (If you’re not familiar with Creative Commons, Flickr has a very simple explanation.)
Most search terms will yield hundreds of results on a very simple infinitely-scrolling gallery page:
Once you’ve found an image you like, click on it to see the exact details, photographer’s name, and download options. Make sure that you give credit/link to the photographer when you use the image.
DeviantArt is an online community for all sorts of artists and creative folks. The search function is very simple: Put your terms in at the top, and narrow by category/medium along the left side. You’ll probably want to make sure that you turn off “Mature Content” up near the top right corner. Even so, you’re more likely to see various sexual or disturbing images on DeviantArt than Flickr, so browse with discretion.
On DeviantArt, it’s a little bit harder to find images that are Creative Commons, though some do have that information on the right side of the image. Many artists are happy to let you use their images as long as you link back to them — look at the captions or ask them via the comments section if you aren’t sure.
MorgueFile is a project “by creatives for creatives” to provide images that can be used for a variety of projects. It features a pretty simple license system — most images state “You are allowed to copy, distribute, transmit the work and to adapt the work. Attribution is not required. You are prohibited from using this work in a stand alone manner.”
The tradeoff with MorgueFile is that there are quite a few images here that aren’t as high-quality, so you might have to dig a bit to find something you love. But with 350,000 pictures in their library, it’s worth sorting through.
Lightstock specializes in images for Christian organizations, but they have a fantastic variety of non-religious images too. Ok, this one isn’t free, but it’s definitely affordable: LightStock works on a paid subscription model where you get a certain number of downloads for a fixed monthly fee. It’s great to have that in your back pocket so you can always find high-quality pictures without digging through a lot of crap. And any unused downloads roll over every month, so you know you’re getting your dollar’s worth!
I’m biased toward Lightstock – I’m a fan, an advertiser, and a contributor, and I use their stuff every day in my design work. I’ve even added a few of my own photos I’ve added to their collection. Check it out!
Mopho.to is a pretty cool service service designed just for bloggers/designers. It used to cost $5/month, but now it’s free! There are over 2000 images in their library, free to download and use on your blog.
FreelyPhotos.com offers stock photos that you can use for whatever you want, for free without attribution. So that’s pretty cool. There’s not a search feature or a huge selection, but there are some pretty great images there.
Unsplash is a super popular site that has a curated selection of gorgeous hi-resolution images. In addition to a pretty decent search feature, you can also browse collections organized by subject. They’re always updating with new stuff, so check back often.
My one caveat about Unsplash is that because it’s free and gorgeous, you’ll see their pictures popping up everywhere. The picture that you think is JUST RIGHT for your blog is also JUST RIGHT for lots of other people’s blog too, so be careful with that. For example, this picture:
Look familiar? You’ve probably seen it on a blog post a time or two, maybe even used it yourself. According to Google, over TWENTY FIVE BILLION sites have used this picture. Yes, 25,000,000,000. Don’t do that. When people see your blog, you want them to think “Yes I should read that!”, not “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that same image before on another post”
These are just a few ways to start. You may also be able to use Google Images; just make sure you find out what the copyright is on any particular image. Use Google’s awesome reverse image search tool to find the original source — it might be public domain or licensed under Creative Commons. Whatever you do, don’t be this guy.
Please note that this blog post is for educational/entertainment purposes only, and nothing here is intended as legal advice. This article has some great information about fair use and copyright for online images if you want to learn more.
If this was helpful, check out the Clumsy Bloggers’ Workshop, where I’ll teach you everything I know about blogging in seven fun, easy-to-understand lessons.
published September 27, 2013
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