Using images on your website or blog can really brighten it up and make it a more appealing place to hang around. I’m not sure if there are any scientific studies about this, but I truly believe that a well-chosen image near the top of a blog post draws readers in, particularly if your content is being consumed in a feed reader. But sourcing images can be a problem if you don’t know where to look and can’t afford to pay.
Image courtesy of joseboa
Why free images?
Call me a cheapskate, but I want to earn money from my blog if at all possible, not spend money on it. And when you’re just starting out, spending even a dollar or two per post on images soon adds up, particularly when you may be only making a few pennies per post on Google Adsense or whatever. Bear in mind we’re not talking here about images that form an integral part of your site, like your header graphic, for instance. I consider that in a different light, and would be prepared to spend a bit to get the right image since it’s so fundamental to your site’s look.
Royalty-free is not free
Searching the internet for free images turns up plenty of results, but once you visit many of the sites, you realise what you’ve found is not free images, but royalty-free ones. Essentially this means you have to pay a once-off fee to use them, but not a recurring one. That’s good, but not good enough for what I’m seeking.
Truly free images
I have two favourite sites I visit whenever I need a truly free image:
Both these sites are crammed with high quality images that you can use without paying royalties or an up-front fee.
flickr is a community site where members can upload their pictures to share with others. Note that different images have different licencing arrangements – many copyright-owners reserve all rights to their work, which means you may not use the images without first obtaining permission. But many others release their work under a Creative Commons licence, which is analagous to the licence under which open-source software is released, and permits use of the work with some restrictions.
To find works released under a creative commons licence, use the advanced search, and make sure you tick the Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content checkbox.
stock.xchng is also a community site where members can share their work. Unlike flickr you have to be a member to download images, but registration is free. Most images are governed by their standard licence, which allows their use on websites, and even in printed materials. Part of the agreement is that you give feedback to the artist by leaving a comment and rating their work.
Copyright is a complicated area, but remember that being granted permission to use images for free does not mean you own them. Copyright still rests with the artist, and you need to respect any restrictions they place on usage. It’s common courtesy to acknowledge the source of an image (like I’ve done above). In fact, it’s part of the licence agreement for Creative Commons images.
I’m sure there are many other sources of free images; please feel free to share yours with the rest of us.
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