How and where to get free images for your website

Where can you go for free, high-quality images that you can use on your website without worrying about any copyright issues?

Let’s start with what NOT to do:

  1. Don’t just go to Google Images – mostly are fully copyrighted images that you can’t use without the owner’s explicit permission. If you choose to use Google Images, be sure to filter by usage rights.
    access Usage Rights filter by clicking Search Tools on the Google Image Search interface
    Google Image Search using Search Tools to filter results by Usage Rights
  2. Be careful with what’s called “royalty-free images” – they aren’t free at all most of the time; “royalty-free” just means that you don’t have to pay royalties when using them.
  3. Ignore major stock sites like iStock, Shutterstock, Fotolia … unless you want to invest money in your images, in which case, go for it.
  4. Don’t take images from other people’s sites unless they allow you to do so. Taking an image and displaying it on your site isn’t “fair use,” even if you’re linking to the source.
  5. Don’t “hotlink”. Hotlinking is when you use the url of an image on another website and make it display it on your site.

So, what should you do then?

First of all, try to get images that are made available under the CC0 License. CC0, Creative Commons Zero, is basically a “No Rights Reserved” copyright that states you can do whatever you wish with the image, and that you don’t need to credit the source if you don’t want to.

Here are my favorite sources of such images:

  1. MyStock Photos
Kieran Hixon