How to Find and Create Free Images To Use on Your Website
Every website needs images.
While the text on your website definitely plays a role in how visitors experience it, your visuals are often what they notice most and play a role in how they interact with the text. Studies have found that people are 80% more likely to read content that includes an image and 64% more likely to remember it afterward.
For the copy on your website to do its job, finding the right image is paramount.
But you don’t have an endless budget to work with and creating or buying images for every single page and blog post on your website adds up fast.
If you know you need images, but simply don’t have the money to spend on them, you still have options. Here are a number of ways to find free images to use on your website.
Where to Find Free Photos
Every time you go looking for stock photos, you only seem to find ones that come at a fee. That’s because you just don’t know the right places to look (yet). There are a surprisingly large number of websites that provide free photos that you can use – often without attribution.
Before you start browsing the sites on the list below, it’s important to understand how to recognize which images are entirely free to use, and which are free with a catch. You have to look for the license type, which will usually be listed somewhere below or to the side of the image. Here’s how to recognize what each license type means:
- Public domain work – there are no known restrictions on use of the image, you’re free to do with it what you like.
- CC0 – This means no rights are reserved, you can use the image without attribution, making changes as you see fit.
- Attribution – You can use the image for free, as long as you include information on your site about where you got it and who created it.
- NonCommercial – These are only available for free use for someone who won’t be using them for commercial purposes. If your website is used to sell products or services, you should steer clear of using these.
- NoDerivatives – You can use the image for free, but you can’t make any changes to it unless you get permission from the creator.
- All rights reserved – you cannot use the image legally unless you get permission directly from the creator (probably for a cost).
Pay careful attention to the license of each photograph you consider using so you stay on the right side of the law. Once you understand what the different licenses mean, you can start browsing a long list of websites that include free photographs on them:
- Startup Stock Photos
- Life of Pix
- Every Stock Photo
- Negative Space
- Morgue File
- Totally Free Images
- Public Domain Pictures
- Free Range Stock
- 4 Free Photos
- Open Image Bank
- Public Domain Image
- Wikispaces Copyright Friendly Directory
- Flickr Commons
- New Old Stock
- Free Images
- Jay Mantri
- Little Visuals
- Pickup Image
How’s that for options? If you’re overwhelmed, pick a few to check out today and bookmark this post to check out more for later dates where you’re having trouble finding the image you need.
5 Tips for Taking Your Own Photos
As great as all the free photo resources above are, there’s still nothing quite like creating your own original photography. You can match the photo to precisely what you need and know it’s not the same image people will see around the web on other sites.
This does require either having or buying some supplies, but the photo quality you get just from using a phone these days means that high-quality images are within reach for most people even if you can’t afford a nice camera (although your pictures will be a step up if you can).
Here are a few best practices to follow to create impressive photos for your website on your own.
1. Experiment with lighting.
Lighting plays a big role in how a picture will come out and you’ll benefit from trying out different things.
See how it looks using your room’s main overhead light, then see how focused lighting from any lamps you have looks different. Look for spaces in your office that provide natural light and try those out too. Depending on the subject of your photograph, think about taking it outside at different times of day to test that out. And try out any different camera settings you can as well, including seeing how your photo looks different with the flash versus without.
Experimenting when you start out can help give you an idea of the types of lighting that look best for different types of photographs so that, over time, you’ll have an easier time knowing how to approach the lighting for each picture you take without having to test things out as much.
2. Consider investing in a tripod.
Tripods are a pretty affordable purchase that can make a big difference in the quality of photos you take. You can even find cheap tripods designed for use with smartphones rather than cameras.
A tripod allows you take photos that are steady and makes it easier for you to frame the perfect shot. It costs a few bucks, but you’ll likely find it’s well worth it.
3. Create solid-colored backgrounds.
Whether or not you should use a solid background depends on what you’re photographing, but in many cases it can improve your photographs.
Creating one can be as simple as pinning a sheet in the color you want on the wall or buying solid-colored poster board (if you’re photographing something on the small side).
4. Take a lot of pictures so you can choose the best.
The more photos you have to choose from, the more picky you can be.
Take lots of pictures, trying out out different angles, staging, camera settings, and lighting as you go. Make use of the storage space you have on that camera or phone and don’t delete anything until you load it to your computer and see how it looks on the bigger screen.
5. Experiment with free photo editing software.
Taking the photos is the most important step, but not far behind it in priority is editing them to look just right.
Luckily, there are a lot of free websites and tools for photo editing. Play around with a few of your options and see which one works best for you to get those images website-ready.
Resources to Make Free Images
Photos aren’t the only type of image you can use on your website. While hiring a graphic designer to make you original illustrations and images is costly, you can find free design software that makes doing it yourself relatively easy.
Here are a few of the top resources for creating free images to check out:
- Canva – Canva’s a popular tool that lets you use a an array of templates, fonts, and images for free to create unique images for your website.
- Be Funky – Similar to Canva, Be Funky’s another tool that lets you easily create designs using a collection of free templates, fonts, shapes, and colors.
- Snappa – Snappa’s free version lets you pull from their collection of photos and templates to create original images as well.
- Infogram – Infogram makes it easy to make charts, interactive maps, and infographics using data points you have.
- Piktochart – Piktochart is for making infographics. Their free editor’s easy to use and you have access to free icons and images to use in your creations.
- Easel.ly – Another site for making infographics, easel.ly lets you plug information into templates in order to create original images.
- Recite – Recite lets you plug your own text into a number of templates to create free-to-use text-based images.
Pro Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Images
Now that you know how to find and make free images, make sure you do everything you can to optimize them for your website:
- Optimize for SEO. Put your target keyword for the page in the name of the image and make sure you make use of the alt text tag as well.
- Optimize for social. Make sure each image is the right size for the social media site you share it on, you don’t want it looking weirdly stretched out or awkwardly cropped.
- Turn free images into something original. With those free photos you find with a license that allows for modification, consider if there’s a way to make them unique before you use them. Maybe they can be a background to an original image you create in one of the free image software programs, or they can become part of a larger image that’s made up of a combination of smaller ones. Anytime you can make your images unique, do so.
Using images effectively on your website is a skill set – and one not everyone has. If you feel out of your depth, but simply don’t have the funds to hire someone to help, make use of the many resources designed for people like you. You don’t have to give up on using images entirely (and you shouldn’t!), you just have to take some time to seek out or create the right ones and learn how to use them well.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.