by Sam Easterbrook | 28th Sep 2016
Looking for free images to jazz up your website and use on social media? Then check out our guide!
A picture paints a thousand words… and makes your blog posts and articles look a helluva lot nicer.
But you’ve got to be careful not to fall foul of copyright laws. You can’t just go on Google Images and grab what you like. Neither do you want to use standard clipart pictures that everyone else uses.
Seriously, if I’d be happy to never see this guy again…
Yet there are some sites where you can find great, engaging and free images. This is especially true if you’re a charity or in the third sector and not using them for commercial purposes.
There are 4 types of free images that you can use
1. Pictures that you have photographed or drawn yourself.
2. Promotional pictures – Under what’s called ‘fair dealing’ (more info here), you can use images like film posters or album covers, if you’re talking about that film or album.
3. Images that are copyright free – these can be pictures that are in the public domain such as national flags. Or they can be really old ones that the copyright has expired on. Have you seen those greeting cards with old black and white pictures with a pithy comment underneath? Now you know why there’s so many of them. Other copyright free images can be ones where the curator has forgone any copyright claim and has allowed their work to be freely used – these can usually be found on websites like Pixabay.
4. Creative Commons images – these are images where the creator has given their work a Creative Commons licence. What this means in reality is that you can use their image for free as long as you credit them. These are the types of pictures we have used the most on TheSprout over the years. Most come from a website called Compfight.
The key is using Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a nonprofit organisation that provides free, easy-to-use copyright licenses to give public permission to share and use creative work. Somebody who uses one of Creative Commons’ licences basically changes the copyright from “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.” And that means as long as you credit the person who created the pictures on your blog or articles then you can use them.
Where to find images with Creative Commons licences
Compfight – TheSprout and FamilyPoint Cymru has been using Compfight everyday for goodness knows how many years. It’s great to find interesting and free images to accompany the articles submitted by young people and families. Compfight searches Flickr using the tags system. After your first search you can then drill down to just CC images on the left-hand side. Quick word of warning, the first two rows of images are usually Shutterstock ones (i.e. ones you have to pay for) and sometimes after a couple of searches Shutterstock will pop up in a new window. But it’s worth putting up with for the huge archive of interesting images that you can use for free.
Campaign Monitor recently blogged about this topic and highlighted 6 other places you can get images. Meanwhile Buffer have a whopping list of 53 sites that you can get free images from! Buffer are also behind Pablo, which is a really useful tool for creating visual social media posts (it’s what I made the stick man image above on).
Pixlr Express is also another useful tool to quickly edit and spice up free images with filters, frames and text. The beauty of Pablo and Pixlr Express is that they’re free to use and you can do it in your browser, so you don’t need to download any software.
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