Image of camera with a map and photographs to illustrate that every picture tells a story

Arresting and captivating images paint a picture and draw people into your words. Ah, but finding a good image can be a hell of a challenge, expensive, and time consuming to boot. Never fear my blogging friends: I’ve catalogued 20 sources for finding free, quality images to help turn your blog into an engaging story that draws in your reader.

  1. Pexels
    My favorite source for finding free quality images; the site is easy to use and there are usually several options for any given search. Plus, when you download your image, you can request a custom size so you don’t have to resize it later. Although, I recommend that you crop it and optimize it yourself (for more on this topic, read my blog post: Sizing and Optimizing Your Blog Images). Always check the license details for each image.
  2. Unsplash
    Beautiful selection of visually arresting images that work great for inspirational quotes. This site is pretty limited if you are looking for a specific type of image, and there are fewer options than other image sourcing sites. There is an option to download Instant for Google Chrome (you’ll notice a theme with me, I love Chrome). This opens new browser tabs with a random image, and they add ten new photos every ten days. Pretty neat way to get a look at what’s available every time you open a new tab, and you can easily click to download instantly and keep on hand for future use. You’ll be glad to have a bank of images you can choose from when creating content for your Blog, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or wherever you hang out on social. License details.
  3. morgueFile 
    I find that there a lot of amateur photographs, but with that said, there are also many high-quality images — you just gotta put in the time and dig, and it depends on what you need. Muy importante: “The morguefile license is specifically for designers and illustrators to use the images in a creative process creating work of their own. If you would like to use the image in a blog post, they recommend contacting the photographer and providing a byline under the photo with the photographer’s name. This is generally agreed to be acceptable.” License details.
  4. pixabay
    Lots of beautiful images to choose from that are easy to download; be sure to check the license for each image you are interested in. Be aware that your search results may also include sponsored images from ShutterStock, which are not free.
  5. Negative Space
    Great selection of beautiful images and a large selection of image choices. Download options include both .jpg or TIFs (just get the .jpg). License details.
  6. Life of Pix 
    I love this collection of images for Instagram and other social hotspots, but if you are indeed looking for something specific, the search function is crap. It typically delivers unrelated images, and they appear so large that they are difficult to scan through. There is an option to view as thumbnails, but then your search results disappear. New images are added weekly, so if you like collecting cool images for future use, I recommend that you check in often. Creative Commons License applies. 
  7. Cupcake 
    Great source for bloggers looking for inspirational images, but not looking for specific visuals. Cupcake is the personal blog of photographer Jonas Wimmerstrom. He infrequently adds cool new images that you can use for any reason, but there is no search function. I recommend that you visit the Archive for thumbnails of all available images. Creative Commons License applies.
  8. FoodiesFeed 
    Great if you need pictures of food. But, this site is a little confusing because there is an obvious search function in the center of the screen, but this is a rotating paid advertisement that will take you to other stock photo sites. The search function you need is located in the upper-right corner near the header. You can also search by categories in the menu bar. Licensing details are located in the footer of the site.
  9. StockSnap 
    Nice selection of beautiful images, and easy to search. Good for specific imagery and inspiration. License details.  
  10. Flickr 
    Flickr catalogs public photo archives—which is awesome. They are a great source for rights-free images. You’ll find images in the public domain as well as images from contemporary artists who offer their images via Creative Commons. You can search by color, pattern type, etc. and there is an option to download various sizes. Be sure to familiarize yourself with their varying levels of usage rights, and ensure that your image is available for the purpose you will be using it for. License details.
  11. Wikimedia Commons 
    You will find varying levels of quality on Wikimedia. Be aware that each image will have unique licensing requirements, so check each image you source. According to Wikimedia, they “do not provide any warranty regarding the copyright status or correctness of licensing terms.” License details.
  12. Foter and Visual Hunt
    Foter and Visual Hunt are two sources managed by the same company. They basically serve as aggregators of rights-free images; they host over 220 million, and 350 million (respectively) free Creative Commons images that they scrape from Flickr and Creative Commons (listed above). They offer an embed option that will automatically attribute your image, but it also includes a link to foter.com, which is good for their SEO juice. To make this easier, Foter offers a WordPress plugin that allows you to add images instantly to your blog post. Again, this includes a link to their website. This site does not have the right to offer any of these images for free, so check the source and make sure they really are available for you to use. Foter license details; Visual Hunt license details
  13. rgbStock 
    This site is a little confusing because it pulls up images from paid sites as well as the rights-free rgbstock images, so you just need to pay attention. They have a fairly large selection of photos, but if you’re looking for people specifically, I recommend you try elsewhere. License details.
  14. DreamsTime 
    This site has a section of free images, but it is difficult to navigate and their rights details are a little iffy if you ask me. License details
  15. Stock FREE Images 
    This site is powered by DreamsTime, listed above.
  16. FREE IMAGES 
    When you do a search, be sure to click the Free Files tab and check the license for each image. And, be sure to read the attribution guidelines. License details.
  17. 123RF 
    This site includes both images and stock audio. Their free images are only available in the smallest, low-resolution size, which is all you need for blog use; higher resolution images are also available for purchase. It’s easy to find yourself in the paid section, so be mindful of that. License details.
  18. Free Digital Photos 
    Includes photos and illustrations. All of their images are available in the smallest, low-resolution size, which is all you need for blog use; higher resolution images are also available for purchase. License details.
  19. Shutter Stock 
    Shutter Stock offers weekly teasers in their Free Images category of their blog, which is lovely if you are collecting a catalog of cool images, but not so cool if you need a specific image. Each week they release a free image and a complementary vector image that is free to download, but you gotta get it that week because the free download expires. License details.
  20. Google Advanced Image Search 
    This is a little more work to navigate, but it’s a great source for all images, since it searches the entire Internet. You can narrow your search in a very specific way including size, ratio, color, file type, and, of course, usage. I typically choose .jpg for my file type to filter out any video results. Also, be sure to choose the appropriate usage rights before conducting your search or you’ll get every image in your search results. For bloggers, I recommend searching for images that are “free to use or share, even commercially.” For the record, the Safe Search option allows you to filter out explicit results, but this is only effective if that image has been tagged properly. To grab your image, you would click on the image from your list of results, which will show you a larger image with a link to the source. Then, once you are at the source, you have to find the download option, which can be a little hard to find, and the licensing, which is often a Creative Commons icon that links to the license. https://www.google.com/advanced_image_search
Be sure to check back next week for my post on “Fair Use” from guest blogger Tonya M. Evans
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Jeniffer Thompson administrator

Jeniffer Thompson is a publishing consultant and author branding expert. She is the Founder and Principal at Monkey C Media, a leading book services firm specializing in book design, author websites, and Internet marketing strategy. Jeniffer has more than 20 years experience in publishing and would love to help you navigate your publishing journey.