Where To Find Free Stock Images And How To Optimize Them
Sourcing free, high-quality stock images for your marketing or website, can be harder than you think. Save time and effort with this guide.
Whether you’re looking for on-brand images for a company website or producing marketing materials for a small business, finding free or affordable photos that fit the bill can be an unexpectedly time-consuming, and often frustrating challenge.
In the age of the internet, it should be possible to perform a simple search to uncover the perfect pictures. The reality is that getting the best images for your brand requires patience, and a good understanding of the right places to look.
The search can be even more challenging for solopreneurs and small businesses — who need cost-effective solutions; not royalty payments or subscription services. Ideally, they need free-to-use, high-quality images that will complement their brand without breaking the bank.
Before You Begin
Before you make use of any free image, make sure you understand the relevant terms and conditions. The type of copyright licensing determines how you must credit the owner. So before you search, it’s important to know that when it comes to images, there are three main categories of copyright:
- Royalty-free: After making a single payment, you own the rights to use and re-use the image. Royalty-free means you won’t pay a recurring fee for every use.
- Public Domain: Images in the public domain have either never had copyright protection, or it has expired. Not every image on the Internet is in the public domain.
- Creative Commons: A simple, standardized way for content creators to grant permission for others to use their work. There are different types of creative commons licences. Each one has its own terms and conditions.
Now you know the difference between the three main types of image copyright, let’s take a closer look at some of the best places to begin your search.
For most people, it’s almost second nature to look up or find information by ‘googling it’ on the world’s most popular search engine. The obvious downside to searching for free, high-quality images in this way is that the search engine results page will turn up the most relevant results, which aren’t necessarily in the public domain, or free-to-use.
However, go slightly deeper under the hood of Google, and you can refine your results based on usage rights. All you need to do is make sure you’ve selected the image category beneath the search bar, then click the tools button. This presents you with a series of drop-down menus, one of which is usage rights.
Not all images on the internet are free-to-use, so it’s important to select the right type of usage rights:
- Creative commons licenses vary, but generally speaking creators will allow you to use their content for free, with certain restrictions or attributions.
- Commercial and other licenses usually require a payment although sometimes you may find an image that’s free-to-use, it just has a different type of license.
Bear in mind, Google Images can be hit-and-miss, so before re-using any image found this way, it’s essential to dig a little deeper. Click on your chosen image to double-check which copyright restrictions apply. Sometimes this appears in the preview, or you may need to visit the originating site.