Finding the Best Royalty-Free Images for Your Website

By Martin Williams
Published on April 11, 2022
Finding the Best Royalty-Free Images for Your Website

If you are a freelancer, online business owner, or blogger, one of the most challenging things about running your blog, website, or other forms of content delivery is finding the right pictures and making sure they are free to use. Since high-quality images are the best way to optimize your conversion rates, you want eye-catching images, and that will boost engagement, but they have to be affordable and legal as well. In this article, you will learn what makes an image royalty-free, the different types of licenses to choose from, and how you can find the perfect picture for your needs in seconds.

Royalty-free licenses and terminology

Royalty-free

This means that you can use the image or intellectual property repeatedly without paying any royalty or licensing fees. Keep in mind that a royalty-free image may not necessarily be free for commercial use. The distinction is that with royalty-free images, you would only need to pay once for the image and use it unlimited times. This isn't the case if you opt for a free license; however, some sites will allow usage for specific projects indefinitely (such as personal blogs) without paying royalties.

Creative commons

Creative commons licenses allow you to use the image for free, sometimes only as long as you include attribution. The license is specific to how it can be used and what type of credit must be given, so make sure to read the license carefully before using an image.

Creative commons - attribution only

This type of creative commons license allows you to use the image as long as attribution is given, whether that be a link back or proper credit within the content itself. The downside with this option is that it doesn't allow for commercial use and can cause problems if you are using the image in an online store, for example.

Creative commons - attribution - no derivatives

This type of creative commons license is similar to the attribution-only license except that it does not allow any changes or alterations to be made. The upside with this option is that there are no copyright violations when sharing content on social media.

Creative commons - attribution - noncommercial

This type of creative commons license allows you to use the image as long as attribution is given, and it may not be used for commercial purposes. Keep in mind that this means no selling or distributing, even if money isn't being made; however, there are no copyright violations when sharing content on social media.

Creative commons - attribution - noncommercial - share alike

This type of creative commons license allows you to use the image as long as attribution is given, and it may not be used for commercial purposes, but others are free to alter or change the content. The upside with this option is that there are no copyright violations when sharing content on social media. With the proper modifications, you could potentially come up with an image that fits your needs better than what's already available.

Creative commons - attribution - noncommercial - no derivatives

This type of creative commons license allows you to use the image as long as attribution is given, and it may not be used for commercial purposes. Keep in mind that this means no selling or distributing, even if money isn't being made; however, there are no copyright violations when sharing content on social media.

Public domain

This means that the image is free for anyone to use, edit, or distribute without giving any credit. It's worth noting that some public domain images may still require attribution if they have been adapted from another source.

Attribution

This means that the image must be attributed with a link back to where it came from or some form of sourcing or credit. If you're sharing an image on your social media, this is generally what you'll want to use, so there are no copyright violations when using content online.

Commercial use

This means that the image is free for anyone to use, edit, or distribute; however, if money is being made from it (whether directly or indirectly), you will need a commercial license.

Membership

This type of royalty-free image license is offered to those who join a particular membership site, which allows them access to additional images and content. These types of licenses may be suitable for someone looking for more than what's available on regular sites since they will need to pay an annual fee as part of the licensing agreement. Shutterstock is the most popular example of this type of royalty-free image platform.

Finding royalty-free images

There are several sites that offer royalty-free photos. Here are some of the best:

Stocksnap.io

Stocksnap.io is one of the best sites for finding royalty-free pictures because of its large, high-resolution selection. The site even tracks your downloads to suggest more topically relevant options for your needs over time.

Unsplash

Unsplash is another excellent site for finding royalty-free images because it is free to use. It only offers around 300,000 images from around 50,000 contributors, so the platform doesn't offer as much volume. However, the photos are guaranteed to be high-resolution.

Burst

Burst is the royalty-free image site from Shopify. Each of their images is under a creative commons zero license, meaning that they are entirely free to share or use with no attribution required.

Pexels

The website aggregates freely usable photos from other sources and thus serves as a search engine. It also features one of the easiest search tools of all royalty-free image platforms.

Openverse

Openverse is part of the WordPress open source project. Find images from various sources and they are still expanding.

Niche royalty-free platforms

There are also many more niche-specific royalty-free image sources such as:

Gratisography

This site is characterized by the most unique and interesting images available for free. They can't compete with some of the more prominent platforms regarding the volume of images they have to offer, but that isn't their main goal either. This is the site to use if you are looking for something more unusual or quirky.

Flickr creative commons

This site is excellent if you're looking for photos from a specific photographer or want to browse pictures tagged by category (like food, nature, and places). You'll need to make an account with Flickr before using the tool; however, it's completely free and doesn't require attribution when sharing images on social media.

New old stock

This site is a collection of vintage and black-and-white images guaranteed to be free from copyright. The photos range in theme and style, making them perfect for vintage-inspired content or projects where historical context is important.

Pixabay

Pixabay is a great source for royalty-free vector images as well as other forms of content such as videos that can be used for your site.

Startup stock photos

This website is designed for startup founders and bloggers looking for content. It features a collection of high-quality, curated images to use in presentations or blog posts related to entrepreneurship and industry events.

Foodiesfeed

As the name suggests, this website is specifically designed for food bloggers and those in the culinary industry to use as a resource. It offers lots of high-quality images from professional photographers, meaning that you can be sure they're up to par with your content.

Using royalty-free image platforms the right way

If you're not careful about how you use these types of photos on your site, it's easy for people visiting to think that you're copying their work. While you may use these images without giving credit, it's easy to give the impression that your blog post content is unoriginal.

When using royalty-free photos on your site, especially if they are not credited properly or inconsistently with other sites, there is a risk of getting penalized for copyright infringement by Google. That's why it is crucial to make sure you use these images correctly.

Don't just copy and paste an image URL into your post content or use the file name as the picture caption on Pinterest without some type of attribution first. Google will penalize sites that don't give proper credit for their imagery, so always try to find a way to work the author's name into your text.

All of these platforms offer attribution tools that you can use directly in WordPress or on other content management systems (CMS) such as Blogger and Tumblr. If you don't want to worry about implementing those, however, there are simple ways around it.

For these reasons, you should almost always try to credit the image to its creator, but if you can't find that information or it isn't available on a specific site, there are other ways around it. In some cases, royalty-free images will come with their attribution code already embedded in them from the stock photo provider.

Summary

When it comes to using royalty-free images on your blog, Google is very strict about making sure you're doing it correctly. It can be tempting to take the easy way out and skip over attribution altogether, but that's not a risk worth taking. While there are a lot of resources that offer royalty-free images in a wide variety of styles and themes, not all of them are ideal for every type of blog post content. Take the time to find an image platform (or several) that works best with your needs so you can build up a collection without worrying about copyright infringement penalties from Google or the content's creators.

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