The Best Royalty-Free Stock Photos To Use In Your Blog

In this article you will learn the importance of using images in your articles and also where to find the best royalty-free stock photos and images to use in your blogs.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” so they say, and there is no difference when it comes to blogs. Our lives today are surrounded by images, some moving, some still – TV, billboards, bus stops and trains are all filled with adverts that mostly consist of images.

That’s because the little idiom above is true – when we see a picture, thousands of words, feeling and emotions flood our senses.

Take a look at the images below and I’ll bet you will soon start to feel hungry.

Adding images in your blogs and articles is crucial if you want to attract the attention of your reader and keep it long enough so you can engage in a meaningful dialogue with them.

However, you cannot just take images from the internet and use them on your blogs unless you want the copyright police breathing down your neck. All images are copyrighted to their creator unless the rights to the image are specifically given over to another person.

More about copyright

If you want to know more about UK copyright law for images and the internet, you can click here. Although this is specific to the UK, other similar laws exist in other countries. This is a large document but I’ll summarise a few things here to clear up some misconceptions:

  • The creator of the image usually owns the copyright (unless it is created by an employed person in the course of their job, in which case, the employer usually owns the copyright.
  • Copyright lasts for 70 years in the UK from the end of the calender year that the creator of the image/work died.
  • A copyright notice does not have to be present for copyright to exist.
  • Copying an image does not automatically create a new copyright – taking a photo of a picture.
  • There are some ‘permitted’ situations where it is possible to copy something – e.g. for personal study but this would NOT cover using images in a personal blog.

You cannot just assume that because an image is on the internet that it is public property and you can use it. You can’t!

If you want to use images in your articles (and you should), you really have 3 choices:

  1. Use images which you own the copyright to, such as those you take yourself with a camera or phone
  2. Use copyright or royalty-free images
  3. Use images that you pay a licence for. In these cases, you don’t own the copyright, but the copyright owner grants you a license for a specific use.

1. Own Images

It’s fun to take pictures and it is easier than ever now to take photos on a camera or smart phone. I have a Pixel phone which I love to use because it automatically backs up my photos to Google so I know that I will never lose my images even if my phone is lost or stolen.

The benefit of taking your own images is that you own the copyright and can set up exactly what you want to shoot, so that it fits with your blog perfectly. I’m also always on the lookout for interesting images or photo opportunities that I think I can use at a later date.

Below are some of the images I’ve taken on my phone which I have used in my blogs.

I’ve also uploaded some of my images to royalty-free sites such as Pixabay as well, since I use a lot of royalty-free images, I think it’s good to be contributing to the stock images too.

  • Examples of things you might generate yourself include:
  • Photos from your camera
  • Graphics you create on your own computer using your own software, or web software like Canva.com.
  • Screenshots of your computer – these are usually used in training videos and similar things to show how to do something.
  • Banners or adverts to use on your sites.

2. The Best Royalty-Free Stock Images?

Royalty-free images are just that – free images that you can use for whatever purpose you like. Creators will take photos or create graphics and upload them to the royalty-free sites, waiving their copyright and allowing others to use the images.

In some cases, you are allowed to use the images for free as long as you give attribution (or credit) the copyright owner, so you might need to add a caption to your image to say who owns the copyright or where the image can be found.

Some of the bests sites that I use for stock images are:

Pixabay.com

I really like this website and the images they offer and it is usually my own first port of call. They have some great images on many different subjects. When you login to Pixabay you can search millions of images using the search bar, depending on the tags that the creators have added to the image.

All the images on here are free to use and free for commercial use too. You usually get a choice as to the quality/resolution/size you want to download too. Some images have transparent backgrounds which can be very useful for creating layers in your graphics because you can layer the image of different backgrounds (see below).

One of the disadvantages I have found with Pixabay is that some of their images appear again and again in blogs so you might find the same image being used again and again. This is not a major problem and if you want to avoid it, I suggest that you search a bit deeper into the search results rather than just taking images from the first page of results.

The top banner of images which are returned are from “Shutterstock” which is a site offering images that you have to pay for, so you learn to ignore these unless there is a particular image you really need.

If you use the images from Pixabay a lot, you have the option to ‘buy a coffee’ for a creator if you like their work, which means you can donate some money to them for using the image although there is no pressure at all to do this. It’s just nice once in a while to say ‘thank you’.

Pexels.com

This site is very similar to Pixabay and in fact, they contain many of the same images although Pexels also included video and wallpapers. The images are free to use including for commercial purposes and you do not need to add any attribution or credit to use the images.

Pexels also offer some interesting photo competitions which can be fun to enter on different topics, which I guess, encourages the best images to be uploaded to their site.

Morguefile.com

Similar to the above sites, Morguefile describe themselves as a free photo archive “for creatives, by creatives.” You can upload and download images for free and search in a similar way to the other sites They offer’quests’ for people to do similar to the Pexels.com competitions.

You can also access different pay per image sites from within Morguefile too, such as Shutterstock, Getty, Dreamstime and Bigstock among others but the images appear with a watermark that is only removed when you buy the image. However, this can save you time flipping between different sites.

Unsplash.com

Photo by Trevor Cole on Unsplash

This is another site that has images and seems to share a common library with Pixabay too although there are other images on here as well. It’s easy to browse on this site because when you type in a search term, say, “online business” for example, a series of tabs appear at the top with different categories under the search term you submitted. So you get other sub-categories such as “office”, “laptop” and “technology” for example.

This site also encourages you to add a credit to an image you use, to credit the photographer. Whilst this is not compulsory, it is ‘appreciated’ as they say.

KaboomPics.com

This is another useful site offering free images. What I particularly love about this site is that you can also download a free color palette based on the colours in the picture. The colour palette also gives you the HEX numbers of the colours so you can use those to keep your graphics or brand all using the same colours.

You can also easily see all photos from the same photo shoot which can be great if you are creating a series of images or need other versions.

Wikimedia.org

WIki is a group dedicated to opening up the internet. You can find images on Wikimedia Commons that are known as creative commons, meaning they are usually free to use but they very often need to have a credit or citation alongside the image.

I have found this site to be useful for more general things that are seen in the news, such as pictures of famous people or general things like images of specific antibiotics or pathogens.

You do need to check the rights that are offered for these images though and be sure to add a caption to your image with the credit or citation as specified in the license.

Some smaller, royalty-free image sites which are also useful are:

Sxc.hu

StockSnap.io

Magdeleine.co


3. Pay Per Image or Subscription Websites

There are several sites where you can pay for images to use too. These vary from sites that charge per image, right up to premium subscriptions for people using 500+ images per month. Since this post is mainly about ROYALTY-FREE images, I will not go into much detail here but 3 of the main sites are:

Adobe Stock

This site is really a pay per image site set up by Adobe. It changed its name from Fotolia.com. You can pay for images starting at 10 images for $29.99 per month, but if you don’t want to start a monthly plan, then you can buy credits and use these to purchase single images or images that are not included in the content plans, and videos. When you join, you can get 10 free images, otherwise you need to pay.

One of the good things about Adobe is that it is well respected in the imaging and design community so many designers use it and share great images and graphics online. It also has 3D models, lights and materials as well so if you are a graphic designer, you might find these elements useful in creating your own graphics.

Because Adobe make graphic software, they also allow you to preview watermarked images in your projects such as Photoshop, InDesign or Illustrator and then license the images from within those programs seamlessly.

They also have video and templates which are useful to make creating graphics easier and quicker and you can search by category as well as individual keywords.

Shutterstock

This a great site with millions of images and more being added each month. It is great for really specific things that you haven’t shot yourself and the quality of the images is usually high.

They also contain a lot of cartoons, graphics and vectors which means the images are easily resizeable to suit your needs.

Prices start from $19.00 per month for 10 images.


I hope that this post has been useful to your all. Please feel free to leave a comment below too.

Remember – images are vital to you business so use a variety of sites and make sure your blog is engaging and attractive.

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6 comments

  1. I am always looking for copyright free images to use. I never thought much about using my own which I am going to look into. But I do use Pixabay and Wikimedia. I also use Google images but I make sure they are labeled for reuse and that I am able to use them. I learned that from a member on Wealthy Affiliate. Thank you for the additional sites. I am bookmarking your article 🙂
    ~Rob

    1. Hi Rob. Glad this article helped you. I’ve not used Google images for much I have to say so I might look into them too. I think that you just need to be careful with the permissions as you say. I love using my own images though although I’m not the best photographer, it really is fun setting up things you want.

  2. Hi Gail,
    Thank you for posting this great collection of free to use image libraries.
    I also have learned something new: I didn’t know that Pixabay has images with transparent background. It sounds very useful. How can I identify these transparent images in their library?
    There are also several sites I was not aware of. I’ll check them out when I need a new image
    Thank you
    Mary

    1. Hi Mary. Glad this post was helpful to you. Regarding the Pixabay transparent backgrounds, it usually tells you on the right-hand side when you click on an image if it has a transparent background. You can search for “transparent backgrounds too”. When images have this, they look like they’re on a faint grey/white checkerboard.
      And if they don’t, you can use GIMP to make some backgrounds transparent too: See: https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/training/how-to-design-your-image/how-to-change-jpg-to-png-transparent which is a blog from a colleague at Wealthy Affiliate. Hope this helps too.

  3. Thanks for this helpful information, i have questions if i copy image from google or facebook and use it in my website and didn’t give an attention to the owner right, will that be a big problem (In the US)

    1. Hi Abee. Thanks for your comment. In reply to your question, I would be very cautious about using images from Google and Facebook because if you don’t own the copyright, then you are in breach of the law if you reproduce it elsewhere. I know that many people do it, but that doesn’t make it right, and if you are serious about your business, the last thing you want is for people to sue you over using their images. I would either go back to the people who do own the copyright and ask if you can use the image (they may say ‘yes’) or change them. There are so many free images out there, that you really shouldn’t need to use ones that you might get into trouble over.
      Hope this helps. Gail

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